Category Archives: Business Advice

Anything and everything related to the business world, primarily in IT.

The context has expired and can no longer be used

I routinely see this error when working with SharePoint 2013 in my development environment. This problem is more frequent when I restore earlier snapshots of my SP2013 server.

SharePoint spits out this error when the local server time is out of sync. To remedy this issue, try one of the following:

  1. Update the date and time on the SharePoint Server
  2. Disable security context check for the web application, as follows
  1. Go to central administration
  2. Go to  "Application management section
  3. Go to "Web Application General Settings"
  4. Go to "Web page Security validation"  disable this option.

Managing Work E-mail with a ‘go-to’ folder

In today’s connected world, do you find disconnecting from work email is near impossible on weekends? Do you ever find yourself involved in personal activity, only to receive an email from a client who is catching up on their email? Do you receive work email on your personal smart phone, perhaps along with your personal email? Are you unable to stop responding to work email in your personal time?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above questions then you might have asked yourself if there is a better way to manage work email polluting your personal time.

Before I explain how I went about configuring my work-email and cell phone, I want to point out that I am not suggesting that I wish to avoid work email outside office hours – that would be a near impossibility in my line of work – just that I want better control of when I am interrupted. I got my idea from watching my fiancé, who has a separate blackberry for work to personal – she is able to put down her work blackberry in the evening and “choose” when to pick it up. If there is an emergency in the office, someone will call her work phone and she can address the issue. Only having one smart phone and numerous laptop computers, I wanted to replicate the ability to “put down” the office at specific points of my evening or weekend, without disconnecting completely.

Enter Microsoft Exchange Rules…

The following configuration assumes you are using Microsoft Office and Exchange Server at the office. You can achieve similar results with G-mail and other email services, as long as you can configure server-side rules to manage email.

(Note: I use Outlook 2010, which the screenshots show, but older versions of Outlook typically offer similar functionality).

Create a folder under your inbox to house work email – I called mine @@Client because I still want internal office email to stay in my inbox.

From the Outlook Home tab, click on the Rules icon in the Move section, and select Create Rule

Click the Advanced Options button on the Create Rule dialog

Choose the option “with specific words in the sender’s email address,” click the underlined “specific words” and add “@”

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Click the next button and then choose the following actions:

– stop processing more rules

– move it to a specified folder

Click the link “specified folder” and choose the folder, under your Inbox, that you created earlier

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Click the Next button, and then choose the following exceptions:

– except if it is a meeting invitation or update

– except if it is marked as High Importance

image

Click the Next button, and then give the rule a name, finally click the Finish button

What happens now?

The rule you just created is an Exchange Server-side rule, which means Exchange will process it whether Outlook is running or not. This is important – you do not want to receive email on your cell phone when Outlook is not up and running on your work computer.

If not already configured, make sure that your smart phone shows you the main Inbox folder only for your work account. I have an iPhone and the default “All Accounts” folder shows only email in my main inboxes. If I want to read client specific emails I now have to go and look for the @@client folder under my work account – which is the point!

Working with this new setup does require a certain amount of diligence. If you so desire, there is nothing stopping you ignoring all client email for a period, which will likely hurt you in the short term when next in a meeting and your client asks whether you read their emails. The main point of this configuration is to allow you greater control of when and how you access emails, without technology interrupting you at inopportune moments. As a rule, I check my client folder at least twice a day when in the office working, and during downtimes in the weekend/evenings.

Working from the Cloud

My employer uses laptops pretty much exclusively (as I do at home) for all employees, with the exception of a few, to promote flexibility and portability in our work environment.  I made the mistake yesterday of forgetting my laptop and turning up to the office with no computer to work with.  As was debating on turning my car around (I got all the way to the office) and heading back home when I got thinking.  In today’s connected environment, did I really have a dependency on a single computer to work?  The short answer is no.

When I thought about it some more, having no laptop didn’t mean I couldn’t continue my work day as normal.  I spoke nicely to one of our IT people and asked for a temporary laptop for the morning, hooked it up to the network, logged in, and continued working as normal – how?

The answer is in the tools that I use.  Granted, I’ve moved on from localized development and no longer require a host of specialized tools to work, which makes life easier. Also, I’ve always had a healthy paranoia about keeping work files on portable devices that may inadvertently fall in the parking lot and break into a million pieces, so wove redundancy into my personal workspace some time ago, meaning I was already in great shape for using another computer for work. 

With Internet speeds getting faster and online storage becoming cheaper, there is a definite shift in mentality to store files in the cloud.  I realized this about a year ago.  The following is a list of applications and approaches I use to enable portability in the my day-to-day work:

Hosted Virtual Machines

My job involves SharePoint development, so I cannot escape the need for a development environment.  Many of us still develop on Virtual Machine images using portable devices.  Fortunately, my employer saw this as non-scalable solution and set up virtual servers for all out development.  Our IT infrastructure includes backups, and I can access the servers from any location using secure VPN.

Outlook Web Access and Gmail

All my company email sits on an Exchange server, which comes complete with a web client for accessing my email from any web browser.  If I insist on the thick client, Outlook is installed on most of the company laptops and configuration of my account is 5 minute exercise.  I use Gmail for all my personal mail and never have to worry about loosing my email or servers going down.  On the rare occasion that the company Exchange server goes down, I have my personal email to fall back on if I need to (who doesn’t?).

GTD with ClearContext

I use ClearContext to arrange my inbox within Outlook.  CC uses folders within my inbox, so I don’t have to worry about carting around backups of my settings.  If I choose not to install CC on a loaner laptop, I can still work with my email because filed messages live in Exchange folders and I can put aside new inbox email for filing later when I get back to my laptop – left at home.

Evernote

I am never ever caught out talking to a client without notes from previous meetings.  I know a lot of people like to use One Note, but if you use EN your notes are available on the web, phone, or any other computer (Windows and Mac) that you choose to install the application.  My notes synchronize in a few minutes and I’m up and running.

Drop Box

A well thought out product that synchronizes files across computers and in the cloud.  I use this application on all my computers, and the UI is a simple folder on my desktop – I drag all my files to the special drop box folder and have peace of mind that my files are available on all other computers, or via the web interface.

IM

Using both Communicator (corporate) and MSN (personal), I am able to stay in touch with clients, colleagues and friends.  Both applications install in minutes and require no setup for me to get back online.

SharePoint and Colligo Contributor

My work primarily involves SharePoint, so I would be amiss if I didn’t eat my own dog food.  My employer has a nice extranet where I can always access client work in progress, RFP work etc – it’s policy that all work is stored on our extranet.  With Colligo Contributor – an application that works much like Groove, only better – I can keep a cached version of files on any PC, so if I loose network access I can carry on working on a local copy of my files stored in SharePoint.

Pandora

Say what?

A work day in the office is a little dull if I cannot listen to my favorite tunes whilst working.  Using Pandora – an Internet streaming radio service – I can continue listening from any web enabled computer.

X-Lite

X-Lite is a SIP VOIP client, an my employer uses VOIP.  So if I want to take a call from Starbucks, the road (using mobile broadband), abroad, or a client office, it’s no big deal.  The recipient of my call doesn’t know I’m not calling from the office.

So… Flexibility in a nutshell.  If you’ve not done so already, it’s time to cut the chord from your working computer and get into a portable mentality.  You’ll need support from your employer (something to consider asking in your next job interview), but if you can convince them and it’ll make you more productive – it’s worth any overhead.

GTD: How to prioritize

When asked if they should make their health a priority, most people would say yes. However, not all of us do. Between work, kids, housework, yardwork, carpooling, paying bills, visiting with friends and family, and a host of other tasks, paying attention to our health often gets pushed to the bottom of the list. We know we should eat less red meat and more vegetables, exercise more, get more sleep and drink more water, but we don’t do it. Or don’t do it consistently. However, despite our busy schedules, family obligations and never-ending to-do lists, it is possible to make our health a priority and actually enjoy it.

With a new year just getting under way, we at Westchester Health thought it was a good time to put together a list of simple things you can do to move your health to the top of your priorities. Some are from kaynutrition.com and others from shannonmiller.com. Yes you do have time, yes you are worth it, and yes you’ll feel better and be healthier as a result!

9 things you can do now to make your health a priority

When pressed, people will often say they are “too busy” to make their health a priority. The reality is that they’re not too busy, they’re just prioritizing other things over their health (which sooner or later, will catch up with them, possibly in very unpleasant ways). Instead of making excuses, we at Westchester Health urge you to put these simple suggestions into practice for a healthier, hopefully happier, you.

  1. Focus on yourself

For many people, especially women, taking care of themselves is not a priority. They may think about it, but actually doing it is another matter. Consider this, though: crossing off every item on your to-do list does not matter if you are sick, exhausted and depressed. Those who are able to make their health a main focus of their lives do so by prioritizing themselves over others. This does not mean being selfish or not caring about anyone else. What it does mean is unapologetic ally making self-care an important part of your life, well worth your time and effort. The result? You’ll not only be healthier but you’ll be better able to love and care for the people in your life. Learn more about Acne after waxing prevention.

  1. Make taking care of yourself part of your daily schedule

Finding time to exercise, eat healthy and get more sleep doesn’t just happen. It becomes a part of your life because you create time for it. Organize your schedule to fit in workouts, meal planning, meditation (or another form of mental focusing) and sleep. You’ll soon find that a little forward planning goes a long way to help ensure you have the time you need to get and stay healthy, along with all your other commitments.

  1. Instead of making changes, create habits

It’s easy to change your diet or your gym, or to take the stairs instead of the elevator one day. It’s making those changes stick, turning them into long term habits, that’s hard. If you really want to make your health a priority, you need to choose things you like doing, over and over again. Do you hate running? Find a form of exercise you do like. Does kale make you gag? Choose healthy foods you like to eat and make them part of your normal diet, not one-offs. Do you enjoy walking your dog? Walk him/her longer. The key is finding things you actually enjoy and look forward to doing every day, and then sticking to them. This is how
Nutrisystem works as a healthy lifestyle improvement.

  1. Change your environment

People are a product of their environment — the people, foods, and order or chaos that surround them. If your pantry is full of chips, cookies and crackers, you’re unlikely to snack on carrot sticks. Remember: every time you buy something at the grocery store, you are making an investment in your health. Likewise, every time you work out, you’re making an investment in your fitness. If you make poor investments (unhealthy foods, not exercising), you’re not setting yourself up for success. So take a hard look at your overall environment and if it’s not helping you get healthy, change it.

  1. Set attainable goals

If you truly want to create habits, not changes, you need to take it slowly and deliberately, step by step. Start with going to the gym one day a week, then work up to two, then maybe three, not five days all at once. The important thing is to realize that even small changes are changes, and that these small changes over time create big habits. To make your health a priority, and make it last, focus on small sustainable changes you can actually maintain for the long-term.

  1. Realize that you only have one body

In life, you only get one body. Who else is going to take care of it if you don’t? You only have one set of organs and joints, one brain, one cardiovascular system. If you chose not to prioritize your health, no one else is going to prioritize it for you. You can make all the excuses in the world, but when you realize that you are in control of the changes you want to see, it is empowering. Be kind to yourself, and start where you need to start, but understand that this is not your practice life, it’s the only one there is.

GTD – Email from your cell phone

So, you’ve read my previous posts on GTD and now your life is in perfect harmony, but….. you happen to remember something important whilst driving home that has yet to make it into your collection system.  You do not really want to pull over to note down this valuable nugget of information, and writing an email/task on your PDA whilst driving is too fiddly (not to mention dangerous/illegal).  So, what to do?  Simple, subscribe to Jott.com:

  1. Jott.com is a free service that converts voice messages into emails, sign up using your cell phone.
  2. Add Jott’s free-phone number as a speed-dial, if you have voice activated dialing, even better.
  3. Next time you think of something to collect, call Jott and leave a message for “myself.”
  4. Live with peace of mind, next time you open email – presto, there’s you GTD task ready for processing.

Simple huh?

Additionally, if you’d like to blog from your cell phone, you can set up an email address to your blog using BlogMailr and add this address to your Jott contacts. Presto – blog posts on the move.

Tips to sell a used car

A friend recently dropped me an email asking for input on selling a used car, my response was fairly elaborate and thus blog worthy, so I thought I’d post the information, and here it is….

1. Look up your car in Kelly Blue Book – www.kbb.com – this is the holy bible for used car prices and most buyers won’t deviate much from this price unless you’ve kept your car sealed in cotton wool.  Set your price a little higher than KBB, say a $1000, and expect to come down. Do not inflate the price for toys, unless they’re not dealer standard and increase the value of your car significantly.

2. Expect the dealer price to be about $2000 lower than the private sale price, according to the Local Businesses in Houston, so when you buy your new vehicle, ask for a free appraisal and you’ll have a good idea of the price you can expect to get for your vehicle.

3. Patience is key, I took about 2 months to sell each of my cars because I was prepared to wait for the right buyer.  However, this is a balance, the longer your car is left sitting unsold the more you’re spending on insurance etc, especially if you already own a shiny new car.  If you’re not receiving many bites after 1-2 weeks, drop the price by $1000, assuming you pitched your car higher than KBB. If you’re already at the KBB bottom price then something else is putting people off.

4. Advertise well – Craig’s list is a given because it is free, Autotrader will get you a lot of hits, but usually takes a few weeks for traffic to start coming in (I sold my car and was still getting calls weeks later).  EBay will get your car noticed, but you’ll end up spending abut $50 in seller listing.  Most people use EBay to get an idea of cost, do not expect to receive a winning bid (unless you’re lucky), although you may get calls after the auction asking to view your vehicle.

5. Be up front in all adverts about: cost, mileage, condition, luxuries (leather seat, CD Player, IPOD int. etc), anything that will attract the readers attention – lots and lots of photos sell a car.

6. You can try parking your car in known spots around town where people like to look for used cars, although I never tried this theory, I’m told this can get your car noticed.

7.  When you start getting calls, be accommodating, people will want to see your car in evenings after work and weekends.  I had an issue with people coming to the house, so I met most people in a mall parking lot or at the office.  Occasionally I had to jump out at lunch time for an eager buyer.  Mall parking lots are great because they allow potential buyers to test drive your car with you watching.

8.  Advertise that you’ve had your car inspected (if required by the state) – technically it is the buyers responsibility, but for $60, if you know your car is going to pass, then it’s a selling point for buyers.

9. Post a for sale sign on both sides of the car to attract passers by in the street or other motorists in traffic.

10.  Clean your car – consider detailing for a $100 – as a shiny car catches peoples attention. If you want to add an extra use ceramic coating car, this adds a higher value to your car.

Happy selling.

Getting Things Done: Bookkeping

Accounting is important for small business owners as it helps the owners, managers, investors and other stakeholders in the business evaluate the financial performance of the business. Accounting provides vital information regarding cost and earnings, profit and loss, liabilities and assets for decision making, planning and controlling processes within a business.

The main objective of accounting is to record financial transactions in the books of accounts to identify, measure and communicate economic information. Moreover, tax reporting agencies require you to keep books at a minimum level that tracks income and expenditure.

What Is the Purpose of Accounting?

Accounting is often referred to as “Language of Business”. It is a means of communicating financial information to different users for decision making.

The main objectives of accounting are:

RECORDING TRANSACTIONS

The primary role of accounting is to maintain a systematic, accurate and complete record of all financial transactions of a business. These records are the backbone of the accounting system. Business owners should be able to retrieve and review the transactions whenever required.

BUDGETING AND PLANNING

Business owners need to plan how they allocate their limited resources including labor, machinery, equipment and cash towards accomplishing the objectives of the business.

An important component of business management, budgeting and planning enable businesses to plan ahead by anticipating the needs and resources. This helps in the coordination of different segments of an organization.

DECISION MAKING

Accounting assists in a range of decision-making process and help owners in developing policies to increase the efficiency of business processes. Some examples of decisions based on accounting information include the price to be charged for products and services, the resources needed to make these products and services and financing and business opportunities

BUSINESS PERFORMANCE

Using the accounting reports, business owners can determine how well a business is performing. The financial reports are a reliable source of measuring the key performance indicators, so business owners can compare themselves against their past performance as well as against the competitors.

FINANCIAL POSITION

According to these professional accounting firms in miami, the financial statements generated at the end of the accounting cycle reflect the financial condition of a business at that time. It shows how much capital has been invested, how much funds the business has used, the profit and loss and the number of assets and liabilities of a business.

LIQUIDITY

A common reason for small business failure is the mismanagement of cash. Accounting helps in determining the liquidity of a business which refers to the cash and other liquid resources at your disposal to pay off financial commitments. The information reduces the risk of bankruptcy through detection of bottlenecks.

FINANCING

Accounting helps business owners prepare historic financial records as well as financial projections which can be used while applying for a loan or securing investment for the business.

CONTROL

By placing various checks across the organization, accounting helps in avoiding losses caused by theft, fraud, errors, damage, obsolescence and mismanagement. The internal controls safeguard the business assets and avoid long-term losses.

LEGAL REQUIREMENTS

Law requires businesses to maintain an accurate financial record of their transactions and share the reports with the shareholders, tax authorities and regulators. The financial statements and information are also required for indirect and direct tax filing purposes.

Why Is Accounting Useful for Small Business Owners?

Poor financial management is one of the primary reasons for small business failure especially in the first year of the business. Since small businesses have a limited budget and other resources, accounting plays a crucial role in providing information that helps businesses in its growth and development.

For small business owners, accounting is crucial due to the reasons below:

  • Keep a track of the cash flow. To prevent your business cash flow from running dry, you should implement policies for efficient record-keeping and a sound financial strategy.
  • To understand the concepts of fixed costs, variable costs and how to accurately cost your project, small business owners can rely on cost accounting. This way you don’t end up losing money on a project you thought would be a big earner
  • Accounting gives you a better grasp of the well-being of the business. You can do this by learning to read a balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement
  • Helps you detect and avoid frauds and theft by customers, employees and suppliers
  • When you understand the business finance and dealings, you are better equipped with facing audits
  • Bankers are more confident when dealing with business owners who have a handle on the business finances and actually understand financial implications