Fear

We all have phobias of one sort or another. Sometimes we know where they originated, others just appear out of nowhere. Since I moved into this house a few weeks ago, I have had to face quite a few long-ingrained fears of my own. The main reason for this is I am here by myself and there is no one to call to save me, and well, Shadow just looks at me when I ask him to help.

Yesterday, I had to change a lightbulb. A seemingly innocuous household task. However, this socket is recessed in a vaulted ceiling. The ladder sat in the living room for almost a week waiting for me to muster the courage to climb it. I got to the third rung and was just short of reaching the socket. Just one more rung would do it, but I was paralyzed with fear. For ten minutes, I stood on that third rung, clinging to the ladder for dear life, talking myself through the fear. The conversation went something like this:

“Seriously, Rayanne. What do you think is going to happen if you step up one more rung? For Pete’s sake, you’re four feet off the ground. The ladder is going nowhere, and even if it does, you might scratch your knee. Move it!”

Finally, I stepped and reached the socket. The ladder stayed put and the light bulb now proudly illuminates the room. This entire exercise got me to thinking about how we allow fear to control our lives.

Governing bodies have used fear for centuries to control people. First, make them afraid of it, then it appears they have solved a problem for you. The fear is alleviated and no one complains about the loss of liberty. It’s genius.

What about you? How have you allowed fear to control you? I have spoken with people who are afraid of losing their job. Others do not take chances in life, work, or business for fear of failure.

Being afraid – or fearful – is okay and a perfectly human emotion. How do you handle it? Do you face it and do the frightening thing anyway or do you turn away in favor of a safer option? I think this is what separates the proverbial entrepreneur from the technician. The entrepreneur does it anyway. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not. In my business, I have done some pretty scary things that in hindsight were some of the best decisions I ever made.

Now, if I could just overcome my fear of spiders…

Setting QuickBooks Preferences

When starting a new company file, or even if you have had the file for a while, there may be some minor nuances that just drive you crazy. Well, I’m here to relieve you. The first thing I do when working in a new QuickBooks company file is head straight to the preferences section. You can find the preferences at the bottom of the Edit menu. You will see categories of preferences down the left side of the window. Each one is clickable and have their own unique settings. The list is even alphabetized to help you find things easier.

Each preference section on the left has two tabs in the window to the right – My Preferences and Company Preferences. The My Preferences tab are settings for your instance of QuickBooks based on your user login to the company file. The Company Preferences are company-wide preferences and can only be modified by an Administrator or External Accountant. Today’s preference tips will focus on the My Preferences tab, because these apply to everyone.

QuickBooks loves to offer you new and exciting products and services – for an additional fee, of course. It seems every time you open a new window, they have a service they want to sell you, like processing credit cards, ordering checks, downloading templates for invoices – the list is nearly endless. In the General section, there is a checkbox to turn off pop-up messages for products and services.

While you are in there, you can turn off that beep you hear every time a transaction is saved. And if you’re not a fan of using the tab key to move from field to field, there is a checkbox to use the Enter key instead. Another favorite of mine is the Automatically Recall last transaction for this name. This remembers where you posted expenses when entering bills and checks to keep posting consistent.

The next preference that I turn off is the Spell Check, located in the Spelling section. Now, for wordy invoices and estimates, spell check is often a good thing. However, if you sell a lot of products, that spell check screen sure can get annoying every time you try to save an invoice.

The first time you run a report in QuickBooks, then enter or change a transaction while the report is open, QuickBooks will prompt you with a notification that the report needs to be refreshed. It knows the information has changed, but it won’t update the reports automatically unless you click the Refresh button. If you don’t check the box on that notification to “Always Refresh,” there is a setting in preferences in the Reports & Graphs section to automatically refresh reports. This will stop that prompt.

Beginning with QuickBooks 2013, you probably noticed the toolbar at the top of the screen moved to the left side. You can put the toolbar back at the top under the View menu. When you do that, you’ll see the icons are now black and white. In the Desktop preferences section you can choose colored icons on the tool bar to give it that comfy QuickBooks feel again.

There are many other preferences you can set in QuickBooks, like default bank accounts, and turning off the Home Page screen. I recommend taking a few minutes to see what is in there to make your QuickBooks experience a little more pleasant.

How Do You Communicate?

It was a Sunday afternoon in January. Naturally, I was working. I came upon a stumbling block and needed to reach out to a client for information. I sent an email. I did not receive a quick response, so I sent him a text. Twenty minutes later, he called. By then, I was in the middle of another project and did not want the interruption. This got me to thinking about how we communicate in business with today’s technology.

I’m an e-mailer. Let’s get that out of the way right now. I find that email is the best way for me to communicate and stay on task. I see the email, I schedule the task on my calendar, in my Autotask, and the ongoing rolodex in my brain. I have gone rounds with clients who prefer telephone communication because it is more personal. I cannot disagree with the logic, but can we schedule that call?

I have clients that contact me through telephone, email, web-portals, text messages, and even Facebook. Everyone has their preferred medium. What happens when you are doing business with someone whose preferred method of communication clashes with yours? I try to suck it up and accommodate the customer, especially if they are a new customer. I always hope I can convert them later. Sometimes I do, other times not so much.

Text messaging in business is not ideal for me because I do not get a written record of the conversation without transferring it to a more permanent device. I have yet to download Facebook Messenger, so any private messages sent there have to wait until I am in front of my computer. For me, telephones are by far the most distracting method of communication. If I am working intently on a project and the phone rings, I am immediately jarred out of my concentration. Inevitably, the call is about an unrelated project from another customer who is calling to provide details or additional tasks needed for his or her project.

First, I have to stop and move my current project away from my view so I can now focus my attention on the caller. Second, I need to find a clean sheet of paper or pull up the project notes in Word to add to it. By the time I get off the call, I am no longer thinking about the first project, but now I am thinking about the second project. This may have been the caller’s plan all along.

I have to schedule everything or it doesn’t get done. Heck, even my dog knows his scheduled play time. I had to help my mother download Skype because of my distaste for telephones. I wonder how other people view the various communication options in business today. What about personal relationships? How do you communicate?

Excuses!

On the heels of last week’s post regarding stress, I began to wonder if our excuses are sometimes the cause of stress. Last week, I sat in a webinar that really spoke to me on a number of levels. If you missed Karl Palachuk’s webinar on a Total Consulting Makeover, you can listen to it here: http://unbouncepages.com/the-total-consulting-make-over-jan-24-20/

Sometimes certain material comes your way just at the perfect time. I think the timing on this webinar was impeccable. It was exactly what I needed to hear, exactly when I needed to hear it. One particular point stood out, and I have heard this line numerous times from Stuart Selbst, Karl, and even from my own mouth. “You need to get out of your own way and stop making excuses.” I can easily recognize excuses in other people. Can’t you? You hear someone tell you a million reasons why they can’t do something, or why this bad thing happened, or they would have done “xxx” if it wasn’t for “yyy.”

Is it possible that we don’t recognize our own excuses as exactly that? We truly believe these obstacles exist in our lives even though others see them as just another reason not to ___ (fill in the blank). Do we create these excuses because we really do not WANT what we say we want? Maybe we want SOME of it, but not enough to actually go out and get it.

I know when I set my sight on something, I find a way to get it. Very few things get in the way of something I want. I simply don’t allow it. I lived a long time in a life that was for everyone else but me. It is no wonder I didn’t prosper or succeed, my heart wasn’t in it. Depression soon followed, and why wouldn’t it? I was sleep-walking through life.

The first thing I had to do was to stop caring what others thought of me. I don’t mean to send you up a ladder kicking every grandmother and small child on your way. I mean, be a good person, but stop catering to all the needs of others before catering to yourself. Once you have yourself set up, it is much easier to help others.

Step 2, be honest about what you want. Do you really want an IT business or do you just want someone to pay you money for having one? If you want the business, you will have to work for it…consistently. But you have to WANT to do the work.  Do you really want that job or do you just want the paycheck and the ability to tell your friends that you are employed?  If the latter is true, then you will find every excuse in the world not to go to the job. You are not being honest with yourself, but your actions will display the truth whether you want them to or not.

Stop making excuses. There is never enough money to have a baby, but people still have them. And guess what, they find a way to make it work. Get over your fear of money and of failure. If you took a major plunge, what is the worst that can happen? Define the absolute worst-case scenario. How likely is it that you would allow that to happen? If your fear is of failure, you can try something and you may fail, but you may succeed. If you do not try, you are guaranteed to fail.

So, get out of your own way. Find out what you really want in life and get it. You will know what your passion is because you will look forward to each new day instead of dragging your feet and grumbling all the way to the coffee pot.

Stress!

Let me start off with a disclaimer. I am NOT a doctor. I don’t even play one on TV, but there are some things that I just don’t need a doctor to tell me.  Stress is bad! For years, I have operated under the notion that I do not enjoy stress and therefore, I don’t participate in it. I don’t give it to others, and I expect the same in return from them.  When someone tries to inflict stress on me, I go to great lengths to deflect it until I can get away from it entirely.

I worked real hard over the past few years to remove stress from my life. I don’t like how I feel, and I don’t like the person that I am under stress. When I don’t like something, I change it as quickly as possible.

Stress does many things to people.  Stress ruins marriages. It can make you sick, literally. As your stress level increases, your immunity to illness decreases. Your body is working overtime without compensation. My stress indicators are exhaustion, awful back problems, and acne.

Life is too short

About eight weeks ago I made a life-altering decision. Four weeks into that decision I had a “Holy Crap” moment wondering what I’ve done to myself. All of a sudden, the next 20 years of my life flashed by without me living it. My new and exciting decision turned into my worst nightmare. I thought about the line in The Four Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss about placing my life on hold indefinitely for the promise of some future reward.

Regardless, I was in the situation and I needed to find a way out.  My back already started acting up, and my face was breaking out. I attempted to reverse my decision with grace by offering alternatives and new solutions. I tap-danced all the way through the negotiation process only to later learn that while I was tap dancing with my marionette, my opponents were waltzing with Fred Astaire.  I lost every battle. One more week of that stress and I would have been in bed with the flu and crippled with more zits than an Irish teenager. Finally, one day, I just ripped the bandage off and removed myself from the situation.  Let me assure you, it was not one of my finer moments in life.

As a result of this major change and reversal, I found myself behind in my work and woefully under-financed. Fortunately, money is not difficult for me. If I need money, I know how to make it. Of all the things in life I can stress over, money is not one of them. However, on “Reversal Day,” I was the happiest poor person I knew. I felt liberated and alive again with a whole new outlook on life and business, and two empty bank accounts. A week later, the money problems solved themselves – they always do.

My eight-week life diversion taught me more lessons than I learned in the entire past year combined. Life is short so live it your way. Find work that you like and excel at it. Money is not (always) a motivating factor. If you don’t enjoy your drive into work each day and the drive home each day, do something else. You can look forward to your work as much as you look forward to your weekends if you plan it right. And finally, my dog has no idea how high up he is on my priority list in life.

Here are some ABC tried and true stress tips for you.

How to recognize stress

This is not a complete list. Some of these things may be caused by other factors, get to a doctor if you need medical help.  Also remember that stress is often a delayed reaction. Some symptoms may appear days after the stress-related incident is over.

* Trouble sleeping or waking up in the middle of the night

* Trouble breathing, chest pains, constant cough

* Irritability, short fuse, general feeling of unhappiness

* Unusual physical ailments – high blood pressure, headaches, muscle spasms

How to Reduce Stress

Find an activity that you enjoy.

* A happy relationship and home life goes a long way to reducing stress

* Light a candle, read a book, write a book (or blog post), meditate

* Go for a walk or run, exercise, ride a bike

* Connect with nature – pull weeds from the garden or sit by the ocean

* Spend time with your pets.

What not to do

* Drink alcohol – a glass of wine or a beer is fine, but you won’t solve any problems by drinking a case of beer in a day.

* Drugs – your body is under enough physical turmoil, don’t make it work harder just to breathe by adding drugs into the mix.

* Misdirect your frustration – The car in front of you may not be going fast enough to suit you, but the driver really has nothing to do with your stress. Take a deep breath and figure out what’s really bothering you.

SBSer of the Year

I received a telephone call from Harry Brelsford last week.  He started the conversation with, “First thing I want to say is congratulations. You were chosen as SBSer of the Year this year and we’ll announce it at SMB Nation.”  Then he started to move on to other topics, but I had to interrupt.

My initial reaction to the news was, “Wait a minute…what?”  Then, as it began to sink in, I thought of SBSers of years past, and what an honor it is to be chosen for this designation.  Harry explained that he and SMBTN discussed the possible candidates, and they felt it was time to recognize two people who work “behind the scenes” in the community.  I was one of them.  My friend, Bob Nitrio, was the other. We are about to join an elite group of some really amazing people, many of whom I am privileged to call friends.

Many people may even wonder, “Who in the world is she? How did she earn SBSer of the year when she isn’t even an MSP?”  Two very good questions.  I can answer at least one of them.

I organized the Birds of a Feather sessions at TechEd North America 2012. I am the person who connects your Autotask to your accounting system.  I lobby Microsoft and other vendors for books and swag for your user group meetings.  If you don’t have a user group, I am the person who can help you find one. I organize my own user group meetings.  I connect people who need help with people who can provide it. But, I don’t do any of these things alone.

As Treasurer of the Global IT Community Association, I am surrounded by a group of dedicated people who give their time, money, and resources to promote IT Professional groups throughout the world.  GITCA is the voice of the IT Professional, and we all work together as a team.  Each year, user group leaders around the world meet at SMB Nation and try to build a vision for the next year.  Sometimes, it resembles herding cats, but we are all passionate about bringing value to our respective groups and the IT Profession as a whole. 

We do not do this for recognition, and we certainly do not expect it.  However, it is really nice and quite humbling when your behind-the-scenes efforts are noticed and appreciated.  Thank you, Harry and SMB Nation as well as Josh and Jim of SMBTN for this award.  I will continue my efforts to merit this honor.

 

The Future of Community in the SMB IT Channel

As I plan my upcoming trip to Las Vegas for SMB Nation, I am reminded of SMB Nation’s History.  This year marks the 10th anniversary of the fall conference and its theme, appropriately enough, is Back to the Future.  Each year, when I leave SMB Nation, I am so full of renewed energy from everything I experienced, I write about it to organize my thoughts and my goals for the following year.  When I think of SMB Nation, I think of the IT Community, because Harry Brelsford has been the cornerstone of this community for as long as I have been a member.  Harry’s commitment to the community has endured the test of time, but my thoughts on that will be another post.

I was a latecomer in the SBS world compared to many people in the community.  I did not begin supporting SBS until 2001.  I was lost.  When I saw error messages in the event viewer relating to ISA, I thought one of the expansion cards went bad.  Seriously.  I stumbled upon a worldwide community of people devoting their entire careers to SBS.  People asked questions.  Other people answered.  Then, I started hearing something about user group meetings.  I wanted to go to one.  Of course, the meetings I heard about were in Australia and California, and I was in Florida.  By 2003, I knew enough to start my own user group.  With the help of the existing community and Microsoft’s TS2 events, I developed my own local community.

When SBS2003 was released, the community was everywhere.  User groups popped up in every town across the globe.  This was by far the best SBS product released to date.  It was a great time to be an IT Professional.  This product fit nicely into the budget of just about every small business out there.  It was rich in features, yet affordable.  This global excitement lasted a few years.  The IT Community was strong and active.  Microsoft discontinued TS2 events, and relied heavily upon user groups to educate and promote their products.  SBS2008 was a great product, but did not receive the excitement that 2003 did.

The global economy took hit after hit.  Small businesses were struggling, which meant they were not buying new servers.  This meant that the IT Professional had to work harder to keep his/her doors open.  Many found themselves supporting old servers and desktops because their customers could not afford new ones.  Microsoft still sent books and sales material to the user groups through GITCA and INETA, but each quarter the boxes got smaller.  The groups outside the US did not receive any boxes at all.  By 2010, Microsoft began to rethink their community connection with SBS.  In June 2012, Microsoft announced a new plan for user group support that does not include GITCA or INETA.  Shortly after that, the announcement of SBS2011 being the final release of Small Business Server.  The SMB Community dropped to its knees.

For a brief period, I saw the community reconnect.  What do we do now? Why is Microsoft turning their backs on us? The community bonded together once again, but it was short-lived.  How can we renew the community involvement?  We are still out here, and we are still willing to help each other.

Many people in the community have been working in IT for 30 years or more.  Someday, they might want to retire or do something else. Who will be the next generation of community leaders?

Does the younger generation of IT Professionals even know there is a community out here? How can we reach out to the youth of today to encourage their involvement?  At some point in the future, we will have to turn the reins over to a new generation.  The sooner we get them involved, the easier the transition will be, and small businesses around the world will be much better off as a result of having trusted and reliable IT professionals on their team.