Monday, March 31, 2014

Liberal Arts and Return on Investment

It was not a failure to launch
it was a rotten economy.
(Picture from
Being an entrepreneur during times like this is very difficult.  Each day, I see myself confronted with frustration and failure.  It gets old and it sucks the enthusiasm out of you.  That is when I have had to rely on family and friends to pick me up and make sense of my crazy fate.  You see I have always traveled the more unfamiliar path my entire life and in spite of my choices I have managed to earn a living and develop the skills necessary to found my own business.  I reflected on that when this week when published its annual list of return on investment colleges and college majors.  Naturally, degrees from colleges near Silicon Valley and with big focus on science and technology had the highest rankings.  This kicked off another round of articles about how a humanities education was a handicap in today’s global economy.  As someone who comes from a humanities background, I can say that those articles are gross exaggerations.  This week on the blog, I will argue that a humanities background is an advantage in this mixed up global economy.

When I graduated from college in 1990, George Bush Sr. was president and we were in the middle of a recession which guaranteed that none of us graduating were going to find a job.  It was very discouraging for someone who wanted to work in radio.  I found an internship which paid minimum wage and worked nights as a disk jockey at a night club.  It was awful.  I was forced to live like a teen-ager with my parents and I had enough money for gas.  I could not afford to rent my own place or provide for myself.  Adding insult to injury was the cover of Time Magazine telling everyone that my failure to launch was due to laziness. As someone who said no to drugs, worked his nerdy butt off in high school and college, and sacrificed so much to become an academic and professional success; it was a bitter pill to swallow.

It was during this time that I felt the first rumbles of the internet.  I discovered the Prodigy data service and also learned about this funny thing called Microsoft windows and how it made life easier.  It did not know it yet but a path in my life was revealing itself to me.  It would be almost eight years from college graduation to my first technology job but I think my liberal arts background made it possible.  I had to learn strange languages.  A course in symbolic logic I took as part of my philosophy minor made it easier to understand decision trees and algorithms.  The years working in print media and radio helped me bridge the gap between old-media and the new-fangled media of the web.  Without a communications degree, I would not have the skills necessary to collaborate with customers and users.  Liberal Arts and humanities have served me well.

As I earned my MBA the study skills I learned as an undergraduate came in handy.  I was more prepared than my fellow students, understood the turn of a phrase and could take complicated things and make them easy to understand.  I doubt I would have learned those skills in a computer science course.  Now that I have an MBA and I have founded my own business, I see that I have been able to merge my experience with technology with my liberal arts background.

I also know that I want to hire a mix of liberal arts and technical professionals as my business grows.  I have terrible spelling so I have to rely on others to proof read my work.  That means that English majors are going to receive preferential hiring treatment from HR department.  For every developer who understands monads and SOLID programming, I am going to make sure I hire a few people to understand how to conjugate a verb and understand what Gottfried Leibniz meant by monads.  I feel this way because a diverse group of people can better solve the problems of customers.

So looking at the news that a liberal arts background may not provide the most return on investment for a professional, I politely ignore it.  I have been surviving and thriving as a professional because of my liberal arts background instead of in spite of it.  I have learned to ride the wave of the internet as it picked up steam and I have founded my own business hoping to help others take advantage of those trends.

If you would like to know more about my business and how we can help you improve your profits and bottom line please give us a call.

Being an entrepreneur is frustrating but I would rather follow this path rather than the well-traveled one.  I hope you get the chance to wander with me.

Until next time.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Why You Need E3 Systems

You need our products, find out why.
The life of an entrepreneur is filled with meetings.  Meetings with possible customers.  Meetings with prospective venture capital investors.  Finally, meetings with other entrepreneurs at social events to discuss how to generate more business.  It is a like your life becomes a blur of meetings and it is hard to keep track.  Last week, I attended a meeting with a local business organization to discuss search engine optimization and getting my business ready for the web.  I met some very helpful people and a mentor or two who challenged me about the products I sell and who could use them.  This week on the blog, I wanted to share my thoughts on why you could use E3 systems.

We founded this organization three years ago because, we wanted to help small and medium sized businesses use the web just like the Fortune 500.  With to cost of bandwidth going down, the use of cloud based services, and the rise of mobile computing we felt that we could create tools which worked over the web for any business.  We also constructed those tools to work on tablet computers, mobile phones and traditional web browsers.

We created our Sully 2.0 tool to help you keep track of your inventory and to generate all the documents you need for shipping and receiving products for your business.  Since the software is cloud based, when we upgrade the software you automatically get an upgrade to your system.  We tied the system with QR coding technology so that you would never have to purchase expensive bar-coding software.  This could save you hundreds of dollars because our inventory management system can work with smart phones instead of expensive bar code scanning software.  With Sully 2.0 you can scan a QR code and see exactly what you have on hand and where it is in your warehouse.  So if you had a chance to keep track of your inventory and save hundreds of dollars in the process wouldn't you do it?

Our Tony tool, for the price of a burger or shake, makes it possible for you to track the maintenance on any vehicle or piece of equipment in your inventory.  This allows you to make sure that all your equipment is under warranty, properly maintained, and provides unimpeachable evidence in case of litigation or an accident.  This will help you save money in maintenance and insurance premiums over the life of your business.  We provided an e-mail reminder feature so that when it is time to fix a vehicle you receive an e-mail and we have also integrated QR code technology and the ability to place scanned receipts into the system to ensure that everything is up regulatory standards.  Again wouldn't you like the peace of mind that comes with having your information regarding any piece of equipment you have at your firm accessible over the cloud to your smartphone, tablet, or PC?  We make that happen.

So we give you easy to use and low cost technology tools which work over the web to help your business save money.  Who wouldn’t want that?  Reach out to us today and see how we can help you.  Being entrepreneur is difficult and filled with meetings but if we can help one business meet its goals then it is worth it.

Until next time.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Software and Your Local School Bus Company

Would you like to know how well maintained
your child's school bus is?
We see them every do and we really do not give much thought to them.  On our way to work we pass them by and do not give them much thought.  Rarely do I even think about them when I see them pick up young people on their way to school.  I am talking about school buses and each day communities blindly trust companies we know little about to safely transport our children to and from school.  It is a pretty serious business filled with insurance risks and major expenses. This week I want to discuss how our software Tony can help school bus companies stay on top of maintenance and insurance expenses.

When I began writing Tony a year ago, I was thinking about truck fleets but after speaking with a few bankers and other people I decided that I should expand the focus of my software to include farm equipment and other types of motor fleets.  I even met someone who worked for a porta-potty company who though my software could help him.  It took a few detours and corrections but now you can track the maintenance of how your items are maintained by either hours of operation, mileage or simple date.  This makes it perfect for just about any business which has hard assets which need maintenance.

This brings me to school districts and school bus companies.  I am sure as a parent you would like to know how often the breaks are fixed on each bus.  Oil needs to be changed and tire pressure maintained.  Our Tony system makes tracking that information as easy as a click of a mouse or the swipe on a smart phone.  I am very excited about it and if you are managing a bus barn then you should be too because now with the scan of a QR code on a bus you can see up to the moment when work was done on the vehicle.  This will give additional piece of mind to the school board and parents who are curious about the buses their children ride on.

More importantly, we can see how our systems can help with insurance adjusters and companies.  For example, if you are involved in an accident you now have proof that you did actual maintenance on the vehicle and that mechanical failure can be ruled out as the cause of the accident.  In addition, these detailed records can be used as a means to negotiate with an insurance company to make sure that you get the most economically efficient rates you can from your insurance firm.  So using Tony is a great means to track maintenance and reduce insurance costs and liability risks.

At E3 we are constructing these systems because we want to have easy and affordable means of helping small businesses stay on top of their fleets.  Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.  An account executive will give you a call and together you can discuss how we can improve your maintenance records.

We do not pay much attention to school buses unless something bad happens.  With the help of E3 systems Tony we can help you save time, money and help postpone the bad things from happening.

Until next time.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Bootstrap World

Bootstrap makes us better.
You might have noticed some changes to the web site.  This week I pushed some changes into production and it reflects some of the newer technologies on the web.  We are now using MVC5 and Bootstrap web to provide a consistent experience for people using the website on a mobile device or web browser.  This week on the blog I want to talk about Bootstrap and how it fits in to our mission to provide web applications which work any time and any place.

I believe that I am a late adopter of Bootstrap.  The first open source version was released in 2011 and it became the most popular download in the GitHub development project in 2012.  I stumbled upon it in 2013 when I was about to change the careers.  Another developer had exposed me to it was some kind of revelation.  Now there was a way to build web sites which looked good on small browsers and that functioned well on full screens.  It was a revelation but it did not seem like something that would work with the Microsoft technologies I was working with.

This changed with the release of Visual Studio 2013 who used Bootstrap 3.0 as its default tool to manage the look and feel of web pages.  When I saw how easy it was to work with, I quickly became a convert.  Instead of noodling around with web pages and cascading style sheets, I had a built in tool to help build web applications which scaled from the mobile phone to the big screen.  It was also great that Microsoft included tools like LESS to create my own styles and to add tweaks to my layouts.

For you the consumer this is a big deal.  Now, you can rest assured that there is an industry standard way to make sure that your web site looks good on a small browser or on a giant screen.  In addition, your web applications will now work anywhere you have a connection to the web.  This gives you significant power managing your business processes because you can look up inventory on the phone, tablet or laptop with no major interruption of service.  This is the cloud based connectivity that we boast about.

All of us at E3 systems are excited about this technology.  It is nice that the collective wisdom of the world wide web has embraced this approach and that just means that you the consumer now have an industry standard to measure progress against.  Contact us today and find out how we use Bootstrap to help you.

New technology is fun and using a new technology to solve a business problem is even more fun.  Bootstrap is one of those technologies which does both and you are going to see more of it as time passes. It is a bootstrap world and we are living in it.

Until next time.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Graduating from BizSpark

Proud to have graduated from BizSpark
This week marks a special anniversary of sorts.  Three years ago I became a Microsoft BizSpark member.  This week I graduate from the program.  It has been a peculiar journey but I feel that I have learned a great deal.  I would like to discuss my experiences with the program.

I was between consulting jobs and was attending an ALM conference in Chicago when I asked if there was a program for a Microsoft professional to get Visual Studio in order to start building a software start-up.  I was quickly directed to the BizSpark program and I have not looked back.  I was provided with software licenses for Office and Visual Studio.  I was also given a network to share ideas and solicit for help.

It has not been perfect.  Sometimes I have felt alone in the wilderness of business.  The clients I thought I would get just by putting out a shingle have been elusive.  Still, I have been able to migrate from Visual Studio 2010 to Visual Studio 2013 and keep up on all the latest technologies.  I am now comfortable with MVC thanks BizSpark.  I have embraced Microsoft Tag until Microsoft decided to abandon the technology and thanks to NuGet was able to generate my very own QR codes to manage my business.

Plenty of ups and downs and BizSpark has been there for me.  Now I am officially an alumni of the program and I hope that I get an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of another member WhatsApp.  I understand that this is pie in the sky thinking but that was why I wanted to be an entrepreneur in the first place.

Feel free to contact us and learn more about our business.  I want to take time out to thank Doug Crets and the BizSpark team for sharing my work with others and keeping my focused on the end goal which is quitting my day job and putting other people to work.  I look forward to letting everyone know when that happens.

Until next time.