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First impressions

Apr 05, 20043 mins
Microsoft WordSmall and Medium BusinessVoIP

The new guy introduces himself and outlines his plans for Home Base.

My Microsoft Word is screwed up, has been for over a year. I’m not sure how this happened – I think I tried to do something tricky with templates, and somehow an Outlook template wound up in a Word folder – or vice versa. Either way, I made a god-awful mess of things. My Word documents are painfully slow to open and close; I have memorized the three different error messages I see on a regular basis; and once in a while Word simply locks up the whole PC, and I need to reboot.

It’s an utterly unacceptable situation for a guy who uses little more than Word, a telephone and a cable modem to make his livelihood. And yet, I accept it, because I’m not sure what else to do. Pay Microsoft for a support call? Find a local PC guru? Uninstall and reinstall my Office suite in hopes the gremlin will vanish? Each of these perilous options might bring downtime I can’t afford. So I live with my workarounds and look forward to my next hardware upgrade.

Why do I make such an embarrassing confession to mark my first Home Base column? Because I am one of you. I’m a freelance writer, a member of two “virtual” magazine staffs and a partner in a tiny company that rents out race cars. I understand what it’s like to be your own CIO, help desk, Web master, marketing department, accountant and network specialist – all while trying to earn a living doing whatever it is that you really do.

Because I’ve walked a mile in your moccasins (many miles, actually), I believe the same questions vex us both. Is it really as easy as the magazines say to set up a home wireless network? Are you maximizing your technology-related tax deductions without risking an IRS audit? What are the best ways to motivate virtual employees upon whom you depend, but over whom you have little control?

Note that these examples relate, in order, to technology, business and management. In home-based businesses, these areas invariably swirl together. That’s part of the fun, isn’t it? If you wanted to bang away at a single task, cosseted by a corporate infrastructure, you’d still be in cubicle land.

Here at Home Base, I hope to research the challenges you face; speak with knowledgeable and interesting people who’ve solved some common problems; and report back to you in a useful fashion. Drop me a line if you’ve got suggestions or comments.

Oh, and mark your e-mail “High Priority” if you can help me fix my Word.