The e-myth revisited

This is a very short book review. If you’ve not read “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber and you run a small business, drop what you’re doing, buy it and read it now.

The book is a story about how one woman’s shop became a lead weight on her shoulders – because every task fell to her. By focussing on her role as a business owner, she moves out of this situation and finds a path to expand her business whilst releasing her own time.

I read this book many years ago and it took me years to figure out how to apply it to my business. But I’m making progress now and it’s truly changing how we do things – and you’re seeing a lot of the results reflected in these letters.

Take Action: read it!

Take Action

You might have noticed that each one of these letters now has a “Take Action” section at the bottom. That’s because ideas are nothing without the action behind them.

If you want things to change, you have to make them change. That means getting up and doing something.

Take Action: write down one thing you’re unhappy about in your work life. Then spend five minutes coming up with ways to fix it. And then, pick one and do it

The weekly grind

The weekly grind

I have a whiteboard that hangs above the monitor in my office. At the start of the quarter, I decided on the things I wanted to achieve in the next three months, then broke that down into a whole series of tasks.

Then, on the whiteboard, I write out each of the three months, and add tasks into those months.

And when Monday comes around, I start a new note in my note-taking app, look up at this month's list of tasks, and pick which ones I'm going to get done this week.

That way, no matter what happens, I stay focussed on my longer term goals, despite the distractions that day to day life throws at me.

Take Action: Write out your goals and tasks for the quarter and stick them up above your desk. Look at them every day.

What does your website do?

What does your website do?

When I used to do website builds, a question I used to like asking was "if this website were a member of staff, what would their job title be?"

In some cases, it's "sales person".

But sometimes, it's "support staff". Or "receptionist". Or even "bulletin board".

And in nearly all cases, it's some combination of them all.

But it's really important to figure out what the site's roles actually are, because, it's all very well having this beautiful site, if it doesn't fulfil it's purpose, it's just money wasted.

Take Action: Write a job description for your website. Then, take a look at your site through these eyes – does it do its job?

Should I pay a monthly fee to maintain my website?

Should I pay a monthly fee to maintain my website

So a lot of website providers charge you a fee to build the website, set it up and maybe charge you a hosting fee, just to keep it running. You get a log in to the Dashboard, and you can post updates and make sure your latest cat photos and company news are there for all to see.

But some web developers insist on charging a monthly maintenance fee. And it's sometimes quite a hefty fee as well.

Should you pay this?

Firstly, I'm biased. Very biased. Because I'm a provider, and I have looked after websites for people in the past and I'm sure I will do again.

But, you absolutely should pay for maintenance – provided what you're getting makes sense.

The internet is a big bad place. It's full of threats, anything publicly available is under constant attack.

This isn't an exaggeration. There are "bots" (automated apps) that scan for servers and then when they find one, they automatically try a whole series of different attacks to see if they can break in – and then if they can, they use that server that you're paying for to spread more maliciousness across the world. And of course, as it's your server, you're legally liable for the stuff that it's doing.

So, if your provider offers a maintenance service that ensures that your server and all apps that run on it are kept up to date with the latest security patches and updates, you should take it. Some months, this is a trivial task – just run the update routine and make sure it completes OK. But some months, it can be a bit more in-depth, as the security patches cause knock-on effects – and those fixes need to be carried through as well.

Which is a long way of saying – yes, pay for the maintenance.

Take Action: Ask the person who maintains your website when they last installed the security patches for the software and operating system. If it’s more than an month ago, ask them why.

Is public Wifi still safe?

Is public Wifi still safe?

Recently, they announced that Wifi encryption has been broken. An attack known as Krack.

Does this mean that Wifi is no longer safe?

Well, yes and no.

So the traffic you send over a Wifi network can be encrypted or not. Unencrypted networks aren't safe for sensitive data at any time. Krack affects encrypted networks, so what you think is safe may not be.

But Krack only applies in particular circumstances – the attacker has to be physically close to the network and they have to send a load of data over that network. If they succeed, then they can read the encrypted data that's being sent over the network.

But, if you remember, when you're accessing a secure website (with a padlock in the address bar, an SSL-site), then your traffic to the site is doubly encrypted.

So your Krack attacker is sat there, rubbing their hands in glee at all this traffic that they've broken into. Only to find that they've got another layer of encryption to break into.

Because all the best security runs through layers.

Take Action: Next time you’re using public Wifi, take a note of how you connect – if you have to enter a password when you join, it’s encrypted. If you just connect, or you have to enter your email address on a webpage that opens up automatically, it’s not encrypted – so take extra care

Is public Wifi safe?

Is public Wifi safe?

I recently wrote about the “padlock” icon you get in your browser – and how it means that you’re on an SSL site.

One thing that Google is doing is marking out non-SSL websites as “insecure”.

But why are they doing this?

If you’re sat at home on your private Wifi network, then you should be OK.

But if you’re in a cafe, or at a hotel, where they you connect and then they ask you for your email address, it might not be so safe.

You see those Wifi networks are not encrypted. Which means that anyone connected to the same network can “sniff” (that’s a technical term) any traffic you send over that network.

But, if you’re connected to an SSL site (with a padlock in the address bar) then you’re still safe – because your connection to the network might not be encrypted, but your connection to the site is. So even if someone is sniffing your what you’re sending (what a lovely phrase) they can’t see what’s in there (OK, that sentence took a turn for the worse).

All of which is a long way of saying – always use Secure Sites.

Take Action: check your website by typing its address into the address bar of your browser. Type it out in full – as https://mysite.com – does the padlock appear? Then try it again as http://mysite.com (without the S at the beginning). Does the padlock appear this time?

Say thank you

Say thank you

I was always brought up to say please and thank you. My auntie (not my real auntie) used to scream at us if we weren’t sufficiently polite – and it’s stuck.

But it’s more than just politeness.

We work really hard. Often we sacrifice things that we shouldn’t have to in order to keep our businesses going.

But we have fantastic lives. A roof over our heads, food on the table, time with our friends and family. And a choice of what we do with our time.

It’s always worth saying thank you for that.

Take Action: Easy one this – say thank you. Either say it out loud to someone, write someone a letter or just say it to yourself.

Focus

Focus

There’s a thing about business owners called “Shiny Object Syndrome”

We are busy working away, learning as we go, and we find out about something new. Or we have a fantastic idea. And we say to ourselves “what we have now is good, but this is going to be amazing!”. And quickly change our business to include this new feature, process or product.

That’s great. Learning and change are important.

But if you do it too often, you never let anything bed in. You never give it the chance to grow.

Steve Jobs used to say that they said a “thousand times no for every yes”. They routinely rejected new ideas because what was important was to focus.

It can be difficult. But, sometimes, it has to be done.

Take Action: Keep a notepad by your bed. And when you get an idea, write it down immediately. Then, once a month, go back through your notepad and see which ones are really worth pursuing.

Why I talk about myself when hiring remote workers

Why I talk about myself when hiring remote workers

When I’m interviewing a software developer, almost half the time is spent talking about me. My background, my family, why I set up the company.

It might sound like ego, but it’s all part of my carefully prepared process for hiring the right people.

Often, when hiring remote workers, you are just seen as a machine that feeds items of work. Here’s an item, get it done, send it back. A production line.

That’s not what I’m looking for.

Software development is a creative endeavour and it’s something that requires people with a spark.

So I make sure that the applicant knows who I am, what sort of person I am – so they understand that there’s a human being on the other side of those requests.

Because, like everything, it’s all about relationships.

Take Action: Write down why someone would want to work with you? What’s in it for them – not just money, but what will their day look like? If you get the rest right, the money becomes much less important.