Chris Croft's Personal Blog

September 20, 2011

“I could do what you do, Chris”

Filed under: Careers, Travel and driving — chriscroft @ 7:14 pm

If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard this!

But seriously, if you are thinking of becoming a trainer, what advice would I give?

  1. Are you structured enough to have a plan (it’s very unforgiving if you turn up late or with the wrong materials!) but also free-wheeling enough to cope with different numbers of people, venue problems, timing changes, groups who are more or less chatty, etc?  This mix of organised but improviser is quite unusual in a person, and if you are very organised or very disorganised then forget training as a career!
  2. Are you social but solitary?  The ideal trainer would be completely comfortable with walking into a room full of people they don’t know, and becoming their friend during the day – but then walking away and never seeing them again.  No sense of belonging anywhere, never part of anything, and yet meeting vast number of people on quite a shallow basis.
  3. Do you have the ability to remember a day’s worth of material, but also have a memory like a goldfish?  If I’m doing Project Management five days in a row I need to be able to forget the previous day every morning, or else it’ll interfere with my flow: “Have I already said that?”   Each day needs to feel fresh, every time, hundreds of times.
  4. Master of depth AND width – you need to know enough to answer questions from 20 people at once, but also to know about more than one subject.  If y ou only teach one thing, every day over and over, even with (3) above you will surely go mad!
  5. Can you Do and Sell?  Being self employed means doing your own selling, and if you get your work from an agency they’ll take a huge cut and never guarantee you work, so you have to be happy and able to sell as well as do.
  6. Can you sleep well in a different bed every night of the week?  Are you happy to be able to be away from home an everage of 2 or 3 nights a week?  Are you happy to travel on Sunday nights, prepare at weekends, and do emails in the evenings?
  7. Do you have the evergy to drive – present – drive – present – drive – present – drive  endlessly, putting in maximum energy every day?  The adrenalin of presenting tends to give you the energy at the time, but afterwards boy, how tired you feel!  I usually sleep all of saturday morning!
  8. Do you have the staying power to build up a pipeline of repeats from happy customers – this takes a minimum of five years.  No customer should be more than 20% of your work either, so you proabably need 10-20 regular customers.

If you can cope with the above, then welcome to my world!  It’s really fun, I can’t think of a job I’d rather do, it’s quite well paid, you’re meeting new people every day, helping them, having a laugh while making a difference, there are hardly any costs, it’s a clean environment with very little physical work, you don’t have a boss, and you get to be the star of the show.

But making it look easy is not as easy as it looks ….

September 17, 2011

A customer care joke

Filed under: Customer Care — chriscroft @ 5:46 pm


A man was sitting in the bar at Heathrow Terminal 3 and noticed a really beautiful woman sitting next to him.

He thought to himself . "Wow, she's so gorgeous she must be an air hostess.  I wonder which airline she works for?"

Hoping to pick her up, he leaned towards her and uttered the Delta Airline  slogan. "Love to fly and it shows?"

She gave him a blank, confused stare and he immediately thought to himself  .  "Well, she obviously doesn't work for Delta."

A moment later, another slogan popped into his head.  So he leaned towards her again and said, "Something special in the air .?"

She gave him the same confused look.  He mentally kicked himself and scratched Singapore Airlines off his list.

He thought "Perhaps she works for Thai Airways ..." and said, "Smooth as silk?"

This time, the woman turned on him and said, "What the f*** do you want?"

The man smiled, slumped back in his chair and said: "Ahhhhh, Ryanair!"

 

PS – Watch this brilliant little video – a nightmare vision of the future as you order your pizza…  http://www.aclu.org/pizza/images/screen.swf

Will Money make you happy?

Filed under: Careers, Happiness — chriscroft @ 5:42 pm

I think we all know the answer…

Forget all thoughts of trying to get more money or getting material things of any kind in order to be happier.  Time spent on this will just be wasted, and may just make you less happy.  For example:

  • Celebrities – often rich, often deeply unhappy
  • People who win the lottery are often less happy afterwards (although we all think we would be different in this situation)
  • A friend of mine who sold his company for four million pounds and then wondered what to do.  After a bit of lazing around and then world travelling he got bored – he ended up starting up another company!
  • Another friend of mine who is very well paid but never at home, and when he is at home he has to spend lots of time and money keeping his house, garden, tennis court and swimming pool all working
  •  Yourself – when you’d had pay rises in the past, has it made any difference, or did you forget about it quite quickly and then somehow spend the extra money without noticing?
If 10% of your happiness comes from material possessions and 90% comes from relationships with others (do you think this is true?  I do) then the logical conclusion is that money is likely to improve the 10% but is probably going to reduce the 90% – not a good exchange!
Will money really reduce the 90% of your happiness that comes from relationships?  Well this is frequently the case in those who win the lottery, who lose their friends when they become rich.  And certainly it seems to be a problem for celebrities.  But what about just a little more money?
Clearly the money might allow you to afford to do some sociable/fun things, but there are disadvantages as well:

  • Some relationships have nothing to do with money – wherever you are, whatever you can afford, the friendship is the same.  The money has no effect;  but…
  • the time and stress involved in earning the extra money takes its toll on your social life
  • higher paid jobs tend to be less secure
  • you get “addicted” to the money and have to keep earning it in order to keep up the lifestyle to which you’ve become accustomed; maybe wanting “just a bit more” and never quite being satisfied, however much you have
  • upkeep of your expensive lifestyle takes time and effort – a bigger garden, an extra car, more parts of your house to maintain and repair, it’s all more complicated
  • will the extra money change you in some way that will adversely affect your relationship?
  • jealousy or competitiveness – will the money change the way your friends see you in some way that will adversely affect your relationship?
Conclusion:
Don’t assume that more money will fix it for you.  Ask yourself why you want the money – what will you spend it on?  Will this really make you happier?  Will there be a down-side to whatever you want to get with the money? (e.g. big house needing more maintenance).  How will it affect your relationships? What price will you need to pay in order to get the money, (e.g. longer working hours) and will it be worth paying?
Consider working shorter hours, saying no to travel or things you don’t believe in, even if this means a little less money now or in the future.
Make learning, and interesting work, and doing work that you believe in, a higher priority.
Maybe you won’t miss the money, and you’ll be happier too.
Onwards and upwards!
CC

Second batch of PS’s from past tips of the month

Filed under: Lists, Music, Random stuff - uncategorisable — chriscroft @ 5:32 pm

PPS  Thanks to Bob Battye of Vistage for telling me about www.ted.com

which is an amazing free collection of educational business videos on subjects like “How to prioritise all the biggest problems in the world”.  I love it!

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PPPS – if you prefer your media to be in paper format I’d thoroughly recommend a weekly magazine called The Week, which has the best of all the papers, and compares them.  It gives you a one page summary of UK news, what’s happened in Europe this week, what’s happened in the world, the best articles from the UK and European papers, sport on one page, a tabloids and gossip summary, science news on one page, a section called “boring but important”, who has died and what’s happened on the archers and desert island discs, the best letters from the papers during the week, a review of books and films just out, art exhibitions, best TV, suggested holidays, recommended websites, city news and share tips, occasional gadget corner, and even a sudoku!  More info at www.theweek.co.uk or any newsagent.  I love it.

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PPPS – talking of fast driving, I regularly hear about people who have been done for ridiculous speeds like 33mph in a 30, by a camera which is set at 31 and cannot use its discretion.  Because of course sometimes it’s dangerous even to do 30 in a 30., and sometimes it isn’t.  But I’ve never actually seen any evidence of this camera tightness – and there is another rumour that you’re allowed a 10% margin of error, so 33 would be legal (though not always safe!).    Anyway, if anyone has actually been done by a camera for 33 or less I’d like to hear from them – please do email me.

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PPPPS – greatly enjoying those X-files reruns on whichever obscure satellite channel they are on.  Heroes is OK, but Mulder and Scully are still the business!

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PS – a few extra Christmas present ideas (all the previous ones can be seen at http://www.croftcentre.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=109

Pilgrim Jewellery – this really is the best, I think. And relatively affordable (ish!).  See google.

How about getting children (yours or a friends) into the idea of reading a newspaper and thinking about the world?
You could get them a subscription to First News
http://www.firstnews.co.uk/home.aspx
might be a bit worthy, but on the other hand, what’s wrong with that? Better than the latest transforming robot snake with laser (maybe!) http://gadgetshow.five.tv/jsp/5gsmain.jsp?lnk=101&id=470

…or how about some celebrity weighing scales (since both celebrities and weighing yourself are both pointless wastes of time, they sort of cancel out with this gadget)  http://www.firebox.com/product/1753

Meanwhile I think I might finally succumb and get an 8GB ipod nano.  They are just SO beautiful, and I have finally found a way around my pet hate with ipods, which is that if you visit someone you can’t take music off your ipod onto their PC, or from their PC onto your ipod, like you can with a Creative Zen or Archos or Sony.  But now you can, by using Yamipod.  Google it, download it (free), and install it on the ipod and then, wherever you go and whoever you connect to, you can see all your files as mp3s.

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PPPS – I’m gutted that the Pope has brought out a sort of rap record, (heard a bit of it on radio 4, and I rather liked it actually!) just beating ME to it.  My Time Management rap is nearly ready.  I’m just not sure what to do with it when it is.  Suggestions please….

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PPS – Christmas – a couple more present ideas (the full collection is at http://www.croftcentre.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=109

Two gadgets for around the house: (a bit expensive, but go on, spoil yourself!)

1.  A kettle that makes boiling water in five seconds – it boils the water in a continuous flow rather than hearting up the whole lot every time, so it’s much more eco friendly as well as faster.

http://techdigest.tv/2007/11/tefal_quick_cup.html

And 2.   The most beautiful and powerful hand-held vacuum cleaner, the Dyson DC16 Animal (titanium and bronze edition)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dyson-DC16-Animal-Handheld-Cleaner/dp/B000VBTSJC

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PS – how to avoid sending ANY Christmas cards this year (in order to help with the environment, obviously).  I learned this from some friends of mine who revealed that they just send cards every other year – and if anyone notices that they didn’t get one (unlikely) and asks “What happened to my card?” you just say “Well, you SHOULD have got one!” as if to imply that it’s the post.  It’s not quite a lie – because really they should indeed have had one from you!
So you still get to keep in touch with people, by sending them a card every other year, and if you think abotu it, would you notice if you didn’t get a card from just one of your firends this Christmas?  Of course, if we all do it then it might get noticed.
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PPS – one more present idea: these LED candles are great.  Really cosy, safe, and even rechargeable!  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Philips-Imageo-Rechargeable-Candle-Lights/dp/B000JP4M6O/ref=pd_sim_kh_title_1 .  Full list is at the forum at www.croftcentre.co.uk as usual.

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PPPS – thanks to a Matrox DualHead2Go Digital, I am now operating with two screens at my computer.  It’s great!  You can have one with the net and one with Word or powerpoint or whatever.  If you ever need to compare two documents or have one huge spreadsheet or edit a multipage Word document then it’s great.  Of course most new PCs have a graphics card that can take two screens, but if not, the n a Matrox is the thing!

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PS – in case you still need a couple of Christmas present ideas, I had an interesting experience yesterday morning with the Debenhams Personal Shopper!  Mine was in Bournemouth but I expect they have them in other branches.  It’s free, and they don’t humiliate you a la Trinny & S, but they do suggest all sorts of things that you wouldn’t have thought would work.  Not sure if it was more of a present for me or the wife (who says I look 10 years younger).  Ended up costing a bit for all the stuff we got, but I’d really recommend it for those of us who just want to wear the same thing every day, and have no concept of what matches what.

The other present is for a dog, and it’s a Kong (thanks to John Chambers for this one).  It’s a hollow rubber cone and you stuff biscuits or bits of fat inside it and the dog tries to get them out, poking it’s tongue in etc.  Keeps them happy for hours!

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PPS – got my dog from www.blackretrieverx.co.uk and she’s brilliant.  Very laid back, very cuddly, and really rather handsome!  She’s asleep next to my desk as I write this.  Look at the other ones who need homes – you know you want one!!

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PPPS – currently listening to For Your Life by Led Zep, from the underrated album Presence.  How may beats to a bar is it?  So clever!

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PPS – humble pie corner.  My ipod nano is indeed brilliant.  I hadn’t expected the sound to be so much better than my Zen but it really is, even with the allegedly rubbish headphones that come with it.  Although I kind of resent being controlled by World of Apple, it is leagues above any other player I’ve used.  There, I’ve said it.

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PS  – Pet hate for January:  Unnecessary and distracting background ‘busy’ music on radio travel news.

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PPS  – Has anybody else noticed that Gordon Brown has stopped dyeing his hair black and is letting the grey show – in order to look more distinguished maybe?

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PPPS – listening to Van Morrison ‘Celtic New Year’ as I write this.  What a fantastic track!

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PS – Kepner Tregoe’s problem solving method says “find out when the problem happens and doesn’t happen, so you really understand it, before trying to fix it”.  Very useful when tracking down printer and computer problems, and car problems.  Wish I’d remembered that, and tried different phones on the ipod and the headphones on a different ipod, before cutting up and re-soldering the plug on my son’s expensive Bose headphones and then realising that the phones are fine and it’s the ipod phone socket…  The headphones are now reassembled again, but an hour wasted, and of course the ipod is probably unfixable.  Unless I take the back off…

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PPS – just been enjoying Matty Groves by Fairport Convention, and also Sandy Denny’s amazingly female breathy desolate voice on Fotheringay.

 

PPPS – I’m going against the flow and recommending Harry Hill’s TV Burp.  You may find him annoying but it’s a very clever little programme – I think!   And of course This Week (late night Thursday BBC1) continues to be the only thinking person’s politics programme.

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PPPPS – Following on from background music on radio traffic news, don’t you just hate the way the TV gets louder just for the adverts – (thanks Tony Glover for that – you are so right!).  I also hate the squeaking and plopping sounds in the background of cute baby nappy ads.

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“If I could just pre-authorise your credit card sir?”

Filed under: Assertiveness, Customer Care, Travel and driving — chriscroft @ 1:02 pm

….“It’s just a swipe of the card, we’re not going to charge anything to it, but it’s more convenient if you want to add any extras to your bill”

 

There seems to be an increasing trend towards taking a swipe of my card when I check in to hotels, even though I’m not buying anything.  Maybe I’ve already paid for the hotel in full in advance, or maybe I’m going to pay for everything when I leave – either way, why do they need my card?

And if you say “It’s OK thanks, I’m not planning to buy any extras (meals, mini-bar) they start to insist on the pre-authorisation.

My fear is that they’ll accidentally charge me for the hotel room twice, or put all sorts of things on it.  So I really don’t like giving my card in for “unknown expenditure” at the start.  Not to mention the time it takes when I just want to check in and go to bed.

So – why are they doing this?

Is it in case I do a runner?  Or damage my room in some way? Seems unlikely – they already know my address etc, and anyway, they claim that they can’t take any money on the card without me signing for it again – in which case, what’s the point?

Does anyone know whether than CAN actually take money from the card without me coming back to sign a second time?

I do agree that it might make charging for extras easier, but then why don’t I just sign receipts with a pen as I go along, like most hotels, and then pay my bill at the end?  Especially if I’ve got to come back and do the card a second time anyway, it hasn’t saved me any time at all.

Thoughts anyone?

September 13, 2011

The books in the background

Filed under: Books and Culture, Lists — chriscroft @ 8:38 pm

Many people have asked whether the books in the background of my Passport video were significant, and I can say that yes they were

I chose a mixture of business books and others that reveal a bit about the real me.

 

Here is complete list of all of the books that were behind me during filming, along with Mr Creosote and the Talking Monkey Radio:

 

The Ashley Book of Knots

The Rolling Stone Album Guide

The seven habits of highly effective people

The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought

Bob Dylan – Chronicles

Understanding Variation – the key to managing chaos

The challenge of change (Arthur Koestler)

Doctor Bey’s handbook of strange sex

The seven sins of memory

Eunoia

Morphology of the Folktale

Surely you’re joking Mr Feynman

Just six numbers

Potter on Gamesmanship

JH Fabre – the life of the spider

Ian Carr: Miles Davis

The holy blood and the Holy Grail

The book of lists

The inside story of viz

Up the organisation by Robert Townsend

Born to Win, by James & Jongeward

Why things bite back

The creative mind

JB Priestly: the image men

Management Mole

A directory of discarded ideas

Accounts demystified

The Dice Man

John McEnroe – Serious

Impro by Keith Johnstone

I’m OK you’re OK

The encyclopaedia of Fungi

Foucault’s Pendulum

The one minute sales person

E emperor’s new mind

Time Management

The definite business plan

The ultimate visual dictionary

Martin Gardner’s colossal book of short puzzles

Richard Long – heaven and earth

Watching the English

James Gleick – Chaos

Rupert Sheldrake – seven experiments that could change the world

Kingsley Amis – that uncertain feeling

Longitude

The curious incident of the dog in the night time

Ian Fleming – For your eyes only

The Celestine Prophecy

The Brotherhood by Stephen Knight

The Ice Museum

Into Thin Air

Is it just me or is everything sh1t?

Bizarre but true

Nick Leeson – Back from the brink

Incredibly Absurd adverts

How to fossil your hamster

Mad cows

Moon tiger

Napoleons Hill’s Unlimited Success

Roger’s Profanisaurus

Men are from Mars

Cool – the complete handbook

Normal sex

Glen Baxter – Blizzards of Tweed

Delia Smith’s Winter Collection

Man and Time

The ants are my friends

 

Things to NOT say when being interviewed for the Royal Navy

Filed under: Careers, Managing People — chriscroft @ 2:38 pm

I was remembering back to 1979 and thought I’d recall the key moments:

When one of your team falls off the plan into the imaginary crocodile swamp: “We never liked him much anyway, did we team?”
When being quizzed about geography in front of a huge map of the world: “Fair enough, I don’t know where the Malacca Straits are, but if I was captain of a warship I’d probably have a map”
When being asked about how you feel about the physical training at Dartmouth, yomping across fields with a 30kg back pack etc: “It’s not my idea of fun but I could do it”
When you have each presented a solution to the snowmobile logistics scenario and then have to discuss it as a group and come up with one plan: “His idea is the best one, let’s do that”
What asked what you’ll do if you don’t get in: “Then I’ll take one of the other jobs I’ve already been offered”

 

I’m sure the decision they made back then was correct. Clearly it was never my destiny……

September 6, 2011

Why do a Management Diploma?

Filed under: Careers, Lists, Managing People — chriscroft @ 3:02 pm

I often get asked about whether it’s worth doing a Diploma, so I thought I’d get my thoughts organised and get it all down in one place:

Advantages to the Company

You can show that your managers are professionally trained

You get better managers – the course fills in all the gaps, including subjects they may tend to avoid (maybe people don’t like going on Finance courses) or didn’t even realise they had (subjects like Managing Information are much more important than people realise)

Retention – people take a couple of years to do the programme, they feel valued to be on it, and you could have a lock-in arrangement afterwards (if the leave within x years they have to pay y% of the costs).

Learning has to be applied, which hammers it in better. In order to get the Diploma they have to do a number of work-based assignments, and this means that they have to a) pay attention in class, b) apply the ideas to their work and then write it up, and therefore discover that they CAN do it and it DOES work.  Imagine for example that they have to do a really textbook project, with Gantt charts etc, they are much more likely to carry on using the new ideas in their job.

The assignments are useful work in themselves.  At the very least you get a textbook project (could be worth thousands!), and all the other projects on strategy, leadership, innovation etc.  You can have some of the projects presented to a management board if you want to up the profile of the course and harvest the ideas being generated.  I would recommend that.

You can assess future talent by seeing who passes the course, who presents the best projects at the presentations, and maybe get feedback from the tutors on the high performers.

…And they don’t mind doing all this work because they get a qualification out of it.

You get a feeling of ‘total immersion in 2 years of training’ for the cost of about 24 days – because the monthly sessions are a constant top-up, with reading and assignments in between.  So it feels to the delegates like a lot of training.

Networking between members of the course – they get to know each other really well over the 2 years that a Diploma runs, so if you have a large company or have divisions which tend to be literally that, then this gives a great team effect.

Advantages to the Individual

You get a recognised management qualification at level 3 5 or 7.  The Diploma is the ultimate, but if you do fewer units you can get a Certificate in Management, and the introductory qualification is an Award (these can both be extended up to a Diploma later by simply adding more units).  See http://www.chriscrofttraining.co.uk/diploma_in_management_studies.html for The Cube of Possibilities.

You can upgrade your Diploma to an MBA at a later stage, by doing one more year, at a cost of about £4500 (the cheapest possible way to get an MBA!) – see http://www.chriscrofttraining.co.uk/forum2/viewforum.php?f=17 for details

You get all your gaps of knowledge filled in – even the gaps you didn’t know you had.

You get to be a more effective manager, which has to be good for your career, promotion prospects, job security, and job enjoyment.

You get to feel more confident as a manager, because you know what it’s all about and you know you can do it.  You’ve even done some of it when you did your assignments.

You get a relationship with a tutor, who you can ask questions each time you see them – “It didn’t work when I tried it, what can I do differently?” etc

You get practice at writing up your assignments – the ability to write a well structured yet brief report, when y ou don’t have a lot of time, is a valuable management skill.

You might get exposure to senior managers, if they are at the project presentations or maybe dinners during the course, where you can ask questions about company strategy etc

You get to have some fun as well!

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for more info on all this, see www.croftcentre.co.uk

September 5, 2011

Optimism about training

Filed under: Careers, Happiness, Lists, Uncategorized — chriscroft @ 9:05 am

Pessimists never get disappointed, and they are perhaps more likely to make contingency plans, but even so, I just can’t BE one!   Every day must be so depressing for them…

Here’s an example – my views on training, my livelihood:   As the world falls apart economically (allegedly), people say that “Training is always the first thing to be cut”, but….

1 – Even if your customers halve their training budgets, you just mustn’t be in the bottom half – and if you ARE in the bottom half you might as well pack up and go home anyway.   (I think this applies to any business, not just training).

2 – There are always some sectors growing. In the past the Public sector have been fine, but now it’s reversed and as the Public Sector takes a dip the private sector is on the up. And even parts of the private sector do well in recessions, for example if people don’t move they do their houses up, etc.

3 – If people are cutting costs they need Project Management to help with the cost reduction projects (if you change anything it’s a project) and Time Management to do more with fewer people.

4 – If you’re getting rid of people, particularly with voluntary redundancy where the gaps appear at random in your structure, that means moving the existing ones to cover new areas, and doing more with fewer people – which is bound to mean training of the ones you are keeping.

5 – When the good times return there tends to be a pent up demand to for training – many times I have had customers put all training on hold for a year and then come back with twice as much. People have to be trained eventually. (Unless you’re going to pay them 20k and then not ever spend the £300 you need to make them effective).

6 – If there are gaps in my diary I use them for selling (neworking, doing free talks, getting back in touch with dormant customers, making more of an effort to follow up leads, pitching for business I wouldn’t normally have time to pitch for, etc) and also more time developing new products, courses, iPhone apps, making youtube videos, etc which will also lead to more work in the future. So there is a self-correcting mechanism there.

7 – In the past I’ve sometimes been a bit too busy, so a bit more time with my family, as the politicians say, might be good for me. Happiness is about time rather thaan money, so maybe a reduction in work would be good for me!

… There speaks a true optimist!

CC

September 2, 2011

Spam

Filed under: Computer tips — chriscroft @ 7:53 pm

90% of the world’s emails are spam – and I reckon 90% of the ones I get are.

When I first got my NTL email address (now long gone) it started getting spam before I had ever used it, so it is clear that either the spammers buy the email addresses from the providers (surely not?) or they just target every possible name. Someone told me that you should have a number somewhere in your email address to make it harder for them to guess, for example spell cr0ft with a zero in the middle. But why should I have a messy email address because of the spammers?

Anyway, if you buy things from the internet, or have a website with your email address on it, they are going to find you soon enough. And if you ever reply to “unsubscribe” from spam then they know you exist and they will send you ten times more. By the way, reputable companies (and me) do indeed let you unsubscribe. You can tell by looking at whether the web address of the unsubscribe link is full of numbers etc or whether it is a genuine part of the company’s website.

So, what to do about spam?

Well, I used to use Outlook’s filters (see Tools / Rules Wizard / Filter by header or content) but I used to spend ages putting in key words and each time another spam got through I would have to add more key words. Then a Christmas menu got filtered by my settings and I couldn’t work out why, and it turned out that the word Grapefruit contained the word rape so it got filtered – ridiculous! And don’t even start on Scunthorpe or Lightwater!

You can get all sorts of specialist spam filtering software, some free and some not, like Mail-washer, which works better than Outlook. Some of them have a list of “people who are OK” and each new person has to be added – 100% effective, but a bit of a hassle!

The other problem with using Outlook or any of the above is that you still have to download the spam before it gets filtered. Not too bad if you have a fast connection, but if you are using a blackberry or iPhone then it’s going to fill up with spam, at your expense, and the blackberry’s filtering software is pretty rudimentary.

So I’m now getting my spam filtered at the server, so I don’t even see it. When I have 5 emails, I really do have 5 proper emails.

It costs me £3/month, but I think it’s worth it. It uses a spam filtering engine called Black Spider and it is provided by a very helpful guy called Nigel, who is based in Newbury, and you can actually phone him up (01480-657888) and ask him things! Yes, a real person, who is actually there when you call! His web address is http://www.multiplex.co.uk , email at nigel@multiplex.co.uk , and the software he is using is http://www.mailcontroller.co.uk

Just going into Techie-World for a moment, the advantage is that they take it out of your in-box, filter out all the spam, and then put it back into the same in-box, so you don’t have to change any of your POP settings (where your computer goes to pick up your email). The only disadvantage is that they can’t filter hotmail , aol, or virgin etc, they can only filter domain names, so you need to own, like fredbloggs.co.uk and then they will filter fred@fredboggs.co.uk.

But in only costs about £3/year to have fredbloggs.co.uk and you can still keep your virgin / AOL/hotmail address and redirect everything from there to your fredbloggs mailbox. And they can’t take the email address away from you like virgin can…

You can buy domains at http://www.123-reg.co.uk – have a look and see if your name is still available! So for example chris.croft@virgin.net (soon to be discontinued unfortunately) still reaches me because it actually gets forwarded to chris@chriscr0fttraining.co.uk where it gets filtered, and then I check my spam-free mailbox either from my PC as normal, or from my palm / mobile / blackberry / iPhone / iPad. Or by going to http://www.mail2web.com from any computer anywhere (did you know you can do that with any email address, all you need is your password?).

So there you have it – everything you need to know about getting rid of spam. Buy a domain name (£3/year), and get Nigel to filter it for £3/month.

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