Wall of Fame

It took a while, but I finally collect enough photos and autographs to make the wall in my office something to talk about.  

I have been going to convetions seriously since 2003.  Back then, I mostly got sketches from my favorite artists.  While I still do that, the past two years I have made it a point to get autographs and photos with some of my favorite celebrities.  I thought these would be better in my office than copies of the sketches.  It has worked out as well as I’d hoped, though I have to explain who most of the people are.  I also wanted to get my degrees on the wall.  That is high school through masters pictured.

The hardest part was finding a way to get them on the wall.  I wanted something that was easy to hang, not requireing a lot of leveling and holes in the wall, was easily adjustable and relatively understated so as not to detract from the photos.  I decided on STAS Picture Hanging Systems.  It uses a bar across the top that you need to anchor and make level, then has cords that hang down and clips that slid into place.  The pictures can be adjusted both vertically and horizontally this way.  My only complaint is that the hanger clips are much more visible than pictured and they are pretty thick so the frame is pushed off the wall a bit and tilts making it hard to level..  I have ordered the smaller clips in the hopes that they will be less visible.

I also wanted all matching frames.  I chose FrameUSA.com and went mostly with their Architect picture frame in black since it was simple and understated.  They frames arrived quickly and well packed.  Of the 30 or so frames I ordered, only one had cracked glass which I found a replacement for at Home Depot.  Since nothing is ever perfect, my only complaint here was I did not get the hanger on the back for the smaller ones, perhaps I ordered the wrong one and the ones that did have it you have to attach it yourself.  Home Depot again had the parts I needed and a couple of hours later they were ready to be hung.  One note, when putting the hanger on, always mark and prepunch the holes.  The hanger itself is pretty flimsy and the frame seemed to be a pretty solid oak or other hard wood.

I plan on getting a few more photos in May at Dallas Comicon, where William Shatner and some of The Next Generation cast will be appearing.  I have space here to add about 6-7 then I may need to expand to a new wall.

“Yellow Page” scammers

Here’s the scam…you get a call from Generic “Yellow Page” company.  They talk fast and tell you they have an outstanding invoice with your company.  They drop a name or two saying they have a contract and that it is about to go to collections unless you pay.  They send over the invoice and hope you just pay.  If you argue with them, they get feisty, tell you to calm down, stop yelling, and generally talk over you.  All in the hopes you’ll buckle and pay.

Last year, we got this call, it was for a very little amount and after some argument, the decision was made to pay them so they’d go away.

We got that call again.

It came to my AP, who very smartly told him no way, this is a scam and stop calling.  He called back, was told the same thing.  He called again and the call was sent to me.  I laughed and hung up.  He called again. At which point I told everyone of thy got the call it was to come to me.

I got that call again.

I laid into “Mr. Richard Walker” for calling and harassing my company.  He tried talking over me, but I only spoke louder and asked for his supervisor.  He tried all his scare tactics, to which I told him I had asked for his supervisor and by law he was suppose to transfer me.  More threatening me with legal action was met with requests to speak to his supervisor.

He hung up and I won.

We then received a fax with a “statement” of charges.  There was a phone number and address.  After a little research, it appear the address being used is not really theirs and the phone seems to be tied to Canada.  I spent about an hour reporting them to every agency I could think of and now I am putting their name here so the name, phone or address may get picked up and seen as a scam. If you are contacted by these people, do not give them any financial data and asked for the signed contract.  If threats ensue, keep asking for a supervisor until they get bored of you repeating it.

Yellow National Directory
1111 Lincoln Road, Suite 400
Miami Beach, FL 33139
Richard Walker

Update: I reported them to the BBB and they responded that they had “cleared our account”.  I replied we never had an account to begin with.  They replied with the same canned message and I closed the case.  Idiots

This company is a scam and it committing fraud.  Please be careful when dealing with these criminals.


Today marks two important professional anniversaries for me.  I have been with Venture Mechanical for 5 years today.  That’s a huge deal considering my previous best for two years nine months.  It is almost a given that a person will need to change jobs a few times, especially early in their careers.  As you learn and grow, you get a better understanding of you likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses and it is natural to outgrow a position.  It is also one of the best ways to make significant leaps in terms of income.
We have officially been on our new accounting software for one full year.  The entire processes of research, converting and implementing took about a year and was one of the most challenging things I have done.  The first day we flipped the switch was stressful and the first few months of growing pains were difficult.  Constantly trying to reassure everyone that things were not blowing up, the output was accurate and not having that efficient “flow” were just a few of the things I battled.  Now, it is hard to remember what the old system was even like.
So here is to more success in the coming years.

Yearly Review

I got my yearly review at work.  Simply put, it was stellar.  I am very fortunate to work in a place that values my abilities and respects me as a person.  I have a great working relationship with both my boss and those in my department.  It has been almost 5 years, the longest I have ever been with a company and I expect to retire here barring anything catastrophic.

This is not to say I’m perfect and have nothing to work on.  It was pointed out that I get irritated at being interrupted when I am in the middle of a project or under a deadline pressure and I just don’t hide that irritation very well.  The previous controller did not have quite the volume of work that I do, since I was already doing most of it, and she would often with everyone that came in.  I wanted to nip that in the bud, but may have alienated a few people in the process.  Though, in my defense, once I got the girls in my department able to take care of handing out petty cash, they all but stop coming by to see me.

The other thing I have needed to work on was related.  We converted to a new system, largely due to my efforts and it was up to me to set up new procedures for almost everything.  In doing so, I seek the most efficient way, but that is not always the easiest or best for other departments.  I tend to make a few decisions without getting much input.

This also marked the first time I had to evaluate others that work for me.  I’ll admit I was a little nervous, but really there was no reason to be.  The people I work with do a great job; work harmoniously together and with the rest of the company and everyone has nothing but good things to say about them.  In fact, the hardest part was coming up with things that can be improved upon.  I know nothing stays the same, but I really appreciate where things are right now.

Congrats! You made it! Now what…

How many of us have worked hard, REALLY hard, to get to some point, achieve some goal only to actually make it?  We find ourselves at the end of the long road of single minded devotion faced with a very large open field that spans in all directions as far as the eye can see.  There might be a lot of trails, but no defined roads.  Mostly likely the road you were just on is gone, since there is no going back.

That is how I felt upon hearing my predecessor was finally retiring and I was given the accounting department.  I have two people working for me and a lot of expectations to live up to.  Until now, I was a task guy.  Each day I had a stack of tasks to do and I’d get them done.  I am very good at making things more efficient, making daily tasks quick and easy to finish.  Now I am expected to take those tasks and delegate.  At the moment, I can just teach the task and work out future procedures to pass on.  However, at some point I will need to teach others to work out the problem.  This is not something I have done a lot of, but it looks like my new challenge.

It seems like the old way of doing things was to learn a job and make yourself invaluable my making sure no one else could do your job.  That way, no matter how incompetent you were, it would still trump other peoples’ ignorance.  My philosophy is to see just how much I can get off my plate and into the hands of others.  I think it would be very hard to teach my way out of a job, and I am still very good at problem solving, so the end result should be a group that just gets better.  I suppose we’ll see what kind of teacher I am.

So, here I am in the middle of a wide open field.  I think I’ll head left for a while and see where that goes.

My Workspace

When the former Controller retired, I spent the first week sort through all the files to get familiar with where things are and what was important.  What I found was that much of it was very old and should have been put in storage years ago as evidenced buy the dates on these boxes:
Ever the dedicated employee, I stayed a little later after work on Friday to get my desk in order. I had started with the original configuration she used which was to face the wall in the right.  This limited the amount of desk space I had for my key board.  There was a keyboard tray, but it was flimsy and had to be moved every time I needed to write something.  I decided to shift everything to the left and face the corner, not because I ma naughty (though I am) but because I a better work flow at that angle.  


One last thing, I have tried to stream line, simplify and declutter my personal life as well as work.  However, I do hold onto a few things that have meaning to me.  Three objects I keep on my computer are a Bakelite ox, my Chinese Zodiac I found at a flea market, a Homey joker from my time at TDI and a two rough links of a chain I found on a walk during a time my DW and I were having trouble.

Translating Excel into Word.

I am something of a Wiz at MSExcel.  Being an accountant, that is almost mandatory.  With our new accounting system though, I need to become very proficient in MSWord.  For the geeky types, that is like being really good at Algebra, but needing to be just as good in English Lit. or fluent in Spanish, but needing the same proficiency in German.  They are completely different ways of thinking.  I am using Office 2007, so the instructions are geared for that release.

The challenge has been to take forms that my customers need, that were done in Excel, and convert them to a Word template.  Once that is done, our new accounting system uses the mail merge function to fill in added fields automatically.  After it is set up, I only need to enter information in once and I am done.  In the old system, the same information was being entered up to four different times.

The first task was just to get the form to fit on the page.  I found you could select all the cells you need in Excel, copy & paste into Word, but it always goes screaming off the page.  I could select the table, right click and set it to auto fit the window, but all the writing got scrunched up.  At first I thought I needed to play with font and cell size, but it ended up being much easier.  After you resize, you keep the table selected and go to page layout, shrink the margins for the selected text only and boom, done.  Almost no modification of the table is needed after that.  I did find it is best to go through the form in Excel  and do any merging of cells first.  It will bring over fewer cells to mess with in the table in the Word doc, though you can still merge cells there too.

The second task(s) was even sillier; getting the date to auto fill.  The merge source has certain dates it fills like “last payment” and “period to”, but no current date info or the first of the month.  In Excel, you use various formulas to get the info you need, in Word it is just a matter of format.  Again, after playing with it tenaciously (which is how I play most of the time) I found a simple answer.  Here were the two I needed (for now):

  1. Notary date – ex. 18 day of May, 2011
  2. First of the month – ex. 5/1/2011
In both cases, you go to the Insert tab, in the Text section, select Quick Parts, field and date.  I selected the first one and in the box above, you can dictate the format you want the date in.  Here are the formats to get the two I needed:
  1. Notary date – [DD] day of [MMMM, YYYY] – You have to enter two date fields, one for your day and one for the month and year since word sees the letters in “day of” as formatting.
  2. First of the month – DD/1/YYYY
Now the date is auto filled for the day I print the document.  I am sure I will encounter many other obstacles, but like any other learning process, it gets easier as you go.

Customer Service

I recently read the blog of a good friend of mine discussing how important good customer service is and how we as consumers can make better choices with our money to support the places that deserve our money.  While reading her remarks, it occurred to me that we are all in a customer service position of one kind or another even if we are not directly in the service industry.

I am an accountant and I work for an HVAC installer.  Technically I am overhead.  I don’t make any money directly for the company by selling our services.  However, I am part of the “face” of the company.  Anytime our receptionist cannot figure out who should get the call, it is forwarded to me.  I have a unique opportunity to make a good impression for the customer.  I could easily say it is not my department, not my job, or something else equally as lazy, but I try and understand exactly what it is they are looking for, give them the direct line and name of the person that can help them best and try to get them connected.  If all else fails, I’ll get their name and number and get back to them with 24 hours.

I also have a lot of contact with our customers and vendors.  In any business, we all need certain information to get our job done.  I know exactly which of my vendors can deliver and which don’t.  The same with the customers.  I make every effort to be the type of contact I am looking for, meaning if someone needs information, they’ll have it from me in 24 hours, or a really good explanation why I cannot deliver.  In this tight economy, there are many other businesses that do what we do, many may even be cheaper.  There is nothing you can do for the person who is just shopping for a bargain, but you can make a huge impact for those businesses looking for a company that is responsive to their needs.

We are all in the service industry.  Each day we make an impression on customers and vendors.  Better to make sure it is a positive one.

Software switchover…nearing the end

Back in May of last year, I started looking for new enterprise software for my company.  By July, I had narrowed it down to a few contenders.  By November, I had narrowed the field even further and management gave me the final say in who we would go with.  The check was cut and the planning began.

I have been through software changeovers before, but usually at the end or near the go live date.  I knew it would be a challenge, but I have taken a beating.  The endless meetings, deciding what to change or keep the same, finding the software does not do things you thought it did, battling the resistance of people who do not want to change, etc.  It is all coming to a climax.  April was suppose to be our original go live date, but got pushed back because we just were not ready.  May is the new time set and so far it is a still on.  I have busy few  weeks ahead of me as I move info from on system to another.

This whole project has been almost too much.  It has been overwhelming.  I already do much of the work in the accounting dept and had to add on a much greater load with the software changeover.  I am thankful that management has been so supportive and that the team involved has worked so diligently to get through issues.  I look forward to the next post where I get to say how successful the changeover was and thank a bunch of people.

Software Search, Pt.2

A couple of weeks ago, I went back to my boss and asked to move forward on the software decision.  I had reduced the three choices to:
  1. ComputerEase
  2. Maxwell Systems
  3. Spectrum (Dexter & Chaney)
I thought a round of having each com back and pitch to department heads would be a logical next step.  I was surprised when I was asked just to make the decision and just bring on back.  I chose ComputerEase for its simple design, user security, ease of use and glowing reviews about support.  A demo was given to a couple of key employees and I was also sent to the user conference in Austin to do some last minute research/learning.  This morning I got the ball rolling on negotiations and I have a final proposal to give to Sam.  Once a check is written, it is just a matter of scheduling the set up.  I am looking forward to the many trials, obstacles and long hours to follow knowing the end result is a better system and putting me one step closer to having this department to myself.