2 ½ day workweek – Coping with Weekends in the Middle East

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The Problem

As a part of my work, I’m in direct contact with accounts in Turkey and a number of countries in the Middle East. Being located in Turkey means that I “enjoy” Saturdays and Sundays as my days off, but in UAE, for example, Fridays and Saturdays are holidays. To make the matters more complicated, Iranian weekend is on Thursdays and Fridays, limiting the workable days between these countries to just 3 days, from Monday to Wednesday. Add to it about 2 hours of timezone difference and you’ll end up with almost 2 ½ days of common workweek, especially if you need to work with banks and government offices.

Importing data from FTP server into Zoho Creator

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Zoho Creator has grown to be a great cloud-based app creation platform. You can build simple apps in the matter of hours or have complex solutions up and running much quicker than a from-scratch project.

Manipulating data is a core capability of (Zoho) Creator . There is a rich toolset of UI elements, business logic components, and reporting tools to make your life easier. If you need more functionality you can always create custom functions and behaviours using the powerful Deluge scripting language. To take it even further there is a rather capable REST API to connect your app to the outside world.

In this post I’ll show you how to import data from an FTP server into a Creator app using a Deluge function and a little middleware.

Note: I assume that you are familiar with Creator and Deluge. We will also get some help from a PHP script, so some PHP knowledge is helpful too, but not necessary. You can use the code in this tutorial without changing anything other than the FTP url and account.

Bulk exporting Word documents to other formats with JavaScript

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JavaScript is hot commodity for server and client side web development. But when it comes to command line programming it is unlikely to ditch the likes of Python and Ruby for JavaScript.

I don’t have the luxury of picking my toolset at work. I’m a business consultant with no access to anything beyond the essential enterprise software. Heck, I don’t even have access to PowerShell. All I have left with is JavaScript. Life is fun.

I assume that I’m not the only one facing this challenge, so it may be worth sharing how I do some basic automation at work using JavaScript.

Problem

The team needed to convert a big number (200+) of Word documents saved in different formats into a single format, DOTX to be specific.

World-class Customer Service

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In mid October 2013, Apple started recalling mid-2012 Macbook Airs, due to a SSD problem that was apparently and isolated issue to Toshiba drives only.

I found out that my mid-2012 Macbook Air had a Toshiba SSD, so I booked a meeting at the Genius bar of my local Apple Store in Vancouver. The store is always packed with people fiddling with iPhones and iPads and occasionally Macs. Long story short, the Apple Genius handling my case told me that they don’t have any local stock left and I need to wait a couple of weeks. I agreed and he reserved a new 64GB SSD telling me that I’ll receive a call when the drive arrives.

Two weeks later I received a call from Apple Store that I missed. They wanted to let me know that since it took longer than usual for me to get the SSD replacement, they are giving me a brand new mid-2013 Macbook Air. I didn’t call them back until 4 or 5 days later.

A week later, wondering if my SSD has arrived, I called Apple Store. The nice guy on the other side of the line told me the story and the fact that in the meantime my SSD has arrived too. He gave me the choice of either replacing the 64GB SSD with a new one, or get the brand new Haswell Macbook Air with a 128GB SSD (the new minimum capacity). Guess which one I picked.

There is no doubt that I’m very happy and quite impressed with the way Apple handled my case. That’s not just because I got a sweet deal. They could have just hidden the fact that I could get a new replacement laptop for free. I wouldn’t have known and would have still walked away happy with a SSD replacement. It is safe to say that not everybody with a defected SSD got (or will get) a new laptop, but the point is that as a customer I got more than what I asked for and I won’t forget that.

I compare the service* I received from Apple since I bought my very first Mac in 2007 (when I practically threw my Vista workstation out of the window) to other vendors (who either pissed me off in the process or caused more damage than good), and I’m very happy with Apple’s customer service.

Apple is not perfect in customer service. No company is. No matter how hard you try as a business there will always be unhappy customers. For legitimate reasons or not, there is always somebody to complain. I have been on the other side of the customer service table and I promise you it’s no fun.

At the end of the day, if you stay true to your values and vision and deliver excellent customer service, the joy of seeing happy smiling customers is worth all the effort and pain. One way to guarantee this is to surprise customers with delivering more than what they have asked for. One caveat to this is that setting unrealistic expectations will bite you back in the future.

Looking back at my own side-businesses, I can come up with more than a handful of examples where I applied this strategy and received positive comments, thank-you letters, referrals and even more sales.

To sum up:

  • Deliver more than promised. This doesn’t necessarily mean adding a heap of extra features and free goodies. Sometimes a free month of membership, free expert advise, or just handling the situation well will do the trick. If you demonstrate that you are passionate about what you’re doing  clients will appreciate it, which could result in really good things for your business.
  • Deliver earlier than promised. Don’t over inflate the time requirements of the work, but clients usually appreciate if you finish a few days earlier. Set a realistic deadline and work toward delivering excellent work before that deadline.
  • Give an incentive if you are late. An extra month of support, a free added-value feature, and even a Starbucks card will often cool down the client if you are few days (or weeks depending on the size of the work) behind. This shows the client that you respect their time and money and acknowledge the delay.
    Try offering something that brings instant gratification. Promising something that the client can use in the remote future won’t have the same effect and will only add to your future commitments.

* This is not the first time I’m getting excellent support from Apple. Back in 2010 they’ve replaced the logic-board of my out-of-warranty 2007 Macbook Pro, no questions asked. In 2012 I got a free battery replacement for my wife’s 2008 Macbook Air.