As I wrote last month’s article, I was suffering through the agonies of a computer virus and made notes for use in this month’s article. I assumed—and you know what that means!—that my computer problems would be resolved by now. Not so!
My initial intent for this article was to relate my computer experiences
to your workroom business. Well, in order to share what I know is
very valuable information in dealing with computers, I’ll have
to let you decide for yourselves how these computer “rules”
can apply to your individual businesses.
The majority of you probably are not as dependent on computer technology
for your business as I am, but the future will likely change that—and
all too fast for comfort!
These are the rules I have made for Workroom Concepts:
1. Buy a good surge protector, but do not rely solely on it to save
your computer. Keep your computer, hardware and phone lines unplugged
during a thunderstorm and when not in use. It’s usually the
phone lines that lightning will strike first.
2. Keep a folder or a notebook in which you record all necessary
information about your software and peripherals, e.g. date of purchase,
version, serial number, model number, RAM, modem name and size,
etc. And always send in the warrantee card!
3. When you purchase a computer be sure to purchase from a company
offering outstanding tech support. My last two computers were custom
built and I had outstanding tech support from my company. However,
that technician was not available when my virus problems started.
Therefore, I had to turn to a new technician, one highly recommended
by my wonderful Web master.
The new tech had difficulties getting all my programs and peripherals
to work well together. Her opinion was that a name-brand machine
has only its own company’s parts, which were made to work together.
Not all of the parts in my computer spoke the same language once
the software, printer, etc. were added. I guess it’s like trying
to hang custom draperies on existing archaic rods that don’t
allow the draperies to operate well or to stack off the windows
like the customer wants.
4. When you purchase peripherals, e.g. printer, scanner, etc., ask
your technician to recommend the one you need. Pay your tech to
research if necessary. Think about it. The techs know which brands
they have to troubleshoot or repair the most and which companies
make good products.
5. Keep important files that can’t easily be replaced backed
up on floppies or CDs. This not only protects them, but it allows
you to use them if your main computer gets sick.
Keep masters in a safety deposit box in your bank or a fireproof
safe. Replace with new masters as often as necessary. I was trying
to do this monthly, but confess to being very late most of the time.
6. When you purchase a new computer or software, make notes of what
changes you make that override the default settings. These will
have to be reset if your computer has to be wiped clean.
Many times, it seems, Windows will develop bugs for no particular
reason. When that happens, the whole computer must be backed up,
wiped clean and Windows reinstalled. Then all software and files
have to be reinstalled. Each time this is done, everything goes
back to the default settings. If you have no notes to go back to,
you will be plagued for days, weeks, or even months trying to figure
out why you have problems and how to resolve them.
7. Use well-known, tried-and-true virus protection software and
research it to be sure it will do what you want. If your virus protection
does not automatically update your virus information when you go
on the Internet, then you need to update your virus protection daily
before doing anything on the Internet.
8. Beware of e-mail containing viruses:
• Do not open any e-mail you are not expecting. When someone
you do know but who never e-mails you suddenly sends you an e-mail,
be suspicious and check with them before opening it.
• Do not open any e-mail from someone you don’t know.
This is very difficult if you have a Web site, as I do. My customer
base is national to international, which means I probably will not
know most of those who e-mail me from my Web site. It’s particularly
tough when I receive an e-mail with a subject such as: “Please
help!” or “I need your help!” I’ve had to sacrifice
customer service and not open such mail. I will only open it if
the subject contains wording indicative to this industry.
The safest way to contact me and be sure I will open your e-mail
is to use the “Contact Us” form on my Web site. Then I
have no doubts. If you have a Web site, be sure you have a place
there for visitors to contact you and be sure the automatic e-mail
box includes wording in the subject line that you can identify.
• Do not open e-mail that has no subject.
• Do not open undeliverable e-mail until you verify that you
did indeed send a message, possibly to a wrong e-mail address.
• Do not open e-mail that is worded incorrectly or with misspellings.
• Do not open e-mail that has your Web site URL in the subject
line or your Web site e-mail address as the sender’s address.
• Do not open suspicious e-mail with an attachment. Be sure
you are using a browser that will allow you to highlight an e-mail
to delete it without opening it.
• Do not open any e-mail from an unknown source that proclaims
to have virus information. It may very well be the virus. Yes, that’s
from personal experience!
• Stay up-to-date on what to expect from the latest viruses
by finding an informative Web site and visit it regularly.
• It’s important when you send e-mail that you put a logical
and very specific subject in the subject line. Ask your friends
to do the same.
9. Every time you install software, virus-check it! Also, check
your peripherals and other software programs to determine if they
have been affected by a virus.
10. Keep all your software upgraded. Yes, it’s expensive and
it will take you out of your comfort zone for a short while, but
this is better than having to learn totally new software or pay
someone to train you.
11. If you purchase new software or hardware and have problems,
call tech support for your product immediately and get it resolved.
I have had my scanner for several years. It has been a problem from
day one. I bought it from my technician, but told him what I wanted
on the advice of a friend. I depended on the tech who sold it to
me to fix it. He couldn’t as he was not familiar with the machine.
Finally I gave up and learned to deal with the problems on the rare
occasions that I had to use it.
12. If you call tech support for anything, make note of the tech’s
name. If what he tells you still doesn’t work, try one of two
things: Ask politely if there is someone else that may have experienced
your particular problem; call tech support again—you are likely
to get another person.
Try to document as much as you can of a conversation. You may need
the information later for yourself or for the company with which
you are dealing.
13. If you purchase a new computer, be sure all your software will
be compatible with it. If it won’t be, then plan how you will
overcome this obstacle.
14. Invest in a backup computer. I know this sounds like an unnecessary
expense, but my laptop saved me a few years ago when my Windows
95 computer crashed (the one I am now using as my backup!).
For many of you, a laptop would come in handy if you are selling
in the customer’s home, but a laptop also takes up minimal
space around the office. Should your main computer go down and your
laptop is not outdated, you can hook the laptop to your monitor,
mouse and printer.
15. If your main computer goes down, put the spare computer where
the main one was. You cannot imagine the confusion and wasted time
created by dragging things from my office to another room to work
and learning (on my own!) how to hook up a temporary phone in that
16. Find a good computer tech who understands your needs and can
help troubleshoot Windows problems especially, but software and
peripheral problems as well.
17. Find a good consultant who can train you on software for only
what you need it for. You also may need a programmer in some cases.
Even if you happen to enjoy working your way through computer mazes,
you have to put a value on that time, especially if there are other
things you should be doing that are more important and more valuable
18. Do not wait a day longer to become computer and Internet literate!
I cannot emphasize this enough. Those of you who say you do not
have time to learn to use a computer or to surf the Net for information
don’t have time not to! The longer you wait, the more there
will be to learn.
ALWAYS BE PREPARED
As a continuing student enrolled in the School of Hard Knocks, I
realize that these rules will need to be amended from time to time,
as no one can really predict what the next computer glitch will
be! But it is always better to be prepared!
Think about all the equipment and tools beyond the computer that
keep you efficient and in business.
I know of one particular case in which an individual saw his whole
workroom go up in flames. He had no insurance to cover it. Stop
right now and decide how you would carry on if the worst happened.
Have a Plan A, a Plan B, and enough Frequent Flyer miles to take
a vacation afterwards! Take the time and prepare!
Stein, CWP, WCAA past board member, is a 26-year veteran of the drapery
workroom industry. Having owned drapery workrooms as one person and
as a company of nine, she is now president of Workroom Concepts, a
consulting firm offering educational resources to the industry on
its Web site (www.workroomconcepts.com).
Her experience in the window covering arena has contributed to her
success as a business consultant. A professional speaker and writer,
she has authored several industry products including Order in the
Workroom, The Price List, Workroom Specifications and Price Your Work
with Confidence, available through D&WC.