Smart Phones (Treo & Blackberry)
Only three times in my life has a tool or toy completely blown me away. The first time was an IBM ThinkPad. The second time was my IPOD. The third time was my Palm Treo (a smart phone).
Smart phones roll calendar, address book, memos, task lists, e-mail, and internet all into one relatively small phone. They are truly amazing. Words barely can express how much my Treo has simplified my life.
The biggest win for me was that my Treo stores everything from my Outlook personal organizer. Any data entered into the phone goes to my computer and any data entered into my computer goes into the phone. No dual entry. No backup needed.
If I were to turn on the e-mail service, the same would be true for my e-mails. Perfect synchronization between phone and computer. What more could you ask for?
The two most popular smart phones are the Treo and the Blackberry.
The Blackberry is reputed to be the more internet friendly of the two. I can only speak for the Palm Treo (it also comes in a Windows version). Virtually everyone I know who owns a Treo or a Blackberry is addicted to it.
If you aren't using a Smart Phone, you need to look into them.
Multiple Monitors with Large Screens
Microsoft tested the productivity of computer users and discovered that having two or more 30" monitors increased worker output by 50%! I have started using two multiple monitors and have found it to be a great time saver.
You save time by not having to switch windows. With multiple large monitors you can keep all of your windows open and available.
If you are going to use multiple monitors, I recommend purchasing UltrMon. You can find it at www.ultramon.com. UltrMon simplifies your monitor management. It is easy to install, set up, and use.
This section is written for the contractor who refuses to use computers. Here's a cold hard truth: contractors who don't use e-mail appear to their prospects and clients to be hopelessly out-dated!
Among the many reasons why e-mail is in your best interest, the most powerful reason is that many of your clients prefer to communicate via e-mail. As you MUST always communicate in the manner your client prefers, that means you MUST be using e-mail. It's really that simple.
Spreadsheets (Microsoft Excel)
Spreadsheets are a business owner's best friend. They are outstanding for financial management, job costing, estimating, and market analysis.
I've never met an owner who didn't fall in love with Excel once he learned the basics of running it. This is mainly because Excel makes it easy to play the "What if?" game. Excel lets you test the financial impact of slight changes in your assumptions and forecasts.
Excel comes in virtually every version of Microsoft Office. Excel training is probably offered somewhere in your home town, no matter how rural that town is. Trust me. If you like playing with numbers, and which business owner doesn't, you will thank me for turning you on to Excel.
PDF Creation Software & a Scanner
In the construction world, fax machines still play an important, yet dying, role. The time is coming when everything will switch over to paperless document transmission.
Scanners and PDF creation software let you turn almost anything into an electronic file that can be read by any computer. Scanners are for converting hard copies. PDF creation software is used for converting word documents, Excel spreadsheets, web pages, etc.
Scanners come in two basic styles: flat bed and pull- through. The flat bed works best for a stationary location. The pull through is far more portable.
Unless you are on the road constantly, the flat bed is usually your best choice.
PDF creation software offers two great benefits. First, the computer receiving the file doesn't have to contain the program the file was created in. If you've ever tried to share files with someone outside of your office, you've probably experienced the headache of software compatibility (I haven't had that problem in years).