I am a newbie, amateur, fresh-faced tomato grower.

I have three planters that I take out on my deck in the morning, and bring inside my house at night. (I live in the mountains of Colorado, so leaving them outside at night — even in July! — would mean death, dysfunction, or dormancy for them).

Since I’m a newbie at growing tomatoes, I of course googled how to help them grow.

Here’s some of what I learned: If you want to grow tomatoes, grow tomatoes. Not leaves.

Apparently, there’s a bit of an either/or there. If you have a lot of leaves, you’ll get fewer tomatoes. Fewer leaves, more tomatoes. (Obviously, you have to have some leaves!)

It’s a matter of resource allocation. The tomato plant will channel more resources — growth — into the fruit if there are fewer leaves on the plant.

Now, I like the leaves. I like healthy, bushy plants. Even tomato plants! I went to the nursery last weekend and saw some tremendously robust looking, leafy tomato plants. You could have used them as ornamentals if nothing else. They looked great! But I wondered if all that leafiness was gardener eye candy, and if the plants would have produced more tomatoes if the nursery had pruned them down some. Hmm.

So I made a decision: I wanted tomatoes more than anything else in my plants. So I cut back a lot of leaf-only branches. My tomato plants weren’t as nice looking then. A bit sparse. But they recovered and are producing more tomatoes now.

My yellow pear tomato plant had, at last count, 73 tomatoes on it.

In business, we make similar choices. We only have so many resources (especially in this economy). We have to make the resources pay off in concrete ways — to produce tomatoes, so to speak.

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” – Steven R. Covey

What’s the main thing for your business? What are the tomatoes? What are leaves?

p.s. Anybody out there successfully growing tomatoes in planters, at altitude? I’d welcome your advice!

AccountingWEB came out with their list of June’s Top 10 QuickBooks Tech Support Questions and Answers, by Intuit’s Amy Vetter, CPA.

I thought it was interesting how three of the top ten had to do with QuickBooks software registration issues, of which I have written before. More of a customer service issue than a true technical issue, perhaps.

Two of the top ten had to do with payroll issues, one of which had to do with adding a new EIN to an existing payroll subscription.

Three had to do with installation issues.

Only one had to do troubleshooting networking problems, and one with password problems.

Bottomline? Most of the top ten support issues have to do with installing or registering QuickBooks or a QuickBooks-related service.

quickbooks goes to sleep
What if QuickBooks takes a nap?

Has this happened to you? I’m guessing you’ve seen it before: You’re trying to update your company, or make a backup, or verify your company, or run a big report.

QuickBooks gets off to a good start, but then seems to stall. You make a couple of clicks and Windows pipes up: “(Not Responding)”. Oh, great.

What do you do then?

Sometimes users panic, and Ctrl-Alt-Delete / Task Manager / End Task their way out of QuickBooks. That’s not a very good choice, because if you force the application closed, there’s a good chance that your data file won’t get closed down like it’s supposed to.

I guess an even worse choice, for those who maybe don’t know about Task Manager, is to turn off the computer. “Reach for the big red handle”, as we used to say in the old days. That’s not good either.

Either of these actions has a high likelihood of causing data corruption, meaning that your next step after that would be to restore a backup and rekey to get caught back up, or get your data repaired.

INTERVIEW/CASE STUDY: QuickBooks Won’t Verify or Rebuild

So what to do? Most of the time, the best approach is both the hardest and easiest: just wait.

A lot of times, QuickBooks isn’t really “frozen” or “locked up”; it’s just “thinking”. Give it some time, particularly if you are trying to do something in QuickBooks that is systematic: backing up, restoring, verifying, rebuilding, resorting, etc. Those functions in QuickBooks have to touch a lot of your data, which might amount to millions of pieces of information.

That can take some time. I don’t know why QuickBooks doesn’t have a more elegant, less stress-inducing way of communicating that to users. I never like to see Windows intervene in an application. I want my QuickBooks to respond, not to not respond!

So if you see QuickBooks do that, maybe that’s your cue to take a break. Go outside and get some sunshine, or go to your nearest coffee bar and get caffeinated. Hopefully QuickBooks will be ready to go again by the time you get back to your workstation.

TIP: How to Open QuickBooks When It Won’t Open

Then, for the future, here are some things that might help it from having to take so many naps:

* Close some of your open windows, in QuickBooks and in Windows itself.
* Reduce your file’s size
* Configure your internet security software settings so that it ignores your QuickBooks folder
* Rebuild your file to make sure that there is no data corruption in it
* Defragment your hard drive so that QuickBooks will be able to access everything as quickly as possible
* If you are using Enterprise 11, turn off the Search feature (Edit / Preferences / Search / Company Preferences / Uncheck “Update automatically”.) Then backup your data with full verify turned on. This will blank out the TLG file (which might be huge), and relieve QuickBooks of having to constantly update its search index on the fly.
* Create and then restore a portable copy backup of your file. This will reindex your file and probably enhance performance — at least temporarily — of a large file.

Have you seen the (Not Responding) message? What did you do about it?

quickbooks training optionsYou’re new on the job, and that job includes using QuickBooks. You have some bookkeeping experience, but you’re wondering if it’s enough!

There are some things you can do to get up to speed with your new bookkeeping assignment, and none are very expensive:

* Read a book or watch a DVD. There are several books out there that QuickBooks-using readers rate highly. Some of the most popular are QuickBooks for Dummies, QuickBooks: The Missing Manual, and QuickBooks: The Official Guide. They’re available on Amazon. A DVD training course, QuickBooks Essentials LiveLessons, also gets good marks.

* Take a class. Lots of community colleges offer beginning or intermediate level classes on QuickBooks. They are sometimes scheduled for the evenings or weekends, so you can work them around your job. If you live in a larger city, there may be training classes or seminars offered by professional trainers (these are usually more expensive, though.) A listing of some available local classes can be found here.

* Participate in a live QuickBooks training webinar. QuickbooksUsers.com will be hosting a series of live online training events for QuickBooks users starting in September.

To be informed of upcoming QuickbooksUsers.com workshop topics and dates, enter your email address below and click “Sign me up”, or just shoot us an email at info@quickbooksusers.com and let us know of your interest.


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Taroko Gorge, Taiwan

I was warned. A friend in Taipei said that if I drove up the Taroko Gorge road, I would encounter oncoming tour buses speeding at me around the curves of narrow roads. Yup.

Last month I found myself driving a road in eastern Taiwan that hugged the canyon wall of the Taroko Gorge. The road perched hundreds of feet above a frothy, slate colored river.

Being a Colorodoan, I’m a little used to driving on twisty mountain roads (the Independence Pass highway, for example.)

But I’m not used to tour buses. They own the Taroko Gorge road, as in, “Here I come, and your choices are to give me the road, or go see the river.”

The twisty road often shrank to one and a half lanes, or just one. The only way to navigate it was to look into the fisheye mirrors they had installed on the blind curves. If you saw a hot pink, lime green, or sky blue object coming up in the mirror, it’s time to back off, Jack!

This happened a few times. Then, by the grace of God, something wonderful happened. I had pulled into a little scenic overlook’s parking lot. When we got back on the road, we happened to get in right behind one of the tour buses going up the gorge road. Going our way.

After just a few seconds, I realized that what had been a terror to me was now my deliverance: Following close behind the bus as it careened up the road was like staying close behind a good blocker when you’re carrying the football: it created a nice moving hole to travel in. It was easy after that.

Sometimes the things that are the most dangerous to us, in business or in life, can become the things that can protect us the most – if we can align ourselves correctly with them.