# Wednesday, January 31, 2007

At the very least I would recommend it’s worth writing a SWOT analysis, this will give you focus and allow you to visualise your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats more clearly and perhaps spot something that’ll be crucial to your success or failure. Depending on how fast paced your industry is, it’s always worth re-evaluating the SWOT analysis every now and again.

Once you’ve written your SWOT analysis, show your friends, family and colleagues and see if they can add to it at all. Don’t worry if they criticise it, if you can’t justify or argue your point, perhaps it needs a little more thought.

Defiantly, when setting out less is more. It’s easy to setup i.e. a web development business for only a few hundred pounds but by having lower overheads, it will mean as you earn off your first few jobs, you’ll have more to invest in the company.

What benefit is there to your company if you go out and get the best PC, the biggest office with a couple of secretaries and some flash car? In reality you’re more likely to struggle as you’ll be setting off on the back foot. Make sure you carefully weigh up any purchases, perhaps by categorising them into i.e.:

  • Need
  • Would improve work capacity
  • Would like, could perhaps improve work capacity
  • Would like but wouldn’t improve work capacity
  • Don’t need but look, it’s cool!

If you’ve got investment for the company and can afford to buy all the cool kit from the offset, great but it may be a better idea to keep that for a rainy day. Although I’ve got no proof I’ve always felt that had I not had to earn every penny we had to spend as a business I would have been far more complacent and so lazy and the business wouldn’t be where it is today. Along the same line of thought, I sometimes wonder if I could have done anything differently/better if I did have money to invest at the start and whether it would have got The Site Doctor any further.

This is a very good point, it would be worth noting this down in your targets and goals list [Targets and Goals] as it will give you something to focus on. Think of all expenditures on an annual basis, then when you have the annual expenditure you can work it out on a average number of jobs and/or a monthly figure making it feel more achievable.

Targets and Goals

Personally I can't stress how important targets are enough. Have a set of personal targets as well as business goals -NOT "Make loads of money". The targets should be SMART* (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely), write your targets and goals down somewhere as it commits you, you don't need to read them again just as long as they're there.

*Thanks for the acronym Stacey!

When setting out I had a few:

  1. Turnover £500pm for the first 12months (then rising in year two)
  2. Pay off all and any accumulated debts that we had (credit cards etc)
  3. Go on holiday once a year
  4. Be able to buy and afford to run an RX-8 (long story)

Tick them off as you go and add more as needed, they'll give you focus and drive. I would recommend having a selection of goals including something that would appear to be unrealistic as it will give you something to really strive for. It's also worth telling other people about your goals as in an odd way, it commits you to the goals.

A new one on me that I’ll be reading up on tonight! Guanxi [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guanxi]

At the end of the day, a business plan should enable you to visualise your goals as a business which in turn will allow you to focus your efforts. Don’t panic about not achieving everything at once, prioritise and attack one thing at a time.

Setting your rates

Firstly check out my previous post about how I suggest you go about set your rates [Pricing your work] as it has a great way to quantify your rates with meaning that’s also scaleable.

I agree and this is something that I’ve only come to appreciate relatively recently. When setting out I decided that the first few jobs would be relatively in-expensive to build on our portfolio, this was a real Catch-22 as I felt compelled to deliver amazing results for next to no reward. This temptation is great when you start out. You end up becoming a busy fool, working all the hours given for little financial reward (which limits potential investment in your company). You end up begrudging your clients and if you were to let it continue I would imagine start offering a lower service, or worse decide that running your own company wasn’t a good idea.

We recently re-jigged our pricing structure while analysing where I felt the business could do better and the only difference it has made is to my happiness, I feel far more rewarded for the work I produce. Interestingly the quantity of work being obtained has also increased somewhat dramatically so don’t think that your price will always sway the decision –a lot of the time it’s more about whether the client responds well to you.

It’s also worth pointing out that higher (not extortionate) rates, aren’t always a bad thing, I’ve lost out on pitches before because we’ve been too cheap and the client has opted for a more costly company, this isn’t always the case but oddly being more expensive often suggests you’re better.

Finding a niche isn’t always something you can do when you first set out as until you’re within a market you may not know the market well enough. If you do find a niche however, make sure you run a SWOT analysis on it first, it may not be that no-one else has noticed it, it may just be that others have tried and failed –that’s not to say that you can’t make it work however!

It’s defiantly one of the best things you’ll ever do –I would imagine this still counts even if it goes terribly wrong. I was once told that once you’ve been self-employed you’re effectively unemployable ever again and after having been self-employed for 3 years now I can see what they were getting at. I don’t think it’s so much from an employer’s POV but an employee’s, I would find it very hard to give up the freedom/control myself and so will do almost anything to avoid it!

I think this is a nice place to close this article, so in closing I’ll say that even if it fails you won’t regret trying, it’ll most likely be one of the hardest but also most rewarding and filling things that you’ll ever do. The worst thing you can do is not try and end up forever wondering what if…

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 8:51:29 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [3]  | 
# Tuesday, January 30, 2007

IIRC as a new business you’re legally entitled to 30 minutes of a solicitor’s time which you should take advantage of. Sadly 30 minutes won’t last very long so prepare a set of your most important questions first. It depends on your local Chamber of Commerce, but when we were a member of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, they used to offer you low level legal support as part of your membership.

Although it may seem a large expense when you’re starting out, I really would recommend getting some form of T&Cs drawn up. Spending a couple of hundred pounds at this early stage is likely to save you a lot of hassle later down the road. It’s also an idea to have a coversheet written up that can accompany the T&Cs which has a few blanks you can fill in. We’ve called this our “Agreement for the provision of service” and it reads along the lines of:

Agreement for the provision of services

This agreement made and entered by and between [YOUR COMPANY NAME] (hereinafter referred to as “The Supplier”) and [CLIENT'S NAME], whose principal place of business is [THE CLIENT'S ADDRESS] (hereinafter referred to as “The Client”)

The Supplier agrees to provide [LIST OF SERVICES] services as outlined within the proposal dated [DATE OF DETAILED PROPOSAL].

The Client agrees to pay The Supplier [DEPOSIT AS A PERCENTAGE]% (£[DEPOSIT AS A FIGURE]) of the total project costs on the completion of this agreement followed by [NUMBER OF PAYMANTS AS A FIGURE] ([NUMBER OF PAYMENTS IN WORDS]) additional monthly payments of £[MONTHLY PAYMENT AS NUMBER] from [START DATE] totalling £[TOTAL PAYMENTS AMOUNT IN NUMBERS] ([TOTAL PAYMENT AMOUNT IN WORDS]).

The Client agrees to the total project costs of £[TOTAL PROJECT COSTS AS A FIGURE] ([TOTAL PROJECT COSTS AS WORDS])

The Client is aware and agrees that additional services beyond the original specification may be subject to additional charges. Any additional charges will be confirmed in writing by The Supplier before being undertaken.

The Client also agrees that The Supplier will offer on-going support, maintenance and monthly reporting for a combined total of [DETAILS OF THE SLA] from [START OF SLA] for a monthly payment of £[MONTHLY PAYMENT AMOUNT] until instructed otherwise.

On completion, The Supplier will supply The Client with relevant timesheets for the development work if requested.

In accordance with our Terms and Conditions, Value added Tax, where applicable, will be added at the appropriate rate to the total of all charges shown on the Client’s bill.

We agree to the Terms and Conditions of The Supplier

IMHO you can write these yourself as they’re more just a summary of what you’ll be doing for the client in plain English so there’s no argument. I would state the total amount you’re charging –both in numbers and words, any time frames and additional services i.e. hosting.

Make sure you have the client sign two copies of your coversheet before you start any work for the client, you then sign and return one copy for the client’s records. The other, make sure you store somewhere safe (just incase!). I’ve not found clients object to signing T&Cs before work starts as it protects both the user and the client but I have found the coversheet helps clarify things for everyone.

There are a lot of contracts available for you to download online if you don't want to write your own or can't afford to have them written for you.

If you’re setting up with more than one person –especially if they’re a friend or loved one writing some form of contract between the two of you is incredibly important. Not wanting to sound negative but you never know what stresses and strains may be put on you and what effect they may have.

When forming the contract, if you’re going to do it yourself, make sure you overview the financials very carefully, at the very least I would cover the following:

  • Any investments including details about who invested what, how long the investment will be for, any conditions associated with the investment and clear details on the repayment(s) of the investment.
  • Profit share, I would suggest including information about percentages if possible (even if you’re planning on a 50-50 split).
  • Liabilities and ownership–this is something that will come with time but it would be a good idea to overview everyone’s roles within the company. I wouldn’t encourage a blame culture but associating responsibility is important.
  • Decision making. At times you will be required to make important decisions on a company basis, this is easy if you’re a sole trader but if there’s more than one person, how will you decide what to do should there be a split? Will you bring in a mediator to make the final decision or will you toss a coin?

At the end of the day, as John was getting at, no matter what the current the relations are between the company’s partners it’s best to be as explicit as possible to avoid any disagreement later.

A great point and well put. When you set out, scream and shout about the fact; let everyone know what you’re doing –and don’t forget to tell all your friends and family too. If you’re lucky, they’ll know someone who needs your service and will recommend you (or mention the fact allowing you to follow it up). The best business* we’ve had in the past has always come from recommendation.

*“Best” isn’t always quantified by the cheque at the end of the job

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 8:50:24 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, January 29, 2007

Wednesday 6th December 2006 was an interesting day for me, I often get asked about how I run The Site Doctor and how I set the company up in the first place, but on Wednesday I had no less than 3 people mention that they had thought about setting up their own business but weren’t sure how to go about it or whether they should so I thought there must be more.

Leon Jollans was the first and posted a question on the MsWebDev list (message in the archive here) asking for some advice and seeing as a plethora of fantastically useful information was offered I thought I’d wrap it up for future reference.

Before we get down and dirty with the advice, the first thing I’ll say to you is:
If you’re thinking about it, do it –there’s never a better time than now.

Cheesy as it sounds, it’s true, the number of people I’ve spoken to in the past saying that they’ve thought about it but the time’s not right is unbelievable, if you start off with that attitude, the time will never be right, there will always be a reason not to do it. The thing you realise once you do take the leap is; it couldn’t have been a better time!

In regards to how many businesses fail, I believe the official figures in the UK at the moment are 1 in 5 businesses make it through the first year. This would explain why the government is giving so many breaks to SMEs, so just remember -you're the 1 in 5!

Ok so to the tips, I’ve tried to get these into some form of logical order but some comments span multiple topics so I apologise about that.

Update 16th Feb 2007: The article is now available as a downloadable PDF

  1. Business start-up advice
  2. Before you get going
  3. Contracts and Terms and Conditions
  4. Business Plan
  5. Working from home
  6. Day-day running
  7. New Business
  8. Finances (VAT, Accountants etc)

In Closing

Thank you for taking the time to read the articles, I hope it wasn’t too overwhelming for you and more importantly I hope it’ll be a useful reference for you in one way or another. There was a lot more I want to add but it was starting to be never ending story so I had to put closure on it, over time however I expect I’ll add more so check back soon!

Here’s to your success!

Tim

Thanks To

As I said at the start of this article, it is largely based on information posted on the MsWebDev list so thanks must be given to all those that contributed:

Useful References / Links

The following links may also be interest to you:

Monday, January 29, 2007 8:47:39 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 

I think this is a nice point to start off with; it’s unlikely that you’ll be setting up a company doing something that you hate but it’s worth thinking about exactly what you wish to do. When I first setup The Site Doctor and people asked me what The Site Doctor did, I said “Web Design and IT Consultancy” as I felt it was broad enough cover everything I was interested in doing, as it turns out I would think the majority of our work should now be classed as “Web Application Development” but you try explaining what that is to your IT illiterate friends ;)

I would be interested to know how many companies start out aiming to offer one service and then diversify into other more specialised areas –I would think it frequently happens after identifying a niche market.

Identifying a source of quick (and if possible easy) revenue is a great idea, it doesn’t have to be something that you’ll continue in the longer term but this will ensure that the first few months while you’re establishing the company aren’t as hard as they perhaps could be. When I was setting up The Site Doctor I was prepared to take a part-time job to subsidise the business should it not generate enough income, luckily I didn’t need to but having a backup plan is always a good idea!

The other advantage of doing i.e. contracting or freelancing is that you’ll be able to get straight into the market place, letting people know about your services and identifying potential markets. The sooner you can get your face known, the more likely you are to generate new business.

I would recommend talking to an accountant to understand the pros and cons about each type of company. Setting up as a sole-trader or partnership is easier in the short-term but switching from a sole-trader to a limited company later may bring added complications and/or paperwork that could be avoided.

If you’re starting out on your own, it’s probably worth looking into the option of setting up a networked business. I’m not sure if this is the correct term for it but it’s what I’ve been using for some time now to describe how The Site Doctor operates. The theory is simple, rather than having a load of in-house staff which will increase your overheads, make tactical relations with other companies offering complimentary services. As mentioned later in the series (see New Business –Networking) we have setup ties with design companies, mobile development companies and a variety of other complimentary services.

The beauty of this form of co-operative business is it allows you to be a single point of call for more services than your core business which is more likely to keep you in the forefront of the clients mind. It also has the massive benefit of having back-up staff without the cost. If you’re planning on running a development company, why not find a couple of other local developers or development companies who can take on some of your workload? Initially you may not be making any additional income on top of their charges, but should the workload continue, you’ll be able to consider taking on an employee safe in the mind they’ll pay for themselves.

Steve (my father-in-law) went on a local business course many years ago before starting his Birmingham couriering business and is forever spouting pearls of wisdom that came out of it. From what he’s told me, the course has helped on many levels when running his courier business from decision making to re-assurance.

One point that Steve did pick up on from the course that I feel is relevant is the idea of listening. His course leader suggested that if you ever had the opportunity to take a successful business man/woman such as Richard Branson out for dinner, take them to a nice restaurant and pay for the dinner, not to impress him but to have a couple of hours of their time –something that you perhaps wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise. I think this applies to all business owners (I’m open to offers!) as you’ll have a great opportunity to learn from someone who’s been there and done what you want to do…

As far as I know, he’s never got any sniff of business out of the course but I would suggest using the event as a networking opportunity as the attendees are most likely new to business and in need of some contacts.

The business course should also expand on some of the points raised here. I’m not sure where the best place to look for one is, there are plenty available through Business Link but I would think finding one run by local business owners may be of more use.

As with announcing your launch, get involved in communities, it does cost you in time but people respond well to you giving something back and it often results in more opportunities arising which more than cover the costs of participating. You also get a nice warm feeling from knowing you’ve helped someone else!

There is currently a huge amount of information available on starting your own business and running your own business from the government as there’s a drive to encourage start-ups in the UK, pop down to your local business link and you may even find there are grants available to you.

Identity

A name is an important factor of your business, make sure it’s scaleable and something that you’re proud of. I came up with “The Site Doctor” as the business name primarily because (among other reasons) I felt the majority of our business would come through fixing websites.

You should be proud of your name for obvious reasons, but remember that you’ll be needing to say it to people on a regular occasion. You’ll no-doubt also be frequently asked how you came up with your company’s name or as to its meaning as small talk at networking events and the like, so have a response prepared before the event (even if it was just something that you thought sounded cool!).

The reason I say you should ensure your name is scaleable is because I feel “The Site Doctor” portrays an image of a one-man-band which is something that I now can’t get around without changing the name. I did think about re-branding the company as “TSD” but on discussing this with existing clients and friends we felt that it was somewhat impersonal, I’m inclined to agree and would steer clear of acronyms for your name.

Remember that branding and company image is a profession itself and having a few quid to outlay on it won’t hurt. You can see the past incarnations of The Site Doctor [New TSD Design] which we’re currently trying to face lift but I would recommend having it designed professionally, not just to impress potential clients but also to give you confidence.

Sean’s idea of having templates for your proposals is a great idea and one well worth passing by your designer. By all means have an idea of what you feel your company’s brand should look like/convey but remember to leave a little room for the designer to make suggestions.

Monday, January 29, 2007 8:44:40 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [4]  | 
# Monday, January 22, 2007

What with the forthcoming 2007 marathon canoe season and our sponsored 90 mile canoe race I’ve been hitting the gym much harder (I’ve never really stopped but I’m talking more than 5 times a week...) anyway's, Sam wanted to know what I did when I was there and rather than saying “as little as possible” we thought it would be a good idea to make a note so here it is guys.

This is mainly written for Sam and Pat (my brothers) but other people may be interested in it for some reason or another. A disclaimer first though: I’ve got no medical or sports science to this, it’s just what I’ve found works :) I’ve been doing pretty much the same workout since I was 14 without anyone/thing to compare it to so I’d be interested to know how others find this.

My original work out

This is what I used to do on a nightly basis while I lived in Calstock (except when I’d been out on the water training). I’ve not done this workout since I moved up to Birmingham so some aspects (i.e. the set split on sit ups) is a little hazy but the numbers are correct (I’ve got the records including my nightly peak flow...)

Duration: Around an hour

55 x Chin-ups with your palms facing you

Nothing clever here, just your bog standard chin-up.

100 x 30% sit ups over the edge of bed

Strap your feet down so you’re lying across the bed horizontally (opposite to how you normally sleep). Your bum should be at the edge of the bed allowing you to hang off the edge. Cross your arms so your hands are holding opposite shoulders (similar to how Tutankhamun is classical depicted), starting with your back parallel to the floor sit up to an angle of around 30% and then back down again. The advantage of hanging off the edge of the bed is you’re not allowed to rest until the end of the reps. The 100 may be split.

45 x Chin-ups with the back of your hands facing you

As above, just do it with the back of your hands facing you -so you exercise slightly different muscles.

100 x Crunches

Standard stomach crunches rather than the new alternative version where you bring your legs up rather than your torso.

45 x Wide arm press ups on finger tips

Rather than having your arms just beyond your shoulders, place them a little further out (around a foot) and rather than pushing from your palms, lift yourself onto your finger tips first. I like these because they work your forearms too :) I used to place my feet together to reduce my stability.

35 x Hand together press ups

These are great for your shoulders and triceps, it’s almost opposite to the standard press up –place your hands together and your legs apart for stability.

100 x 30% sit ups over the edge of bed

(As above)

50 x Bed dips

Standard dips off the edge of your bed.

150 x Wrist curls

Split into three sets of 50, seated, rest your forearms on your knees and curl your wrists upwards and then go back down again a simple but effective exercise. It’s not as impressive as it sounds, I only used to have a pair of 4Kg dumbbells haha.

Depending on what sort of mood I was in after that I would do a variety of other free-weight exercises including bicep curls, shoulder butterfly lift things etc.

Like I said, I’ve not done that since I came to Birmingham so I’ve got no idea if I could still do it (I doubt I could), but I’m aiming to do more than that now.

My current routine

This is what I’m doing at the moment, like I said earlier I’m doing this at least 5 times a week.

The training schedule is as follows:

Now --> April: Building up strength/Increasing weight

April --> September: Stamina training

Until April I’m aiming to increase the reps and/or weight by 5 reps and/or 5Kg at least every month, I’m not the sort of person that goes to the gym to take it easy, I’m always trying to do more than I did last time but I consider it “doing 5Kg more” when I can do it every time. The best way to do this is every time you’re able to get through the reps, don’t stop there –keep going until you can’t lift more.

5 is a fairly good number to work with, no justification behind that other than I tend to rep in sets of 10 (though some people prefer to rep in sets of 8). Make sure you drink at least a liter of water while training, if you’re sweating lots drink more.

I have started to rest for no more than 30 seconds between each set, this is only because I read somewhere that people that rested for no more than 30 seconds between each set gain an extra 6% muscle over those that wait for longer –then again 96.789% of all statistics are made up on the spot... that aside  I can see the logic in it and it’s giving me a getter work out so...

All weights are per arm as the Hammer Strength training machines I use have independent arm mechanisms.

Duration: 1 - 1½ hours

70 x Wide arm press ups on finger tips

I’m still doing these in a similar way as before but now I split it into two sets of 35 reps, I also cross my legs when doing it so only one foot is on the ground for each set (and then I switch them around for the next set).

100 x 30% sit ups

Pretty much as before but I do these on the floor rather than off the bed, to avoid the temptation to rest I only return to a 1% angle (so your back doesn’t touch the floor). I’m currently doing these in a 50-50 split –when resting I stop on the up of #51 and hold it for 30 seconds before continuing. Always stop on the top of a sit up rather than taking it easy ;)

Today when I went I did two sets of 60 but this is the first time I’ve done that so it doesn’t count yet ;)

30 x Hand together press ups

As before but rather than having my legs apart I’ve started putting them together to reduce the stability. There’s no rest between these.

Today I increased these to 40 but again, it’s not every time so doesn’t count

10 minute run at 12-14kmph

I used to use my boarding accident as an excuse not to run though part of this was just an excuse as I don’t particularly like running but I’ve started doing it again to ensure portages are faster!

Today I increased this to a 15 minute run which felt pretty good so I’m going to increase this regularly

Front Lateral Pull Down

A little like a seated chin up machine, I start at my maximum weight for a full set (currently 60Kg*) and do a full set, then I move down 10Kg and do another full set, then again and so on until I reach the lowest weight possible, whenever I feel I can do more than a full set I keep going to the next full set. Once on the bottom weight start going back up again to where you started –if you make it all the way back you need to start higher next time (remember no longer than 30seconds between the next level).

30 x 35Kg Lateral Shoulder Press

In three sets of 10 reps, it’s a standard shoulder press. I need to dramatically increase this which is something I’m working on.

30 x 35Kg Lateral Row

As with the shoulder press

*The machine is only marked with digit but I’ve compared it to free-weight and it feels the same –also other machines with similar sized weights have Kg so I’m making the assumption...

Then depending on whether Stacey’s finished or not I’ll continue with a combination of other shoulder and back exercises, I plan on working these into my routine more regularly.

All this is followed by at least 10 (usually 20) lengths of the 50m pool –non-stop for at least 8 lengths at a time.

I think the thing to remember is that you’re not going to the gym to take it easy, push yourself as far as you can go each time. I punish myself for resting by increasing the reps –i.e. for every second I rest over my 30 second pause time I have to do an additional repetition. If you think you can lift more weight, give it a go, if you can’t, step down a level until you can! Beat yourself up in the gym and you’ll go far :)

Remember: You’re not training for anyone else, it doesn’t matter if someone else can lift more than you, work harder and you’ll be able to do the same soon enough if that’s what you want. Personally I don’t care what others are doing, all I care about is winning (which last season I didn’t do as much of as I would have like).

Post work-out

After my work out I tend to have a cold shower –start off cold and then make it colder as you acclimatize, I’m not sure why I started doing this but I seem to recall someone saying that you needed to cool the muscles down as quickly as possible. Another plus point is it really gets your heart rate going which I believe gets the blood to your muscles faster (to repair them faster and allow you to recover faster etc).

I like to walk/jog to/from the gym and when I get back usually have one of my banana milkshakes as they’re not only refreshing, fills you up but also gets a load of protein into you when it’s most important.

I also rest after a work out, I feel really energized so tend to get on with a little work, the two hours I’m out of the office working out allows me to clear my head so I often find I’m really productive afterwards.

Goals

If you’ve read my article on business start-up advice you’ll already know I’m a firm believer of having goals and targets, they really help you focus so naturally I’ve got a set of goals for my training in the longer term:

  1. Increase each of the weights by about 20Kg by April at which point I’ll start increasing the repetitions and include more rowing/running/on-water training
  2. Get up to and hold 12 stone of muscle. I’m just below 12 stone at the moment but I need to get a little leaner. I’ve always felt that 12 stone is an idea weight for the type of boat I paddle –it’s not too heavy (slowing me down) and not too light (in which case I’ll more than likely not be so strong!). I don’t mind going over this as long as it’s muscle
  3. Paddle my 4.28 mile training route consistently in at most 25 minutes
  4. Paddle all 8 mile races sub hour –preferably sub 50 minutes

What to eat

In regards my diet, those of you who know me will tell you that I don’t really worry about what I eat but I do make sure I eat good healthy food, after the gym I like to have one of my banana milkshakes (see: The ultimate post-training milkshake). I’ll try and post up some more good dinners but I tend to like things like pastas, fish, baked potatoes (with tuna mayonnaise), rice dishes and lots of fruit.

The last time I was training heavily was when I first met Stacey and was sponsored by Cannons Plymouth, I would come home, eat a big meal but I still wouldn’t be full so would resort to eating lots of tins of tuna (usually two tins made into tuna mayonnaise –but without the bread!). That was the only way I could stop the craving for food. The more scientific reason for this is your body needs protein and lots of it to repair and grow the muscles you damaged/trained during your work out.

Things to try

  • Alternating the training on different parts of the body, i.e. Mon/Weds/Fri do back, Tues/Thurs/Sat do shoulders and arms etc
  • Protein powder, I’ve heard a few people rave about them, I’m not interested in bulking up, just not having to eat so much (usually tuna mayonnaise) post training
Monday, January 22, 2007 7:15:26 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Friday, January 19, 2007

What with the incredible storms Britain has been hit with over the past week it was inevitable that we'd run into some form of technical hitch with either the broadband and/or power. Until today we'd been really lucky and not hit with anything.

Today, at lunch however was a different matter, I popped out to get some milk to go in my tea, on my return all my messengers and VPN programs had thrown a wobbly and the router's ADSL light was off. I've had this happen once or twice in the past and it's rectified itself within a few minutes so I decided to have an extended lunch and it should all be sorted, if not I'd call BT.

After another 30 mins had passed there was still no sign of connectivity so I called BT. Having called BT before I was ready for the IVR but BT have obviously added a new twist. I was -to my surprise able to quickly navigate the menu options to end up about 6 options later being told to call the broadband technical support on 0845 600 70 30.

Great I thought* and I quickly got through to an advisor (not surprising when it was no doubt costing me £1 per minute). I immediately had a steak of fear driven into me when I quickly realized I was through to an Indian call center. I explained that I just wanted a "line status check" but he didn't really understand what I meant and wanted to know what email client I was using. Being as co-operative as I could I decided to play along and after a few more questions he asked if he could put me on hold for a minute. After 5 minutes of being on hold I hung up.

*But why didn't they put that on the first option with "If you're having broadband issues".

I then managed to get hold of BT's line status report system (thank Julian) which for the record is 0800 169 0199). All sorts of issues were being reported except for mine (sometimes in a completely in-audible voice). At the end a helpful voice says "If your issue is not reported here, please unplug your router/modem, restart and then try again". I would have expected him to then go on and say "If this still does not sort it please call xxx and report a potential fault" but instead it hung up.

So I went back to good ol' 150 to test the options and get through to an advisor and then I head option 4 - "If you'd like to report a fault please press 4" - I did.

- I waited -

- I waited some more -

Just as I was about to hang up I heard a voice say "You typed in 01384 261779" which is indeed the office telephone number but I didn't type it in. There were no instructions so I thought I'd wait some more. After what seemed like an age the voice came back again and asked if I'd like to report a fault and gave me some options including testing the line myself, checking the status of a previous report or talking to an advisor. So feeling that I needed some human help I went for that at which point it hung up on me.

So back I went to try and do the automated check but that didn't get me any further, no wonder BT's not getting any complaints atm -you can't report them!

In a last ditch attempt I decided to try my usual tactic of Button Bashing™ as it usually gets me to an operator on the basis of "it's a stupid caller" but this time it didn't work and resulted once again in me getting cut off.

As it happens in this instance, it was only a matter of time before the problem would rectify itself...

Friday, January 19, 2007 8:34:49 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 

I started making this a while ago, I think it was purely out of accident that I first made it, I had a few ingredients and thought “what the hell”.

Ingredients

  • 1 pint of milk (I like whole milk –blue/silver)
  • 2 Bananas
  • 1 spoonful of chocolate powder
  • A few scoops of vanilla ice-cream (optional -makes it cooler and frothier)

What to do

  1. Throw it all in a blender and whiz it up.
  2. Pour it into a pint glass.
  3. Enjoy :)

As with all my cooking, the ingredients and quantities aren’t set in stone, it just depends on how I’m feeling at the time.

Friday, January 19, 2007 7:23:34 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A couple of people have been looking into new PCs recently so I thought it may be of use for me to post what I've got (and to use as a point of reference in the future!). This is fairly old now (nearly a year infact) but it's still doing me proud :)

  • Motherboard: Asus A8N-SLI SE (101701)
  • Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ Dual Core 2.0ghz 512Kb/512Kb Cache (094640)
  • RAM: Crucial 1GB DDR PC3200 400MHz (65719)
  • Graphics Card(s): 2 x Gainward BLISS GeForce 6800GS 512MB PCI-E (105525)
  • Primary (system) HDD: Western Digital 74GB "Raptor" 10k RPM SATA/150 8MB Cache (55454)
  • Secondary (work) HDD: Western Digital Caviar SE 250GB 7200RPM SATA2/300 16MB Cache (94403)
  • Tertiary (music etc) HDD: Seagate Baracuda V 120GB SATA (115417) -added from old system
  • Keyboard: Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 (97577)
  • Case: Antec P180 EU Aluminium Super Miditower (91721)
  • PSU: Antec NEO HE500GB 500W Modular PSU With 80mm Low Speed/noise Fan 18db (99137)
  • VGA Cooling:  2 x Zalman (VF900-CU) Active VGA Cooler (110237)
  • Sound card: Creative Audigy 2 (Taken from the previous machine)
  • Speakers: Altec Lansing ADA-995 -absolute beasts, I can't turn them above 10% while in the office, the sound from them is superb if you can afford them (Taken from the previous machine)

As for how it goes? Well, awesome is an understatement, it's a real step-up from my old machine (a Dell Dimension 8300 as featured in Computer Buyer August 2003) and I would say I'm an above average user. I've not tried measuring the noise levels produced from it but more often than not I have to check the lights on the keyboard to make sure it's on in the morning.

If I were re-building the system again, I would however swap the motherboard for the deluxe version as my chipset cooler fan has been a little noisy in the past (however ASUS replaced that free of charge for me). I'm planning on replacing it with a passive cooler though as this one sometimes rattles.

The upgrade to the Zalman VGA coolers are an absolute must, I've routed the speed controllers out through the front of the machine which allows me to control their speed easily without altering the case at all. The difference in noise level is phenomenal and I rarly run them above the minimum setting. My VGA cards from memory (I've taken off the temp monitor) were running around 30C while playing Need For Speed Most Wanted on max graphics settings.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007 10:38:57 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Before Christmas we pitched to develop a web site for a friends new idea, we didn't get the project sadly. However last night I got a mailer stating that it was launched so in an effort to help the site get into the rankings a little more and to show no hard feelings (GRRR) I thought I'd post a link here :)

Good luck Filip and Kon! I hope it works out for you.

The mailer he sent out is too wide to fit on here sadly but here's the spiel (typos and all :P)!

We are proud to announce the launch of Allmightys.com and would like to welcome you to our homepage
We at Allmightys.com want YOUR ideas and designs!
We want to print them on high quality, comfortable and sweat-shop free T-shirts and we want
YOU to take credit for them and make some money too!
Did you ever want that special T-shirt but could never find anything similar to buy?
Do you ever look at other T-shirts and think that you could do so much better?
Do you want to see other people wearing your design as they walk past you?
YES?
Then..
Enter our Launch Competition 2007



Please sign up, send us your design and we will get the public to decide how great it truly is!

Deadline for submissions is 15th February 2007 (11pm GMT)
Thats only a month away, so get on it!

Once we have collected all the designs we will launch our online voting process
where you and your friends can vote for your favourites. The top three designs win and get sold...
You will recieve € 2 (gold), € 1 (silver) or € 0.50 (bronze) for every t-shirt we sell with your design on it!

Once we have collected all the designs we will launch our online voting process
where you and your friends can vote for your favourites. The top three designs win and get sold...
You will recieve € 2 (gold), € 1 (silver) or € 0.50 (bronze) for every t-shirt we sell with your design on it!

So dont waste any time and visit Allmightys.com NOW!
If you want to see how it works, click here...
If you want to know more about us, click here...
If you want to comment, click here..

Allmightys.com is brought to you by:

Filip Visnjic is a qualified architect currently working on some physical internet installations for a bar and art gallery in Hackney Central, London. He is also involved in a number of other web based projects. He is a director at WAG and also teaches architecture at the University of Westminster on degree, diploma and MA courses as well as on the BA Art and Design course at Central St. Martins School of Art and Design.
He is married, lives in North London and loves everything electronic that goes beep.

Konstantin von Berg is a qualified architect and works for a number of different practices. He is currently involved in the design of a small hotel in Berlin. He also freelances as a graphic designer, working all aspects of corporate identity development, layout and print stuff. He travels frequently between Berlin and London thanks to low cost airlines.
He lives in Berlin and loves contemporary art and comic books.

Dimitri Raab is the one who takes care of the finances. He also works as an accountant for an art gallery and a designer furniture store in Berlin besides being a fan of Hertha BSC, the local heroes.
He is married, lives in Berlin and loves Ska and punk rock.

The designs are printed in Berlin on T-Shirts made by American Apparel.

All rights reserved Allmightys.com 2007

Tuesday, January 16, 2007 6:01:33 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Saturday, January 13, 2007

I love sushi so a while ago I signed up for the Yo! Sushi mailing list and now I get all sorts of little discounts coming through, I thought I'd share their latest offering with everyone else. To get 50% off at Yo! Sushi, go to their website and fill out the form:

http://www.yosushi.com/sale.php

I know the sushi purists out there will start going on about how it's not "real" sushi, but it's good enough for me -and tastes that little be sweeter half price ;)

Now go, entertain and impress your clients at Yo! Sushi with your discount -I won't tell!

Saturday, January 13, 2007 5:34:54 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Friday, January 12, 2007

After a few months of intensive swapping, I've finally completed something -my collection of free deliveries from Icon Buffet. If you need any let me know, I may have some deliveries to spare. Now I just need to find somewhere to use them!

Here are the 57 icon sets I've got:

  • alexandria_arch
  • alexandria_atmos
  • alexandria_cosmo
  • anaheim_alert
  • ashbury_menagerie
  • ashbury_welcome
  • blinksale
  • dresden_atmosphere
  • dresden_tournament
  • durango_research
  • farewell_snow
  • gingerbread-suite
  • groom_lake_invasio
  • helsinki_hi-fi
  • kyoto_auto
  • kyoto_geometry
  • mallow_buzz_1
  • mallow_buzz_2
  • mallow_symbol
  • manhattan_finance
  • manhattan_metroplex
  • manhattan_night_life
  • manhattan_smilies1
  • manhattan_smilies2
  • Manhattan_symbol
  • mnhttn-tech-toys
  • manhattan_veggie
  • marseilles_breakfa
  • marseilles_cafe
  • modena_alfa_cold
  • modena_alfa_cool
  • modena_alfa_molten
  • modena_simbolo
Friday, January 12, 2007 6:39:22 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 

I'm currently thinking about participating in a 90 mile canoe race called the "Cheshire Ring Race" this year (30th June - 1st July 2007). I've always wanted to participate in a longer canoe race (normally I paddle 8 miles) and I've never had the chance to do anything over 20 miles since they stopped the Trans-Pennine Canoe Race the year I was old enough to take part. So when the opportunity to take part in the 90 mile Cheshire Ring Race came about I decided on the spot that's what I would do.

Eventually I would like to take part in the Devizes to Westminster race which assuming this year's training goes to plan, I plan to do in 2008. The Devizes to Westminster canoe race is about 125 miles of canal and river way starting at Devizes (no surprise there then!) and ending at Westminster. The race is usually at the start of April and can either be done non-stop or in stages over 3 days (for girls!).

The first time I do the Devizes to Westminster race I would do the race in a double (with my canoe partner and brother Sam I expect) so I thought the Cheshire Ring Race would be a nice warm up/test event for us (making sure we can keep up the training with work etc). I mentioned the fact I was thinking about it to Paul Rose (my canoe coach and close friend) wondering if he'd be interested in paddling with me in the Cheshire Ring Race and he was also up for taking part.

I then had two possible partners for the race -I was sure Sam would be up for it, so Paul suggested that we take part as a relay team -Paul damaged his back a few years ago while paddling in a Bristol canoe race with me so wasn't sure if he'd manage the full 90 miles. This sounded a very sensible idea. All that was left was to find another person for our relay team which where my other brother Pat steps in to make our team of 4 :)

Every year Paul Rose likes to do an event for charity and as getting sponsored for the race had already been suggested by Sam it was deemed to have enough of a wow factor to be "the event" to sponsor this year. We've agreed to raise money for two (maybe three) charities (which are yet to be confirmed) but are likely to be from:

Each has it's own reasoning and once we've decided which charities we're going to raise for I'll post a little background :) but for now I should get back down the gym!

For anyone else interested in joining in (you're welcome to be on our support crew if you'd rather not paddle -would be great to have you there!) here is the brochure:

  • Cheshire Ring Race 2007 brochure front
  • Cheshire Ring Race 2007 brochure back
Friday, January 12, 2007 1:14:22 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Wednesday, January 10, 2007

As part of a forthcoming series of articles I covered the importance of adhering to a routine. This was something that I've always done and always felt is important but quite how important I didn't realize until this month.

This month Stacey is having a few weeks off work while she's waiting for all the CRB checks to come through before starting her new role as Senior Management Accountant at the Birmingham City Council which she really deserves after a few really hard years studying to become a Fully Qualified Chartered Management Accountant with CIMA. Anyhow I digress.

As I've got a fair amount of work on at present, I knew I wasn't going to be able to spend time with her for all the time she had off but I decided having a few late mornings wouldn't hurt. How wrong could I be? The most disruptive thing this month so far has not been Stacey wanting to do things (which I thought it would be) it has been the semi-lack of routine.

For the past 3 years I've got up with Stacey around 6:30am and got into the office after seeing her off (usually around 8am but in recent months due to lack of motivation for her job this dropped to 9am) and then I would work until her return at around 7:30pm. This gave me a good 11 hours office time a day.

What I've found however is with the lie-ins etc over the last week is how your mind gets into a routine. When you disrupt the routine i.e. by getting up at 9am, your brain suddenly finds it harder to get into gear with what you're working on.

This disruption basically means, where it used to take me 10-15 minutes in the morning to gather myself for the day ahead (turn on computer, check emails, think about where I got to the night before etc) it's taking me closer to 30 minutes. I'm also finding I'm getting distracted a lot easier! This week, we've started getting up at 8am, then starting work around 9am and already I've been at least 50x more efficient (though still going to bed around 2am means I'm getting increasingly knackered!).

I'll stress again now, if you're planning on working for yourself in the future: have a routine and stick to it!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007 2:30:28 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Friday, January 05, 2007

My mobile contract expired just before Christmas and because of the issues I was having with Orange earlier this year (Seeing Orange) I decided I’d take my business elsewhere.

Every year we go through the same charade trying to find a new contract, something that has what we want at a reasonable price and every year the sales people completely ignore what you ask them. This year however SERIOUS took the biscuit and we couldn’t help but walk out laughing.

Phones4U LogoIn our local shopping centre The Merry Hill Shopping Centre (aka Merry Hell) we have all the usual names within walking distance (in fact IIRC Phones4U and Carphone Warehouse are next to each other) so we spent an hour or so wandering around them all, having being seduced by the adverts for Phones4U I thought we’d give them a go.

First of all we were accosted by a guy on the door who, once we’d got past all the pleasantries asked what we were after. Having gone through this routine a couple of times already today I reeled off: “We’d like two separate contracts, one 2-300 minutes £20-25pm and the other 5-600 minutes £30-35pm. We’re not too worried about the amount of texts we get as neither of us text much so show us your best (cheapest) deal”.

The guy then asked me what phone I currently had, quite how that was relevant I couldn’t figure out. He then asked to see my current phone so I gave it to him mainly out of curiosity as to why he wanted to see it. He had a look at it and then told us he would take us someone that’d sort us out.

He then walked us over to some kid sitting behind a desk and told him that we were looking “for a contract* that has lots of minutes and texts** and could this guy help us?” I couldn’t help but laugh as they both had cheap matching pin stripes on.

*We were looking for two
**We didn’t want any texts

The representative then started taking details like our names, phone numbers, postcode, names (again) and then he started wanting things like home phone number by which time we were growing impatient, trying to work out the relevance. So Stacey subtly asked what relevance it had to finding us the cheapest deal. He went a little quiet and then proceeded.

Looking a little lost I thought it would help to repeat “We’d like two separate contracts, one 2-300 minutes £20-25pm and the other 5-600 minutes £30-35pm. We’re not too worried about the amount of texts we get as neither of us text much so show us your best (cheapest) deal and we’ll sign”. Sadly though it didn’t help, he just mumbled something about cutting to the chase and then told us he would get his manager to help us find the best deal.

So over comes his manager to help us, but instead of acknowledging we were there she decided to talk to the sales guy (loud enough so we could hear), he pointed out the notes he’d made on the form emphasising that we’d not given him many personal details or told him about our current contracts though why that’s relevant seeing as I told him what we needed.

The manager then spent a couple of times ticking and crossing the form and told him that we didn’t have one of the phones. Rather than telling us they then started muttering to each other again before she nodded to him and told him to suggest it. Rather than telling this herself somewhat like a parrot he repeated exactly what she’d just said, then they decided to confer a little more and again he repeated that they weren’t sure they could help us as we know what we wanted. Throughout the 5mins the manager was there, she never once made eye contact or spoke to us directly without using her puppeteer of a sales person. She then mentioned something about going away and she’d be back (hardly audible) and left us wondering what was going on.

I think the best of it all was when the sales guy felt it would be a good idea to make some small talk while waiting for his manager to return so he asked whether we were at Merry Hill shopping. Instead of then listening to Stacey’s response his eyes wandered around the shop –clearly not paying any attention to us so I said a couple of times “Stacey, he’s not listening to you” –the fact that he didn’t notice while we were talking to him demonstrated that. It was the most bizarre situation I’ve ever been in, to top it all, he waved to a friend and then a few moments later actually got up and walked away WITHOUT SAYING ANYTHING!! I still can’t believe how un-believably rude that was and I’m just glad that we got up and walked out.

Funnily enough, I have to agree with what Stacey has repeatedly said since about Phones4U –the weird people from the adverts are really the sales people…

I’m still wondering why sales people don’t take on board what you’re telling them instead of trying to sell you something that’s clearly unsuitable for your needs or just irritating you so much that you just walk out. If one of the three sales people we spoke to at Phones4U had actually listened to what we were saying or even interacted with us normally they may have got their £70 commission.

Anyways, I ended up getting the phone I wanted at the price I wanted but obviously not from Phones4U! Perhaps this is a more realistic logo?

An alternative Phones4U Logo

Friday, January 05, 2007 10:49:20 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 

I’m not sure how many people this applies to but a while ago I found I was loosing VS2005 IntelliSense when I was working in my web.config. More specifically I lost IntelliSense after editing any of the site’s settings using the Web Site Administration Tool in ASP.Net 2.0.

I quickly realised that the issue was being caused because the Web Site Administration Tool updates the root element (<configuration>) of your Web.Config file to include an attribute of “xmlns”. If you’re loosing IntelliSense, just delete the attribute and you’ll have it back in a tick :)

<configuration xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/.NetConfiguration/v2.0">

Should be:

<configuration>

p.s. Yes Doug, I can already hear you crying out “Not for me –I don’t use VS*yawn*

Friday, January 05, 2007 2:57:57 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [3]  | 
# Wednesday, January 03, 2007

While updating the layout of the DasBlog I needed to alter some of the source code to output lists rather than tables etc and after uploading the latest version of the blog the login form suddenly failed to work. When logging into DasBlog it would accept the parameters and either kick me out to the error page or redirect me to the logged in page.

DasBlog includes some fairly indepth error logging (not using Phil Winstanley’s Error Reporting code mind you), one of the events it logs is logging in. I noticed that I would get one of two errors when logging in, when I was shown the error page it would say: “Password Challenge was null in ViewState! <br>   at newtelligence.DasBlog.Web.LoginBox.doSignIn_Click(Object sender, EventArgs e)” etc and when it took me to the front page it would log: “Audit: SecuritySuccess” and the standard who logged in from which IP etc.

As I’d edited the DasBlog source my immediate thought was that I’d changed something in the login process so I copied the original DLLs back onto the site and tried again without any success. After a fair amount of searching into the issue on Google and the DasBlog forums I was at a loss as to the issue so I asked on the DasBlog forum (http://www.dasblog.us/viewtopic.php?t=417).

A couple of people responded including Tom but sadly none of the suggestions applied to my situation. In the end I found that the issue was being caused because I was running the site under ASP.Net 2.0. When running DasBlog under ASP.Net 2.0 you need to make additional changes to the web.config file as outlined in the install documentation. When setting up the staging site I copied the directory from my main blog so I had the same content to test with, although I remembered to alter all the relevant areas in the site.config etc files, I had neglected to alter the cookie path setting in the web.config. So if you’re getting the same issues, check the web.config cookie path values.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007 11:26:03 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [6]  | 
# Tuesday, January 02, 2007

I’ve never really been happy with the look and feel of this blog and felt that it needed jazzing up a little –especially now I’m getting more and more hits on it but life got in the way and as ugly as it was it did however do the job.

Over Christmas though I decided it was time to bite the bullet and cut to the chase etc and update it. The blog was running on DasBlog v1.8 so while re-working the theme I would also update it to the latest version v1.9.

This is the final result, it’s still a work in progress as I would like to improve the XHTML compliance but as usual time got the better of me so that’s something that will have to be fixed later. It’s certainly an improvement over the old blog though don’t you think?

Over the next few weeks/months I’ll finish editing the source to improve it’s compliance and also update my photo album so it’s more in-line with this site. Don’t forget www.thesitedoctor.co.uk is having a revamp in 2007 too.

So, worth the effort? Here's the old layout:

The Old Blog Layout

Tuesday, January 02, 2007 10:13:23 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  |