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Tek Tips and Talk

Tek Tips and Talk

Tek Tips and Talk: How to Prepare for the Next 10 Years

As I’ve discussed, this past November marked Tekcetera’s 10-year anniversary. Once a business hits a milestone such as this, many people start to ask: what’s next? It’s equally important for businesses’ short-term and long-term goals to be discussed and mapped out. As a business owner and leader, I’ve always thought big picture. Not just what does next year bring us, but also what do the next ten years mean to us?

One thing that has set Tekcetera apart in the technology industry is our unwavering commitment to success. It is this philosophy that allowed us to get through the past five tough economic years. Of course, this commitment to success doesn’t mean that everything is going to be perfect all the time, but it means that our team has a goal of doing what it takes to keep clients satisfied. A client that is happy is a loyal client.

So, what can businesses do to set themselves apart and think bigger picture?

- Make a commitment – our team is committed to success. Define what your business wants to commit to and make the commitment. It allows team members to see the bigger picture and to drive towards a common goal.

- Evolve – industries don’t stay the same forever, they evolve. Adapt to client and customer needs; as they evolve so should your business.

- Know that certain things aren’t forever – when the economy turned in 2008, many industries were devastated. It is only now, four years later, that some are starting to see a resurgence. For many vendors that worked within those industries, the turn also affected them. Being able to evolve and adapt allows businesses to support those turns, instead of going under.

- Understand trends – while many people ask businesses what’s next, businesses also need to be leading the industry with what’s next. Stay hungry, never settle. Industry trends are always changing. Be ahead of the change, know what’s next and educate your clients. They’ll thank you for it.

- Get loyal – it’s pretty simple. Be loyal and clients and customers will be loyal to you. Do what it takes to ensure their satisfaction and success. If that means making a couple of phone calls after hours, or taking an extra five minutes to send an email, do it.

- Start promoting – every year at Tekcetera, we promote our brand. From t-shirts and hats to fitted jackets and pullovers to coasters and water bottles, we have it all. It’s important to promote to not only provide your company with additional exposure, but also for employee morale. Our team loves when the new items come in and they are able to wear or use their new Tekcetera gear.

How do you look towards the future? What are your long-term goals? Share your comments below.

Tek Tips and Talk: Social Networking On and Off the Clock

 

The Huffington Post recently published an article highlighting the most fascinating social media statistics from 2012[1]. Here’s a brief recap:

Facebook:

- Active users total nearly 850 million

- Mobile users are approximately 488 million

- More than one million websites have integrated with Facebook through sharing apps, streamlined logins, etc.

- 80 percent of social media users prefer to connect with brands through Facebook

- 77 percent of B2C companies and 43 percent of B2B companies reported that they acquired customers through Facebook in the last year

Twitter:

- 175 million tweets are sent every day

- In 2012, one million accounts were added to Twitter – daily

- Twitter is projected to make $540 million in advertising revenue by 2014

- 32 percent of all Internet users are using Twitter

What does this mean for businesses? It means that social networking is important, very important. As a business owner, I understand the importance and value of social media, which is why Tekcetera has active social media accounts (www.facebook.com/tekceterainc and www.twitter.com/tekcetera). It also means that businesses are visible all the time. And it’s not just businesses, it is employees too. Employees often reference their place of employment in their social network profile. Guess what? That is searchable. Anything from Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram will show up in a simple online search. If you don’t have a social networking policy in place, now’s the time to establish it.

At Tekcetera, not only do we have a social networking policy, but so do many of our clients. While many make the argument that profiles and content can be hidden or only visible to friends, not all online information is secure. In June 2012, LinkedIn had more than 6.5 million passwords stolen by hackers[2].

While having your social network hacked is an extreme, it does highlight the need to ensure your business and your team members put their best social foot forward. So, how is that accomplished? For businesses, establish or update your company’s social media policy. As a leader, be aware of what your staff is doing on social media. Some companies watch employees like hawks; others have a more laxidasical approach. Whatever your take is, remember that your team members represent not only themselves, but your business.

For employees, remember these few things:

- Never post anything derogatory – not only is it just bad manners, but it can cost you your job and you never know who is watching or who will see your comments. Plus, what future employer wants to hire someone who badmouthed their previous place of employment?

- Remember everything you post can be made public. I once heard a saying that you shouldn’t ever write down anything you didn’t want to see plastered on the front page of the New York Times. This is a good rule of thumb. Additionally, companies not only monitor employees, but also potential employees.

- Think before you hit send. If you have a gut feeling that what you’re posting might be controversial, weigh the pros and cons of posting.

Social media is a driving force in business. It is imperative that companies, big and small, understand its value and what it means to put their best social foot forward.

Does your company have a social media policy? Share your thoughts and comments below.

Preparing for the New Year

As we say goodbye to December, it is time to begin wrapping up 2012 and getting ready and organized for 2013. For both the Tek team and myself, 2012 has been an incredibly special year. We are engaged in truly amazing projects with wonderful clients, we celebrated our 10-year anniversary and completed our 10 Months of Thanks initiative which had us out and about throughout Orange County giving back to the community that has supported us for the past decade. While I take the time to reflect, it is also vitally important to ensure that Tekcetera as a whole is prepared to enter 2013.

It can be easy to get swept up in the holidays, family gatherings and celebrations, but when reality arrives on Jan. 2, you want to be sure as a business owner that you and your team are ready to hit the ground running. So, how do you prepare for the New Year?

See Uncle Sam – that’s right, don’t wait until the spring. Get a jump start on your taxes and visit your CPA or in-house accountant now. By starting the tax process before the end of the year, you give your business a cushion to ensure that all documents are filled out accurately and if anything needs to be revaluated or edited, there is time to get it done.

Analyze – review the past year. Did your business grow? What were your P&L? What were some major successes and challenges? What would you do differently? What would you do the same?

Budget, Plan and Set Goals – after analyzing the past year, think through what you want your business to achieve in the New Year and how you want to achieve it. After you’ve identified your goals, plan for them. Day by day, week by week – what is it going to take to reach and surpass your goals? Finally, set a budget. Project what you need to spend in order to achieve your goals and stick to it.

Talk to Your Team – it’s important to hold annual team member reviews. It provides staff members the opportunity to analyze their own performance and receive helpful feedback from executive team members on how to improve and grow in the future. Additionally, it offers a safe and open environment where successes and challenges can be discussed. It also gives both employers and employees the time to honestly and thoughtfully evaluate if restructuring needs to happen.

How does your business prepare for the New Year? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Being Thankful and Giving Thanks

What does being thankful mean to you? Nov. 15 marked Tekcetera’s 10-year anniversary, 10 years of dedicating, creating, building, fostering and succeeding – something I couldn’t be more thankful for.

 In my past blogs, I’ve written about why it is important for the technology industry to get loyal, why establishing best business practices is integral to success, why understanding value and motivation is so important, and why communicating is the make or break of a company. Why? Because it is what I know, it is what these past 10 years have taught me and it is what I practice day in and day out. I am incredibly thankful for that knowledge

From the day Tekcetera was founded, Orange County has been vital to our success. When we started discussing how we wanted to celebrate our 10-year anniversary, we were passionate about finding a way to give back to the community. This is what launched our 10 Months of Thanks initiative. For the past 10 months, we have been out in the community volunteering at many wonderful organizations.

When we started the initiative, we felt that it was an awesome, honest and fun way to say thank you. Now that the 10 months are over and we have had time to reflect on our experience, we see it as so much more than just a way for us to say thank you – it was another reason for us to be thankful. The individuals we have met with throughout the past 10 months have been inspiring and we are truly honored to have worked with each and every one of them.

Ultimately, what these past 10 years and our 10 Months of Thanks initiative have done, is provided our team with the ability to truly understand what “thank you” means. It is not just simple words that get muttered out of obligation, but instead a deep feeling of gratitude.

So, I bet you are wondering how the Tek team celebrated? With a party of course. We’ve included some of the evening’s photos here – thank you to everyone who came out and made our 10-year anniversary something we will never forget.

 

Complaining – Why it Can Only Exist with Solutions

As a business owner and leader, there are many things to consider when calculating the path to success. At Tekcetera, we value productivity, results, task-orientation, loyalty (both employee and client), critical thinking skills, a positive team environment and doing what it takes to ensure satisfaction – to name a few. However, the path to success is not without roadblocks. Some of which are obvious, others are not. In my experience, two of the most detrimental things to a business are perpetual complainers and complaining without a solution. You’ve met the perpetual complainer before. You know, the person that sees only the negative, always has a problem, brings personal issues to work, the list goes on and on.

Throughout the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that complaining without a solution has been on the rise. As a business owner, you expect some complaining and of course I can handle complaints –as long as they are constructive and have a solution. Additionally, to put it frankly, not stopping the “perpetual complainer” can be detrimental to workplace productivity and cripple a business. Inc. Magazine recently found that individuals who had 30 minutes of exposure to consistent negativity actually peeled away neurons in the brain’s hippocampus – the problem solving section!

So, why is complaining without a solution bad? Here are a few reasons:

Expansion – that’s right, complaining for the sake of complaining only makes the situation worse and acts as a poison. The complaint could start with a simple, small issue and by continuing to focus on the negativity, the poison spreads and suddenly everything is an issue. And the negativity doesn’t stay with just one person, it engulfs the entire office. Suddenly the work space which was full of happy people at 8:30 a.m. is now cloaked in sullen negativity by 10:45 a.m.

Black Listing – while complaining without a solution can spread across an office like wildfire, it can also get the perpetual complainer black listed. Continuous negativity and complaining can wear on other employees who can only take so much. And when the limit is reached, employees will choose to cut the negativity out – along with the negative person which leads to a void in attention. When team members proactively choose to tune the complaining or perpetual complainer out it creates the potential for errors and allows for bigger problems to go unnoticed, as no one is listening anymore. The complainer is the boy who cried wolf.

We know that complaining is part of human nature, so how can we limit its affects? It all comes down to one fundamental thing, understanding the difference of bringing attention to an issue, situation or matter and complaining without a solution.

Before you complain, think through what your solution to that complaint would be. I guarantee you that it is the first thing your boss, manager, or CEO is going to ask you. Not satisfied with a situation? Identify what would satisfy you and map out a way to achieve it. Have a problem? Use your critical thinking skills to determine what will solve it and do it. Bringing personal issues to work? Leave them at the door, use your time in the office to focus on your clients and projects; you’ll undoubtedly go home with a clearer head to resolve your issues.

Put yourself in the shoes of your team members and manager. If someone was bringing a complaint to you, what would you want to hear?

How do you handle complaints without a solution or the perpetual complainer in your office? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Breaking News: Communication is Key

In past blogs, I’ve spent a lot of time discussing loyalty, time value, and being purposeful in your actions– all of which are invaluable assets to a successful business model. However, in order for a business to run as cohesively and productively as possible there is one key driving factor – communication.

 

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, at Tekcetera, we hold both monthly and weekly meetings to ensure that our team is “in the know,” and that upper management is sharing company news. Additionally, these meetings are important because it provides us, as leaders, the ability to work with our team to not only manage our expectations, but in turn manage our client’s expectations.

For me, I live by the ‘good news; bad news; no news’ law. In my experience, I’ve found that it is common for many people to operate under the ‘no news’ rule. Why? There are a variety of different reasons why, but I’ve mostly found it is for them to buy more time to reach the ‘good news’ stage. However, what individuals fail to see is that withholding news is not just buying time; it creates a breakdown in communication leading to counter productivity and poor time management.

As an employer, there is nothing better than receiving good news – whether it’s the completion of a new deal, a new client or a big win. Communicating good news is always fun. That being said while receiving bad news is never fun and can be a disappointment, as an employer, I am able to process the news and work towards correcting and rectifying the situation. No news means nothing – nothing can be done, nothing can be worked towards and nothing can be corrected or rectified.

Because of this, I strive to create an environment at Tekcetera where team members know they are in safe communication environment. Where good news will be met with a celebration, bad news will be met with a team ready to take on the challenges and not delivering news doesn’t even enter into the equation.

As a business leader, how do you stress the importance of communication to your team? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Keeping Employees on Task

In my last few blogs I’ve talked about value, mediocrity, motivation and the impact all three have on both businesses as well as employees. However, to ensure company motivation is high, value is proven and mediocrity is never an option – team members must be on task.

Why is it so important for employees to be task oriented? Because task orientation is the key driver in productivity and a simple way to garner results – improving motivation and providing value. So, as a leader, how do you keep your staff on task?

Big Picture Meetings – once a month, we host a companywide meeting to discuss all “big picture” items. What does this mean? It means that we talk about various projects, challenges, successes and brainstorm ways to improve what we are doing. For team members it is important, as it is easy to get sidetracked into your specific division or group. Also, discussing big picture ideas gives employees the opportunity to ask themselves if what they are doing task wise is supporting the bigger picture.

Weekly Meetings – aside from big picture meetings, we ask our management team to meet with their staff once a week. It gives all staff– managers and junior level team members the opportunity to discuss specific challenges related to their department’s projects, to talk through tasks for the week and to connect to ensure they are providing value to clients.

Goal Setting – goal setting is vitally important. However, it only works if the goals that are set are lofty yet attainable. Setting unrealistic goals can lead to disappointment, frustration and ultimately make employees feel like they’ve failed. By setting lofty yet achievable goals, team members have something to work to; something to stay motivated for and once achieved something to say the provided value to.

Accessibility – as a leader, it is important to make yourself available to your staff to help them achieve their goals. As I mentioned in one of my last blogs, I have one hour a week that I implement an open-door policy. Any Tek team member can come in and discuss his or her challenges and successes. In doing this, it allows employees to feel empowered to stay on task and to reach their goals. Nothing is taboo in these meetings, anything can be discussed.

Tracking Progress – after goals are set, it is important to track an employee’s progress. This lends itself to setting lofty yet achievable goals. By tracking an employee’s progress you are able to determine their strengths and weaknesses and help them in areas they need to improve.

How do you keep your employees on track? Share with us in the comments below.

Employee Motivation

This time of year it seems everyone is planning for the year to come – yes, believe it or not 2013 is almost here. As we look forward, I find myself thinking about motivation, specifically what my motivators are both personally and professionally.

Being the founder and president of a business, I challenge my team to do what it takes to ensure our clients’ needs are exceeded, to never be mediocre, to define and ensure value, and to provide a level of service that warrants fierce customer loyalty. However, in order to support my team in achieving these goals, it is important to first understand what motivates them.

A quick Bing search of “motivation” or “motivational quotes” returns millions of results. Users can scan through pages of website links designed to inspire, support, commiserate and challenge. After reading through these quotes, I started to think about what businesses and business leaders should do to keep employee motivation and morale up.

Since motivation is highly valued at Tekcetera, we do the following to ensure our team is inspired, supported and challenged:

Monthly meetings – it can sometimes be tough to find a time for everyone to meet in person, but it is so important. At our monthly meetings, we make it a point to schedule when all offices can participate. During the meetings, we review accounts and sales updates, discuss challenges and solutions, look to future months, highlight outside vendor initiatives and spotlight a team or individual who has gone above and beyond. At the end of every meeting, we hold an open forum where every person has five minutes to talk – nothing is off limits. What we have found is that it provides everyone the opportunity to be heard and to also learn about everything that is going on throughout the company, creating a higher level of excitement and cohesion.

Executive availability – as a leader it is your responsibility to inspire and challenge, but first you must be available. Every week for an hour and a half, I have an open door policy. Anyone can come in to talk, ask questions, raise challenges and think through solutions. While not every person may take advantage, it lets everyone know that as a leader, I’m here for them to help them succeed and to meet challenges and successes.

Career vs. job – at Tekcetera, we value loyalty – both to and from clients and to and from our staff. We are looking to long-term team members, not individuals that are looking for just a job or a stepping stone to something else. Investing your employees empowers them, motivates them and in return they invest in their own career.

What happens when the above happens?

Teams grow closer, learning something about each other and the company

Communication is maintained, keeping everyone on the same goal path

Everyone has a voice and a vested interested to ensure success

I think we can all agree that a close, loyal team that communicates while working towards common goals with a vested interest in success is a pretty hard combination to beat.

How do you motivate and inspire? What tactics have worked for your company?

Value: What Does it Mean to You?

As we dive in to the end of 2012, I begin to reflect on the past year both personally and professionally. I started writing for OC Metro this year. In one of my first posts I wrote about the need for technology companies to get loyal to ensure customer loyalty – and as I have said before, loyalty is a key element for my company and what drives my business. However, it isn’t the only driver; at Tekcetera we are passionate about value – how to create it and how to provide it. Unfortunately, that can’t be said for all businesses.

 

We live in a world where instant gratification is king – where consumers spend hours online searching for promotional codes to save five dollars, where quality is traded in for quantity (for a good price of course) and where “done correctly” is swapped for “done now.” It is time for businesses and consumers to get serious about value and to define what it means to them.

Business strategy 101 states that any successful company has a value proposition. What is a value proposition? It is a promise of value to be delivered from company to customer. It is the reason why consumers should by a product or use a service. It is a defining characteristic of what makes a business unique in its market space.

For businesses what makes a good value proposition? Here are a few thoughts to get you started:

What is your solution/ what problem do you solve – be clear in what you do. Nothing is worse than not being able to explain to a potential client or customer what it is your business does and how you can help them. Be clear and direct; don’t worry if you feel you’re being elementary. Remember, you are the expert in your field, potential customers or clients are not. Get creative, show people what your business can do.

What makes you different – how do you stand out? How are you different from your competitors? Why would a potential customer or client benefit from your services rather than another company’s services?

Who is your audience – who are you talking to? Who do you want to reach? Different demographics value different things. Identify your target market and speak to them. In general, large blanket statements do not work because potential customers or clients don’t see how they fit in.

 

For customers or clients, what does value mean to you? Here are a few things to think about:

What do you want – in this world of instant gratification, we tend to forget about what we actually want and instead replace it with what was cheaper or easier to get, but was that cheaper, easier product or service actually what you wanted? Find businesses that give you want you want, ultimately providing you value.

Quality versus everything else – as a society we tend to forego quality for the next best anything. Why? Do we subconsciously think we are undeserving? Are we so impatient that we settle? Either way, it is time to bring quality back in to fashion. After all, you deserve it. Find companies that provide high-quality service and products and stick with them. In the end, I bet you will find the value.

Get loyal – once you know what you want and find a company that suits your needs, stick with it. Loyalty develops over time through various experiences. It’s no secret that long-term partners find value in their mutually beneficial relationships. So go out and find your long-term partner.

Instant gratification might be on trend, but value and quality will never go out of style. I challenge businesses to be better, to show value and customers to seek out the value that they need.

Mediocre Service: Why?

Since when did mediocrity become the new normal? When did we, as a society, alter our standards to shift from good to good enough? We have apathetically accepted mediocrity and somewhere in the shuffle justified it for reasons we can’t seem to find anymore.

The other day, I was preparing for a vacation and searching TripAdvisor. I came across a review that said: “Mediocre but acceptable.” The reviewer went on to state that the hotel beds were uncomfortable, the food questionable and the customer service iffy at best. Really – I don’t know about you, but with a review like that, I’d stay away.

 As a business owner and manager, I refuse to accept mediocrity. My team does what it takes to ensure that both our clients and vendors experience only the best – both products and services. That being said, our team is the exception, not the rule. Why?

Since the economic downturn of 2008, consumers have come to accept mediocrity, forgetting what good customer service is and expecting the worst. Other consumers are motivated by cost – willing to accept lower levels of customer service for lower costs. And while consumers understand that the service will be lower, the gratification of saving money takes precedent. But regardless of cost, shouldn’t customer service always be great?

On the flip side, businesses are taking advantage of society’s acceptance of mediocrity. Operating on the mantra that if consumers accept mediocrity long enough, they’ll eventually never know what they’re missing. Is this really what we’ve come to? Can’t we do better? I know we can and here’s how:

Stop rewarding bad behavior – don’t accept mediocrity. Define what quality service means to you and accept nothing less. There are still companies out there that hold customer service above anything else. Find them.

Define your level of great –what does the word “great” mean to you? While you might not have ever experienced great customer service, in your wildest dreams what does it look like to you? Once you have determined it, expect that and nothing less.

Challenge others to do the same – get inspired. Never post, “Mediocre but acceptable.” Do better, be honest and don’t be afraid to share that information. The only way mediocre services will stop is when society stops allowing them to exist in the first place.

Personally, I’ll never settle for mediocre and I’d never expect my clients, vendors or staff to either. I challenge us to do better, be better and remember what great really is.