Friday, 19 October 2012

Customer of the week: Jola Kilroy

Another business customer this week. Only about a third of my customers run businesses, but they tend to be keener to get on the web than normal people. Even so, I will attempt to cajole a shy home user into the light for next week's entry.

So this week we have Jola Kilroy, the Queen of Caversham and the owner of three hair salons: JK Barbers on Prospect Street, Hair Studio on Hemdean Road and Village Barbers in Sonning Common.

Beautiful,smart, funny and outrageous, she has not a clue how to operate a computer. In case you think I exaggerate, here is one of our first computer encounters.

HELEN: You need to move the mouse Jola.
JOLA: (peers at screen) What mouse?

In spite of this technical knowhow deficit, Jola envisaged something that computers might be able to do for her. She wanted to be able to see what was going on in her other salons without driving there. This was only just barely possible when she first thought of it.

And this week her vision came to pass. It has taken:

  • 3 years
  • 13 assorted cameras
  • 5 mixed DVRs
  • 10 badly translated and incomprehensible manuals
  • 40 hours of research
  • 5 desktops and 2 laptops
  • 5 internet connections
  • 30 visits to the salons to figure out why various camera systems have stopped streaming
  • 8 hours of phone calls to internet providers with the other end having no idea what we were talking about
  • Jola's dogged determination to keep us at it, and our refusal to give up and simply leave the country
It has been a big project, but all worth it when I see Jola on her laptop, yes! moving the mouse! and clicking between live video streams from the three salons. If you play the video you can hear how chuffed Jola is.

Incidentally, technology has moved on loads since we started this project and we at have learned a lot. The chances are we could set you up with a similar system a lot quicker!

By the way -  I know the video plays twice, the second time silently. I have no idea why this is. I've been on a learning curve doing things I only dimly understand. Twenty-seven years in the trade and I can still be baffled by computers.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Puzzle: are you a natural computer repairer?

What is wrong with the laptop in the picture?
For bonus points: whose job is it to fix it?

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Business Startups: Avoid the Vanity Business

Vanity Publishing: This is when you pay to have your book published because no publisher believes strongly enough in the commercial potential of your book to cover the costs.

Vanity Business: This is when you run a business that is not profitable.

There are lots of benefits in owning  a Vanity Business. The main one is that you appear successful and expert to your friends and family. You get to boss people about and shake hands on equal terms with lovely people who run Proper Businesses. You can have serious discussions about Marketing Budgets. You can bandy about the words: develop, growth, entrepreneurial. You can be suddenly generous with your time and resources and cry that you have the best customer service in town. You can give jobs to people that would not otherwise have jobs and love yourself for it. All of these fun things are underpinned by the sneakiest of the Seven Deadly Sins: Pride.

The only problem with the Vanity Business is that it is not viable unless you are already rich. If you are going to make like Marie Antoinette, then you better have the funding of Marie Antoinette.

This morning I came down from Cloud Cuckoo Land for long enough to face the fact that may be a vanity business. Last week, my and my team worked consistently hard. Customers came in with their broken computers and left smiling with their fixed computers. Several mentioned that we were wonderful and one bought me a bottle of Prosecco and some beer for the lads. I won't bore you with the figures, but our income was 50% of our expenses.

This was not a freaky week. It was a typical week.

Six people are reliant on I mean reliant in the sense that if the business fails they may have insufficient food. Four are employees and two are my children.Oh hang on! There's a seventh person! Tch! I forgot about me!

A thing I hear a lot is that I must be doing all right if I've survived 6 years of economic difficulty. I always love to hear this and generally I smile and admit that it must be so. It was only in the early hours of this morning that it hit me. A profit of £0 is easy to maintain even during years of dark recession.

If you want to start a new business, watch out for that pride. The following categories of entrepreneur need to be extra careful:

  • women who are used to trying to make everyone happy at their own expense
  • parents who view everybody as their children and needful of their selfless aid
  • people who grew up in non-commercial families. In my own family, we discussed the books we had read and explored new ways of calculating the area under graphs and were slightly appalled and embarrassed by the very existence of money.
Oh my business-starting friends! Learn from my mistakes! 

And Oh Dear Me! Maybe I can learn too....

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Customer of the Week: Celebration Cakes

It's almost enough to make me get married
How can I choose between my customers? They're all like children to me. But someone has to be the first Customer of the Week so why not Celebration Cakes, those purveyors of exquisitely beautiful and outrageously delicious.. errrmm... Celebration Cakes.

They started out in business about the same time I did and together we have weathered the six recessionary years, working ever harder for ever more people, emerging today not noticeably richer but very much still here.

Their customer file with makes a "whoomph" noise when I drop it on the floor. They have always entertained, puzzled and alarmed me and my team with their computer problems. The desktop that made a noise like a washing machine on spin? That was them. The largest Outlook file in the world? Uhuh - them. The narcoleptic network attached storage device. It belonged to Celebration Cakes.

Celebration Cakes is run by Robin and Catherine Scott of Caversham Park Village.

One of Robin's talents is being irascible though he can also make a decent fist of curmudgeonly.  Your first reaction to one of his rants is to stare open-mouthed. But your second reaction is to laugh. Because he is really funny. Please don't tell him I said that. It is important that he doesn't find out.

And Catherine? She's a sort of cake-designing, spreadsheet-developing over-worked angel. An angel who will never never delete a single email. Ever.

Hats off to the cakers from up the road! And thank you very much, guys xx

Robin's army training comes in handy for his rush hour computer drop.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

County Bingo - new counties! New players!

Jackie and Jules have entered the game! Is four people too few to claim it's gone viral..?

Updated list of  Missing Counties
I took out Bristol, London and Manchester on the grounds that they're not really counties

County Durham
East Riding of Yorkshire
Isle of Wight
North Yorkshire
South Yorkshire
Tyne and Wear
West Midlands

County Bingo - New County - Berkshire


At last! Berkshire!

County Bingo becomes an extreme sport when I visit Sonning to  bag my home county. I had to enter a bush very close to an endless stream of traffic and shout "Could you do me a favour?" at people on the other side of the road. Luckily some very nice people did.

The rules of County Bingo are explained here. Anyone can play. Cmon!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Computer repair/having a bath/living over the shop conflict

  1. I'll just get my bath running
  2. I wonder if that data recovery from the corrupt SSD has turned up anything?
  3. Yes! David's documents are turning up! I'm copying them to the NAS right now...
  4. .....minutes pass....
  5. Oh! I was running a bath

 6. For once fate smiles at me

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