Recommendation for a New Computer

computer images

I know many of you are in the market for a new computer, or are expecting one as a holiday gift, and now is the perfect time to buy. Computer prices are always the lowest at the end of the year! Every week, several people will call into our office and ask, "I am buying a new computer, can you tell me what I need?" We decided this would be a perfect time to let you know what we recommend both with regards to Studio, as well as general office productivity. So I asked Owen, my son and Vice President of Development, to write an article on his recommendations for someone in our industry purchasing a new computer.

**Below is a photograph of one of my desks, which show a dual monitor setup. The dual monitors are connected to my desktop computer. I also have my laptop next to my dual monitors, which enables me to use three screens. For the most part, when I am in my office, I use my desktop computer with the dual monitors. You'll be amazed at the increase in productivity just by adding a second monitor!

Dual Monitors

Owen's recommendation when purchasing a new computer:

When you decide to purchase a new computer, you need to consider what your computer needs for your business will be in three to four years from now, not just for today. Current software programs have dramatically increased in size, as well as the amount of resources they require, which translates to the size of your hard drive and amount of memory your computer has installed, so plan ahead to maximize your computer's useful lifespan.

Here are my recommendations for purchasing a computer today that will serve you for many years to come.
  • Hard drive: 250GB with 7200 RPM
  • Processor: 2.5GHz with Dual Core
  • Memory: 4GB or 8GB (8GB requires a 64 bit operating system)
  • Operating System: Windows 7 Ultimate (64 bit)
  • Graphics Card: 512MB Laptop Screen: 15.4" or 17"
  • Desktop Monitor(s): 22" - 24" single monitor or consider a dual monitor setup.
  • Warranty: Purchase an on-site warranty for 3 - 4 year
Dual Monitor Setup for a Desktop: This is my preferred monitor setup. I recommend purchasing two 20" or 22" identical monitors. A 20" - 22" ViewSonic monitor can be purchased for under $200. Read the article "Two monitors are better than one" from Microsoft for setup instructions. Once you work with dual monitors you'll find it hard to go back to a single monitor. The setup is relatively easy, especially if you are using identical monitors. Another advantage to using identical monitors is the height and width of each monitor are the same, which makes for smoother viewing.

External Monitor Setup for a Laptop: If you are using a laptop computer you can also add a monitor. All you need to do is choose the option to extend your screen to a second monitor.

Computer Cables: Monoprice.com is the absolute best source to purchase any cables you need for your computer. Monitors normally include 3' cables. However, that may or may not be long enough to connect the monitor to your computer. Monoprice offers these types of cables for a third of the price offered by other companies. Monoprice also carries several iPhone accessories, check out the battery backup.

External Hard drives for backups: The final and most important item I recommend is the purchase of an external hard drive for backups. In fact, I recommend purchasing two! Rotate the second backup weekly and store it off site. An external hard drive should be compact enough to transport easily. When I order computer parts/components for Minutes Matter, I purchase from Newegg. They have a wide selection of just about anything you need for your computer and great prices. Fanton Drives has a portable external hard drive with a USB connection and has a huge data capacity of 1TB (terabyte or 1000 GB.) Make sure you set up your external hard drive to backup daily. This automation can be done through Windows Backup for Windows 7, Windows Backup for Vista or you can use the software that is included with your external hard drive.


New Year! New Goals! New Mindset!

As another year draws to a close, it is a good time to reflect on your business's progress over the past year and plan how you want your business to develop in the future. With the current economic climate, the "business as usual" that many of us were accustomed to has disappeared. In fact, the new economy, plus the insurgence of technology into every part of our lives, has changed the business world forever. Many people take these changes for granted or resist them - I don't and neither should you. You should regard them as once-in-a-lifetime opportunities! What mindset do you have? Do you make things happen? Do you watch things happen? Or do you just wonder what happened? Below are my "Fave Five" recommended tools that can help your business survive and thrive in 2010!

#1 Set goals! Written goals should include long term plans for your personal and business life. Be sure that the goals you set are achievable, specific, and measurable, rather than unrealistic pipe dreams that are so far out of reach they only lead to frustration. Establish goals for 10 years from now, five years, one year, and then one month. Set financial goals by creating a budget; sign up for our "Budgeting/Forecasting in QuickBooks" online class.

#2 Systematize! Set goals and make "To Do" lists! When you consistently rely on lists to govern your day, you can expect to get 25% more done in a day. Implement the Minutes Matter Measuring System, Work Order System, or Instructional Systems to streamline these processes to save you time and eliminate costly communication errors!

#3 Market in a New Ways! Promote your business regularly and consistently. Don't let this task slip to the bottom of your to-do list! If you want to attract new customers, you have to make promotion a priority. Use Studio as a marketing tool and watch for the introduction of our newest marketing project "The Power of I." There are plenty of low and no-cost ways to promote your business, such as newsletters, ezines, social networking, and blogs. The first step is always the most daunting, so why not delegate this task? Minutes Matter offers a Blog Setup Service for only $247. But don't wait too long, this introductory price ends with 2009, so sign up now!

#4 Do the Math with Technology! Use Minutes Matter's QuickBooks & Quoting 7.1 to quote on the spot, pay bills, quickly calculate yardage, and systematize your accounting. You'll save tons of time by using our item codes, chart of accounts, templates and pricing. This is the most affordable and most complete QuickBooks add-on system for designers and window treatment professionals. As an added benefit, you will have access to FREE QuickBooks advice using our private online forum, Minutes Matter QuickBooks Community. Once again, Minutes Matter is here to set you on the right path. We have included a FREE one (1) hour private QuickBooks setup consultation to get you up and running quickly! If you already have QBQ, but still need a little help, you can purchase a One-on-One Consultation with Vickie.

#5 Get Educated Online! Take classes directly related to your business (like the Minutes Matter University online classes) or indirectly related (like taking a class to learn computer basics). During the past few years there have been dramatic changes in communications and technology. Computers are more powerful than ever! Are you taking advantage of new technologies to unlock new opportunities? The list is endless and is growing more every day.

The changes and advances in technology provide us with the opportunity to operate on the same level of play with the smallest and largest businesses in the world! Today you have the opportunity and the tools to contact and sell to more prospective customers than anyone's wildest dream a few years ago.

Think about all your software and what it will do for you, write letters, design window treatments and space plans, create web pages, brochures, newsletters and books (to name but a few) all with the click of a mouse. If you look back in time to 10-15 years ago, none of these advantages were available to the average person. The power has shifted to us and we need to take advantage and use that leverage. All of the technology that we are taking for granted is there to be used; do you have the mindset to use it?

The opportunities are huge and endless. Some people say that opportunity never comes their way, but this is not true. Opportunity is all around; you just need to make an effort to go find it. It is an arena where there is plenty of opportunity for new people to get involved. We all have our own unique skill sets to use as well.

Weekly Ezine Logo

What mindset do you have? Do you make things happen? Do you watch things happen? Or do you just wonder what happened?


You're the Expert, Let the World Know!

There is an enormous amount of talent in the interior design industry and everyone wants to know where we go, what we have to say, and what we do. People stop and listen when designers speak!

The Internet has made it so easy for us to share our knowledge with our local community, as well as the world. You can become an expert in no time! I highly recommend creating a blog as one of your "Top Ten Tasks for 2010!" Since interior design is all about creating a custom look and feel, blogging is a perfect (and free) solution for attracting and keeping new clients. While I still firmly believe that every business should have a website, a blog is a less formal way to communicate your thoughts and ideas to clients online. The content on a blog is dynamic and is always changing.

Blogging is fun and easy. At first it may seem like it's overwhelming, as you start thinking about what are you going to write about or how much content should you put into your blog. Once you begin to blog, you'll find there is an unlimited amount of topics you can blog about. Some of the blogs I write take only 20 minutes, like "Tis the Season!"

Click on the picture above to see my blog, "Making a difference in a community!" that I recently posted regarding our local Middle Tennessee WCAA Chapter involvement with Habit for Humanity. Everyone loves to hear how businesses give back to the community. At the same time, I also mentioned the non-profit WCAA organization, in which I am a member. Mentioning organizations that you are a member of will give your company another stamp of professionalism in a customer's eyes.

Above is another example of a blog, "Tis the Season," with decorating tips for the holidays and how Casey was inspired by the Anthropologie store.

Take time to skim over all the different topics I have posted for my own design business, Dandelion's Blog. You will see I blog about everything from technology to designs tips. I even posted a blog about adding beauty to your backyard with Yellow Finches! I use my iPhone and take shots of interesting things at conventions or seminars that I know will be of interest to my readers.

The most difficult part of blogging, by far, is getting started. Fortunately, Minutes Matter has made starting a blog super easy. We offer a ONE-TIME blog setup for only $327. We register and completely set your blog up and even add the first post! Be sure to read the entire list of features and benefits of setting up a blog through Minutes Matter. Once your blog is set up, all you need to do is add one interesting topic per week. How much easier could it be?!?


My Visit to Toronto Canada - What a Friendly Country!

I just returned from a speaking engagement for CDECA (Canadian Decorators Association) in Toronto, Canada. They invited me to speak on photography, electronic storyboards, social networking & marketing. I was happy to accept, since these are my favorite things to share! The photograph above was taken during the break after my morning session. It's me doing my next favorite "Answering Questions."

This was my first trip to Canada, so I was not sure what kind of weather to expect. With all of the stories I had heard, I was thinking that Canada was going to have a climate similar to the North Pole, but Barbara assured me the weather was very similar to New York's weather. In fact, the weather in Nashville, TN, and Toronto were almost identical while I was in Canada. Jerry and I will have to go back in the summer and take some time to see the beautiful sights of this wonderful country!

A very funny story:
I have to tell on myself, during my visit to Canada I got myself into a bit of trouble. This was my first trip outside of the United States, so of course I secured a passport. As I flew out of Nashville, stopped briefly in Chicago, and finally landed in Toronto, I thought to myself, "This passport thing is a breeze!" Unfortunately, this was not the end of the story. On the first leg of my flight with American Airlines, the flight attendant mentioned that she was going to pass out surveys to every passenger. I was happy to take one because I love helping companies learn what their customers think so they can make improvements in their business. Then, on the second leg of the flight from Chicago to Toronto, the flight attendant passed out surveys again, but this time she didn't even mention that they were surveys. I thought, "How rude of her to just expect us to fill them out." This is where my smooth trip began to fall apart. I decided not to even look at that paper because two surveys in one day is simply TOO MUCH!! The plane landed and as everyone exited the plane I noticed two people had a piece of paper tucked in their passports. I pondered for a moment and decided that it was some extra personal paper they had with their passport. The plane was a regional jet, which is small, so I had to remove my projector from my small suitcase and then, of course, I had to repack everything once I was off the plane. It took a while for me to repack everything. That's when I looked up and found that I was all by myself in the HUGE Toronto airport. I followed the signs that pointed to Customs for what seemed like a very long journey. There was no one else around and I wondered where everyone went and started hoping that I was still on the right path. Finally, I entered an area with lots of people ... I've finally arrived at Customs and there are lots of lines and lots of people in each of those lines. The people in these lines all had one thing in common, YIKES, they all had that paper tucked in their passport! While I was in the line, I kept surveying the crowd to see if anyone would be exempt from having this paper. I finally spotted one that did not have this paper, so I thought that maybe things weren't so bad. As I finally got to the front of my line, I went up to the counter and say, "I bet you're going to tell me I need another piece of paper." He says, "You don't have it?" I mentioned that this was my first trip outside of the US, thinking that would help me somehow and that I could be exempt from having to have that paper. I then used my best schmoozing skills on him, but still he didn't wave me on. Instead, he tells me I need to go over to the station against the wall where there are extra papers. He also tells me that once I have filled out the paper, I can come to the front of his line. At this point, I am falling in love with Canada, that's customer service! Once I got to the counter with all the papers I realized that these were the papers for me to declare what I am bringing into the county. Oh brother, I could have avoided all of this if I hadn't just assumed that the flight attendant was passing out another customer service survey!

There are two morals to this story.
  • A company should not assume that customers know things the company takes for granted.
  • Never assume anything!

Barbara Cole and all of the CDECA organization were such gracious hostesses. They went out of their way to make me feel welcome. I thought the South had the "Friendly" award all wrapped up, but I guess us Southerners will have to share that title with Canada. Barbara picked me up from the airport. We stopped by the International Centre so that Barbara could be sure everything was going as planned. We stayed for a bit and I even helped with some of the flower arranging!

I was so impressed! They went all out with fresh flowers, fabulous tote organizers, and great food. I love the spike look that Spider Mums give; they are a lot of bang for the buck. They even served healthy smoothies during the day.

The night I arrived, several designers took me out to eat at Scorpio Seafood & Steak. I had the best grilled Mahi Mahi I have ever had and their bread was fabulous! The owner could not believe I was from Nashville, Tennessee. Sylvie Bigaouette, from Plaza Interiors, chimed in to let him know that she had traveled from Windsor (which is over 3 hours away) and the owner looked back at me and said "oh" in a low voice as he raised his eyebrows. We all had a huge laugh as you could tell the owner was not nearly as impressed with her travel time as he was with mine.

After the seminar, several of us headed to downtown Toronto to dine at 93 Harbord. Isam Kaisi the owner and Executive Chef, is a cousin to Nina, one of the designers at the seminar. The homemade pita bread with a green olive mash dressing was fabulous! The Lamb Tagine, Cornish Hen, and Halibut entrees were just as impressive. Of course, if you know me, I talked the table into sharing everything. I LOVE trying new food!

The biggest challenge I encountered during the seminar was time. I had so much to say and knew I would have a really hard time getting it in during my allotted time. As you can see, everyone enjoyed the networking time during the breaks. I received so many great comments from the audience! I think we will be seeing lots more Canadians blogging, joining Facebook, and using Minutes Matter Studio.

To my surprise, after I finished my last session CDECA presented me with the book Spectacular Homes in Toronto. They couldn't have given me a better thank-you gift! I have already taken several photos of pages with my iPhone and uploaded those photos to my Evernote account and filed them inside my Decorating folder. Have I mentioned lately that I L-O-V-E my iPhone? Click on the image above to see some of the photography in this book. Panache publishes "Spectcular Homes" books for lots of different countries and cities. Check them all out.

Thank you CDECA for the warm Canadian welcome! I am looking forward to visiting you again someday soon.