22 February 2006

PLEASE back up your PC

Within the last couple of weeks, I have had two colleagues contact me asking for an email to be sent to them again as their PC's had crashed and they had lost all their work because they hadn't backed up recently. Can you imagine the disruption that this will have caused to their business? How long would it take them to get back up and running?

At the moment, I have a recurring appointment scheduled in my Outlook tasks every Friday afternoon to do a full back up of all my work for that week onto an external data storage device. If anything should happen to my PC, it won't take long to restore all of my work.

You don't need to spend a fortune on your back up device, have a look at EBay for some bargains.

Also remember that you can back up your Outlook! Follow these simple instructions to make sure you don't lose any important emails or contacts.
  • Select File - Import and Export
  • Select Export to a file
  • Select Personal Folder File (.pst)
  • Select items you want to export (e.g. inbox) and tick the include subfolders box
  • Select Browse to find location of your back up device. TIP: Choose a file name giving reference to date of back up for ease if having to do a restore (e.g. Inbox 22.02.06)
  • Select Finish

By backing up regularly, you will minimise disruption to yourself, your business and most importantly, your clients.

Until next time,

Emma Walker
CKPA Office Solutions

09 February 2006

Power of dreams - Part 2

Last week, I told you about my own 'power of dreams'. This week, I thought I would share another example of how following your dream can change your life.

By Preethi Nair

After three years of working as a Management Consultant, I decided that there was more to life so I told my boss I was resigning. “Leaving? To write a book?” she asked incredulously. She paused to give me a moment to retract what I had just said. I don’t really remember much else about that day, except that it was raining and I was crying all the way home and that people on the tube were trying hard not to stare at me. The hardest step for me I think was resigning and I had this blissfully naïve notion that the rest would follow effortlessly.

Enthusiastically buying all the Jiffy bags and affixing the pre paid stamps, I sent off my manuscript to various publishing houses thinking that soon I too would be holding a glass of red wine in one hand and signing copies of my bestseller with the other. It was not to be so. The first Jiffy-bagged copy came back with a “thank you but definitely no thank you” letter. It was swiftly followed by another and another, some Jiffy bags didn’t manage to find their way home and made their way to corrugated heaven with no acknowledgement.

Trying to put into words what I did next is not easy, as it seems the work of a mad woman so I will explain my reason for doing what I did first. Three years had gone into my manuscript; written from snatched moments on tube journeys, lunchtimes, weekends. Overcoming writer’s block, developing a passion for cleaning, only I knew how much of my heart and soul had poured into my book. To accept rejection from some people who hadn’t even bothered to read it or those who couldn’t manage to put the correct title on the rejection letter didn’t feel right. I think I felt so indignant to be just a part of someone else’s system and so completely at their whim that I decided to go it alone, I dislike the word but it is to self publish. I was in the process of buying a flat and instead of exchanging contracts I put the whole of the deposit into publishing my first book Gypsy Masala; a story of dreams.

Very early on, I realized that publicity was important but I didn’t have enough money to hire a publicist. So, I set up a PR company “The Creative House” and found a good feisty character to promote my novel. I created and developed a competent woman by the name of Pru Menon who did her job brilliantly. Pru secured many interviews and Preethi was busy doing them. Changing voices, making weird sounds in the background so people would think they were being connected through the offices of the multinational that was my back bedroom, we heard all sorts of comments about the book. My Pru character handled it all incredibly well. A few commented on the similarity of our voices “that’s what happens when you work so closely with someone.” She/I joked. Having not developed a severe personality disorder, I thought surely the rest would be plain sailing; not so.

The creative source that was responsible for putting this crazy venture into my head had other designs for me. The first print run (the whole of my savings) arrived with page 179 missing, the printer had made an error and it took weeks to sort out, press were waiting for review copies and things got so desperate that I had to give them copies with p179 glued in. When press articles finally appeared, there were no books in stores as I had overlooked the entire distribution network, I just assumed that copies would magically appear on the shelves. Rapidly, I had to learn the art of door to door selling and armed with a travel card, I pounded most of the bookstores in London and pleaded with store managers to stock the title. A few of them looked at me strangely and sent me packing promising that they would stock copies, only to put the sample copy that I had left safely under the counter. Others actually read it and placed orders. Then finally when it all came together, when interviews with the press coincided with bookstores supporting me, there was the oil protest. The creative saboteur had sent an oil protest complete with a lorry blockade so that the books could not move from the warehouse as orders came in. Momentum, so hard to capture had escaped me.

Exhausted, disheartened, jobless and completely blocked and in debt, I needed to take stock so I went away to reflect on the two years I had spent on the project. My greatest fear was rejection but I had put myself in a position where I was rejected time and time again. The extent of doing what I did was so I could be myself but the greatest irony was that being Pru had taken up most of my life. I did not regret a single moment because chasing the dream had made me stronger in ways I could never have imagined; I finally believed in myself in a way I never thought possible, I came back to London with clarity and confidence putting aside all that had gone before, I let everything go and I began writing again.

My second novel 100 Shades of White poured out of me in six weeks. I have always believed that when you decide whole heartedly to do something and follow it through by action, things happen, the creative source conspires to help you along the way and yes it lays down a few obstacles but this is merely to test resolve. A few weeks later, a literary agent by the name of Diana was sent my way (I assure you that she is real, not fictitious or any part of my alter ego). I won’t say that the story ends happily ever after because experience has taught me that this whole process is an adventure; it’s not necessarily about reaching the destination, it’s a cliché but it is about the journey and so it can’t always go smoothly but for the time being it ends happily. I won the Asian Woman of Achievement award for her endeavours and was also short listed as Publicist of the Year for the PPC awards. 100 Shades of White was sold as part of a three book deal to HarperCollins and the BBC have bought it for a 90 minute adaptation. Beyond Indigo, a fictionalized account of the whole adventure has just been released with a reissue of Gypsy Masala.

So I still maintain that dreams come true but only if you really want them to. Preethi also works as a freelance travel writer for the Sunday Times and is a contributor on Radio 5 Live's book panel. You can read more about the amazing Preethi at http://www.preethinair.com/

I thought this was quite an inspiring story and thought I would share it with you. Until next time,

Emma Walker
CKPA Office Solutions

02 February 2006

Power of dreams - Part 1

I was working as an Office Manager / PA on a full time basis and hated the company I worked for. I used to come home totally drained and weary from having to tolerate the behaviour of the directors of this particular company.

I dreamed of escaping but didn't want to jump out of the pan into the fire by going to another employer. The only option was to go self employed and start a business - but what on earth could I open a business in?

I then, by accident, heard about Virtual Assistants and thought that this could be the answer to my employment problem. I carried out some research and learned as much about the industry as I could so that I could make an informed decision. To see what a Virtual Assistant is, have a look at our website.

I decided to take the plunge, leave my employer and start my business in July 2005, and haven't looked back since. I am now my own boss running a successful company with a wide variety of clients on board. I am achieving a better work / life balance and am the happiest I have been for a long time as I love my work and my business.

My message, dreams can come true. If you have a good business idea, go for it (even if it is only part time). What have you got to lose and even more to gain.

Watch out for an inspiring story in part 2.

Until next time,

Emma Walker
CKPA Office Solutions