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 laurusstrategies.com 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

Posted in Uncategorized


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


What If It Happens to You?

I think it is safe to say that that was an awful winter, weather-wise that is.  I don’t know about you, but I am so thankful it is FINALLY springtime.  The temperatures are rising and the birds are chirping.  We will be grilling out before we know it.  With all of this anticipation it is easy to forget about the downside of spring…Storm Season.

 

We all know that storms, with their strong winds and heavy rains, can wreak havoc on your physical property, but what would happen if your most valuable property were damaged…Your Data!  Suffering the loss of your physical business can be devastating and cost you thousands.  However, losing your data could cost you everything. If your day to day operations were affected by the loss of data, for how long would your business survive?

 

If this question sparks interest or even fear in your mind, you’re not alone.  With the season upon us, many business owners are asking themselves, “Am I prepared?” At STL, we help people like you answer those questions! We are equipped to help you prevent the loss of your data and ensure that your business will be able to operate should the unthinkable happen to you……Now that’s cool.… Read More


Connecting a passion

There are things I’m a passionate believer in…. like making a difference and striving for continuous improvement especially where a customer experience is involved. For me these concepts are all related, and they tie back to a simple message from my grandparents… to leave this place better than we found it. Such a simple yet versatile message. I/we can use it as a guidepost in business, socially, and toward community affairs.

In business we often casually connect it to the notion of a Customer Service experience. Yet, customer service seems to be the most elusive of meaningful goals for so many businesses despite the wisdom of ages coaching us relentlessly along the path. We all know the Golden Rule. Do we get too busy to express care about each other… about our customers? I know we do care of course; it’s the “why” that compliments “what” we do. Maybe that’s message number two … “don’t take anything for granted”. All honorable values and pursuits and leadership opportunities.

So, I’m curious… we’ve all had those delightful experiences as customers. Some were spontaneous, and some seem to fit into a persistent design or formula. I’d like to hear from people who have been delighted, to hear the stories and to understand why they are special.… Read More


LMGTFY – KeePass to the Rescue

Bill Cosby used to have a great bit about “Kids say the darndest things.”  It was fun.  Kids really do say some great stuff.

In the IT world, I think it would be easy to accomplish a similar show:  Users do the funniest things.  Over the past several years, I have worked with some very smart users and there are some awesome stories.

But for all their smarts, many people still do not so smart things with their passwords.  They put them in a spreadsheet on their computer’s desktop – usually called Passwords.xls  Or they put them in a sticky note on their desktop (Yes, an electronic sticky note).  They write them down on a piece of paper under their keyboard.

About 2 years ago a really talented network engineer suggested I try out Keepass.  I only kind of heard what he said and couldn’t find KeyPass anywhere, so I called back for clarification.  He laughed at me on speakphone and then sent me a “Let Me Google That For You” link to the tool.  It has changed my world.  I actually have good passwords now, instead of weak ones.  I can actually find them when I need them.  And I have a warm fuzzy about my person process (something another really smart person told me about).… Read More

Posted in Uncategorized


Marketing Pressure

Have you heard all this talk about BLE(Bluetooth Low Energy)?  Does it scare you? Or do you think it’s super cool?

These transmitters can be placed anywhere and they connect to and track folks who are using Bluetooth technology.  Using micro geo-targeting is the new way for companies to push you over the edge and make you give in to buying that extra box of cereal you didn’t need.  BLE pushes an ad to your phone that offers you a deal on the very items you happen to be standing right next to. If you are walking down the cereal aisle in Meijer, it would pull up your purchasing history, see that you bought the package of cheerios, and immediately recommend that you buy the multi-grain cheerios along with a 2 for 1 coupon.  This marketing technique is mind blowing!  Ingenious! Totally Awesome!

The whole micro-location trend is going to be HUGE for businesses who can strategize ways to leverage this technology and use it to their benefit. With that said, companies also need to tread carefully to make sure they do not overwhelm consumers and get too “minority report-ish”.  Consumers often times get freaked out about this kind of targeting, and are extra cautious about falling into these marketing schemes….often times it can be related back to giving in to peer pressure.  Why not buy that extra box of Cheerios?… Read More


Spread the Love

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!  And in the spirit of this holiday – I’d like to remind everyone to spread the love!

In relation to your job search, spreading the love is as simple as a “Thank you!”  If you really want to impress a recruiter, HR Director, hiring manager, or potential future co-worker, take the time to send a “Thank you” note after your interview.  This can be as formal as a hand-written note sent through snail mail, or as simple as a well phrased, succinct “Thank you” note sent via email.  It will only take a few minutes of your time, but will leave a lasting impression on a prospective employer.

On a grander scale – today is a great day to spread the love to those around you.  Whether or not you may have a significant other, there are easy ways to celebrate this holiday that doesn’t include chocolates and flowers.  Spread the love by sharing a smile or opening the door for someone.  Spreading the love doesn’t have to involve romantic overtures – just a spread a little kindness to those around you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!  And happy job hunting!