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On Being Different – One Man’s Observations

I originally published this post in 2016. Since then the original blog on the linked site is no longer available. So in stead, I have updated the link to the blog page in general for All Things New in Haiti.

I follow a friend-once-removed on Facebook, Matt Bush, who, along with wife Jessica, run an orphanage ministry in Haiti.  As Americans in Haiti, Matt and Jessica know what it’s like to be in the minority and treated different.

The kids at All Things New

The kids at All Things New

By informing our own biases with the experiences of others, perhaps we can expand our hearts and minds to be empathetic of those experiences and how they may be directing behavior that is hard to otherwise comprehend.

Learn more about All Things New here.

Six Practices that Put Your Business at Risk

Have you put your business at risk by failing to protect it from cyber security threats?

Getting the right procedures in place to deliver a product or service is the logical focus of a new business. But as your business grows, how have you ensured that your policies and procedures are keeping up?

Here are six practices that could be putting your company’s information and reputation at risk – and steps you can take to reduce that risk.

risk of using unsecured mobile devices

Sloppy password management 

If you allow access to networks, software applications or technical hardware using a single password – You Are Guilty! Vulnerability arises from the inability to track who last accessed the resource and what actions they performed. In the event of an incident, everyone is guilty.

A password management policy lays out the company password management practices, requires new hire- and on-going training, and comes with consequences for violations. Visit The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Computer Resource Center for free guidance on implementing this and the other policies outlined below.

 

Using the company network for personal use

In the “old days” employees got into trouble for using the company phone for personal calls. Today it’s how much time your staff spends on social media, Amazon and personal email – all accessed via your company’s network.  These practices put your company’s reputation and information security at risk for computer viruses and ransomware.

 

Spell out how – or if – personal email can be accessed on company computers during work hours in your Acceptable Use Policy. Who can represent company views on social media? What is the acceptable use of the company fax machine?  Your policy should guide employees on the acceptable use of your company’s network, website, email and other company assets.

 

Headlines:

“Laptop Containing Sensitive Info Stolen From Secret Service Agent – Agency In A Frenzy.” (source: Sydney Robinson, The Ring of Fire Broadcasting, March 17, 2017). If it can happen to the Secret Service…

 

Mobile computing, whether on a laptop, smartphone or other portable computing device, should come with the same protection as any other device that can access your company network and customer data.

 

Companies who opt for BYOD – Bring Your Own Device – should require employees to protect any company assets accessed through that device. The same applies to mobile devices issued to remote workers. Encryption, security access codes and passwords are some of the tools you can install to secure mobile devices. Your Mobile Computing/BYOD Policy defines what company information your employees can and cannot access from mobile devices and the required security measures to do so.

 

Exposure of confidential data

Who conducts business without collecting confidential data? No one, that’s who. Most US states (38 to be specific) have requirements that if a consumer’s confidential data is breached, you have an obligation to report it at the state, and possibly the federal level.

 

Meet that obligation with your Incident Response and Breach Notification Plan. The Plan lays out what to do if you suspect unauthorized exposure of confidential data. You define, step-by-step, how to:

  • Investigate the incident,
  • Evaluate what data was involved,
  • Assess the potential for malicious impact,
  • Identify who needs to be informed, how and by when, and
  • Take steps to prevent further or recurring incidents of data breaches.

 

To learn more about your state’s data breach notification statues, visit Davis, Write, Tremaine, LLP’s website, for a summary of data breach notification statutes.

 

“But I didn’t know that was against company policy!”

If humans are the weakest link in data protection, education can strengthen that link.

 

Educate, educate, educate! Build a security-savvy workforce through routine training on policies and procedures and periodic security reminders.

 

Consequences

When all else fails – there have to be consequences for repeated risky business behavior.

 

Most companies include a Corrective Action Plan in their Employee Handbook. But when was the last time you reviewed it with an eye to new technology in your company? After taking the steps I’ve outlined here, it’s time to update your Employee Handbook with the changes and communicate them to your staff.

 

In closing…

Protect your company’s reputation and raise your level of cyber security protections by adopting these six policies and procedures.

 

What recent changes has your company made to increase cyber security protection? Share with us in the Comments section and let’s all raise our level of security.

My Choice to Pledge Allegiance

As I watched hours of the Olympics these past few weeks and observed our athletes place their hands over their hearts when our National Anthem played, I noticed the gesture seemed to be unique among U.S. athletes. Which got me wondering…do citizens from other countries recite a pledge of allegiance?

 

One nation

The surprising answer – mostly no. Here are a few exceptions:

  • In North Korea school children pledge allegiance to their supreme leader Kim Jung-un, not the national flag.
  • The Philippines. In 1955 the court decreed there would be a mandatory daily flag ceremony. According to Josh Lim, (@akiestar), writing in Quora.com, the ceremony includes singing the national anthem, reciting the pledge of allegiance and in some cases, reciting a school pledge.
  • Many countries require an oath or pledge from immigrants applying for citizenship. The U.S. custom of pledging the flag is considered an unusual custom. This dated, but humorous exchange on straightdope.com relates some of those views from around the world.

In the Beginning

Our pledge has a colorful history, having originally been written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a socialist pastor and journalist. The original pledge was written as part of a marketing campaign to promote sales of a youth magazine, and read:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

In 1923 it was amended to:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

And finally to its current version, in 1954, signed into law by President Eisenhower as one means to counteract the threat of Communism. This time the phrase, “one nation under God, indivisible,” was added.

To Pledge or Not to Pledge

From its inception the pledge has spawned controversy. In 1923 “My” was changed to “the” Flag, and “of the United States of America” was added, in case there was any confusion over which flag was being saluted and pledged.

As early as 1942 there were protests about school children reciting the pledge, and those protests endure today. Although the words “one nation under God” were not added until 1953, in 1942 some religious group’s literal interpretation of saluting the flag equated to going against the Bible’s admonishment not to idolize a graven images, not lack of patriotism as some would assert.

Other critics claim the Pledge is nothing more than the indoctrination of children who have no idea what the words of the Pledge mean.

The original gestures associated with saluting the flag were to begin the pledge with the right hand over the heart; after intoning “to the Flag,” the right arm was extended, palm down, to the Flag, in a gesture reminiscent of “Heil Hitler”. You can just picture the controversy that caused after the start of WW II!

The controversy of students reciting the pledge in school continues to arise periodically, although the 1943 Supreme court ruling, West Virginia Board of Education vs Barnette, pronounced that students cannot be compelled to pledge or stand for the pledge – or be punished for failing to do so. Protests inevitably arise from the religious aspect of the pledge and not from absence of patriotism.

Looking back at the history of the pledge, religious protesters who otherwise embrace the patriotism symbolized by The Pledge, could elect to cite the pledge as written by its original author.

Patriotic Reminder

In a nation often divided by politics, racism, religion – you name it, pledging allegiance to a national symbol can be unifying if you accept the message at the highest level. The word “indivisible” shouldn’t have the opposite effect and cause division because some choose not to pledge!

Call me indoctrinated – I truly appreciate the opportunity to pledge allegiance and sing our National Anthem at the various professional and recreational gatherings I attend. Although it’s been 15 years since the 9/11 attacks, patriotism remains prevalent where I live. Northeast Florida has a strong military presence in NAS Jacksonville, Mayport NAS and Kings Bay, and is also a city of choice for retired veterans.

Now that I know how special the Pledge is compared to other parts of the world, I will appreciate it even more. And I understand and respect those who choose not to pledge. In North Korea they don’t have a choice – and isn’t choice what our country was founded on?

Are You Your Own Boss?

Have you recently become your own boss? If Yes – what have you learned from the experience?

A year ago I was consuming any information I could find on becoming my own boss, but focusing strictly on what kind of legal entity I would be and how I would pay for health insurance. Since then I have learned a few lessons that were not covered in the stuff I read; I now take keyboard in hand to share them with you and ask you to share with us what you have learned.

Being my own boss - Year 1.

Reflecting on being my own boss – Year 1.

 

Don’t tell your friends and family you are retiring to start a new business. The only part they heard was “…retiring…,” so they think you are now a person of leisure just looking for opportunities to keep busy. Instead, tell them you are leaving your old employer and taking a new job (if that’s the case). Then establish and stick to a schedule, and train friends and family on when it’s OK to call and chat.

 

Discuss with spouse, children and anyone else living with you what it means to work from home. I could write an entire book on this topic. If you have never worked from home before, even when an employer may have given you that opportunity, you should try it before you make it permanent to become aware of the pitfalls you may encounter. Whoever lives in your house – train them to leave you alone when you are working. In a small house this can mean keeping the television, kids and pets turned down low if you need quiet to conduct business. And if that doesn’t work, check out life hack expert Joel Falconer’s (@jfalconer) ideas for making the office to home transition.

 

Be careful not to overcommit to volunteer opportunities. If your new start-up business allows for it, volunteering when you first leave your job seems like a great way to keep busy and make new contacts. Caution – it’s also a great excuse to procrastinate, avoiding that part of starting a new business you find most difficult. If you have the time to volunteer, seek opportunities in your industry where you can find brains to pick while at the same time giving back to the community.

 

Pick the right tool kit. Coming from corporate life I never realized how many decisions were made for me –and I took for granted. From which health insurance to purchase, to how my computer would be backed up, someone else took care of those things, usually after a lot of research and maybe trial-and-error. Accept that you might make some bad choices along the way, so look for opportunities to try before you buy. Subscribe to the shortest period possible (note-free trials rarely give you the functionality you need and often are not good tests of a product), get opinions from other businesses in your industry. Check with your local Small Business Administration (https://www.sba.gov/content/find-local-sba-office) or if in the Jacksonville, FL area, the Small Business Development Center at UNF for information about products and services geared specifically for you, the small business owner. Don’t be afraid to walk away if a product or service isn’t working for you.
Exercise your networking skills as you never have in the past. If your role in the corporate world was internal-facing, this is a critical step in launching your business. Maybe friends and family don’t purchase what you are selling, so ask if they know anyone who does and if they will introduce you. Seek out events that your buyers attend and get used to walking up to strangers and starting a conversation – not a sales pitch. Call up former co-workers to find out what they are up to and if they can help you or refer you – after all, they know your work. You know people who want to help you succeed – you just have to find them.

 

What about you – what “Aha” moments have you had running your new business? What best advice would you like to share?

 

Beyond Limits

Don’t think that because you don’t run marathons (or maybe you do), that this story isn’t about you. You were my inspiration, so please read on.

 

Endure-def

Until I participated in my first ultra-marathon, I took endurance for granted. No, I didn’t actually run an ultra-marathon, but served as a support person, assisting a runner who took on the challenge of completing her first 100-mile ultra. Knowing I had 18 to 24 hours until she would finish gave me a lot of free time to think. As I watched other support teams set up runner (and spectator) aid stations, greeting each other as old friends, I could tell they were old hands at supporting and spectating endurance athletes.

 

I watched in awe as athletes pushed themselves beyond the limits of “normal” humans. Sure, they had trained for the event, but physical training only takes the athlete through so many miles before heart and soul close the gap for which training couldn’t prepare the body.

 

Recently, I supported another friend as she faced her first 50-mile challenge. Describing an endurance event to non-athletes drew puzzled looks, “Why would anyone put themselves through that?”

 

For the 51 weeks of the year I wasn’t watching an endurance sport, I watched other forms of endurance. Christopher Reeve said, “I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. They are the real heroes, and so are the families and friends who have stood by them.”

shutterstock_358125128

 

His statement describes the very people who ask me why an athlete would compete in an endurance sport – my friends and family who endure day in and day out, in events that may or may not be of their choosing. A family member who undergoes chemotherapy week after week, year after year. Colleagues who give their heart and soul, working at a job, not because it brings satisfaction, but because it pays the bills. Those caring for loved ones who need help. Couples who stay in a relationship because that’s what you do, for the kids, for expectations, because you can’t conceive of any other option. Then there is the friend who works 14 hours a day or more to build up a business according to her principles and ideals.

shutterstock_326956712All forms of endurance, exercised by people determined to, “…withstand hardship or adversity…” to accomplish short- and long-term goals.

 

Way to go — You are almost there — You got this!

 

The rest of us try to support you as we watch you push yourself beyond limits we think we could not possibly endure. We try to help with the burden, give words of encouragement, be a sounding board, offer options (as if we think  you will shift focus from your goal). We are your support team; let us help because we love you.

 

We know we are watching something truly amazing.

 

 

Become a Mail Piece Design Professional

USPS MAIL PIECE DESIGN CERTIFICATION PROGRAM
On April 27-28, 2016, the Northeast FL PCC will host the only mail piece design certification program approved by the U.S. Postal Service.

The Mailpiece Design Professional Course is ideal for those who wish to maximize their proficiency in designing letter-size and flat-size mail to meet USPS standards and obtain certification as a Mailpiece Design Professional. Marketing professionals directly involved in the development of mail pieces should attend. The tuition fee includes the certification exam.

 

Topics covered over the 2-day period include:

  • Mail piece content and characteristics
  • Barcoding Formats and Print Specifications
  • Machinable/Nonmachinable Criteria
  • Classes of Mail
  • Forwarding and related Services
  • USPS Website Navigation  and Useful Tools
  • Designing Automation Mail
  • Basic Addressing
  • Designing Reply Mail
  • Special Services

Course Details:

 

Date: April 27-28, 2016 from 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

 

Location: USPS Jacksonville Network Distribution Center, 7415 Commonwealth Ave. Jacksonville, FL 32219

 

Tuition Costs: $340 per student, which includes everything for the program including course materials, the final exam, certification and lunch.

 

Registration Deadline: April 8, 2016 (limited to 50 participants)

 

To Register: You may register on-line at http://www.northeastflpcc.com. The enrollment fee is payable by credit card or check (made payable to: Northeast Florida PCC, 1100 Kings Road. Room 319, Jacksonville, FL 32203-9998. Payment and registration form must be received by enrollment deadline (4/8/2016).

If registering by mail, please include the following along with your check:

Full Name

Company Name

Mailing Address

City, State, Zip Code

Email Address, Phone Number

Payment Method

 

Hurry and reserve your seat by registering today!

Business Mailers: Are You Aware of this Astounding Service from the United States Postal Service?

When you start to design a mailing campaign to connect with customers, how do you ensure it meets USPS requirements? Are you even aware there are some things that should not be mailed? Do you evaluate various mail piece styles to determine which styles can be sent at the best postage rate, or the best packaging for your specific promotion? Are you aware of USPS mail campaigns with incentives for reducing postage expense?

Here is some astounding news that helps answer those questions. At least I was astounded when I discovered how many marketing professionals and mailers don’t know about this. The USPS sponsorsshutterstock_23724139 the Postal Customer Council, a national group with local chapters that provide training, breaking news in the world of mailing, education on new USPS services, innovations and postage campaigns. In Jacksonville the local chapter of PCC is the Northeast Florida PCC.

Northeast Florida PCC holds a networking and breakfast meeting on the second Wednesday of the month at 7:30 a.m. at The University Club, 1301 Riverplace Blvd. in Jacksonville. At a recent meeting, members learned of the holiday mailing schedule to ensure on-time delivery, and we learned about products such as personalized stamps, to help with gift-giving decisions.

National PCC Day in September is a member benefit that brings PCC chapter members together via closed circuit video to listen to the Post Master General discuss the business plans of the Postal Service for the upcoming year. The topic of this institution’s survival is always included on the agenda. Diversification of services to meet the changing demands of postal customers is especially of interest to marketers and mailers so we can leverage opportunities for postage discounts when budgeting for mailing campaigns. Innovation to adapt to the growing demands of mobile consumers is a top priority for the USPS, and they have responded with surprising originality. National PCC Day is where innovation involving technology and the mail is launched.

PCC general membership is free, with a charge for the breakfast meeting. Various levels of sponsorship are available, providing opportunities to promote your company’s products and/or services on the chapter website and at special events during the year. Members can also volunteer as speakers on topics of general interest to business professionals, providing you with the opportunity to promote your expertise. View the program schedule for 2016 when it’s published, which will be soon.

It’s not too early to start thinking about your New Year’s resolutions. Wouldn’t a professional development goal of learning how to save money on postage, acquiring business mail training and becoming informed on the mailing industry look good on your 2016 plans?

For more information, and so you can take advantage of these opportunities, click on the links in this article or contact me at leigh@cypressbizcomm.com.

Strategies for Business-Winning Proposals

Just published on SlideShare – my Five Be’s for Better Business Proposals. Give your proposals an edge with these tips.

Strategies for Business-Winning Proposals

Don’t Shoot the Messenger 10 Tips for Conducting Difficult Conversations

Fans of Sling Blade* may recognize this image of Karl and Doyle having a difficult conversation. If you have seen the movie (a brilliant and cult classic), you know that before Karl confronted Doyle with the difficult message, he planned and organized his thoughts, approach and even the consequences of the message.

DifficultConversation


Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t seen the movie, please skip down a paragraph while I discuss how this scene was executed…

For the rest of you, it went like this:

Doyle (on the right): What’cha doin’ with that lawn mower blade Karl?

Karl: I aim to kill you with it.


I hope your difficult conversations weren’t as grim as that. But when you find yourself avoiding a family member, friend or co-worker so you can avoid a difficult conversation, it’s time to organize your thoughts and meet the challenge head-on. Here are some simple steps to break the inertia so you can get it over with and move on:

  1. Who is the audience and what do you want them to feel afterwards?
  2. Will you deliver it in person (assumes manageable size group), email, press release, etc?
  3. Timing matters – plan to deliver the message when the receiver can be focused on receiving it, not distracted by other demands on their attention.
  4. What positive aspects can you include? Use them to sell the message.
  5. Be honest – give as much information as you know and make sure it is accurate. Don’t rush into the communication and take someone else’s word – personally verify the facts as close to the source as possible.
  6. Whatever you don’t know about a situation, say so and promise to follow up when you do know.
  7. Whatever assumptions you had to make to construct the message, work those in too.
  8. Draft the message, read it back to yourself, read it aloud to yourself; if possible, get feedback from a confidante.
  9. If you screwed up, say what you are doing about it and how soon it will be fixed.
  10. Certain messages should only be delivered in person and in private – respect and follow that professional mandate regardless of how uncomfortable you think you will feel – try to image how the recipient will feel and exercise empathy in your preparations and delivery.

Whether faced with delivering a difficult message to customers, employees, vendors or the board of directors, Cypress Business Communications can help. Contact us to discuss your unique situation.

*Written, produced by, and starring Billy Bob Thornton.

Don’t Let Company Knowledge Walk Out the Door

Did your company start small, grow organically, and relies on the collective knowledge of charter employees, to get the job done? Have you captured the collective knowledge of your company policies, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and processes and made it available to your staff?

Many shutterstock_167800991-WhyPolProccompanies who evolved this way will answer with a resounding “No” when asked for a copy of policies and procedures. The justification to invest the time to document is easy to come by; here are a few of the arguments:

  • Facilitate knowledge transfer among your company subject matter experts
  • Comply with industry regulations and/or audit requirements
  • Standardize processes and ensure continuity among employees; may uncover better ways to do things
  • Introduce new capabilities within the company; useful as a training tool for new employees
  • Establish your company’s professionalism, highlight best practices and gain a competitive advantage
  • Establish the company’s business practices and corporate culture; serves as an indicator of how well your company is run
  • Customers or potential customers will ask to see them. Certain business proposals will require evidence they exist and are followed.

Selling the Idea
Sure, you are sold on the idea, but how to do you sell your manager on investing the time and resources to such a project? Who in the company has the bandwidth to assume such an undertaking?
Often an event such as loss of a key employee or valuable business is the impetus to create company policies and procedures where none previously existed. Don’t wait for a crisis to take action.
Break the work down into manageable components over a reasonable timeframe. Set key milestones and goal dates. Identify and assign the best technical writer in the company to compile the knowledge of policies, procedures and processes from the subject matter experts. Create a review and approval process. Finally, where applicable, conduct training on any new policies and/or procedures that are identified during the project.

Why does CBC offer these services?
Despite a company’s best intentions, documenting policies, procedures and SOPs is time-consuming, requires a broad range of business knowledge, and the skill to write to a specific audience; often the initiative doesn’t take priority until a situation arises that motivates action. Before facing an audit, a proposal deadline or confused employees, let CBC work with your company management and subject matter experts to establish or update your company or department’s documentation. Establish your company as well-run, organized and up-to-date on the daily operations that ensures satisfied customers.

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