Tag Archive | "small businesses"

Is It Safe To Use The Cloud For Your Small Business?

Think you are protected when you confiscate an ex-employee’s computer and mobile phone? Well, think again, reported Fox Business.

Countless businesses are leaving themselves vulnerable simply because they don’t cancel cloud based accounts, according to new research by cloud services provider Intermedia and Osterman Research.

“It’s not something businesses think about when they lay off a person,” says Michael Gold, president of Intermedia. “They are focused on getting back the computer, paper files and keys. But with the cloud in particular, these employees have access to everything.”

Intermedia and Osterman polled nearly 400 businesses to get a sense of the risk environment. According to Intermedia, the average small and medium sized business is juggling more than 14 cloud apps, with an average of 5.5 apps per user, making it impossible for companies to control all of them.

The result: according to Intermedia 89% of ex-employees surveyed are walking away with their passwords, continuing access to things like Saleforce, PayPal, email, SharePoint, Facebook and other sensitive business applications, even though they no longer work at the company. Of those respondents who still have access, 45% said they retained access to confidential information while 49% admitted to logging on after leaving the company.

Although the reasons vary as to why companies are letting employees leave with their password and active accounts, the survey found that a lot of the problem occurs during off boarding.

In addition to being able to access company data as an ex-employee, companies are making it way too easy for former workers to leave with work files stored in their personal cloud. Take Dropbox, the popular storage app, as an example. According to Gold, many employees use Dropbox for their work and personal data, and meld the two. When that employee leaves, he or she still has access to all that work data being stored in the cloud. According to the survey, 68% of respondents said they walked away with company data and 88% said they retained access to the file-sharing services they used at their old job.

So what can you expect to face if you have a lackadaisical approach to your business apps? According to Intermedia, it could mean stolen secrets, lost data, regulatory compliance failures and data breaches. You can also face sabotage and hacker attacks, all of which spells lots of money to fix.

But your small business doesn’t have to become another statistic. Gold says there are easy things to implement to make sure your former employees aren’t walking away with all your important data.

“You have to have more rigorous practices around providing access and off-boarding employees,” says Gold. He says it’s also a good idea to eliminate shared logins when it comes to apps.

“Why should ten people share the same login and password,” says Gold. “Some businesses think they are saving money having everyone log in to the same Salesforce account, but it’s not good practice.” What’s more, Gold says you need to have a check list when an employee leaves. The list should include every application the employee has access to.

“A lot of it is common sense, but people don’t do it,” he says.

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Today’s Most Satisfied Employees Demand These 4 Things

The employee landscape is changing, and with it has come new needs, desires and areas of importance for employees. This means employee development is no longer just about career development, but also goal alignment, non-monetary offerings, and simply, opportunities to prove themselves, reported Entrepreneur.

A quarter of employees would be more satisfied at work if they were given more opportunities to do what they do best, according to a 2013 study by BlessingWhite, and 5 percent directly said career development opportunities and training would increase their satisfaction.

As a leader, it’s critical to keep up with these changes and start investing time into employee development. Here are some ways I’ve been able to do it:

1. Place more importance on non-monetary motivators. Beyond money, things such as career growth and even professional inter-office relationships are extremely big motivators of satisfaction and engagement. The BlessingWhite study found that 25 percent of employees believed they would be more satisfied with their job if they had a better relationship with their manager.

Employees want to learn and grow with people they respect and who respect them in return. Maintain healthy office relationships by leading by example. If leaders within the organization get along well and openly work together, employees will do the same.

Additionally, it’s important to remember that, while professionalism is important, it is equally important to know your team on a personal level. Make an effort to have fun with your team and initiate conversations about things other than work.

2. Let employees do — and improve upon — what they do best. No matter their role or level, everyone wants to feel like their strengths are appreciated, effectively utilized and built upon. Companies are getting smart about this: A 2014 Bersin by Deloitte study found that, in the last year alone, corporate budgets for training and development have risen by 15 percent.

Whether you actually have one or not, don’t get stuck in the “corner office” rut and forget what truly motivates employees to keep contributing. Give them tools and opportunities that will help them exceed at their specialties, as well as build new ones. Get them outside the office to learn from other people and pick up new ways of doing things.

3. Align employee goals and preferences for a clearer vision. Throughout the company, every employee needs to not only have a good understanding of their personal goals and work preferences, but also of their colleagues’ roles and goals.

When working closely together, employees will naturally learn the work preferences of their team. However, it’s important that leadership learns those and respects them, as well.

Additionally, openly communicate how each role plays into the bigger picture of organizational goals to motivate employees to work harder and more efficiently in their position. This will also encourage employees to help co-workers who may be struggling since they understand how it plays into the big picture.

Constant open communication throughout the company and visual indicators, such as progressive steps to reach an ultimate goal, are great ways to keep everyone aligned in real time.

4. Let serendipitous learning happen. Research has shown that nearly 70 percent of learning happens informally while on the job. Whether it’s from watching others, utilizing various resources or trial by error, this type of serendipitous learning is crucial to employee development.

Encourage this type of development by making employee schedules less rigid and more flexible. Allow time for them to learn their own way and observe the processes that will benefit them. It may be necessary to provide some amount of structure, but keep in mind that employees are more satisfied when they have flexibility in their job conditions.

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The Enormous Cost of Unhappy Employees

Employee engagement has been a hot topic for several years now, but what does it really mean and how do you know if your employees are engaged at work? And, Inc. repots, why does it matter?

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace reported on employee engagement in more than 140 countries and divided employees into 3 categories:

  • “Engaged employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward.
  • Not Engaged employees are essentially “checked out.” They’re sleepwalking through their workday, putting time–but not energy or passion–into their work.
  • Actively Disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.”

It’s easy for us to think the problem lies with others, but the statistics give us a disturbing truth. Through their research, Gallup found that 87% of workers worldwide and 70% of employees in the USA (84% in Canada, 83% in the UK) are either not engaged or actively disengaged. That means that only 30% of US workers are driving their organizations forward.

If you’re one of that 30% (or 16% worldwide), you know how frustrating it is when the majority of your coworkers are less committed to their jobs. In companies with low engagement, this frustration often causes swift turnover of top talent, since these people quickly realize they’re carrying the weight alone.

The costs of low engagement aren’t limited to turnover and recruitment. Gallup found that actively disengaged employees cost the US $450,000,000,000–$550,000,000,000 (that’s hundreds of billions of dollars) per year; that number doesn’t even take into account the “not engaged” employees. (Hello, Congress? We’ve found a way to fix the economy….)

On the other hand, organizations with high employee engagement have significant bonuses in addition to happy employees. The stock value has higher earnings per share, and they experience 22% higher profitability, 21% higher productivity, 10% higher customer engagement, 25-65% lower turnover, 37% lower absenteeism, 28% lower shrinkage (theft), and 48% lower staff safety incidents.

If you’re concerned that your employees may be among the 84% globally who aren’t engaged at work, an easy, evidence-based way to find out is to ask them 12 questions, Gallup’s Q12 survey. (If you want Gallup to tabulate them for you and give you pretty charts and graphs, they’ll be happy to do that.)

If you want to start boosting engagement without asking those questions first, Gallup gave three main ways, based on their research:

  1. Hire talent–the right people for the right jobs;
  2. Nurture their skills–it builds their sense of purpose as well as abilities;
  3. Enhance their wellbeing–in body, mind, emotion, and sense of meaning.

You may not be ready yet to offer nap pods, treadmill desks, and free healthy food to your employees, but every journey to boost employee engagement begins with a single thought.

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5 Legal Pitfalls That Lurk in Your Office Lease

Signing a lease is a part of starting or expanding any small business, but it’s by no means routine, according to Yahoo News. If you don’t really understand what you are signing, your business could find itself in jeopardy. For example, you could greatly underestimate the cost of your space, or you might inadvertently violate a clause of the lease that could cost you dearly, or you could be surprised to find your expansion (or contraction) options severely limited.

Small costs can add up quickly for a small business owner. Understanding the language of your lease with the help of a lawyer can prevent getting buried by unexpected costs in the long-term.

Lawyers skilled in lease negotiations understand how duties, costs and risks of ownership should be shared between a landlord and a tenant. A good lawyer with experience in leasing is on the lookout for several legal landmines that can result in significant financial burden for a small business owner, particularly among these top five legal pitfalls.

CAM Fees. Common Area Maintenance (CAM) fees frequently require a lot of negotiation because tenants can end up paying for costs that aren’t core to the operating of the office building or shopping center or that extend beyond the life of their lease if they don’t read the language carefully. CAM fees are shared amongst tenants and associated with maintenance, repair and, to some extent, replacement costs and expenses.

Many tenants don’t fully understand everything that they’re paying for – from the decorative flowers in the lobby, to the late fee incurred because the landlord forgot to pay the utilities bill on time, tenants could be incurring costs not directly related to their tenancy. A lawyer can help decipher exactly what the landlord and tenant are individually responsible for and can make sure that the lease reflects the real business deal.

I’ve seen leases that allowed a landlord to put a new roof on the building and charge the entire cost of the roof under CAM in a single year, even though a roof is considered a structural element, which can have a lifespan of 20 to 25 years. Roof replacement is usually at the landlord’s sole cost and expense. At the very least, CAM charges associated with capital items should be spread out over a number of years, with charges stopping at the expiration of the lease.

Occupancy Provisions. Without legal guidance, small business owners can also get stuck paying more than their fair share of fees if their lease doesn’t include occupancy provisions as part of the basis for calculating CAM. It’s one thing if a building is 98 percent occupied and the CAM fees are being shared amongst all the other tenants. But what if the building is only 50 percent occupied and the tenants are still expected to cover all maintenance costs? A business owner should make sure that their lease includes strong language stating that fees are not dependent on the landlord’s ability to lease and have tenants occupy the rest of the building.

In one case, a tenant’s building was only 45 percent leased, but all tenants were paying 100 percent of operational costs. For every $1 of expense on the lease, a tenant paid about 65 percent more than the share the tenant would have been paying if the lease had been carefully negotiation.

Liabilities. Misunderstanding tenant liabilities is yet another way a tenant’s lease can result in unexpected costs. Risk allocation usually arises in issues of indemnification. Environmental liabilities are somewhat obvious – who’s responsible for covering damages and corrective work caused by environmental incidents?

But less obvious and harder to spot in a lease are use and operations indemnifications. A landlord can end up levying large costs on his or her tenants for damages caused by a third party who entered the property, even if the tenant is completely unrelated to the third party’s actions.

Legal guidance can help tenants make sure that a landlord doesn’t have broad indemnification rights, potentially saddling tenants with costs far beyond their control.

Usage rights. It’s also important for tenants to understand what their lease allows them to do with the property, particularly in relation to their line of business. For example, if a tenant is intending to use the property as a medical office, having a general use provision is not going to be enough. Or a retail business needs to make sure that the lease allows for property to be used as needed and as product lines and services evolve. Most importantly, the lease needs to allow tenants to do what the market is driving their business to do.

Improvement allowances. Leases can get even more complicated with construction obligations and, again, it’s important to negotiate which party is responsible for what part of the construction process. This negotiation includes how much a landlord is willing to give in allowances.

Construction can take years, and recessions and budget cuts can occur between a project’s start and end date. Tenants should be aware of exactly what they’re responsible for and what they’re owed in the event that things go differently than expected. For example, in one lease, the landlord was to pay a tenant improvement allowance after the tenant had finished the tenant’s work. Between the signing of the lease and the completion of the tenant’s work, the landlord suffered financial problems. The lender foreclosed on the property and, since there wasn’t any assurance to provide financial support for the landlord’s promise to pay the allowance, the tenant found itself in the unhappy predicament of not having its allowance easily forthcoming and having to work through issues with the foreclosing lender, at substantial unbudgeted expense.

Leases are complicated legal documents, which often require a sharp legal eye to fully understand. No lease is “boilerplate.” Each lease is different and allocates the risks and benefits differently. How a lease is written can make thousands of dollars worth of difference to the tenant.

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10 Signs You Were Born to Be an Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs come from all different walks of life but almost all of them share similar personality traits, reported Inc.. From confidence to curiosity, there are certain attributes that are inherently entrepreneurial–these are ten signs that you were born to be an entrepreneur.

Risk-Taking Behaviors

Starting your own business is a risk in and of itself. That being said, the sort of risk that entrepreneurship entails is just one in a long line of testing the waters for many entrepreneurs. The time old saying “with no risk comes no reward” is one that entrepreneurs tend to take a little bit too literally, but that’s what makes them fearless leaders and successful business owners.


Drive and the ability to stick with a task goes a long way when it comes to building and running your own business. A lot of people don’t have what it takes to see a business through the tough times that can last for years, but at the end of the day, perseverance is what makes a great entrepreneur.


It takes a lot of confidence to be able to break out on your own into uncharted financial waters, and it takes a lot of confidence to be persistent with something that you love, even if it is difficult. But, entrepreneurs tend to be some of the most confident people around, and they have to be in order to see their vision through to the end.


Everybody knows how fickle the economy can be, and it takes an adaptable individual to navigate these changes with grace and persist to make their business a success. Furthermore, as somebody who will frequently encounter unchartered situations and difficult decisions, an entrepreneur is always willing and able to take challenges head on and try find the best possible outcome. You never know what to expect as a business owner, but entrepreneurs are always ready and able to adapt to the challenge.


Curiosity is a trait that most entrepreneurs have in spades, and it can really help them innovate and drive their own success. Most businesses are built upon their owner asking questions of the market and finding problems to solve, and they persist by looking into new strategies and solutions to keep them on the cutting edge.


There is quite a bit of work that goes into running your own business; in fact, there is something to do almost all of the time. An entrepreneur will have no problem with this, as they are always looking to have their hands on what might be the next big thing!

A Focus On The Big Picture

Being able to juggle tasks and wear a million different hats makes a successful entrepreneur, especially at the crucial beginning points in the life of a business. A good entrepreneur can strategize and utilize all parts of a situation with ease.

A Rebellious Streak

It takes a lot of guts to break out on your own, away from the security of working for someone else. This kind of rebellion definitely started early on in life, and you might notice a pattern in your past that follows breaking the mold.

A Desire to Build Things

This doesn’t necessarily mean physically building things, but entrepreneurs really love the process of putting things together to create a whole to show. New challenges excite the entrepreneur and being able to build a successful business or product from the ground up is a source of pride for most.


Entrepreneurs love to show off their competitive side through their successes, and won’t give up until they’re on top. Just like the world’s most successful athletes, entrepreneurs have an undying drive to be the best of the best, and are always finding ways to outdo their competitors.

Every entrepreneur is different, but the most successful ones all share these ten personality traits. If this list sounds like you, then you may be cut from the entrepreneurial stone and maybe someday, you’ll be the founder of the next major company!

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5 Qualities of Top Employees

For many startups, hiring the best and the brightest is not an option — it’s an absolute necessity, reported Fox Business. You’ve probably heard this sage, albeit generic advice before, “Only hire ‘A’ players.” Of course! Who doesn’t want ‘A’ players? Who doesn’t want people who have the talent, skills and drive to make a company successful?

But the real question is: Can you recognize an a top performer when you meet him? We all like to think we can, but even the best can overlook real talent. Think back to Facebook and Twitter. Both companies failed to hire Brian Acton, cofounder of WhatsApp, which was recently acquired by Facebook for $19 billion.

Simply put, ‘A’ players are great competitors. Avoid overlooking one in your midst by understanding these five characteristics:

1. A desire to compete. ‘A’ players skip excuses. Their drive to compete leaves no time for excuses when pursuing various strategies to win. Plus, they love to compete. It’s in their blood. They put themselves on the line and take responsibility for their performance. Not everyone has this desire to compete; in fact, some people prefer working for companies that have already won. This doesn’t make for a great cultural fit at a startup.

2. A champion’s mindset. A top performer will have unwavering faith in your company’s ability to achieve. A champion’s mindset includes the belief that winning is inevitable, not a remote possibility. This speaks to a level of mental toughness and passion about a business. Those who can internalize a company’s mission and goals are more likely to make valuable contributions to the business.

3. Self-discipline. A startup’s environment is always changing because it is growing so fast or quickly pivoting to survive. With so much in flux, an employee needs to have self-discipline and confidence in their ability to endure failure, recover from it, and persevere. Because they are self-starters, ‘A’ players are able to motivate themselves and know how to focus, prioritize and re-prioritize as needed. These folks have a self-imposed regimen that helps them thrive at what they do best.

4. Integrity. This should go without saying. One shouldn’t pursue to win at all costs. If you lack integrity, there is a cost to winning. A competitor today could be a great partner tomorrow. How you treat the customers who use your product or service, how you collaborate with others, and how you choose to follow through on your word can make you or break you in the long run. ‘A’ players have enough fortitude and potential to endure what it takes to learn the game, master the game and play by the rules. Compromising one’s integrity reflects poorly on the company, and is simply bad form.

5. Think ahead, anticipate and act. By understanding what to expect in each situation, great competitors know how to best position themselves see opportunities developing ahead of time. They anticipate what’s coming so they can adequately prepare. Moreover, they have an innate sense of urgency to move quickly. Procrastination is not an option.

No matter what role you’re looking to hire for, start with these five characteristics of ‘A’ players when building out your team. Look for people who will have the confidence to wear many hats, the capacity to take on more than an average person can handle, the natural inclination to take initiative and the ability to grow with your business.

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