Performance, Productivity, and Profit

Four Ways To Get More Performance, Productivity And Profit From Your Team

1. Your Team Needs To Learn Together

Rarely do teams learn together. Too often, increases in skill are confined to individuals. Sometimes that can become a barrier to teamwork: because there are dramatically different knowledge and skill levels, some team members aren’t able to keep up. When an individual attends a course or discovers a useful practice, he or she should be encouraged to share it with the team. And periodically putting the entire team into a learning environment is critical.

2. Peer Recognition Is Powerful

If you’re a team leader, understand that despite your best efforts, you will be incapable of adequately recognizing every team member’s efforts and contributions. Good work will slip by and go unrecognized. If this happens often, the team member may well become disillusioned. Relieve yourself of the burden to be the sole dispenser of recognition: ask team members to recognize each other. Make it a team expectation to thank other team members for their assistance and to look for opportunities to catch each other doing something praiseworthy.

3. To Win More Together, Think Together More

Have you ever held a team retreat? When was the last time your team came together for the express purpose of thinking about the work you do?… Read More

Microsoft Is Changing Their Image By Analyzing Yours

These days Microsoft is synonymous with boring, work friendly software and applications that have totally missed the mark on fun, techie and “with it.”  With millions of mobile apps out there design and determined to find new ways for people to waste what little time we have on this planet, Microsoft has been criticized for keeping things professional.  They’ve even been called “clunky” and “cumbersome.”

So, what did Microsoft do?  They created the ultimate revenge app. It’s called and IT’S AWESOME!!  It’s super easy. You just go to the site and upload any picture, even ones with multiple people, and the face recognition software generates an age for the person/people pictured.

The same day I heard about I saw a post on Facebook of someone who had used it on a picture of several friends.  WARNING! DO NOT POST SAID SCREENSHOT IF THE PEOPLE IN THE PICTURE ARE WOMEN AND IF THE AGES GENERATED ARE OVER THEIR ACTUAL AGE.  So, yay! Now you can waste as much time as you would like on an actual Microsoft application that is fun, trendy, and I’m sure, will be the newest craze among catty sorority girls for at least the next two weeks.… Read More

Do you need to backup data that’s already in the Cloud?

The computing world is forever changing. Over the last 15 years, SaaS (software as a service) providers have offered the convenience of data backup for your cloud applications such as CRM systems, SalesForce, Google Apps and Microsoft 365. The business question is, if I’m already working with a SaaS provider and my data is already “in” the cloud, do I really need to back up my data to another cloud? After all, isn’t the SaaS provider doing that for me?

Well yes, and no. Yes, your data (one of your company’s most valuable assets) is being backed up by the service provider. And yes, it’s in the cloud.  And yes, these providers have backups to their backups…but are they backing up your business-critical information? Can you guarantee that? And do you have access to it in a timely manner? The answer to these questions may be no. As a rule, SaaS     providers do not open backups to customers nor do they make restoring critical data easy or intuitive. For example, SalesForce, the first commercially available SaaS application, does nightly customer backups. But if you need to recover your data, you have to go directly to SalesForce and pay a minimum of $10,000 then wait a few weeks for your data to be restored.… Read More

5 tips to know before moving your data to a cloud-based application

Cloud computing is all the rage, and while some companies are moving their whole IT infrastructure to the cloud, many others are choosing to streamline their business by moving individual business applications.

If you are considering moving any of your company’s software applications “to the cloud,” make sure to consider these 5 tips before moving forward.

  1. Back It Up!-  Migrating data to any new location is a mess, and anything can (and usually does) go wrong.  Therefore, make sure you have good, recent backup copies of everything before you make the move.
  2. Maintain an On-Site copy-At first, moving to the cloud can be a bit scary.  What can help mitigate the risk(and the fear) is keeping a local, on-site copy of your data and network image on an NAS(network-attached storage) device.  That way you have a local on-site copy in addition to the working cloud copy.
  3. Have A “Plan B” To Access The Internet-One of the biggest questions about moving IT to the cloud is “What if the Internet goes down?” To mitigate that fail point, have a business-class Internet connection as your intial and main way to connect, and then also have a second Internet connection service as a backup.  If Comcast is your main connection, you might consider keeping a Verizon wireless account as a backup.
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The terms “Business trip” and Vacation do not go hand in hand.

Against popular belief, the terms “Business trip” and vacation do not go hand in hand.  While a working vacation CAN be lots of fun, many of the day to day activities that go on during business trips are overlooked.

While one is on a business trip, they get to experience new environments, new people, and open up new business opportunities.  While these are all beneficial to a successful business, many people forget that you are away from your desk and have to put current business activities on hold.  Being out of the office for even a few days requires weeks of preparation to prepare for your absence and massive amounts of overtime to catch up on when you return.

Don’t get me wrong, Business trips can be a lot of fun and are crucial in helping expand your company’s network.  Often times they bring business professionals an overwhelming amount of extra work along with them. Next time you tease someone about the luxury of being away from their desk for travel, make sure you remember that a business trip is not the same thing as a vacation.  The world doesn’t stop turning, & business does not stop moving forward while you are away.… Read More

Pa$$word isn’t good enough

I interview a lot of engineers (both networking and software).  One of my favorite question is a story problem.

You are at a client site discussing WiFi and the topic of security comes up.  The client asks you, “Do you think it is possible to secure a wireless network?”  What would you say?

The follow up is this: Talking about security, the client recently adjusted their password strength options.  They don’t want changes to the policies, instead they need help explaining to their employees how to come up with a strong password they can remember instead of writing it down.  Do you have any strategies you can share when it comes to generating passwords that are both strong and people are able to remember?

Passwords are tricky.  A colleague recently shared this article with me.  I agree.  123456 is not a good choice.  Nor is password.  Pretty easy to guess.  You can attempt the tricky qwerty, except you aren’t being tricky.  It makes the list of bad ideas.

The strategy I use is a utility that will store and generate crazy password I can’t even think about memorizing.  This works great for things where I will always be at my computer, with the utility available.… Read More

Who Knew Planning For a Baby Would Include TPS Reports?

From the moment you find out that you’re pregnant, you spend almost every waking hour preparing for the birth and arrival of your new bundle of joy.  While you’re enjoying all that early pregnancy brings with it (for me it was spending some quality face to face time with my toilet) prepping for your maternity leave seems to be the farthest thing from your mind.  Then, BAM!  It’s 7 months later, you’re the size of a house, and you realize you have to plan not only the work you have to get done before you leave, but also the work that has to get done while you’re gone.  Awesome.

Because the last trimester of pregnancy isn’t riddled with hormones and emotional fluctuations enough, let’s add a little stress shall we? Although, I’m sure if you ask anyone else here at STL they will tell you that I have handled my pregnancy and maternity planning with grace and poise……(insert sarcastically guilty face here).  Anyone who tells you that staying organized and thinking ahead will make it all better is a liar.  Here is what I’ve learned from my experience.

There are two kinds of people. People who do what they can, but when the time comes they will throw their hands in the air and say, “not my problem.”  And people who, like me, have stronger control issues than they care to admit.  In my position as Marketing Coordinator, my campaigns are like my kids.  I create them, I raise them, I wonder who they are going to, how they are doing what they are doing and mostly, who is taking care of them when I am not around.  I envy the former person.  I wish I could turn off the work-o-meter and say, sorry boys but you’re on your own.… Read More

New Year; New ACA Checklist

As most of us are aware, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has changed the game for almost every employer in the U.S.  Whether you are a small business or a major corporation, the ACA has forced you to look at your current employment numbers in a way you’ve never had to before.  Here are a few new rules and regulations for 2015 according to a article. Employer Penalty Rules Under the ACA’s employer penalty rules, applicable large employers (ALEs) that do not offer health coverage to their full-time employees (and dependent children) that is affordable and provides minimum value will be subject to penalties if any full-time employee receives a government subsidy for health coverage through an Exchange. The ACA sections that contain the employer penalty requirements are known as the “employer shared responsibility” provisions or “pay or play” rules. ALE Status The ACA’s employer penalty rules apply only to ALEs. ALEs are employers with 50 or more full-time employees (including full-time equivalent employees, or FTEs) on business days during the preceding calendar year. Employers determine each year, based on their current number of employees, whether they will be considered an ALE for the next year. Under a special rule to determine ALE status for 2015, an employer may select a period of at least six consecutive calendar months during the 2014 calendar year (rather than the entire 2014 calendar year) to count its full-time employees (including FTEs).… Read More

6 things leaders forget to do that put them at risk

There’s much to remember to be a successful leader. Sometimes leaders get so busy and engrossed with day-to-day operations that they forget some critical activities. Here are 6 items that need to be on your leadership agenda:


1. Grow a replacement . Your employer can’t promote you until they have someone to replace you. You can’t move up in the organization if you’re the only one who can do that job where you’re at right now. And if you’re the top boss, you can’t let succession planning languish or the fate of your entire organization hangs in the balance.


2. Anticipate problems. Most problems simmer on the back burner before they start to boil over. Like a professional pilot, you’ve got to be scanning all your instruments and the horizon to make sure you don’t get slammed by a potential problem (or at least be completely ready for the problems you can’t avoid).


3. Exploit opportunities. Most leaders know what (and who) is wrong, but they become oblivious to opportunities. Who are the star performers who need recognition and development? What are the great opportunities just waiting to be seized? It isn’t simply positive/negative thinking: it is about being as focused on the good and opportunistic as you are on the bad and problematic.… Read More

7 Questions You Can Ask to Make the Most Out of Your Interview

Believe it or not, many times, the best way to show an interviewer you have done research on their company and industry is not through the answers you give, but through the questions you ask.

Here are 7 questions you should ask to be the most impressive job candidate

 What are the common attributes of your top performers?

You want to show them that you want to identify with, and be one of,  the top performers, not their worst.  Be sure to address their answer to this question with your matching skillsets either later in the interview, or in your follow up thank you letter.

 What are the one or two things that really drive results for the company?

This illustrates to the interviewer that you understand the position you are applying for fits into a bigger company picture.

 What do employees do in their spare time?

This question helps you gauge how you will fit in with the people working there.

How do you plan to deal with ___?

By addressing new, current issues within the industry, you show an awareness and understanding of the market. But be careful, if your interviewer doesn’t know the answer, they may become defensive.… Read More

Varying Business Cultures

After taking a trip to Europe where I spent a month studying Business-Marketing, it quickly jumped out how different their style of doing business is.  Across the big pond, you find it easy to pinpoint the differences between the European and American business culture.  You never realize there is more than your way of doing things until you are fully emerged into a different culture.

Before engaging in business transactions with a country other than your own, you need to do your homework.  You can quickly find yourself in an awkward situation because so many different culture norms exist.  Not only is the European culture as a whole different than American culture, but there are many subcultures that exist as well.  Each European country has individual differences from one another, which is pretty crazy to wrap your head around, and even harder to remember what’s acceptable in one country and not in another.  If you don’t research the Do’s and Don’ts of different cultures, you can easily shake hands with someone which directly leads to offending them.  (The acceptable greeting might be a bow or nod) OR, what if you show up at a business meeting empty handed?  In some cultures it is unacceptable to show up without a gift or token of appreciation.  If you don’t know the basics, it  can really tarnish your reputation as a person, and more importantly as a company.… Read More

Waiting for Superman

Recently my young daughter has become rather fond of a metal Superman lunchbox that she found at a rummage sale.  She is too young to know who the Superman character is, but something about the lunchbox caught her attention, and the magic has yet to wear off.  His superpowers seem to have her transfixed….

Her infatuation with the man pictured on the lunchbox reminded me of the hunt for that ever-elusive “Superman candidate.”  As an owner or hiring manager, the image of a perfect candidate walking through the door is hard to resist.  A candidate with every imaginable skill we could ask for and experience in precisely the same industry and role that we are hiring for…..dreamy, right?

But when is the last time Superman walked through your front door?  The likelihood that there is a candidate that possesses every skill and could set right to work as soon as he or she logged on isn’t particularly high.  Adding in that what makes for a perfect candidate is a mixture of skill, experience, availability, personality, and cost – getting just the right combination is a tall order.  Assuming that candidate is out there, the chances they are in your geographic area, in your budget, and can be easily lured from their current employer are relatively slim.… Read More

The New Workforce: What They Want, What They Value, What It Means to You.

A new wave of potential employees has just entered the workforce.  Many employers like to take advantage of younger candidates for a variety of reasons, but are these candidate as interested in you as you are in them?

A 2014 study conducted by LinkedIn shows what these recent grads value in a job, and what industries are most enticing to them. 52% of 2014 graduates said that good work/life balance is one of the most important attributes of any potential career choice.  Compensation/benefits came in second with 48% and strong career path third with 46%.

On the other side, Long term vision of the company was one of the the least important factors to a new job seeker with 19%.  Flexible work arrangement and employer valuing employee contributions also capped the bottom of the list at 20% and 23% respectively.

When asked what company they would most want to work for, it was no surprise that Google and Apple topped the list.  What young, hip 23 year old wouldn’t want to work for one of the most innovative companies on the planet?

So what does all this mean to you, as an employer, and how can you compete with the appeal of Google and Apple?  Knowing what your future employees value is a great advantage for any employer.  It allows you to readjust your compensation and employment plans to meet those needs in order to gain qualified, satisfied people.… Read More

Are Your References Making Or Breaking Your Chances Of Landing Your Dream Job?

If you are on a job hunt, then you know how frustrating and complex searching and applying for a job can be.  In today’s wide world of recruiting, everyone has an opinion on what your resume should say, look like, and consist of.  But there are certain fundamentals that will help you turn those application into interviews and interviews into offers.

One of these fundamental components is references.  Because not all hiring managers require references, there is always a bit of ambiguity and confusion around references.  The fact of the matter is that employers utilize, and often times require, references for a very good reason.

References are the only way an employer can really know how you act, react, and interact while on the job. Let’s be honest, we all try to make ourselves look as good as possible on our resumes or in interviews.  So much so that exaggeration can sometimes take over.  References are a way for employers to get an objective opinion about you and your skills.

So, who should you have as a reference?  While I’m sure your mother would give you a glowing review, she might not be the best choice.  Keep your references to people who have known on a professional level, a former boss, employee or vendor.  You need someone who can and will validate all the amazing skills and abilities you have on your resume.  So, make sure you know your references would give you the very best review possible

The number one rule of selecting references, Ask For Permission!  The last thing you want is for them to be blind-sided by a call from a hiring manager and have absolutely nothing to say about you.  So, make sure you give them a heads up that you have listed them, and give them the opportunity to decline if they so choose.… Read More

RIP Nick Burns

Many of us remember Jimmy Fallon’s SNL character, Nick Burns: Your Company’s Computer Guy.  For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, (I strongly encourage you to watch now…Seriously, I’ll wait) Nick Burns was the ultimate computer nerd with the cocky attitude to match.  He even sported the stereotypical geek uniform: greasy hair parted down the side and combed down, giant glasses that covered his entire face, khaki flood water pants that strategically showed off his white gym socks, a thin short sleeve button up shirt, and multiple cell phones attached to his belt.  Each Nick Burns episode took place in an office environment with everyday workers experiencing IT problems that were common of the late 1990’s.  Once Nick Burns made his appearance in the scene, any and every problem that was presented to him was so easy for him to solve that he felt it necessary to point out how stupid the person was who asked it with a condescending, “MOVE!”  Armed with IT lingo and keyboard shortcuts only the pros would know, he tortured his co-workers by bombarding them with insults that they didn’t even really understand.  At the end of every sketch he would leave the room and pop his head back in and say, “Oh, by the way, You’re Welcome!!”

While this is a comical, over the top representation of a situation anyone who has ever worked in an office can relate to, the message behind it is all too accurate.  How many times have you put off asking your IT guy a question because you didn’t want to sound dumb or you were afraid the answer to said question would only raise more questions?  For this reason, many Managed IT Providers, like STL, are making more of a conscious effort to hire a support staff with a personality.  Meaning, no longer will you have to deal with computer lingo, acronyms, or attitudes.  Providing approachable, easy to understand support has become priority number 1 for many of these companies, and that means a more friendly IT support staff, employees who aren’t afraid to ask questions, and, ultimately, a more efficient work environment.… Read More

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QR Codes: The Good the Bad And the What Were They Thinking?

QR Codes.  What are they?  What do they do? Why should we use them?  Simply put QR Codes are links.  And, as most of us know, links are those handy dandy little things that direct people to the information we want them to see with minimal effort on their part.  So, QR Codes, along with their fancy readers, that are free on any smart phone, are a way for people to access a link on the go! 

When QR Codes are great…

They are great on business cards, newsletter, hand outs, flyers anything you may present to a potential client while they are not in front of a computer.  If you are at a trade show and you give someone your business card that has your website on it, Great.  But they won’t be able to access that site until they are in front of a computer.  With a QR Codes, the recipient can scan the code, and immediately be taken to your mobile friendly website.  Boom! They are in front of the information you want them to be in front of, getting to know your company and understanding all the services you offer in more depth than you could give them in a 30 second conversation.… Read More