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2005 diary

Thursday 30 December 2004
Look up the word "bulk" and it will tell you "bulk [n] volume, size, or magnitude, esp. when great". There is no mention of cut-off points or minimum size, so what's bulk in your mind can be tiny in somebody elses. Or to be more precise what's bulk in my mind can be tiny in Royal Mail's. About to send out a mailshot to 120-odd contacts (odd, as in being in excess of the indicated number, and not odd as in strange) I was very happy to read about Bulk mail savings. "Save up to 30% on standard mail costs by doing some of the mail sorting yourself. Ideal if you send large volumes of mail in the UK. Click here for more info." Click. I'm presented with three options, starting with a minimum posting of 4,000 letters. Gulp. Guess I need to check out their Business Seduction Guide on building successful business relationships. (By the way, there is some great stuff on their website! Move the mouse so that the arrow is on top of the Favorites menu. Without moving the mouse, click the left button and click on Add to Favorites. Click OK.)

Thursday 23 December
"Feast or famine" is one of the hardest things to deal with when you are your own boss. OK, I can't say there's been much famine lately, but only because I seldom turn anything down. This obviously means I work way too many hours. This also means I neglect my friends. (Memo to myself to ignore that voice in the back of my mind that tells me to build up reserves.) So whilst all - potential - clients are having their Christmas parties (and suffering the consequences) I have complete freedom to do things I want to do. So I start the day with aquafit. Followed by an hour or so going through my email. Then lunch with a friend. Some Christmas shopping. And finally dinner with another friend. These are a few weeks of famine, but hey, what a feast!

Wednesday 22 December
Hooray! I got "proper" stationery! The first four years as a "sole trader" I used Serif's superb PagePlus software to create my own office material. But as part of the new company status (and with the new year around the corner) I felt it was time for a fresh new image. The colour scheme is still the same (one guess) but I now have my own logo, courtesy of Ruth Brown of 10:AM. (You're a star, Ruth!) So glad, though, that law number 20 of the 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, by father-daughter team Al and Laura Ries, is the "law of change". "Brands can be changed, but only infrequently and very carefully." I have 1000 letterheads, compliment slips and business cards to go through!

PS Wondering about the logo? Ever heard of Confucius? Remember the orange fish? Why orange? (Answers on a postcard.)

Saturday 18 December
Christmas came early this year. No, I didn't win some weird and wonderful contract. Instead, what should have been my last manic week of the year turned out to be one spent in bed. OK, I was tired and very much looking forward to Christmas (duvet, telly, food) but not this soon! (I'll spare you the details, but no, it wasn't exhaustion ;-) Anyway, when I told the three different clients I had to postpone their training sessions, a certain Leo Sayer song sprang to mind. (I'll give you a clue - it wasn't "you make me feel like dancing.") But they all seemed very sympathetic. Even the hotel didn't charge me for the cancellation! So you're wrong, Leo. OK, I am a one man band. But they all know and they all understand. (Thank you, Caroline, Ieuan and John!)

Friday 10 December
Somehow I don't think I offended the group yesterday ... for the first time in my 11 years as a software trainer I received a gift when I left! (That is, if you don't count compliments or the satisfaction from knowing you've helped people as gifts ;-) (Bz the waz, this German kezboard is driving me crayz!)

Thursday 9 December
"Wir begruessen heute" ... and there I am, on the blackboard in the lobby of the customer's premises in Cologne. Immediately I feel welcome and at home. Safe enough to tell them about the advertising signs at Stansted Airport promoting the low-cost airline Germanwings with flights starting from 30 pounds. "No joke" the sign read. "After all, they're German." OK, it was a tricky one and I remembered Paul Clothier's caution in his excellent book "The Complete Computer Trainer" never to use "ethnic humour" (or "humor" ;-) but they laughed and it sure made them relax and become engaged. And as people learn better when they smile and laugh, what more could I ask for!?

Tuesday 7 December
First Tuesday of the month which means I'm in the Cambridge Evening News Business section with my (now) regular tip column. So having driven down from Hampshire (and being stuck on the M25 car park for about an hour or so) I pick up a copy of the paper from the local corner shop. Thank Budgens for late night opening!

Saturday 4 December
New Step routine. The really fit and choreographically hard-wired people were struggling, so I didn't stand a hope in hell and felt close to walking out of the classroom. But how would I feel if one of my course participants kept saying "I cannot. I just cannot!"?! So I tried and failed. Tried again. Failed even better. But I'll be back next week! (If at first you don't succeed - etcetera etcetera.)

Thursday 2 December
Heathrow. Normally the start of another adventure. (OK, even though I may not go where no man has gone before, I'm always excited to go some place I've never gone before.) Today, however, all I can do is dream (and dribble in my keyboard). Whilst I'm in a room overlooking the planes taking off, every hour or so somebody walks in to show how they're using Excel and to work together on a different (quicker, better, smarter) way of getting results. "A bit like a doctor's surgery" one of them said. Next!

Tuesday 30 November
Home match (bespoke training for Pembroke College), which is perfectly timed as it's so much easier to go out for a romantic meal when we are in the same town! Happy Anniversary to us!

Monday 29 November
Just had my third session with Paula Gardner of Do Your Own PR. One 50 minute coaching call per month (bronze membership) and I end up with 14 excellent ideas to get my teeth in. Thank God I didn't opt for Silver or Gold! ;-)

Friday 26 November
Tell me, what is it with "Dress Down Friday"? After having been surrounded by Chaps in Suits for the whole week (and finally starting to recognise them) they suddenly appear in T-shirts, jeans and sneakers (and I'm back at square one). It's a trend within many companies around the world (one Friday in Port Harcourt my course participants turned up in traditional Nigerian dress) and I know some companies even set guidelines regarding what is (or rather, is not) "acceptable attire" on Fridays. I think it's a phenomenon that screams to be anthropologised. (Anthro what?) Perhaps Trinny and Susannah can shed some light?

Thursday 25 November
Got a tip request today. As I already made a start with this week's tip it'll be the basis for tip # 91. I'm just going to repeat that ... tip number 91 - one a week for getting close to 2 years! When I originally began, I had no idea how long I would carry on but as it happens, I'm still enjoying researching and writing them. Speaking of research ... research carried out by City & Guilds revealed that almost a fifth of staff "need help turning computers on". The report claimed that one in seven employees in the UK need help because of a lack of IT know-how. That's why I decided to share the best of what I know with others by introducing a free subscription to weekly computer tips, packed with time-saving tricks, tips and shortcuts. Since April 2003 I've written 90 tips (OK, one of them is still a draft) to help computer users - at all levels - think, learn and work more efficiently. See http://www.roem.co.uk/hints.html for the archive of tips I've cranked out so far. And keep these tip ideas coming! If I use your tip, I'll publish it along with your name; the bragging rights will last a lifetime!

Monday 22 November
The hotel I'm staying at has teamed up with 3Com to "give high-speed wireless access to the Internet ... from anywhere in the hotel, including your bedroom." Sounds good, eh? But a. I don't get any signal in my room and b. when checking my email in the bar (b. ii. too tempting!) it certainly isn't high-speed! So I'm back in my room using dial-up and you know what? It works fine! I suppose this is a variation on Andy Rooney's "Computers make it easier to do a lot of things, but most of the things they make it easier to do don't need to be done."

Sunday 21 November
Instead of the planned walk in the country with our friends, we're spending this Sunday reinstalling my computer. Some unknown force fried my hard disk and as I'm such an expert on everything related to computers I had a full backup dated ... 3 October. Turned out I was (extremely!) lucky and we could recover all data, but I learnt my lesson.
I must make regular backups.
I must make regular backups.
I must make regular backups.
I must make regular backups.
I must make regular backups.
I must make regular backups.

Saturday 20 November
05:25 and I switch on the lights in my office. (How did I get here?!) Almost immediately my printer starts to print. Spooky! When I pick up the sheet all I see is one small heart in the top left corner. At least "somebody" is happy to see me! (Four hours later this dream is shattered when my husband tells me at the breakfast table that it must have been a small power surge from switching on the lights. )

Friday 19 November
Stuck at home in my office for two days on my own, creating training simulations, and I'm starting to get really excited whenever the phone rings. Since I've registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) this doesn't happen too often though, so I'm starting to worry I'll end up talking to myself, which is why I'm really happy I managed to squeeze in a one-to-one training session at the end of the day. The session was postponed from last night as the Prof suddenly had to take part in a rehearsal for his act in the "Star for a Night" fundraising event for the hospital's children's ward. It must have been his Welsh background that made him end up having to perform the Tom Jones classic "It's Not Unusual" as he doesn't look a bit like hip-swinging Tom! By the way, the event is held tomorrow at the Perse School for Boys and tickets are available at the door.

Finally, if you're fed up with phone calls from people who want to tell you all about their special offers on double glazing check out TPS online. If only legislative action to resolve unsolicited direct email marketing about mortgages - and worse - wasnt as slow as it is! Or are we ready to pay for email?

Tuesday 16 November
Just had one of those exquisite home-cooked meals at the Old Mill. Blackened Cajun Salmon fillet on a bed of Mediterranean vegetables cooked in chilli, garlic and coriander with sweet soy sauce. And a large glass of Chenin Blanc. What better way to celebrate a successful day in front of a room full of Quality Assessment Managers, trying to get to grips with their automated certification process, a request for a job assignment in Australia and fan mail from IT Training Magazine, the UKs leading source of IT training news.

Monday 15 November
As I get out of my car the car park attendant welcomes me back to The Old Mill Hotel. Apparently last week "they" (?) had been guessing about my number plate (R1OEM - I know, I know, but coming from a country where there is no such thing as a personalised licence plate I just couldn't resist!) The Old Mill in Baginton is a beautiful converted watermill offering the perfect alternative to the Marriotts and Radissons of this world. Nice rooms, welcoming staff (like the car park attendant) and home-cooked meals.

Sunday 14 November
Phew! Its been a hectic week. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday was spent developing computer based training at a client's site near Southampton. Thursday and Friday I was training at another customer's office in Coventry. Not to forget hours in the car getting to and from the workplace, especially when you cannot find your way - at some point I even drove through Dunkirk ... well, I knew I was lost but, hey! Saturday and Sunday I couldn't just hide in the bedroom and sleep - we've just come back from Holland where mother-in-law celebrated her 75th birthday. So I'm sitting down for the first time in a week, knowing that tomorrow it'll start all over again. I love it! spacer

Sunday 7 November
Meet Zakko, the office cat. Or at least, he is today as he seems to have missed me when I  was away for work this week and he obviously senses I'm off again tomorrow. So as I'm working in my converted garage cum office he's sitting next to me on his favourite blanket. If you're quiet you can probably hear him purr.

Saturday 6 November
Apparently we've just had our second board meeting ... I've been in town to open a business bank account and was informed that the meeting with the bank's Business Officer goes down as our second board meeting. It appears that the first board meeting was the one where it was decided to form a limited company so I guess that 16 October's entry could serve as the minutes of meeting?

Wednesday 3 November
Crikey. As I walk into the modern building of my new client in Hampshire I immediately feel at home. (The fact that they have our living room arm chairs in their reception area might have something to do with it. ;-)

Monday 1 November
Role reversal. I'm being trained. Great venue. (Archway House in Royston, within walking distance from a car park where you can park the whole day for £1.50 - now how unique is that?) Excellent training. (A Shakespearean actor turned trainer.) Fantastic product! (Knowledge Solutions, a product I'll be using to capture and deliver Intranet based learning and simulation training material for a new client, so I'll be back in the role of trainer rather than trainee as from tomorrow.)

Sunday 31 October
It's Halloween and you know what that means. Well, I didn't when I first came to this country and ended up handing over all my favourite chocolate Hobnobs as that was the nearest thing to treats I had in the house at the time. One year later and the neighbourhood kids, showing off their home-made witch costumes, avoided our house (apparently the Hobnobs hadn't gone down very well). But that's a long time ago and I now know what Halloween is all about. To me Halloween is a time that reconfirms the social bond of a neighbourhood, a chance for the children to gain confidence in themselves (and come away with bags full of candy ;-) So I've stocked up on sweets and am waiting. But by the time it gets dark (early today as the clocks have gone back last night) one of my fellow Livelink trainers rings to discuss a problem and by the time I get off the phone (45 minutes later) my husband is the Neighbourhood Hero!

Friday 29 October
It's official! Name & Registered Office:
Company No. 05273176
Date of Incorporation: 29/10/2004
And no, I didn't by accident hit the CapsLock, nor was I shouting or angry! All I did was copy and paste from the Companies House website where they keep part of the details in capitals. ;-) (If you want to find out more about netiquette see Daniel Petri's excellent article on Top rules for correct e-mail netiquette.)

Thursday 28 October
The Christmas cards have been on sale for weeks, the clocks change at the weekend and I got my first free diary for 2005 today (thank you, Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce!) ... all the manifestations of the New Year being just around the corner. So before this brand new diary fills up fast and furious I've set aside one day a week for a new and exciting one-to-one coaching programme, helping you finally get to grips with the Microsoft Office tools and techniques you need to run your business (and not what somebody else might think you need). OK, in theory I have plenty of other work, but in practice I'm always looking for a few more great clients with whom I'll be able to work on a long term basis. Details will go up on my website soon, but in the meantime why not make a date in your brand spanking new 2005 diary?!

Tuesday 26 October
Got my first "snail mail" addressed to my new name! (With apologies to Royal Mail - no pun intended!) Gazzas done it. Prince did. So did Puff Daddy and Cassius Clay ... they all changed their names (to G8, an unpronounceable symbol, P. Diddy and Mohammed Ali in case you are otherwise wondering for the rest of the day). Last week the official paperwork was sent to Companies House and I hope I can soon officially announce that the training consultant formerly known as Karen Roem Software Training & Support will be known as Roem Ltd. By the way, the different company status doesn't mean there will be changes to the services I offer or the way I work. When I set up my own business 4 years ago I did that out of a passion for teaching and my love for working with people, i.e. a career that offers more than a payslip! I'm still passionate about sharing the best of what I know with you and I will continue to focus on designing and delivering training in non-traditional ways as I know conventional training can be boring for some or even scary for others. Motivate yourself to continually learn and develop and remember ... Only the mediocre are always at their best. (Jean Giraudoux or a Yiddish proverb or anonymous, depending on who you belief ;-)

Thursday 21 October
Research has shown that on average, people spend 470 hours commuting per year. I bet ya' I easily match that, so I'm really happy that today is one of my "virtual training" sessions. After a leisurely start I settle down in front of my laptop. No need to get up at the crack of dawn to catch a train, plane or automobile - if I felt like it I could even sit here in my jimjams! Using Microsoft NetMeeting I share the application I'm doing the training on and I can allow the learner to take control and practice for themself. Great feedback, expenses saved for the customer and 4 hours extra for myself. Safe time, petrol and sanity! (If you want to find out more about Microsoft NetMeeting why not have a look at the Microsoft NetMeeting website.)

By the way, I got my first blog fan mail today! The solicitor at Mills & Reeve who witnessed my statutory declaration needed for the formation of my limited company (form 12 in case you are making notes ;-) emailed that he had been looking at my web site "... it looks very impressive/user friendly - and I liked the blog!!" Happiness is!

Monday 18 October
My first day back doing what I do and love best - training. Shame the client was using their own evaluation forms as I would have loved to see the effect of my recent modification to my own forms ... As I know everyone hates forms it can be quite tricky to get feedback. But being a great believer in "if-you-were-unhappy-tell-me-if not-tell-others" I've decided that as an incentive I am pledging to donate 3 pounds to "Children of Nepal" for every completed form I receive, so your feedback can make a real difference! "Children of Nepal" is a small British charitable organisation, run by my friends Sue and Nara Pandey, that has the aim of extending and improving educational opportunities for children living in Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world. For further information see the Children of Nepal website.

Saturday 16 October
Just returned from my favourite Step class with Alison at Greens, here in Cambridge. At the best of time I'm pretty useless at the choreography bit but, hey, it keeps me fit (I know, I know: eat well, stay fit, die anyway). More importantly, however, it makes me not think about anything but the dance routine for an hour per week. One hour where whatever goes on in my life (read: business ;-) needs to be totally in the background unless I want to make an even bigger fool out of myself (OK, I hide in the back anyway, but still). Well, today this seemed to be totally impossible as, given the success of the company's first four years in business, I'm seriously considering taking the business a step further and becoming a limited company. I'm meeting my accountant on Monday to discuss further details, but it seems like Karen Roem Software Training & Support is growing up. Exciting times!

Thursday 14 October
I'm back! I've spent two days on a plane and two days in a car to spend three days tracking through impenetrable rain forest (and potato fields ;-) in Rwanda and Uganda in search of mountain gorillas. Now, does this holiday sound like your idea of hell? Well, I cannot even begin to explain how privileged I felt to have seen these amazing creatures! So now all I have to do is psyche myself up for those 122 email messages that arrived in 6 working days!

Finally, if you want to bring home more from your holiday than just dodgy souvenirs, dirty clothes and duty free (how about amazing memories?!) check out the website of Tribes. It's a Fair Trade Travel company who - apart from last week's gorilla track - have organised various unique trips for us, from a walking safari with the Maasai, to the famous Inca trail trek to Machu Picchu and last, but certainly not least, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (I'm the one with the bright green hood at the summit, half way down their web page. And yes I'm unrecognisable - I cannot even recognise myself!) All our trips were just perfect which is why I happily mention them here.

Tuesday 5 October
Somebody once wrote that if you look like your passport picture, you probably need the trip so off we go. On the way to the airport I check my voicemail one last time ... bad idea! Before I know it I'm in the car organising a venue for the next Hands Off Seminar, to be held in Coventry on 7 December. (Don't worry -- my husband is driving.) When we get at junction 15 on the M25, joining the M4 (i.e. very close!) I finally switch off my mobile. Holiday time! Escape isn't just a button on my keyboard.

Friday 1 October
I'm in a telephone conference with virtual colleagues from London, The Hague and Houston (same Houston, different client). Without going into details about the "service" I was provided by NTL when my landline went completely dead on Wednesday after four days of getting somebody else's calls, suffice to say I'm using my mobile. Fifteen minutes or so into this meeting a small tinned voice tells me "one minute remaining" and I'm one more phone down. For some reason singer/song writer Jimmy Buffet's song "If the Phone Doesn't Ring, It's Me" springs to mind.

Wednesday 29 September
Just picked up a few evaluation forms that were part of a big roll-out I did for Churchill College in Cambridge on "What's New in Office 2003". Remarks like "Karen is patient, clear in her explanations and very engaging" (thanks, Gemma!) and "Wonderfully clear, reassuring etc" (what's the "etc", Felicity? ;-) were obviously nice to read, but what brought a real smile to my face was "Content good. Trainer beautiful." (You're such a flatterer, Terry!)

Tuesday 21 September
Obvious part of any hands on training session is that learners will have to do some typing. The "hunt-and-peck" typist might average 10 words per minute (if they're lucky), whereas the touch-typist will happily type away without looking at the keyboard (always nice to observe them when they realise they started off with their fingers at the wrong keys). With the risk of being labelled sexist I feel it's often the men who are hunting and pecking and the women whose fingers have been trained to locate the keys by position. However, one of my male course participants in this air-conditioned building in Texas is happily typing away without looking at his keyboard. I'll call him Dick (because that's his name) and Dick told me he had a choice of extra-curricular activities when at high school. All the girls did typing and all the boys did wood work. So Dick chose typing!

By the way, if you want to learn to touch type there are lots of typing tutors out there. Many, many moons ago I evaluated a few and I remember I liked Accu-Type best. And no, I do not get commission from any service or product I mention here ;-)

Sunday 19 September
I'm in Houston, having breakfast at the Holiday Inn hotel. Whilst loading up my plate with all sorts of fruit I never allow myself time to cut up at home a gentleman at the buffet table starts chatting to me. He asks whether I'm American. "No." So he tells me he's Brazilian. He asks me what I'm here for. "Business." Then he tells me he is here for Livelink training for his company, Lloyd's Register. Don't you love coincidences?

Wednesday 15 September 2004
End of my first Hands Off Seminar in Cambridge. Start of my weblog.
High on adrenaline and keen to talk about what has happened today I have decided to start a weblog (aka blog). What is a weblog? Weblogs are a phenomenon that know no boundaries. Personal weblogs have become increasingly popular over the last year or so. So here is mine. It will be pretty much about my day-to-day experiences as a self-employed training consultant (that is, when I find the time to write), but I will try and keep a constant supply of interesting links, quotes and recommended reading to make the blog readable by someone who doesn't know me. We'll see how it goes, but I feel I am up to the task.

So what was it I wanted to talk about anyway? Orange fish, but I'll explain that some other time. I now feel like Maria in the Sound of Music, going to see Mother Superior who will sing "Climb Every Mountain" to me. (With apologies to anyone who finds themselves humming this for the rest of the day!)

Roem Limited
Cambridge, UK
tel: +44 (0)1223 - 214177
mobile: +44 (0)7941 - 848326
email: karen@roem.co.uk

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December 2004