Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

The best way to share and sync files between all of your computers

If you’re like me you have several computers… One at work, another at home, a netbook and/or laptop for travelling… And it’s a pain to make sure you have the files you need available at all times no matter which computer you are on. Until now…

Over the years I’ve tested online document management editors such as Google Docs, Google Wave (which has since been retired), and Zoho Docs; but you need internet access to make them work, you have to use the rudimentary web-based office applications they provide, and you can’t open common file types such as audio files or OpenOffice documents.

In the real world, we don’t always have high-speed internet access, web browsers crash, and our desktop office suite (such as Microsoft Office or OpenOffice) are a lot more powerful and easier to work with.

Now there is a better way and it’s called DropBox. Here’s how it works

  1. You install DropBox on all of your computers and create a login.
  2. It then creates a DropBox folder on each computer.
  3. Move your important files that you want to access from anywhere into your DropBox folder. Don’t copy because then you’ll have different versions and you’ll never know which is the “right” one.
  4. Save all of your important new files into your DropBox folder.
  5. Invite your friends to DropBox and create folders to share with them for work you’re both collaborating on.

You can drop in files from any of your computers and, no matter what type of file you put in DropBox, it syncs each DropBox folder to have the exact same documents all the time. It’s so fast that it will actually sync between computers every time Word does an auto-save. DropBox doesn’t even wait until you’ve closed the file. Even more impressive, it will sync documents simultaneously across Linux, Windows and Macintosh. I regularly switch between Windows and Linux computers and DropBox keeps all of my documents synced.

Even better, you can access your DropBox files from your iPhone or Droid device or from a web browser on any computer. If your laptop dies, just login to your account from any computer and your files are there.

It’s also extremely helpful when sharing documents with colleagues. You can create folders that can be shared with any DropBox user. Currently I have 4 different DropBox folders synced between 3 computers. Two of the folders are shared with clients. One of the folders is shared with my business partner, and the last one is just for my personal information.

If you’re a die-hard Linux fan, Ubuntu One is a great option as well that offers much of the same technology with 2 glaring exceptions. The beta Windows client doesn’t seem to work at all in Windows 7 starter and you don’t get additional free space by referring friends.

The best part of both options? It’s FREE for your first 2GB of space.

Download DropBox and get your documents organized today.

To your success, Bryan

Why I decided to buy my first new cell phone of this millenium…

A few weeks ago after much research and debate I finally decided to fork over the money and buy my first brand new cell phone of the millenium. The only other new phone I have ever owned was the phone I originally bought when I first started cell service in 2000. Since then I had an Ebay phone and a $20 phone that I bought from my bro. So what prompted me to spend $200 on a brand new Blackberry Curve 8830 and renew my contract for 2 years???

  1. The $400 discount was more than the $200 cancellation fee. I absolutely hate phone contracts so I haven’t had one since 2002. The main reason for that is (A) I’m always moving and need to make sure wherever I live the phone service is going to have good reception. (B), and more importantly, on about a yearly basis I would call my phone provider, ask for the cancellation department and get them to give me additional minutes, services, or credits because without a contract they’ll do whatever they can to keep my business. 🙂 So even if I have to pay the $200 cancellation fee at some point, that’s still better than not signing a contract and forking over an additional $400 up front.
  2. I wanted to know immediately if a sales lead or other important email came in. It’s very important to respond to sales leads right away so if someone emails us an inquiry I want to get them a call back within 20 minutes. The only way I could ensure that was if I was in front of my email all day or I was able to check me email on my Blackberry Curve.
  3. I needed an efficient way to stay in touch with my office. Not everyone has a company cell phone so text messaging isn’t a good option though it’s used at times. Very often talking on the phone while in a meeting (or out on the golf course) isn’t really acceptable. However a quick IM through GoogleTalk allows people in my office to easily ask questions that I can respond to while someone else is teeing off… err… uhhh… I mean presenting. 🙂
  4. I moved 1900 miles from home and my sense of direction is lacking… Integrated GPS helps. The GPS has search function to tell you where to find the cheapest gas in your area, how to find businesses and restaurants, or even a friends house. And since it’s all right in my phone it easily moves with me from car to car. It’s even integrated with my calendar so that when my phone texts me to remind me of an appointment, I just click “Drive to” and it tells me how to get there. Time is money so not getting lost is a valuable feature.
  5. It is a legitimate business expense. Since I always worked for someone else, forking over $200 after-tax dollars for a phone always seemed like a lot. Now that my business pays that and the monthly service plan pre-tax, its a much better deal.
  6. Provided the perfect way to always have my schedule. It instantly syncs with Google Calendar thanks to googles free mobile sync options. Within minutes of putting an appointment on my Google Calendar it’s synced up to my phone wirelessly and vice-versa. No sync cables or docking stations or any of that silly stuff.
  7. It has unlimited internet access. So whether I’m checking into a flight while sitting in a car on my way to a wedding, keeping up on the Pens score, looking up the departure gate for my connecting flight, or reviewing the weather forecast at “Current Location” (GPS integration, baby), having the internet at your fingertips never seems to get old.
  8. My goal is to be as mobile as possible so I can run multiple businesses at the same time. When you add all of these things together, it sums up the most complete mobile toolbox since a laptop. Obviously I can’t do everything with it, but I can do most things.

Other technologies that are on my “Must-have” list for a mobile work environment:

  1. Kindle: Amazon’s New Wireless Reading Device – If you’re like me, you read. A LOT. And every time you travel you have 2-4 books to pack away in your bag that you’re working on. Or you’re at the office and need to reference something that’s in a book at home. Well the Kindle gets rid of all of that. Imagine having all of your books (120,000 at last count are available) at your fingertips in a device the size of a single book. Don’t forget you can also have your favorite magazine or newspaper (I prefer The Wall Street Journal) delivered wirelessly to your Kindle. You can even buy new books for $9.95 (less than a paperback version) anywhere you have a cell signal and have it delivered to your Kindle in about 60 seconds. This is by far the coolest thing that has come along in a long time.
  2. Document Scanner – How can you possibly be mobile if your important documents and all of your customer’s information is stuck in filing cabinets??? You can’t. Buy a good document scanner and scan EVERYTHING into your computer. The time you invest to do that will payoff 10 fold in just having access to everything you’ll ever need at the click of a button. You’ll be able to serve your customers better and be more efficient. My personal recommendations are anything with Fujitsu ScanSnap as well as the Fujitsu 5110c. The Canon DR2050c and 2080c are also top-notch units. Don’t ever spend less than $100 on your business scanner. It won’t be worth it. Trust me.
  3. Server with remote access. Along with my receivables, scheduling and lead-tracking software, this allows me to work from almost anywhere I can find internet access. My preference is a Windows 2003 Server with Terminal Services since I can access it with my Linux laptop, a Macintosh, or obviously any windows based computer.

What technologies are allowing you to become more mobile???

To your success, Bryan

P.S. You can access my blog on both the Kindle and the Blackberry. 😉

What to do the first 2 weeks onsite at a business you've just bought…

Had I written this article 2 weeks ago before I actually lived through 2 weeks onsite in my business then it would have probably been something like observe, gather data, and try not to make too many changes…

Well I would have been partly right. Observe, gather data, prioritize the changes, and start making them immediately would have been more accurate. You really have to act and think quickly.

Here’s what I did when I got to New Mexico…

  1. Make sure all of the details of the business purchase are sealed up. Since my business is 1900 miles away from my home, there had to be a bit of verification, legal work, loan paper signing, etc. that had to be handled. No point in proceeding further without that.
  2. Gather data. When you go into a business that has a great database application that you already know how to manipulate, the job is 10x easier. Since I worked for 5 years for the software company that provided the database for the business I purchased I know it inside and out and can “instantly” figure out what areas we can cross-market to, which technicians were most productive, how many service calls we were doing for free, how many leads have been coming into the business, and what questions those prospects were most interested in. Maybe even more importantly, I could quickly determine what they weren’t tracking that we needed to start tracking immediately. This data also told me what changes we needed to make immediately and which ones we needed to make next week and next month. Without data you can’t possibly make any educated business decisions. Ask Michael Gerber.
  3. Get your team to buy into your philosophy. My business has 10 team members including me. They didn’t know what to expect from a new 26 year old boss. Now instead of just “observing”, almost immediately I started meeting with each of them individually and my first change was a mandatory weekly team meeting. It was important to address outstanding team issues immediately. For instance, one team member had recently had some issues with his driving record and his job required that he be able to drive. He was extremely stressed because he didn’t know what I was going to do about it. I got the story from my partner, who has owned the business for 10 years, and, with my partner’s permission, asked the team member to tell me what was going on. We brainstormed for a while on how he could still help the team, I told him exactly what I thought of the situation including that, in his limited capacity, he couldn’t command the same wage from the business. He immediately agreed and understood that he put me in that position not the other way around. Two days later I cut his pay by 25% which he was completely OK with and he almost instantly was happier and more productive. His physical demeanor literally improved because now he knew what was expected of him and what was going to happen even though he was being paid considerably less. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have thought it could have possibly been so “easy”.
  4. Have a solid team-based philosophy and share it with the team. If you have a philosophy on business that includes being the boss so you can intimidate your employees into working hard or you’ll fire them, then you’re probably not going to get a lot of buy-in from the team. Now I tried to evaluate the team as quickly as possible, to determine if everyone is worth keeping and at this point it seems that way. They all just need a bit more direction and motivation. Brad Sugar’s claims that at most businesses he’s bought (53 at last count) he had to fire 50% or more of the people right away. It doesn’t look like I’ll have to do that but I can’t rule it out yet. My team philosophy is best summarized in a few points:
    1. We’re a team working together not me dictating what everyone needs to do. If I can help you be more effective at your job I can be more effective at mine so that’s my goal as the Team Leader.
    2. Honesty is paramount. I’ll always be upfront and honest with you and I expect the same.
    3. Teams must communicate effectively. That means your ideas will be respected even if they’re not followed.
    4. We can all learn something from every single person we encounter.
    5. Everyone (especially me) is accountable for doing quality work that generates the company revenue. I will give my team members the benefit of the doubt, however everything is being tracked and the numbers tell the story in black-and-white.

A couple of things to keep in mind.

First, I did not have an exact plan written out on paper as to what I would do my first week. It just kind of came to me as I went through. Granted, in my head I know exactly what the finished product (meaning the business) looks like and the pieces that would need to come together for that finished product to become a reality. Next time, I’ll take a more structured approach, however.

Second, most of my “team” philosophy sounds real “touchy-feely”. Make no mistake about it, if someone is losing me money, they will not be around long and I made that very clear right from the start. Everyone expects that so me actually saying it really isn’t a negative. However, if I don’t tell them what they need to do to generate profit for the business every single day, then it’s my fault if they don’t produce. As a 26 year old, it was important for me to let the team know that no one bank-rolled me. That it is up to me and only me to make this business work and if I don’t, there is no one to bail me out. I am completely accountable for the success of the business and the team needs to know that.

Third, I don’t know the technical side or the sales side of this business and I don’t care to become an expert at it. Honestly, I don’t know how to sell, service, or install our products. That’s not my job. In reality, those things aren’t my strengths. My goal is to make sure I have the right people in the right positions to excel at those things so I don’t have to. Then it’s my responsibility to keep them motivated and adequately compensate them for their quality work. The idea that you need to be able to do everything in your business so that no one can hold you hostage is not the philosophy of someone whose goal is to massively grow businesses. Let me explain that a bit more clearly. If you own an electrician business, some business owners think they need to be expert electricians so that their electrician employees can’t hoodwink them by doing sub-par work. Those owners also believe that that employee may hold them “hostage” because they can’t possibly fire the employee with all of the specialized knowledge. If your business is THAT specialized and its THAT hard to find a replacement, then it’s probably not the proper business to fit into the buy, build, and sell philosophy. Off the top of my head I really can’t think of any businesses that are that specialized. No one (including me) is irreplaceable.

In 2 years I’ll be working on another business (or 2 or 3) so how can I possibly become an expert at every aspect of each one? As intelligent as I may be, I can’t. However I can become an expert at buying, building, and selling businesses of every sort because they all have the same basic fundamentals.

There are a lot more thoughts and details to cover about my first weeks on the job and since I’m working 7 days a week it may take a while to put them all in the blog… However I will outline all that I can as fast as I can. 🙂

To your success, Bryan

P.S. Had I not spent thousands of hours reading books, attending seminars, and asking questions of business owners (most particularly my father), my first few weeks would have been nearly overwhelming with very little progress. Ignorance truly is the most expensive thing in life.