BLOW #3: Compromise is always the solution to a dispute

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No matter how much effort you put into trying to keep people happy, there are always times when a dispute can occur and the cause most of these times comes down to a lack of communication.

So the first step to solving the problem is to try and take emotion out of the equation and make the past the past and have a focus on the future. Always listen to what the opposing case is, then try to understand which parts they are willing to compromise on then simply put forward places your willing to compromise and then can form the basis of a successful issue resolution.

Of course there are plenty of situations that parties are being totally inflexible and this is not going to work but I have always found sitting down with someone and asking them are they willing to comprise on a one or more points if you comprise on somethings as well then things do work out for the best, but after a dispute has occurred its easy to sweep it aside and blame the other party but it would be a great time to make sure how you have communicated to the other parties. Remember you always learn more from your mistakes then your successes so dont miss a chance to make yourself a better person.

Always be careful what life rules you put into place after a bad problem because there is always a tendancy to make global statements that are not effective.

BLOW #2: ATO loans are expensive

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The business lesson this week is how expensive things can get if you are tardy with supply the relevant information to the ATO. If you think the banks charge fees like wounded bulls you have not seen anything yet till the ATO gets hold of you. But of course they are very avoidable if you just keep on top of your paper work.

Running a business has lots of crucial elements to it, alot more than just coming up with a good idea, one of them of course is compliance. One thing you learn very quickly is the way the ATO treats businesses is a lot different to how they treat normal PAYG employees there is usually very little room for errors for they expect you to be professional, which of course is only fair and you should be.

I suppose the advice here is work with a good bookkeeper and accountant asking them lots of questions about when your supposed to do what by when. If you do fall behind work on some better solutions other than just ignoring it, see your bank about a loan and make sure the books are done regularly. Ignoring it just means a very expensive letter from the ATO.

Now the ATO have released a electronic calendar generator for business which is very poor but none the less it could be a handy to at least give you an idea of when things are due.

Do you have any advice on bookkeeping or compliance ?

Setting up the business bank account

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Now its probably a fair guess that your business plan has something todo with collecting money from people and your going to have to pay people so you will need a bank account.

Now ok we arent all that fond of banks but as business people we probably all wish we had a business model like theirs, but not all banks and accounts are equal. The two big influences for a companies account is how much money you have in the account account and how many transactions you use.

A great source for comparing options is cannex, the website can be found here, which have done the leg work for you and comparing the options. They have also just done a star rating guide for all the accounts so worth while checking out what your options are.

Remember banks, super managers, telcos and the like rely on our laziness, they love just sitting there eating away charging fees and getting fat without working for it. So remember to put into your diary a annual review of all your accounts and relationships. You will surprised that if you shop around you can find better deals and your current supplier will match it.

Expenses Tool

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In my travels finding all tools that will make my life easier I have stumbled over a very handle tool.

The problem I have is expenses, I travel a lot and I usually put off expenses and end up with this big full of crumpled receipts and other expenses I cant remember and end up taking a bath in the expenses because I had forgotten about things.

The solution: Xpenser this tool allows you to send messages to it about any method that appeals to you including Twitter, IM, Email and there are even voice and SMS which is an option if you were living in the states. Whats cool is you can even publish it as a private RSS feed.

Check it out I think its a great tool.

How do you keep expense reporting under control

Microsoft Mobile Marketplace is announced

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Another big announcement in the world of windows mobile was the release of Mobile Marketplace today, the announcement explains that key benefits are:

* An easily discovered on-device application that is installed on every Windows Mobile 6.5 device, and includes prominent placement on the Start menu.
* Global marketplace distribution (30 countries) with flexible payment options for end users through both credit card and mobile operator payment methods.
* Single source developer-focused web site for sign-up, publishing, and management of applications in the marketplace.
* Transparent set of policies that clearly articulate the types of applications allowed in the store.
* Streamlined, yet flexible workflow for getting applications published to the marketplace.
* Leverage existing Microsoft developer tools, such as Visual Studio, for faster time to market.

This is a great announcement and cant wait to get my hands on trying this out.

The full announcement can be read here

Microsoft releases Recite

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Being a Microsoft MVP for Mobile I of course have a great interest in all things mobile and lets say things have been a tad slow over at building 118 for us WinMo lovers as we have seen other great devices being released.

What has been great is that Microsoft has been starting to release lots of interesting things which are starting to me feel excited that things are on the move and now I am a little more excited to head to the MVP summit.

Today Microsoft has announced the release the technology preview of Recite, it is an WinMo app that uses voice search technology to let users record notes for themselves and then later find those notes by speaking back to the application. So what you could do is tell Recite that “Meeting with Microsoft about Recite on the 15th”, at a later date I would be able to retrieve this information by saying recite.

Find out more you can download it at : http://recite.microsoft.com/Pages/index.aspx

Would this help you in your job ? Do you have a real world use of this ?

BLOW: Actions means more than words

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What I have decided to do is try to regularly blog about what business lessons I have learnt or reinforced to me during each week. Now the acronym is BLOW (Business Lesson Of the Week ) is probably not the best but it will work I guess.

So this weeks lesson is how important it is to make sure people commit to agreed goals, now setting goals is a well document business process but it surprising how often a group of people sit around a table get very passionate about the new company and what great things it will be doing in the future but then have no real action plan once they leave the room.

The other important issue is to make sure all parties as individuals define those goals to the group and then also define what the reward is for making the goal and what the punishment is for not making not. Yes you need both and it must be the person themselves setting the reward and punishment for the goal, if the rest of the management team doesnt like it thinks its not enough work for reward etc or punishment is not enough then they should speak now and come to the right level of agreement.

The punishment could range from having to buy the team lunch up to forfeiting cash or even the shares in the business. Of course the team may explain when it comes to punishment a chance to redeem themselves. Its funny how when I use this technique with a team when a person says that they can definitely do something but when the push comes to shove and they could lose their weekly wage how the story changes.

A startup relies on people getting things done and not being distracted by other goals, make sure people in your management team are goal driven to the bigger picture.

Project Control System

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The next decision to make is what system to control the development effort and what development model we will be using.

I have used a agile approach to development for many years in fact I think I did before it had a name and get into trouble from managers for doing things without usual long winded spec documents. So the team approach is simple choose and what I like about the agile approach is getting non-technical people involved heavily into the planning of the development show.

They get to see the progress, they get to express what bits they would like to see and they get to see how much work goes into the development planning. One of the big problems is how much blue sky development dreaming users start making when they are a starting a development project, once they see the list growing a release dates drifting then they can also what decision they are making are affecting the delivery schedule.

After searching the web I came across the PivotalTracker system, its free to use and can run multiple projects. I have only really starting to use it but its a great way to run a scrum based project.

Have you seen something better ?

Email system chosen

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The next part of the startups infrastructure I needed to choose was an email system, of course there are many different options but it came down to four main options 1) use a pop/imap email account that is pretty cheap 2) using hosted exchange 3) have my own exchange box or 4) use gmail.

Now my own exchange box wasnt going to happen, been there done that and although she sat there for many years and only was off the air two times, once because of hardware failure and another time because of a developer configuration. But both times seemed like major stress and I needed to rely on friends to help me out to get things pumping again.

The next important issue for me is being a road warrior is email in the field, I need to be able to communicate with other employees share calendars and have push email, so that knocks option 1 out the running because I really need calendar and todo list functionality.

So that leaves the two big players left hosted exchange or gmail, and I must admit I didnt really give gmail a lot of time to impress me. I have sort of trained to organise myself using GTD techniques and I really didnt want to climb that hill of changing my techniques. So the costs of hosted exchange was so minimal I decided to just stick with the devil I know and I also read reports of gmail push for iphone which some people are using also seems to not to work that great.

So hosted exchange it is, the provider I chose was http://www.myhostedsolution.com since I have used them in past and had no problems so they had a walk up start. That in itself is a business lesson in how customers think, so thats another blog posting for the future.

Feel free to tell me if you think my choice was wrong or can recommend other providers.

Setting up the Accounting System

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The next step was to find a suitable accounting package, I wanted to find a package that allowed me to share the accounts with other people including accountants, book keepers and allow me to integrate other systems with it.

The only real solution to this is a web based system but the problem with this is how do I get my data back, I worry that one day I will click on web page and i find out that they havent paid their hosting bill and things have been shutdown. Mr Tax man then will come and say hello and I have no records left.

There are a few of options out there: saasu, xero were the two I looked at as they seemed designed for the Australian Markets.

The costs are saasu is free for 15 transactions per month but it would not take long to fill that as a transaction is invoice or an expense. xero is free trial but its then $50 ex GST per month while saasu is a very reasonible $20.

What I really wanted was a simple bank reconcilation, Xero looks like it does a great job at this while Saasu seems average. Its something I will need to explore more … since I havent choosen the right bank for us yet.

The company will be in the service industry so producing invoices with lots of line items for the completed tasks would be needed, saasu relies on a third party tool to create timesheets while xero has none. I dont see this as a big problem as I will be using a bug tracker work system and from that I will produce timesheets so as long as there is a API things would be ok, of which there is for both of them.

The other issue is what will your accountant say, if you outsource then your accountant my charge you extra to handle this but they do allow an export facility so your accountant should be able to upload that.

Do you use an online accounting system ? If so what do you use and how have you found it ?

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