The same story can be told in many ways ... and we're telling our story a lot of ways just at the moment. Yesterday was very much a "write the story the way xxxx wants to see it" day - here are three articles written by myself and Lisa in the last 24 hours.
When we opened a niche computer software training centre in our home, people thought we were crazy. But we were a roaring success, and now we've opened a high quality business hotel for our delegates and others visiting Melksham. We're delighted to have done well in the Wiltshire Business of the Year because it confirms our sanity, for the benefit of customers, local economy, and ourselves.
Well House Manor is a high tech training and conference centre, and business hotel, in Melksham, Wiltshire, which opened its doors late last Autumn.
Proprietors Lisa and Graham Ellis have been running niche training courses in the town for the past five years. Over that time, guests have grown more demanding, requiring en-suite facilities where previously a shared facility was adequate, and broadband internet access day and night where previously a telephone line would have sufficed. So Lisa and Graham purchased a grand old home set in 3/4 of an acre of grounds, five-minutes' walk to town, and converted it into a high quality hotel - probably the best in the town.
"We believe in investing up front in high quality products" says Graham. "That way, our customers can enjoy facilities greatly in excess of what they would expect to find in a regular hotel, and we have a facility that's easy for us to maintain". For example, the fabrics used throughout the bedrooms for headboards, bed throws, pillows and valances, come from Agua Fabrics. Not only do they look classy and provide a sophisticated touch to the rooms, but they're also treated to repel germs and dirt - tough, and more hygenic, yet much less work for our staff than other alternatives.
During the week, Well House Manor is open for Well House Consultant's training courses, for other business events, and for business hotel guests who are in town to visit local companies. At weekends, they offer a great base for couples to explore the beautiful Wiltshire countryside, ranging from the Cotswold village of Lacock just four miles to the North, through Longleat and the Marlborough downs to the Stone circles at Avebury and Stonehenge. And the bus right outside the door will get you into the heart of the city of Bath in just 30 minutes.
The hotel has five large en suite bedrooms and two meeting rooms that can be used for conferences.
My husband Graham and I have a small business, but due to our computer use, we can perform very professionally. We happen to be up for a Wiltshire Business of the Year (Small Business category) award, and I feel that our productivity through computer use has put us up for this accolade. (We don't know yet if we've won...awards ceremony is March 2, but we are either winner or runner-up.)
We train in open source computer languages. People come to us to learn for various applications, and their needs run the gamut...as well as operating systems they need to be taught on, or are familiar with. So we have training machines that cover the possibilities. People can request Macs, PCs and Linux-based computers to use while they are with us. Many need to test on several platforms as well. But what surprises people the most is that the courses are all run through our Mac server. And another Mac projects the course manuals to help them follow along in their books. And all admin is done on Macs.
Because the business is so well placed on the Internet and have been around online since the mid 1990s, and the fact we train in computer-related languages makes us almost targets for those trying to break through our firewall, we can see attack attempts, but they don't affect us the way they would do for PC owners. Nor is our email infected with programs that autorun on PCs. Oh, we get thousands of spam emails, even with filters. But they don't bring us down.
Graham writes his own course materials on a Mac using vi on Unix. He runs programs such as PHP, Perl, Ruby, Tcl (a vast number of others as part of courses he teaches), and then takes screen captures of the results. He emails me his text and image files and I import them into FrameMaker on my G4 running Classic. I then print out manuals, up to 12 at a time, often more than 300 pages each.
Most of our advertising comes via the web. Graham uses the technology he teaches by writing Internet-related programs. I add to the process by coming up with the design and writing HTML, often through Dreamweaver.
We are able to produce all of our own print advertising projects in-house. Mainly I use InDesign for printed material. We take all our own photography and download pictures straight from our cameras on to the Macs. I edit the photos in Photoshop, and if they go up online, I put them through ImageReady to streamline them further. For small-run brochures, we print them on our own laser printers. For larger runs, I save the files to pdfs and email them to a printer...or a publication for media use.
My computer receives and sends faxes and takes messages when I can't answer the phone. And because this is done through the computer, I am emailed pdf files and MP3 sounds, so I get the faxes and phone messages anywhere I can check my email.
And I can check my email anywhere because of my Treo phone, which also holds my date book which synchs with my computer.
I also handle all the administration of the office and bookings. Through FileMaker I can take course bookings and hotel reservations, send out confirmations and invoices. And because everything is on the database, everything else is related. I take a booking, the information is entered and then uploaded to our web site to update all the information soon after it's entered. FileMaker can also go mobile and when it's synching my date book, it's also updating selected files.
When one of us is away from the office, we are still in touch. This becomes especially important because I am sitting in my admin office down the road from the hotel where the courses are held. My web cam gives an instantaneous update of visual activity. And staff can communicate needs immediately through Skype.
Our printing abilities are probably the most impressive. I can print SuperA3 posters on photopaper in high resolution. Premium-grade printable CD-roms can go through my Epson printer, and with the jewel case inserts printed on the Xerox colour laser, you'd never know they were done 'by an amateur'. We can print a limited quantity of colour brochures and flyers on card stock which enables us to give a professional look with constantly updated information.
Which brings me back to our manuals...because we can print and bind them here, we use FrameMaker to take individual modules and put them in book form. This adds an automation of adding a Table of Contents and an Index, and auto-updating chapter numbers, pages numbers, etc. With this flexibility, we are not tied to one manual with set modules for each course and quite easily modify books (and module contents) on the fly. This, I feel, is our biggest advantage and makes this small business head-and-shoulders above large training companies.
What about the hotel? Aside from bookings and billings and inventories and correspondence that were virtually already in place for the training side of the business, there's not much in addition. Sadly, the keycard entry system we use is PC-based, as is the printer we use to print our logo on the blank cards. And those are two areas I curse...they only work half the time; needing rebooting.
We use our computers so much for the business that even though this has become far too wordy, I know there'll be something else I've forgot to mention as soon as I hit the 'send' button.
If I can add one more thing; on the personal side: The computer, and more pointedly, the Internet, has done a great service for a cause my husband has been involved with for the past year and a half. Our train service was slashed dramatically and as a result he started a website to try to promote some attention. Through this site and a recent E-petition that's gathered a lot of media interest, it appears the service might be reinstated. To say that computers are our life is an understatement. And I am really proud of his work and what the Internet is able to achieve. One person *can* make a difference. Not so much Mac-related, but everything was done on a Mac ;o)
Oh, and one more thing...we happen to have (really, shear coincidence!!) a delegate on a course today and tomorrow from Future Publishing.
Did you ever wonder what we did in our spare time? (written 2007-02-20)
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articlesM350 - Well House Manor - project diary 
2006 - Making business a pleasure - (2006-01-01) 
Hotel novelties - (2006-01-05) 
Well House Manor - (2006-01-21) 
Sympathetic development - (2006-04-09) 
Planning a hotel refurb - an example of a Gant chart in PHP - (2006-05-14) 
Residential - (2006-05-15) 
The eye - (2006-05-31) 
We can offer a room, but we can't operate on a dog - (2006-06-05) 
Seeing the bricks for the trees - (2006-06-11) 
Naming Rooms - (2006-06-24) 
Above the parapit, Well House Manor - (2006-07-28) 
Hotel, Melksham, Wiltshire - (2006-08-24) 
Fitting our bathrooms - (2006-09-04) 
From the Manor written - (2006-09-07) 
4 weeks to go - (2006-09-11) 
Coming together. - (2006-09-29) 
Open - (2006-10-09) 
Where quality costs less - (2006-10-15) 
Brand new hotel and training centre, Melksham - (2006-10-22) 
Before and After - Well House Manor - (2006-11-18) 
A tale of a wee wall - (2006-11-19) 
Snagging - (2006-11-24) 
Rail trouble forced me to buy hotel - (2007-02-07) 
Three big events - TWSW, Business of the year and the police - (2007-03-03) 
A lot has happened in a year - (2007-05-31) 
Well House Manor Hotel - on plan for 2009 business guests - (2009-01-03) 
Well House Manor - the next six years - (2010-10-24) 
The changing Hotel and Bed and Breakfast business in Melksham - (2012-01-18) 
Keeping our hotel looking like new, by using our gained experience - (2012-03-09) 
The Accidental Hotelier - (2012-08-24) 
National TV - Melksham - 9th January 2013, Pre-alert. - (2012-12-27) 
Expecting nothing, but prepared for anything - (2013-01-05) 
A course is not just for a year - its for a career - (2013-02-20) 
A year of changes for Lisa and Graham Ellis, and Well House - (2017-05-27)G912 - Well House Consultants - Photography for the Web 
What makes a professional photographer? - (2004-10-23) 
Published Photographer - (2005-01-30) 
The relevance of the hairy woodpecker - (2005-12-28) 
Keep that image small - (2006-01-03) 
Merging pictures using PHP and GD - (2006-01-13) 
PHP Image viewing application - (2006-04-01) 
My projector has a photo-id - (2006-07-31) 
Display an image from a MySQL database in a web page via PHP - (2006-11-22) 
PHP Image upload script - (2007-03-21) 
Themes for the web site - (2007-05-13) 
What shape is your shake? - (2007-05-15) 
Drawing hands on a clock face - PHP - (2007-05-19) 
Using PHP to upload images / Store on MySQL database - security questions - (2007-10-19) 
Ongoing Image Copyright Issues, PHP and MySQL solutions - (2008-01-14) 
What colour is the season? - (2008-03-08) 
Old pictures and comparisons - (2008-08-01) 
Comparison - with and without flash - (2008-11-20) 
Trowbridge - a missed opportunity? Melksham - into the breach? - (2009-06-08) 
Leaping dog, Leaping horse, copyright of old masters - (2009-06-20) 
Re-using our pictures - (2010-01-21) 
Hotlinked images onto adult material sites - (2010-07-23) 
Catering in Syracuse, the Saigon Cafe, stolen images and Christmas - (2010-12-25) 
How far is something pictured from the camera? - (2011-02-15) 
That spec is a kingfisher ... - (2011-08-21)G503 - Well House Consultants - Newsletter and publicity 
PHP - onwards and upwards - (2004-09-14) 
Posting 1000 letters! - (2004-09-21) 
What they are saying about our OF COURSE newsletter - (2005-04-16) 
Targetted Advertising - (2005-06-05) 
Final courses of '05 coming up .... - (2005-10-08) 
New look to website - (2005-10-30) 
Keeping customers informed by email - (2006-05-26) 
Of course I'll tell you by email - (2006-10-25) 
One Thousand Posts and still going strong - (2006-12-18) 
Too many instructions, too much detail - (2007-02-23) 
An update on the West Wilts show ... - (2007-07-30) 
A time to update pictures - (2008-01-03) 
Spam Filters ... are working! - (2008-06-11) 
Dealing with The Press - (2008-07-06) 
A Presentation about our company - web and PHP - (2009-02-23) 
Building down expectations - (2009-04-09) 
What should a web site cost you? - (2009-06-16) 
`Of Course` is back! - (2009-08-31) 
Microblogging services - Plurk, Twitter, Jaiku and more - (2010-01-05) 
Another toot of the trumpet - (2010-07-16) 
Points West to Belfast - (2011-02-01) 
Journalism 101 - (2011-02-11) 
Sales and Marketing - adding advertising to the product - (2011-07-11) 
TV show appearance - how does it effect your web site? - (2013-01-13) 
20 minutes in to our 15 minutes of fame - (2013-01-20) 
Facebook marketing - who are we reaching? - (2014-04-23)G200 - Well House Consultants - Course and Company information 
Mobile Office revamp - (2004-08-13) 
Maximum number of trainees on a course - (2005-01-18) 
How to get the best from your supplier - (2005-03-03) 
Fire drill - (2005-04-12) 
Most popular courses - (2005-08-19) 
We are about Open Source programming courses in the UK - (2005-11-24) 
2005 - Come as a student, leave as a friend - (2005-12-31) 
Open Source training from Well House Consultants - (2006-01-14) 
Open Source Courses and Business Hotel - products and prices for 2007 - (2007-01-01) 
A Reference - (2007-03-08) 
2008 course schedule - Perl, Python, PHP, Linux, Java Deployment, Ruby and more - (2007-08-23) 
An email update for past guests and delegates - (2007-10-08) 
What makes our courses special? - (2007-12-02) 
Well House Consultants Training and Hotel - 2008 news - (2008-01-01) 
Languages compared - based on developer community size - (2008-03-05) 
Spring and early summer training courses - (2008-03-15) 
PHP Techniques - a workshop - (2008-04-26) 
A short introduction to our courses - (2008-05-03) 
httpd, Tomcat and PHP course enhancements - (2009-02-14) 
Spring Sprung - (2009-04-05) 
A (biased?) comparison of PHP courses in the UK - (2009-06-07) 
Learning PHP, Ruby, Lua and Python - upcoming courses - (2009-06-11) 
First courses for 2010 - (2009-07-10) 
Learn a new programming language this summer. - (2009-08-06) 
Formation, des langages Open Source - (2009-08-09) 
Formaci[c2]ón, de los lenguajes de c[c2]ódigo abierto - (2009-08-09) 
Formazione, Open Source computer lingue - (2009-08-09) 
Ausbildung, die Open-Source-Sprachen - (2009-08-09) 
Forma[c2]ç[c2]ão, Open Source computador l[c2]ínguas - (2009-08-09) 
Opleiding, Open Source computertalen - (2009-08-09) 
Uddannelse, Open Source computer sprog - (2009-08-09) 
Oppl[c2]æring, Open Source datamaskinen spr[c2]åk - (2009-08-09) 
ldning, Open Source dator spr[c2]åk - (2009-08-09) 
Koulutus, Open Source tietokone kielill[c2]ä - (2009-08-09) 
Ten years in Melksham - looking forward to ten more. - (2009-08-11) 
Training, Open Source computer languages - (2009-08-13) 
Are you wanting to learn PHP? - (2009-09-08) 
I almost put the bins out this morning - (2009-11-16) 
Happy new decade - and course and hotel prices for 2010 - (2010-01-01) 
Training comparison to QA Training, Learning Tree, GB Direct. - (2010-01-02) 
Courses - Melksham and elsewhere - until the end of April - (2010-02-16) 
New numbers, as 01225 707126 and 01225 709638 are being retired - (2010-03-04) 
Current Public Courses - (2010-03-05) 
Well House - Mission and Policy summaries - (2010-05-13) 
Blowing our own trumpet - (2010-05-23) 
Respecting our customers anonimity - (2010-06-29) 
Well House - the pictures - (2010-08-16) 
01225 707126 to 01225 344596 to 01225 899360 - Well House Fax - (2010-08-26) 
Public and private courses - subjects available for 2011 - (2010-12-29) 
Perl, Python, PHP, Lua, Linux, and more - and business hotel too. Menu for 2011 - (2010-12-31) 
Telling you something about us in just one line - (2011-03-15) 
How we make our programming courses both time and cost effective - (2011-04-09) 
Want to escape the Olympics? Learn to program in the countryside! - (2012-07-23) 
Whether you have programmed before or not, we can teach you Python - (2012-11-25) 
Public courses - Python, PHP, Perl, Ruby, Lua, Tcl, C and C++ - autumn 2013 and through 2014 - (2013-09-13) 
Learning to program in Java - yes, we can help. - (2014-09-26) 
Open source programming courses - October to December 2015 - (2015-09-27) 
Course Schedule - October 2015 to June 2016 - (2015-09-27) 
Perl, PHP, Python, Lua, Tcl, C++, Ruby - final public courses for 2015 - (2015-10-30) 
What teach you in a week stays with you for a decade - (2015-11-29)
Some other Articles
The Psyche is all wrong.Playing old gamesWhy use BBC code not HTML?Telling a story in different waysInjection attacks - safeguard your PHP scriptsLawrence Webb's Melksham Taxi serviceWriting terms and conditions for conferences and other eventsBehind the scenesStraight from the .jar