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Can business be entertaining on TV?

I am a big fan of The Apprentice on TV. In fact I am a big fan of all business related programmes on TV. As a business owner myself, I always find it interesting to follow the experiences of others and so these programmes attract me.

The Apprentice should have been more interesting this year because instead of offering the winner a job, Lord Sugar was going to invest £250,000 and become their partner in business. So this prgramme truly became about entrepreneurship.

All the way through the series I thoroughly enjoyed it. Most (but not all) of the tasks involved using a business head and it was all done in an entertaining way. However...

The disappointing end of the film

Have you ever watched a film that you have enjoyed all the way through but because it had a poor ending, the whole thing was spoilt for you? Well that is how I feel about this year's The Apprentice. For 12 gruelling weeks, the competitors were tested to their limits to show their business and sales skills in order to win the final prize. The culmination of all of this was that the final four candidates had to submit business plans to Lord Sugar.

Each of the candidates has their strengths and their weaknesses. These would have to be balanced against the merits of their respective business plans.

There was Susan, a talented if naive person who had already shown true entrepreneurial spirit. Then there was Jim, a very gifted salesman who perhaps missed the point with his business plan and was unsurprisingly the first to go. The strongest candidate was Helen who failed because she had come up with a business plan that was fairly dull. And then we have the winner...

Tom lost more tasks than anybody else. He showed himself to be quite weak in selling and negotiation. And his business plan was perhaps the worst of the four (with the possible exception of Jim) because his plan failed to name the invention he had come up with and his figures were found to completely shambolic.

So why did he win?

Lord Sugar freely admitted that the business plan he submitted was going to be put on the "back burner". Or does that really mean that he was going to ignore the business plan? Tom won because Lord Sugar could see potential in the nail file that Tom had invented and already brought to market. Therein lies the true reason Tom won. The weeks of tests and trials and the merits of the business plans were totally irrelevant. It was the nail file that won this series.

I don't blame Lord Sugar for choosing Tom. Becoming Tom's partner and putting his business might behind this well designed product was perhaps too good an opportunity to miss. But it made a complete mockery of all the tasks in which the candidates competed. And it is for this reason that I question, can business really be entertaining on TV? It appears that the need to go for profit can often conflict with the need for entertainment.

Thu 28 July 2011 09:17:05

Using Gmail for business email

Business email is so important, it pays not to take any chances with it. If you create your own website with AB Publish, you can also add email boxes to your account that allow you to keep in touch with your customers with a professional email address.

Until recently, I only ever recommended that business email accounts were set up using desktop based software such as Windows Mail, Outlook and Thunderbird. However, there is now a method you can use that is seamless, extremely flexible and completely free.

If you integrate Gmail properly with your business email account, you will be able to access all your emails from any Internet connected PC or mobile device. Not only that, but there are Android and iPhone apps that allow you to use Gmail with minimal set-up.

But I want a proper email address, not a Gmail address

The reason I recommend Gmail is that it allows you to use your own email address if you know which settings to use. You are effectively still using your business email facility, Gmail just acts as an interface that allows you to read, send and sort all your business emails.

How to set up Gmail to properly use your business email address

The first thing you need to do, is to set up (if you have not already done so) a normal Gmail account. Once you will have been allocated an email address like yourname@gmail.com. So the next stage is to enable receipt of your business emails. I am assuming that you already have a POP3 enabled email account set up (such as the email accounts we provide at AB Publish).

So what you do next is to click on the cog in the top right hand area of your Gmail account and then to click on "Mail Settings". Now click on "Accounts and Import" and then "Import mail and contacts". Google will ask you to provide your email account details. We will provide these for you.

Once this has been done, you want to be able to send emails as if they were coming from your professional email address and not Gmail. So click on "Send mail form another address". The next screen will default to "Send mail through Gmail" but yo do not want to do this as it will add a Google message onto all emails. Instead, select the SMTP option and enter in the addresses and password that we supply you with.

Once you have clicked on an acceptance email, you are good to go. Go back to the settings and select which email account you want as a default and you are done!

And don't forget, if you get stuck, all it takes is an email or telephone call to support and we are here to help you.

Fri 15 July 2011 15:59:13

Should I choose POP3 email or IMAP email?

As a web designer, I offer support to all of my customers' websites that I host on their behalf. About 1% of this support goes to helping with issues to do with the site itself and the other 99% goes to helping them with their email accounts.

This is because there are so many options for email and setting it up can be quite complicated. Couple this with the fact that emails are now so important to business life, email support is something I take very seriously.

Therefore I intend to cover many subjects about email in the coming months and today I will start with POP3 versus IMAP. The first thing to get out of the way is to explain what each of these email accounts is:

POP3 email (or POP email)

POP3 and POP email both refer to the same thing and with the exception of webmail, is probably the most common and most popular type of email account that people set up in their email client (such as Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Mail, Thunderbird etc). The abbreviation stands for Post Office Protocol but this is not important. It is actually the simplest kind of email account.

The POP3 email accounts sits on a web server. When someone sends an email to you, it is passed to this web server and sits there waiting for you to collect it. When you open your email client it contacts the web server and downloads any new emails. Most of the time, it will delete those emails from the web server once they are downloaded to your PC or mobile phone.

That is it. It is no more complicated than that. It is often referred to as an email box which is an excellent description as email is sent to your box waiting for you to collect it. You do so by opening up an email client or perhaps your mobile phone checks for new emails every 30 minutes or so.

IMAP email

This is a more modern but nevertheless well established email service. It stands for Internet Message Access Protocol. It works in a similar way to POP3 but has more flexibility and is therefore slightly more complex. It is a box that sits on a web server collecting all your emails waiting for you to download them. The main difference is that it is very easy to synchronise your email using this service.

For example, you could set up an IMAP email account on your PC and set up the same IMAP email account on your mobile phone. If you read a message on your phone for example, that same email will show up as "read" on your PC. If you delete an email from your inbox on your PC, it will be automatically deleted from your inbox on your mobile phone as well.

This facility is very useful if you want to access your email with multiple devices as it keeps everything synchronised in a very efficient way.

So which should I choose?

If you only want a very simple email system then choose the older but simpler POP3. If your requirements are more sophisticated and you like the idea of synchronising your emails between different devices, then I would choose IMAP.

But wait! There is a third option. That is to integrate your business email with Gmail. More on this to follow.

Wed 13 July 2011 13:36:16

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