Email Etiquette

I realize there are people out there who are barely computer literate. A person with a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. The chain email message I posted earlier came from someone who’s name I do not recognize, but that does not mean a lot. What did bother me was the fact that my email address was exposed to Dozens of other people I do not know!

When you send an email and put everyone’s email address in the “To:” field, it means that all who receive that email now have every email that it was addressed to. Many people have compromised machines with virus and trojans. These machines will “harvest,” those emails and target them for infection, or sell the addresses to spamers. So you see, that innocent email you sent to a few “select friends,” can now be in the hands of some very dangerous people.

Believe me, “NOTHING,” you could send me (Unless it is the winning Lottery Number), is important enough to risk my security. You are literally screwing your friends.

So please, the next time you want to share that cute Cat Picture or Video, or tell me about Jesus, make sure you dont share my info with 100 or so of your other “friends…”

And while we are discussing security, PLEASE install an anti virus program. Many of them have free editions that are more than adequate for a rookie or casual user. For Windows users, I recommend AVG Antivirus. And for the Mac, I personally use Avast. I have a virtual machine on my Mac running Windows XP, and AVG keeps me protected there. I believe Avast also scans this volume on launch. I have never had a virus or trojan infect my machine.

Top 5 Things I love about working in Latin America

1. Hard working people who appreciate opportunity.
2. Business Relationships ARE personal relationships. People rarely do business with those whom they cant connect with.
3. LATAM is still wide open, with lots of opportunity for those willing to work hard.
4. Exotic locales for work, sometimes you feel like you have entered a time machine and gone back to a simpler time. Great Food, Music, Culture…
5. The opportunity to build large networks of business Contacts that can help you.

Top 5 Things I hate about working in Latin America

1. People not being able to say no, or, “I’m not interested.” Instead they string you along.
2. Clients not paying on time or paying what they agreed to.
3. Clients being cheap or pound foolish and penny wise.
4. Extremely poor time management, if you want to have a meeting at 9am, set it for 8:30.
5. Ridiculous laws like the one in Honduras that taxes non citizen/resident service providers %25 of their billings, even when the company has no presence in Honduras.

The Claro Chronicles Continue

The Worst in Costa Rica

The Worst in Costa Rica

This is my latest Update, the Claro Chronicles…. An engineer from Claro Costa Rica came by the house yesterday to test the signal from the tower that is about 4 Blocks away. There was almost ZERO 3G signal in my house. He was nice kid, but fixed nothing. He said, and I kid you NOT, that the reason that I got no signal is that my house is so much lower than the tower, that the signal is not reaching me…. (Now that was creative. Then he says that it will be another 5-7 days before they can do anything. This is after I have been paying for a service that does not work for over 5 months!
‪#‎Claro_CostaRicaSucks‬. My advice, go with ANY cell company in Costa Rica BUT @Claro_CostaRica.

639x360_1320338202_logo_movistar I am not sure if Claro is Number Two or Three in Costa Rica. Number 1 has to be Kolbi, formerly ICE, the national company. Number 2 is either Movistar or Claro. Movistar has a reputation for having excellent internet coverage and plans. Kolbi is rock solid, having been the national phone company before the market opened up. Claro’s advantage has been competitive plans, and the fact that they are the only company that makes it easy for non citizens to get a plan.

Kolbi/ICEBased on the experiences of my wife and I, I would say that Kolbi is probably the best overall choice, with the best nationwide coverage, and a wide variety of plans and promos. I have been an ICE/Kolbi user for years and repent going to Claro now. There is one thing I can say for Claro though. If you get a good Signal, Claro has some of the fastest 3G speeds in the market, and despite Kolbi announcing 4G coverage, it is mostly hype.

For those coming to Costa Rica on vacation or business, you must have a GSM Triband Phone. You can get a chip in the airport or at any mall. Make sure your phone is unlocked for any carrier SIM, and go with a KOLBI prepaid sim.

Race in America and the Don Lemon Effect…

I normally dont talk Politics on my Business Blog, but wanted to share this with my readers.

Interesting discussion on @DonLemonCNN response to Russell Simmons last night. I made a comment in response to some of my Phamily ΖΦΒΣ. I want to break that comment out because in many ways I think it stands on its own as part of my thought process.

” I obviously did not see Lemon’s commentary the way many did, but as I read more, I begin to understand the POV of those who were offended, though I am not. I simply think there are two conversations to be had. I will never call my Brothers and Sisters Niggas. I will never allow my children to leave the house looking like a clown with their pants hanging off their ass, and as my Beloved Soror knows, I do believe in personal responsibility. We can not take back hundreds of years of oppression. We can not change the racism that exist in our society (Hell it even effects Oprah! What we can do is chose not to surrender. Choose to hold our heads high and show pride in who we are. What we can do is work to make sure our children are being educated and not killing each other. Because at the end of the day, whether systematic racism contributed to it or not, we still chose to call ourselves that hateful word and to be perpetual victims.”

Now I believe that… This does not mean I don’t believe that oppression and suppression are realities of our world. Don is very fortunate in that he has managed to escape poverty and create a career and a life for himself that many in the Afro American Community can not aspire to, because as Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA says,

“You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up…”

And then there are the fighters… Those of us who DESPITE the obstacles in our path, and despite the difficulty, choose not to be a Niggah, chose not to bow our heads to anyone but God. Those of us who take responsibility for our lives, and who overcome obstacles. Don Lemon may be arrogant at times. He may even be a little silly, such as in his Twitter war with Jonah Hill, but he is a thoughtful journalist whom I sometimes disagree with but always respect.

The Hill thing was an obvious example of Lemon taking himself too seriously, while believing everyone else does as well. I doubt any Hollywood Star, A or B-List would get all mushy over meeting any CNN Personality except @AndersonCooper or @WolfBlitzer. Don you just aint Big enough.

But lets get back to the point. The point is that Don Lemon should not be attacked for his views. He should be challenged. I for one am glad he opened up this debate, because agree or disagree, he HAS created a discussion, now we can chose to make it about him, or about the subject matter…

The Second Coming of Steve Jobs

SteveJobs I am listening to this book on Audible. Amazing read. But what is even more amazing is how jobs was able to accomplish so much with his obvious maturity and ego issues.
Since reading his acclaimed biography about a year ago, my opinion of Jobs has changed completely. I used to be one of those people who near worshiped Jobs as a genius and visionary. Perhaps both are true to a degree. His visions have all be validated, and yes he changed the technology landscape. But he was also a rude, petty, egotistical man who mistreated and abused the very people who loved him. I am also afraid that his tyrannical, absolute control over Apple during his final years may have damaged the company. Examples of this are evident in his short sited decisions on things like iPhone screen size and feature set. It is clear that Samsung has now passed Apple in the innovation space with their new SG4.
Steve’s absolute control over everything limited innovation at Apple. Can you imagine how successful the MessagePad would be today if Steve had not killed it? Steve could sell anything, and I have no doubt that if he were living, that the iPhone would still have a lead, just because he would have turned weaknesses into strengths. He had that ability. His famous, “One More Thing….” kept us all on the edge of our seats for years.
We will have to see how his death ultimately affects Apple’s creativity. The new Mac Pro line looks interesting, and my new Macbook Pro is the finest notebook I have ever had. The iPhone, as much as it is a part of me, has been a disappointment when compared with the competition in the last two years. Rumor has it that the next iPhone will be released in about a month. I will reserve judgement until then. I do not like the LOOK of the new iOS 7, but I like some of the functionality. I wish Apple had just opted to let us customize our user experience. Jailbreaking cycles have become much longer these days as Apple has tightened security and closed exploits, something Jobs would be very happy about if there was a “third coming,” of Steve Jobs….

The Claro Chronicles

The Worst in Costa Rica

The Worst in Costa Rica

This whole thing started several months ago when I got my @Claro_CostaRica iphone 5. From day one I have had no 3G service in my home, despite being only a couple of blocks (Maybe 4), from their tower. I took the phone to their store in the Passeo de Las Flores Mall, they swapped out the chip and the problem continued. On July 23rd, I began pressing them for a resolution. After doing everything in their power to avoid providing me service, including taking my phone in for repair, with a promised 8 DAY turn arround, and giving me a crap Android Loaner…. I was able to talk to their Manager of Customer Service, who promptly gave me a new iPhone. (GREAT RIGHT?), NOT EXACTLY….

iPhone 5

iPhone 5

The new phone has no better coverage than the old one. I was promised an engineer would come to my house before the end of this week… Isn’t Saturday THE END OF THE WEEK? I had TWO follow up calls from @Claro_Costa Rica this week to follow up on service. When you answer every question with YOU SUCKED, you would think they would have someone call to find out how they can fix it…. They did not. I had to call the Manager again. And still they auto deduct their fee from my Bank, despite the fact that I prepaid my bill by a month and they have two months on deposit (Standard for a Non Citizen). I think it is time for them to consider how they are going to compensate me for their horrible service.

I would be satisfied with a phone that works. If the iPhone 5 is not optimized for their network, then I will take a Samsung G4. Otherwise, fix my problem, give me a repeater for the house, or whatever it takes. Our truce is over. I am tired of paying for something that does not work…

Futbol, Opiate of the Masses

Costa Rica vs Panama I have a theory that where Socialism failed in Latin America, Soccer succeeded in pacifying the masses. Amazing how people can forget their corrupt and morally bankrupt governments, their imbalanced economies and poverty when it comes to futbol, or Soccer. Soccer is the one activity that has no socio economic issues. If you are a good player, no one cares about your color, your family name or economic status.

People with very little education, economic power or future aspirations, can forget about all their problems for almost the entire year when it is a futbol day… Which seems like every day in Costa Rica. I have a big laugh when I hear Costa Ricans discussing “El Classico,” The Classic… This usually refers to the rivalry between La Liga and Saprisa, two of the dominant (Though not so much the last couple of years) clubs in Costa Rica. I chuckle becuase as a Gringo, my definition of Classic is the Dallas Cowboys vs. the Washington Redskins, Michigan vs. Ohio State or USC vs. Notre Dame. Games that are played once a year and usually mean some kind of championship or other positioning. Two NOW mediocre Teams playing 50 times a year, do not a classic make. LOL!

El Classico

The system works, the poor are pacified, the rich keep making money (Entrances, Snacks, Bevarges, etc), and even Pizza Hut gets in on the money making. And for a few hours they forget about bills, problems and the general state of things. The next day the bills are still do, including the bill for that LCD TV that they could not afford to pay cash for (Especially since El Gallo Mas Gallo’s mark up over the US Retail price is about 100%), by the time they finish paying for that TV, they will have payed 500% of its value, and several new generations will have been introduced. But they don’t care, as long as they can watch their game…

I remember a few years ago when Costa Rica reached the World Cup, and the sitting President declared a national holiday the day of the game, giving all State Workers the day off. Of course private industry did the same thing. I sometimes muse about how much productivity is lost in Latin America due to nonsense like this…. Oh well, next to God, Futbol is the next most important religious experience.

The Importance of an Organized Workflow and the Right Tools

I am constantly fine tuning my work flow. I have sometimes been asked why I use a Macbook Pro as my primary computer. Workflow is one of the primary reasons why I enjoy the Mac so much. Apple simply does it better than anyone else when it comes to integration. My three tools of choice are:

Macbook Pro for my main work

iPad while out and about, or Simply Brainstorming

iPhone for communications

While I have experimented with tools and workflow, I have found that keeping it simple is the most important thing part of being successful and organized. There are a number of components to my workflow:

Communication

For communication with my clients I use a variety of tools, from Whatsapp and iMessenger on my iPhone, to Mac OS Mail on my Mac. I tried Microsofts Outlook for the Mac, but found it to be much too limited for my use. My Mac Mail is heavily customized for productivity. My main mail add-ons come from a wonderful developer called Indev, they have two great products call Mail Act On, and Mail Tags, which have become indispensable for me. I use a couple of other mail tools as well, like Attachment Tamer which allows me to open attachments that are normally not supported on the Mac. I prefer Mail as my primary communications tool, but in a pinch one of the messenger applications are fine. The strength of instant messaging comes when immediate communication is necessary. Many of my clients use iPhones, but Whatsapp gives me the flexibility of communicating with people on other platforms, including Blacberry, which many business people in Latin America still use. Though I doubt the longterm viability of the Blackberry Platform, this is a bit of interesting news. Blackberry should have licensed all or part of its OS a long time ago.

For conferencing or video conferencing, I use Apple’s Facetime or Skype. Skype is my preference because it offers a whole variety of features including international phone numbers. It also offers file transfer, texting, and simple voice calling, FREE if the other party also has Skype. I have also found that Skype works a bit better on 3G than FaceTime, and this comes in handy when calling from my iPhone.

Cloud Based Services

My Dropbox
Apples iCloud is awesome in and off itself, but my Cloud Service of choice is DROPBOX. It integrates with Mac OS, and Windows, is powerful yet easy to use, and works with ALL my devices, including my iPhone and iPad. I often use Dropbox as a Project Management tool, sharing files with my clients. They also have Dropbox for Business, which has some additional features. Sharing is so easy, your Grandma can do it! If you are interested, please use my link to sign up, I will get some free space as a result. A big part of being a Business Consultant is Document Management. As you can see from the Screenshot above. I use Dropbox as my primary Documents folder. But the cloud is for more than document management. A person who’s time is his most valuable asset, must be organized. I have three favorite applications that I use, to keep myself on track.

Productivity Applications
Productivity Apps I use the stock applications of Calendar, Notes, Reminders and Contacts for most of my productivity applications. They all sync with iCloud to provide across device availability, and they are well integrated into Mac OS. When working with fellow Mac and iOS users, I can share reminders and set up shared groups of contacts, notes etc. This brings a close to Exchange like experience, at no real extra cost. I recently finished the first phase of a project with Activa Solutions in Honduras. The Activa principles were both Mac/iOS users, and we had an opportunity to create some incredible workflows using stock Mac OS X, and Dropbox. My favorite Task Manager is an incredible little program called Things. Using Things for the Mac and the iPad, is the closest I have come to the functionality of my old Franklin Dayplanner.

Things for iPad

Things for iPad

You can use it like the old Franklin Planner, or with the more modern GTD system. In my consulting business, I have a lot of scheduled events, but find that Task Management, especially staying focussed in my biggest challenge. Things helps me stay focussed, while Apples Reminders program works well in assighning task to people who use the Apple ecosystem. Things is somewhat integrated with Apple’s Reminders, but not to the degree I would like. So for now, I use both applications, which is not optimal.

Documents

The Ubiquitous Microsoft Office

The Ubiquitous Microsoft Office

Lets face it, Google Docs sucks. And anyone who works with large corporate customers knows the ONLY SAFE choice is Microsoft Office. Try using Google Docs and see how your formatting gets scrambled. Anyone over 25 years old has grown up with Word, Excel and Powerpoint, and despite Microsoft’s improvements, Using the office suite is second nature.
My Novel in Edit Mode in Google Docs

My Novel in Edit Mode in Google Docs

My personal preference is Apple’s incredible iWork Suite. In many ways it is more powerful than MS office, without all the bloat. iWork also works seamlessly with Apple’s iCloud and there are powerful iOS versions for your iPhone (Though the small screen is not ideal for editing), and the iPad (Now we are talking! Even though iWork documents can easily be saved as MS Office Documents, there are still occasional glitches in formatting. With a cost of about $100 for the non Outlook version (Save your money on Outlook, it is junk mail (Pun intended), Microsoft Office is worth the money if you do Business Documents.

Some Other Cool Apps
While I have earned a reputation as a top notch business consultant, I have always and always will consider myself first and foremost a writer. Two incredible tools I use in developing ideas are Notebook and Scrivner. These two applications could also be listed in productivity apps, becuase both are powerful organization and idea development tools. This screenshot shows a writing template for Novel writing in both tools.

Notebook and Scrivner side by side

Notebook and Scrivner side by side

While there is an iPad version of Notebook, I rarely use it, as it is not very intuitive. Literature and Latte is in the process of developing an iPad version of Scrivner. This is something I am quite excited about. I am a bit Mind mapper and outliner, and use Notebook products like these two and Pear Note, which also has Mac and iOS versions, make my productive and creative life a little easier.

A lot of the applications I have mentioned also have PC versions (Though I could never get why besides COST, anyone would use a PC). I did not spend as much time on Workflow as I intended to on this post, so lets just say:

I am a new age GTD fan who believes in the power of automation and technology. I rarely take un scheduled meetings, these are time killers and are all to common in Latin America. I also insist that people respect my time. A 9:00am meeting means 9:00am, not 9:30. I plan my day each morning using the Reminders and Things apps, sometimes while I am still in bed. I try to use software and cloud based applications to document share and collaborate. Lastly I use best in class Document editing and management tools to create quality documents. Lastly I would say to my PC Brethren out there. If your computer is your primary tool, invest in the best one you can afford. My Mac Book Pro cost me over $3000, but it will pay for itself in less than 6 months because I will not have to deal with Blue Screens of Death, viruses and trojans or any of the other productivity killers that Microsoft pushes on us.

The Road Ahead

I have spent the last 11 years building the Call Center Business in Central America. Its time to make a change. I want to finish this year with a bang, and in 2014 focus on my writing!

The Business Adventures of an Expat Call Center Guru in Costa Rica