Work should be fun

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During my Price Waterhouse days, I was privileged to work with many talented people, and some incredibly gifted managers. Nonetheless, to this day, one truly exceptional management team stands out above all others, where both the client manager and our own were incredibly gifted.

I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.

~ Thomas Edison

What I remember most vividly is an early project meeting where our client manager talked about key goals for the project. One of those—to my great surprise—was that we have fun. Given how hard I usually worked, this seemed like a pretty radical concept, very un-business-like. But you know what? We did have fun, loads of it. Somehow all this fun brought us closer together as a team, and it made us incredibly productive, too.

As a business owner, it’s easy to focus on metrics. Billable hours, utilization, ticket volume, actuals vs. budget, etc. Those are important, but I’ve noticed that they all improve dramatically when the team is happy and work well together.

I’d like to propose a new business metric: team fun quotient, which would be the total fun had by all divided by the effort it takes to make work fun. Then we can track and trend happiness levels as well as what activities have the most and best impact. Sometimes even the smallest gestures can make a huge impact, and if we’re going to be smart managers, we need to pay attention to how we can build a great environment for our staff.

The only thing I can’t figure out: how do you measure fun? Send me your ideas and I’ll send you a fun toy!

 

wendysig

 

The Cold Hard Truth About Owning A Business

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At my last mastermind meeting in Nashville I met Kevin O’Leary, aka Mr. Wonderful, the deadliest of the sharks on the hit tv show “Shark Tank.”

He wasn’t nearly as ruthless speaking to our group of technology business owners as he is on the show, but then again we weren’t trying to do business with him!

He was however pretty merciless with his advice for us, as business owners, when it comes to work/life balance.

Mr. O’Leary flat out said, “There is no balance. A true entrepreneur falls in love with their business and spends an inordinate amount of time working on it, but there is a give and take. You are not going to have a normal family life when you are starting a business, because it needs you 25 hours a day. But if you are successful you get something no one else has, financial freedom. It’s a sacrifice, but if you love your business and you are willing to work hard for 4, 5, 6, 10 years, the rest of your life is free. Working hard is not about money or greed; it’s about freedom, personal and financial freedom.”

That is a cold hard truth for me! Twelve plus years into business and I am still working like I’m a startup most days, but I love what I do and am willing to do what it takes to see more of the freedom Mr. Wonderful is promising.

What are you willing, or not willing, to do today in your business to get you to the future you desire?

 

wendysig

 

Extra Spark This Spring

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This spring I’ve got a secret weapon to make my business better, and it’s not technology.

My secret weapon – exercise!

The real reason we feel so good when we get our blood pumping is that it makes the brain function at its best.   

~John J. Ratey

After a long winter, on top of recent recovery from a knee surgery, I was ready to get moving this spring! I have been extra dedicated to my morning workout.

My key to success? I put on my workout clothes first thing in the morning. That way there is no excuse when it’s time to workout, I am already dressed and ready to go! It was a simple habit change that has made exercising just a little bit easier to make happen everyday.

How does exercise help make my business better?

This month’s juicy read from the CIO book shelf explains the science behind how exercise remodels our brains for peak performance. “Spark,” by John Ratey is the first book to explore comprehensively the connection between exercise and the brain, and investigate the transformative effects of exercise in all areas of life—including work. You can transform your performance levels and function better than ever, simply by elevating your heart rate and breaking a sweat.

Research in “Spark,” shows that regular aerobic exercise helps beat stress, lift your mood, fight memory loss, sharpen your intellect, and function better than ever for peak performance.

What extra “spark” will help to make your business better this spring?

 

 

wendysig

 

Happy Holidays!

wendyheadshot2cropHappy Holidays from all of us at CIO Services! We have had a fun filled year with many reasons to celebrate. Here are a few of my 2014 highlights.

Rachel and I visited Nashville a couple times to meet with our Technology Mastermind Group. We have been working hard to implement a business system called traction with the help of our group and can’t wait to see how it takes hold in the new year! We have hired a couple new team members and are still looking for an ‘A’ player or two to expand our team.

Despite all the hard work, we still found time to play. We have celebrated birthdays and anniversaries as usual, with streamers, balloons, and plenty of goodies. We made it out for many company happy hours and events, and we had a wonderful time supporting our client the USO at their benefit concert ‘Red, Rock and Blue.’ And four of our techs survived the USO Mudrun this year, a grueling 5K cross country mud race to benefit our troops.

We added a few games to our Xbox 360 with Kinect library, our little way of getting away from our desks to move and distress so we can be more productive. Stop by and we’ll get you playing too!

Outside of work, I have decided to take up new hobbies and go on a few adventures this year, to face fears and expand my comfort zone. I have zip lined on a tree top adventure obstacle course, taken up pottery, started scuba diving again and even walked on fire!

This year was all about igniting old passions, doing more of what I love and trying new things…even if they scare me a little. And I am so grateful for each and every adventure!

What have you done or overcome this year that you are grateful for?

I wish you a happy holiday season and a new year filled with lots of joy, fun and reasons to celebrate and feel grateful!

Thank you for your business and continued support…we couldn’t have done it without YOU! Happy holidays!!

wendysig

 

Yes, I Walked Through Fire

wendy fireWhen I was younger, I was always looking for new, bigger, better, more exciting…whatever the subject, I was all about living my life and having adventures. Fast forward a decade or two…at some point I stopped fighting so hard against the status quo. I started settling. I tolerated situations that the younger me never would have accepted. I called it reality.

This year I’ve been fighting back against this so-called reality. Making dramatic changes in my life. Breaking through insecurities that have been holding me back. When I got stuck, I decided it was time to walk through fire. Literally!

Tony Robbins is well-known for coaching huge crowds of people to walk through a bed of 2000 degree coals, so off I went. Yes, I walked on the coals. Yes, I was barefoot. Yes, they were extremely hot. No, it didn’t hurt. And no, not a single blister. IT WAS SO EMPOWERING! He does this to prove so much in life is mind over matter. Your attitude and approach make all the difference.

Surprisingly, the firewalk is at the end of day 1 of 4. It’s not the end; it’s the beginning. Facing your fears in such a tangible way prepares you to dig deep and get real with your emotions. Tony likes to say that the quality of your life is based on the quality of your emotions. If you feel good, life is good. It’s that simple. He teaches you how to put yourself into a positive, productive state of mind. He also guides you to break through limiting beliefs that hold you back.

It was an incredible experience. Still, I was afraid I might not be able to hang onto it once I got back to “reality.” Turns out, once you see how your emotions create unnecessary turmoil, it seems silly to keep letting that happen. I feel calm, centered, and unstoppable. Raising my expectations means I’m back to having adventures and living my best life. So what’s holding you back and how can you break thorough?

 

The Last Line of Defense: How Your Own Employees Can Put Your Company at Risk

alertYour employees have a huge impact on your company’s security. If they choose easy-to-guess passwords or reuse the same password on personal and business accounts, you may be the one who pays for their poor choices. The recent rash of security scares brings this risk more to light than ever. Here are the steps you need to take to protect your business.

Implement a Password Policy

The first action to take is to create and roll out a strong password policy. The standard for strong passwords is at least 8 characters, with some combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Password changes should be required at least quarterly, and new passwords cannot be repeats or variations on previous passwords.

Most companies with Windows servers have the ability to configure and roll this out very quickly. It’s largely an automatic process, aside from helping people when they forget their new passwords. This will happen, a lot! Be sure to educate your team so they know what’s happening and why.

Limit Personal Use of Company Resources

Many companies are fairly relaxed about letting employees access the Internet and email for personal use. There is a hidden downside: your employees may surf sites that are unsafe, they may download programs that contain malware (malicious software), or they may open attachments on personal email accounts that contain viruses. You can lock down company resources, but when an employee is free to access their own websites and accounts, you never know what they might bring into your company’s network. You can minimize this with strong antivirus protection, firewall security, and web filtering. However, your employee may still click the wrong link or open the wrong attachment. Just like that, their computer and possibly more can be infected.

Scan for Malware Regularly

You should have antivirus software in place, with regular scans. Make sure you also scan for malware, which may be a separate program or security subscription. Malware is malicious software that runs on your computer in the background. It is usually fairly stealthy and not obvious, although if your computer seems to be running slowly that is often a symptom. These programs quietly log keystrokes, gather financial information, and/or collect passwords. This information can be used for a variety of purposes, none of them good.

If you want to be extremely strict you can set security policies that block employees from installing new programs on their computers. This will prevent the installation of malware. These policies tend to create other complications though, because then all software has to be installed by a system administrator. Some programs even require administrative access to run, so this won’t be possible. If you go this route, your IT staff will have to be on the ball so that they can handle the extra work this will create for them.

Terminate Use Credentials Immediately After Departure

When employees leave, disable their user accounts immediately. If you need an account to remain active – for example, to forward their email to another employee – at least change the password so the former employee no longer has access. This applies to anyone else who has company access, including consultants, contractors, vendors, interns, etc.

Monitor Failed Login Attempts

Set your systems to track failed login attempts. This could be remote logins for people working from home, email access on mobile devices, logins to web-based software applications, and any other core business systems. If you see a large number of failed attempts in a short period of time, either you have a very frustrated employee with a bad memory, or your company is under attack. You will need to assess the situation promptly and take steps to ensure that your security is not at risk.

Restrict Administrative Access

Your staff should never have full administrative access to your systems unless there is excellent reason for it. Administrative rights, or credentials, mean that a given user can do anything they want inside a system. They can add, change, or delete anything; they can even change other people’s security permissions. Outside the IT department, it is rare for anyone to have full rights. An individual may have administrative access to their own PC, but not to the network, to any of the servers, to your software systems, or anything else that’s not specific to them.

Consider Two-Factor Authentication

If you still have security concerns, check out two-factor authorization. This requires both a password (the “first factor”) as well as a code or number that’s randomly generated by a second device, usually an electronic token. The code is entered at login, along with the password. Since the token changes values all the time, it cannot be written down or passed along to someone else. This greatly increases security although it makes the login process slightly more time-consuming.

Use Password Management Tools

A great way to discourage use of the same password on all systems is to use a password management tool. These are available for individuals as well as entire companies. There are web-based applications, apps for your mobile device, and desktop programs. The whole idea is that by having a secure place to store passwords, you can use a greater number of them without fear that you will forget. Most include a random password generator and a cut-and-paste feature that eliminates the need to retype each password every time.

Conduct Security Awareness Training

All the measures in the world won’t help if employees don’t take these policies seriously. Many people still think – mistakenly – that there is little chance their noncompliance could ever cause a problem. Recent outbreaks like the Heartbleed Bug and Cryptolocker virus reveal that nothing is further from the truth. One employee’s weak password or accidental download can take down an entire company’s data network. Now that you understand this, you must train your employees so that they too can understand how important these policies are.

Strategy For Extraordinary Growth

Our fresh idea for business success this month comes from Mike Michalowicz, someone I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a couple of times over the last year. He was the featured guest at my mastermind meeting in Nashville twice already this year and is scheduled to join us again in July.

Entrepreneurs don’t do most of the work. Entrepreneurs identify the problems, discover the opportunities and then build processes to allow other people and other things to do the work.

~ Mike Michalowicz

Mike’s first visit was to share his book, “The Pumpkin Plan,” a strategy for growing a remarkable business in any field. He walked us through a process for finding the sweet spots in our business and how to replicate it for extraordinary growth. Mike guided us through his unconventional strategies to help build a truly profitable company that is the best in its field, no matter what field you are in.

His last visit he shared with us advanced copies of his soon to be released book, “Profit First.” Profit First is a simple system to transform any business from a cash-eating monster to a money-making machine..

I love when Mike joins us, because his tell-it-like it is business advice and fresh ideas always come with a very specific process, a real plan of attack that aligns with your goals! AND that is exactly what we do with technology at CIO.

Our business focused, fresh technology solutions come with a real strategic plan for using technology to make your business better. All the fresh ideas and new technology in the world will not do you any good unless there is a solid strategy in place that supports your business goals.

So what specific strategies do you have in place to help your business grow this year?

wendysig