Friday, December 16, 2016

Free (& Low Cost) Tech Tools for Business


Powerful technology can be translated into dollars and cents when it helps you run your business more efficiently and profitably. The good news is there's a lot of technology out there that is cost-effective and can be a big help for a small business. The bad news is there's a lot of technology out there making things confusing. Let's clear up some of that confusion...

Collaboration
Sending large files via email can sometimes be an exercise in frustration. Some email system block the transmission of large files. Share files via email means there are multiple copies and version of the same file being used. File collaboration products allow you to manage content and collaborate online with your team, customers, and partners.

Dropbox allows users to upload files and send links to recipients worldwide. Free Dropbox accounts include up to 2 GB of space. Pricing for larger amounts varies. For example, 1 TB of space costs $8.25 per month for a single user or $12.50 per month for 5 users.

Google Drive, like Dropbox, allows users to upload and share documents with designated recipients. However, Google Docs does require a Google account for use. As an issue, that is minimized when all in an organization uses Google products. Users are given 15 GB of free space for all the services where they use Google (email, Docs, etc.). Pricing is available for larger space allotments.

Similar to Dropbox and Google drive, Microsoft OneDrive is free for up to 5GB, and costs $1.99/month for 50GB.

Workplace Productivity
Google Docs is a free web-based application in which documents, spreadsheets and presentations can be created, edited and stored online. Files can be shared and accessed from any computer with an internet connection and web browser.

Another option is Open-source software, which provides small business owners with alternatives to using mainstream commercial applications in the day-to-day management of their businesses, typically without a significant financial investment. One of the most popular open-source tools available for workplace productivity is OpenOffice, an office software suite which you download and install, and contains word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and more.

Remote Desktop Applications
Technology solidifies the connection between small business owners and mobility. Video conferencing, web conferencing, webinars and screen sharing keep you connected to your PC, and better connect you with your customers. Zoom.us offers these services where a basic plan is free. In a Basic plan you get unlimited 1-to-1 meetings, and 40-minute group meetings with up to 50 participants. Plans that do not limit group meeting times and allow you to record your connections start at $14.99/month.

Online Advertising
Google My Business allows you to create a free business profile and offers added visibility on the world’s most-used search engine. Use Google My Business to post your hours, your location with a map, pricing information, and share pictures. All of which will show up for your audience in their Google’search results. Having a robust Google My Business profile can also help your website’s overall SEO ranking.

Email Marketing & Newsletters
Email marketing is a form of direct marketing that uses email as a means of communicating messages to your audience. It can be a powerful tool for growing your business. MailChimp allows you to send up to 12,000 emails per month (limited to 2,000 emails per day) to as many as 2,000 email subscribers absolutely free. Larger email volume and list packages start at just $10 per month.

Websites
WordPress is the most popular blog & website management tool, and when signing up via WordPress.com it is free to use. When you build your website on WordPress.com, you will use the software as installed on the WordPress.com server. As an alternative, you can sign up for WordPress through a web hosting service where you will likely pay a moderate monthly hosting fee to create and manage your website for your business. When installed on a web hosting service, you have the added ability to download and install add-ons from a community of WordPress developers..

Google Blogger is a moderately robust blogging tool that can be configured for use as an attractive business website. In fact, this site is built on Google Blogger. Google Blogger is completely free of hosting charges and runs on the Google Blogger hosted server. While it has limited built-in templates and it lacks some robust features, there is a user community that will provide very robust website templates and features not available "out-of-the-box" for a small cost.

Landline Alternatives
Small business owners do not need to be tied to an office or computer in order to do their work and stay in the loop. One of the ways that business owners can take their business with them is by using an alternative to a traditional landline as their telephone service. Cell phones, VoIP, ​and virtual phone lines are a few of the options available. One VoIP service provider is Ooma. Once you buy the Ooma device (about $100), all calls in the US are free - you will only pay the local taxes of a few dollars/month. Long distance plans and advance features are available at a reasonable cost.

Being a small business owner or in an organization having a limited budget can feel overwhelming and isolating at times, especially in the beginning. Thanks to the internet, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to be productive. There are many free and low-cost tools that can help you grow your business and be successful.

Click here to contact me regarding this or any other blog post.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

How to Disagree with Your Client (or Boss)

How to Disagree with Your Client
"You can disagree without being disagreeable." - Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar.

Disagreement, whether with a client (or your boss) can be very healthy and helpful as long as you present your point in a positive and agreeable way. General George Patton once said, "If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."


It's not unusual to shy away from disagreeing with your client. However, disagreements in working with a client can be very healthy and helpful. Most people find that they appreciate having alternative points of view as they strive to make a decision.

Disagreement is not about being right verses wrong. Disagreement can be very helpful as long as you present your point in a positive and agreeable way.

Is The Client Wrong?
Before getting into a discussion with your client to tell them that they’re wrong, ask yourself, “Is the client wrong to begin with?” Just because you don’t agree with the direction they requested of you doesn’t necessarily mean it is not correct for the project. Consider that while you have a better approach, it's not the case that you are right and they are wrong.

Stay Calm
This is the most important thing you can do to keep a conversation on track. It can be a challenge to stay calm and rational when you feel angry or passionate about something, especially if the person you're talking with feels equally angry or passionate. Try to make sure the conversation stays focused on facts and not on anything personal. You may need to manage the conversation and make an effort to stay calm. In turn, you staying calm will likely have a calming effect on the other person.

Give Options Not Objections
If you can’t think up a better idea than what your client offered, then what is the purpose is the disagreement? You might not like the presented idea. However if you can’t come up with something to replace it with, then you must go with what they requested.

Provide suggestions that your client sees as actions, not just objections. Instead of pointing out that their suggestion is wrong, promise you will provide alternative solutions. Demonstrate how your suggestions are a better approach to addressing the project, and how they will still work to address the client's goals.

Back Up Your Suggestions with Evidence
If your client is not persuaded by your arguments, produce evidence that backs up your recommendations. This evidence can come in many forms such as articles and blog posts from respected experts, testimonials from other clients for whom you have worked on a similar project, or provide well-known cases where the same thing you are suggesting was tried and had positive results. To make a strong case against your opposition, it's important that you do and present your research.

When They Still Want to Proceed With Their Plan
In the end, they are your client: It’s their business and decision to make. The best you can do is offer your professional advice and clearly lay out concerns before agreeing to do the work. Then, move forward to do the best for your client with the plan that is now set in place.

Click here to contact me regarding this or any other blog post.
David Schuchman

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What is 3D Printing?



3D Printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a process that creates a physical object from a digital design. There are different 3D printing technologies and materials you can print with, but all are based on the same principle: a digital model is turned into a solid three-dimensional physical object by adding material layer by layer. Plastics, metals and metal composites, ceramics and other materials can all be used to create the physical object.

Every 3D print starts as a digital 3D design file on a computer. It's like a blueprint for a physical object. The design file for a 3D printer is like a text or word processor file would be used to print a document on a sheet of paper. This design file is sliced into thin layers which is then sent to the 3D printer. The printing process varies by technology, starting from desktop printers that melt a plastic material and lay it down onto a print platform to large industrial machines that use a laser to selectively melt metal powder at high temperatures. The printing can take hours to complete depending on the size. The printed objects are often post-processed to reach the desired finish.

3D Printer 
A 3D printer is unlike your standard laser-jet or ink-jet (2D) printer. On a 3D printer the object is printed in three dimensions - length, width and height, where a 2D printer can only print length and width on a surface object such as paper. A 3D model is built up layer by layer. The whole process is called 3D printing.

Who is Using 3D Printing?
Car manufacturers use 3D printing for prototyping, testing and creating car parts. Swedish car manufacturer Koenigsegg uses 3D printing to manufacture the turbocharger for their model One:1.

Prosthetic manufacturers create custom prosthetic devices and manufacture them at very affordable prices. When these devices are produced through conventional manufacturing methods, they can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

The dental and orthodontics fields use this technology to create braces and retainers that are tailored specifically for the needs of their patients.

Aircraft manufacturer GE Aviation has developed a method to 3D print fuel nozzles for jet engines.

Architects easily create scale models to demonstrate their intended design. Before the introduction of 3D printing into the field, creating scale models was an extremely laborious and time-consuming process.

What Lies Ahead for You
As applications of the technology expand and prices drop, more goods will be manufactured at or close to their point of purchase or consumption. This might even mean household-level production of some things. In that case, you’ll pay for the raw materials and design files for any object that you will need print.

Click here to contact me regarding this or any other blog post.
David Schuchman

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Non Profits - Improve Fund Raising via Email Marketing



In fundraising, raising money can be a challenge. For those on the fundraising staff, you ask individuals for donations and hope you reach your goal. If you’re a board member at a nonprofit organization looking for a way to raise money and improve your funding efforts, creating an effective email marketing campaign may be just what your organization needs.

Here are some tips for creating an effective email marketing campaign that can produce a relevant ROI.
Create an Email Address List
To begin with, put together a list of friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, etc. Start thinking outside the box... You have doctors, sports club members and a barber that might support you. It doesn’t hurt to ask so you can build the biggest list you can by including everyone you can think of. However, be cautious of downloading or buying lists. Some of those lists may contain email addresses that are no longer valid. Or you may be reported for spamming to people that do not know you or your cause.

Set a Realistic Fundraising Goal
Let your supporters know about your cause, goal amount and goal progress. Many donors will set their personal gifting level a little higher to help you meet your stated goal when they feel they are a part of the process. You may even end up doing a little better than you expect.

Make it Personal
Remember your inspiration. There’s a reason why you are supporting this cause. Let your potential donors know why the cause is important to you. The more personal you can make it the better. Your donor friends will more likely connect with the cause if you bring that energy to your fundraising efforts.

Send a Follow Up Message
If the gifting pace is not proceeding as you hope, a little reminder nudge won't hurt anyone. If someone has indicated that they want to donate but hasn’t, don’t hesitate to follow-up with a phone call or reminder email. This is especially important as the time you have to fundraise runs down. People respond to deadlines!

Send a Thank You Note
It’s a simple thing to do, but also one of the most powerful. Make sure to say thank you to everyone who supported your cause. Not only will your acknowledgement will be appreciated by them, it may inspire your donors to donate in the future.


Click here to contact me regarding this or any other blog post.
David Schuchman

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Things to do While Traveling for Work



Business travel sounds glamorous. You get to visit a far away place and put it on an expense account. But, ask anyone who travels for work and they will tell you it’s not as glamorous as it seems. Many business travelers feel lonely when they’re working on the road. However, business travel doesn’t have to be lonely or stressful. Here are a few things you can do to make your time away from home comfortable and fun.

Don’t Work in Your Room
Working alone in your room can make you feel lonely and isolated. Instead, find other locations in your hotel where you might feel less isolated such as the guest business center, hotel lobby or even a nearby coffee shop. Working with a little activity and white noise around you may feel more like your normal work location.

Keep in Touch with People Back Home
Make quick calls to friends and family when you’re traveling. You can do this while in transit, as well as before or after your work day. Use texts or pictures to stay connected. Also, using Skype or FaceTime to see your loved ones’ faces can give you a big comfort boost.

Go Sightseeing
If you are traveling to a place you have not been to before, and especially if it is a "tourist destination", find some time to enjoy what’s unique about the place you’re visiting. Many cities and regions have landmarks, local attractions, museums, shopping malls and parks to visit. Take pictures to share with your friends and family back home, and so you can remember some of the fun time from your business trip.

Bring Someone With You
Ask a companion to join you on your trip when you can. If you know people in the place you will travel to, meet up with those friends and family in the area. While you typically cannot include your companion's expenses on your expense account, the time you share with others may be worth the cost.

Make the Most of Your Time Alone
Read a book, watch a movie, go to a local show or attend an event. Also, simply going to bed early will help you catch up on missed sleep or adjust to a time-zone change.

Create a Routine
The hardest part of a prolonged business trip is the disruption to your normal routine. While your work day may be hectic, try to keep to the same work start and end times. Make sure you plan your meals at about the same time each day, especially breakfast and dinner. Wake up and go to sleep at the same times each day. Schedule a block of non-work personal time. Having a routine while traveling on business will help minimize the disruption your trip may cause.

Even the most seasoned road warrior can find it challenging when traveling for business. With just a little preparation and planning, you can minimize any challenges you encounter and you might just have a little fun.


Click here to contact me regarding this or any other blog post.
David Schuchman

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Importance of IT Governance

 http://www.itgovernanceusa.com/


Gartner defines IT Governance (ITG) as "the processes that ensure the effective and efficient use of IT in enabling an organization to achieve its goals." ITG ensures that the IT organization operates in an effective, efficient and compliant fashion. This includes processes for project prioritization & management, product selection, systems implementation, IT security, oversight & review and even funding.

From the perspective of the IT users within an organization, IT governance is often seen as an unnecessary set of procedures set by senior management that hinders the productivity of the organization. While IT governance does represent a set of management standards and policies to be followed, at its core IT governance is primarily concerned with the alignment of the goals and objectives of the business with the utilization of its IT resources to effectively achieve the desired results. The end result of good IT governance is that it aligns your business strategically to support the growth of the IT enterprise architecture so that it delivers consistent and improved business value. In contrast, poor IT governance can lead to wasted resource efforts, bureaucracy, lower morale, reduced financial performance, and expose an organization to IT security issues.

Characteristics of Good IT Governance
  • IT investments and decisions are assessed in a similar manner to business investments and decisions. This means there is top management participation in key IT decisions. There is oversight of IT investments, and a steering committee of executives are held accountable for realizing benefits.
  • IT is an essential part of corporate planning and strategic planning. IT understands the business dynamics and contributes to the development of the business strategy. IT and business work together to identify opportunities and improve efficiencies.
  • Top IT risks are considered within the entire enterprise risk management framework. Risks such as data protection, IT security and business continuity receive periodic steering committee review.
  • IT performance is regularly reviewed and compared with industry best practices.
  • How decisions are made and why is well understood. Expectations and outcomes are clearly communicated to the stakeholders. Formal exception processes are documented to promote transparency.

As business organizations are becoming increasingly dependent on IT, there is growing recognition that IT governance is an essential part of the overall corporate governance. Alignment between IT and business strategy, as well as between IT and business governance, must develop and remain strong.


Click here to contact me regarding this or any other blog post.
David Schuchman

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

What Makes a Website Effective?



If you soon plan to develop a new website, or if you have an existing one, it's necessary that you understand the attributes and characteristics that can make or break the effectiveness of your online presence and brand. An unattractive or poorly built website will do more to hurt your online presence than to help it.

Website & Web Page Purpose
A good web design always caters to the needs of the user. Each page of your website needs to have a specific purpose & message. It must fill the need for your website users in the most effective way possible. Minimize mixing messages or topics on any one page. Keep separate topics or messages on their own pages, or create separate visual sections on a webpage with their own topics.

Organized for Good Communication
People reading on the web tend to want information quickly. So it is important to communicate clearly, and to make your information easy to read and digest. Some effective features to include in your web design include:
  • Organizing information using headlines and sub headlines.
  • Using bullet points instead of long winded sentences.
  • Each page or page section keeps to one topic.
Short Load Time
Everyone hates a website that takes a long time to load.  Tips to make page load times more effective include:
  • Optimizing image sizes (size and scale).
  • Do not use very high resolution images. Their data density requires more load time.
  • Combining code into a central CSS or JavaScript file, which reduces HTTP requests.

Clear Fonts
In general, Sans Serif fonts such as Arial and Verdana are easier to read online. Sans Serif fonts are contemporary looking fonts without decorative finishes of Serif fonts such as Times New Roman. The good font size for reading easily online is 15 - 16 point.

Block/Grid Layout
By placing content randomly on each web page, you can end up with a haphazard appearance that is unattractive and not functional. Grid based layouts arrange content into sections, columns and boxes that line up and feel balanced. Doing so leads to a better looking website design.

Add Images
A picture is worth a thousand words. Choosing the right images for your website can help with branding and in connecting with your target audience. If you don’t have high quality professional photos on hand, consider purchasing stock photos to lift the look of your website. Also consider using videos and other graphics. All of these can be much more effective at communicating than even the most well written piece of text.

Mobile Compatible
It is now very common to access websites from multiple devices with multiple screen sizes. This includes tablets and smartphones. So, it is important to consider that your website is mobile friendly. If your website is not mobile friendly:
  • You can either rebuild it in a responsive layout. This means your website will adjust to different screen widths and platforms.
  • You can build a dedicated mobile website. That would be a separate website optimized specifically for mobile users.
Search Engine Optimized (SEO)
There are hundreds of rules and guidelines for effective search engine optimization. However, this is not the place to cover them all. To start, follow these simple rules:
  • Include plenty of written content in HTML format. Limit using Flash, JavaScript or image-only objects for your navigational items.
  • Use your important keywords frequently and appropriately in your written content.
  • Leverage your links. Make them descriptive and use your keywords in the link text.
  • Add links to other websites.


Click here to contact me regarding this or any other blog post.
David Schuchman

Monday, August 1, 2016

How to Work as a Consultant


When you become a consultant, you may be abandoning predictability, a normal routine, interaction with coworkers and the safety of a regular job. Additionally, you may be venturing out on your own for the first time, and into unknown territory.

In my last post, I discussed, "Why Work as a Consultant". This post is the continuation of the discussion. Now that you are committed to work as a consultant, let's consider some of the things you need to do to begin to work as a consultant.


Do You Need to Create a Legal Company to be a Consultant?
You do not typically need to form a legal company (e.g. LLC, S-Corp, C-Corp, etc.). Consultants who choose to form a company usually chose an LLC (Limited Liability Company) because of its simple income tax reporting. An LLC does not require you to file an additional income tax return for the entity. Your corporate income is reported on ‘Schedule C’ of your personal income tax return. In addition, you will likely be eligible to deduct some of your corporate expenses from your personal income tax return. However, you should discuss this with a tax accountant for more information on this.

Forming an LLC is a legal, state-registered business entity. Working under a LLC may provide you some limited liability protection. However, you should discuss this with an attorney.

The cost to form an LLC will be about: $50-600 to start, depending on how you proceed. Many states require the LLC to file an annual registration, which costs $50 in NJ.

What if Client Requires Working via a Corp?
Sometimes your client will only hire a consultant via another business entity. When that happens, you have several options in order to accept the contract:
  • Find a consulting company to hire you - There are many such companies. When doing so, be assertive in negotiating the rate to be as favorable to you as possible. Often, a consulting company will take a large percentage of your hourly rate (e.g. 50% or more). They justify this since they also perform the recruiting. Since you are bringing the position to them and they primarily have only an administrative expense, you may be able to negotiate keeping are larger portion of the contracted rate.
  • Find a colleague or friend who owns an LLC or other corporation to hire you - In this case, you will be an employee of the colleague’s corporation. The colleague’s corporation will contract with your client. You colleague’s corporation will have administrative tasks related to employing you, so you should expect to give up some of your rate to them.
  • Engage with a “split-placement” company - A “split-placement” company is a business entity that employs independent consultants who need to work through a parent company. They usually do not perform recruiting, so the percentage of the rate they take is lower than working with a consulting company. In some cases, they allow the contractor to buy insurance and contribute to a retirement account. Examples of some “split-placement” companies are:
    • Top Echelon
    • NPAWorldwide
    • Fee Trader
  • Form your own LLC:
    • This takes about 2-4 weeks.
    • You can do this on your own, you can hire an attorney to set up the LLC for, or you can hire an online specialty company such as LegalZoom.com, Inc. or The Company Corporation to set up the LLC for you.
    • The cost will be about $50-600 to set up an LLC.
How to Become a Consultant
The first thing you need to do to accept working as a consultant is to say (out loud), “I am a consultant.” Next, you will need to do these few things:
  • Identify the niche in which you have knowledge, experience and support. Consultants that promote themselves as working primarily in a specific market sector or industry, or with a specific set of skills are often more successful than a generalist. That’s because the client will pay for specific expertise over someone who is a jack-of-all-trades.
  • Once you choose your working niche, research your target market. Understand the concerns, challenges and issues that your clients may have. Then, build your brand around how you solve those issues.
  • Alert & manage your professional network. When you are employed, you have a supervisor or co-workers with whom you can discuss your challenges or solution approach. When you are an independent consultant, your professional network includes the professionals that can provide that kind of support to you.
  • Develop a business plan. A business plan is a written description of your business goals. It is a document that describes what you plan to do and how you plan to do it.
  • Now that you are a Consultant, you must promote yourself and your brand;
    • Name & create your company.
    • Register your website address; and create a website. It's very important to be found online!
    • Define your service offerings & pricing.
    • Acquire any needed professional licensing & certificates.
  • Don’t do this alone. Get advice from:
    • Accountant and lawyer: Make sure you set up your business properly (legally), and ensure you take advantage of all available tax incentives.
    • Your colleagues, friends know you well and will also give you advice.
    • SCORE, Small Business Association. This organization provides free and low-cost advice to new business owners.
  • Update your LinkedIn Profile, as well as your profiles on other social media platforms. Make sure that other professionals can find you.
Getting Clients
Key to being successful as a consultant is to have clients. They are your primary source of revenue. Here are some steps you can take to build your client base:
  • Write a Newsletter and/or Blog - Writing is an effective means of communication. Newsletters and blogs represent a terrific advertising media for a consultant to sell his or her services. In addition, the general perception is that if you write often, you must be an expert.
  • Teaching and Public Speaking - Giving presentations, in a classroom or at an event, is another excellent way to find new clients and earn a reputation for having an expertise. Investigate business groups, libraries, adult education programs, professional association and join chambers of commerce. These are all terrific platforms for promoting yourself and your business to a targeted audience.
  • Ask for Referrals - An often overlooked means for generating business is to inform people you already know about your consulting business and offering, and ask them to introduce you to some of their professional contacts. Introductions to their colleagues, friends or business associates are powerful. People prefer receiving a referral for an expect instead of looking on their own.
  • Advertise - Advertising can be very expensive. Strategic advertising may yield positive results, such as the media that your prospective clients read. This could be industry journals and social media sites.
Becoming a consultant is a personal decision. Additionally, becoming a consultant can seem daunting at first. With a little initiative, preparation and hard work, you can become successful working as a consultant. And, you may enjoy it as an alternative to working as a full-time employee.


Click here to contact me regarding this or any other blog post.
David Schuchman

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Why Work as a Consultant


A consultant is a professional who works under a fixed contract to complete a specific project, task or assignment. Typically, a consultant is an expert or an experienced professional in a specific field, has a wide knowledge of the subject matter and required skills, and provides a service or expert advice to others – professionally.

If you have been unemployed for a while, you may want to consider working as a consultant as an alternative to working as an employee.

Some Differences between an Employee and Consulting Working Arrangement
There's a lot to think about before deciding whether the life of an independent contractor would suit you. Here are some important points to consider:
  • An employee typically receives a benefits package as part of the offered compensation. This may include paid time off, retirement savings contributions and subsidized medical, dental and life insurance.
    • As a consultant, you do not usually get employer-paid benefits.
  • When employed, your employer pays ½ of the cost for social security and Medicare employment taxes – 7.65% (as of 2016) of gross income.
    • A consultant, if self-employed, pays the full employment taxes - all 15.3% of gross income.
  • Employees are paid via a paycheck. The employer reports your year-end income via a form W2.
    • A consultant, when not employed by a representative company, must send an invoice to the client. The client reports your year-end income via a form 1099-Misc.
  • As an employee, you have limited income tax deductions related to your work expenses.
    • As a consultant, you may have available income tax deductions related to technology equipment, home-office space, travel for work and others. See an accountant to learn what may be available to you.

Employer’s Benefits to Hiring a Consultant over an Employee
Employers can reap some rewards by contracting with independent contractors/consultants instead of hiring new employees. Among those are:
  • Easier to hire / Easier to fire – The hiring and termination of a contract consultant usually requires less documentation. There is no employment on-boarding process. And, there is no documentation or continual performance tracking needed to justify a termination.
  • No long term commitment – Employers contract for a consultant for a fixed period of time. Then, release the consultant at the end of the contract term or when the work assignment is completed.
  • Objective new team member - Having an outsider sharing their view of the employer’s current state of business may offer new ideas on how to achieve growth and improve overall efficiency.
  • Skills the employed team doesn’t have – Hiring a consultant with needed skills is more time efficient than training employees.
  • Saves money - Hiring a consultant means the employer does not have to pay for recruitment fees, benefits, time off, training and the cost associated with employee retention and turnover. Consultants are often hired to tackle a particular project within a specific time frame. At project completion, the consultant departs and the costs stop.

Your Benefits to Working as a Consultant
While some job seekers tend to shy away from consulting, there are benefits to consulting that make it, in some ways, a preferable alternative. Here are benefits of working as a consultant:
  • Fill resume gap – Job seekers with a large employment gap may be passed by for an employment opportunity. While this practice is illegal in most states, it is known to exist. Working on a consulting assignment can mitigate any unemployment bias.
  • Usually paid more than the employees – On an hourly basis, a consultant often earns more than as an employee. That compensates for the other compensation benefits an employee may receive. And, consultants are also paid a premium for their expertise.
  • Current Position on LinkedIn - LinkedIn requires the listing of a current position in order to attain its 100% complete profile. The 100% complete profile is needed to improve your profile’s positioning in a LinkedIn search result. Use your profession as a consultant to be your current position on LinkedIn, even if you are not presently on a contract.
  • Variety – You can develop and demonstrate varied experience on your resume. As a consultant, you may be able to provide your professional expertise in a variety of companies and industries that you have not worked, and may not access to when seeking full-time empoyment.
  • Freedom and flexibility- Choose who, when and where to work, when to take holidays & other PTO.
  • Contract-to-Hire opportunities are only available to those on a contract. While on a current contract, the position may be converted to a full-time position. As a consultant, you are likely to be the preferred candidate to fill that position.

Pros and Cons to being a Consultant
The opportunity to be a consultant is available in almost any profession and for almost any role or job function. When deciding this path for yourself, you should consider the pros and cons to help in your decision process. Here are some points to consider to determine if being a consultant is right for you:
  • Some people are concerned that they will not be treated as well as the other employees. As an example, it may be the case that consultants will not be invited to company outings.
    • As a consultant, you may actually be treated better than employees. Often, your expected expertise and experience will hold you in a higher regard, and you can receive better working accommodations.
  • You might be unhappy in the position or how you are treated.
    • Of course, you can be unhappy in any job. If that is that case with a consulting assignment, take satisfaction that you will likely move on at the conclusion of the assignment.
  • There are unpaid admin tasks you must perform, such as billing & invoicing, documenting your expenses and preparing your quarterly income tax returns.
    • Consultants usually earn larger hourly rates which compensate for your required administrative tasks.
  • You won’t be given benefits as part of your compensation.
    • Consultants usually earn larger hourly rates which compensate for your cost of acquiring benefits. If the alternative to consulting is waiting for an employed opportunity, then you will pay for the benefits from your savings.
  • The contract may only be short term. Yet you need long term income.
    • Don’t dismiss a consulting contract due to its possible short term. Contracts terms are often extended. Sometimes, they are converted into an employed position. In terms of earning potential, a 6 month contract billing at $50/hour earns about $50,000 (gross income).

In this post, we discussed some points to help you understand how you may benefit to work as a consultant as an alternative to working as a full-time employee, and to help you decide if it's right for you. In our next post, we will discuss the steps you need to take to understand "How to Work as a Consultant".


Click here to contact me regarding this or any other blog post,
David Schuchman

Friday, July 1, 2016

Protect Yourself from Ransomware


Ransomware is a type of malware software where the attacker encrypts the victim's data, and demands payment for the decryption key. If you are not protected from the effect of ransomware, you may need to pay a ransom for the decryption key from the attacker. Here is more information about ransomware, and some steps you can take to protect yourself from ransomware.

Ransomware "Horror" Stories
The University of Calgary in Alberta paid a ransom of $20,000 in bitcoin (a digital currency that's difficult to trace back to actual people) to decrypt their computer system files and regain access to its own email system. They were hit by a ransomware attack in late May, 2016.

In February 2016, email and other electronic communications at the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center had been down for more than a week from a ransomware attack. The hospital ultimately paid $17,000 in bitcoin because they could not recover from the attack on their own.

Up to 60% of the Horry County, SC School District's computers were frozen when ransomware encrypted the school's data in February 2016. The school district was forced to pay the hacker's demand of $10,000 in bitcoin.

Install Anti-Virus Software
Your best defense is to block the malware before it can infect your PCs or servers. Install an anti-virus program and keep it running whenever your PCs or servers are on. Also, keep the anti-virus program and threat-pattern files up-to-date. The best anti-virus programs periodically and often download a database of newly found virus and malware threats. And, they continually run, monitor and protect the devices on which they are installed

Back up Your Data
Hackers that use ransomware are counting on a business or an individual to not back up their data regularly. If ransomware encrypts critical files, and you do not have the pre-encrypted files backed up, you will have to pay the ransom or lose the files. However, if you have a scheduled backup (e.g. once a day), you can ignore the hacker's demand and restore your data without having to pay for it.

Perform Software Updates
Ransomware, like many malware programs, makes use of vulnerabilities in your operating system and other software to infect your systems. You must regularly ensure that you download and apply updates. Additionally, don’t forget firmware updates to your network infrastructure and IoT devices, which can also help prevent attacks.

Filter .EXE Attachments in Your Email
If your email service provider has the ability to filter attached files by extension, you may wish to deny receipt of emails sent with “.EXE” (executable) files. When you do need to exchange “.EXE” files, and if are denying emails with attached “.EXE” files, you can exchange those as ZIP files, via SFTP or via a cloud service.

Use System Restore
If you have System Restore enabled on your Windows machine, you might be able to take your system back to a last known clean state. However, some newer versions of ransomware have the ability to delete files from System Restore, which means those files will not be there when you try to replace your malware-damaged versions.

The Bottom Line
The best cure for ransomware is prevention. Once you are infected, your options may be limited, expensive and unpleasant. If you find yourself encrypted and without a viable backup, you may be forced to pay the ransom. Doing so depends on the value of your affected data and systems. If your data and systems are sufficiently valuable, paying the ransom may be your only course of action.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Leader vs. Manager


What is the difference between a manager and leader? While some people are both, they have very different skill sets. I believe the 2 biggest differences between managers and leaders are:

* Their core business objectives.
* The way they motivate the people who work for or follow them.

Managers Have Subordinates
A manager has subordinates. They have a formal authority, control and responsibility for other people within an organization. The manager may also have a hierarchical authority of a team, department or division within an organization. That authority is granted to the manager by the organization. The subordinates who work for the manager generally do what they are told.

Leaders Have Followers
Leaders who are not managers have operational and project responsibility for other people in an organization. In addition, the people they lead may be across several departmental functions in an organization. They must ensure the people they are leading know their work responsibilities, but they may have limited ability to enforce what and how those people actually work.

Leaders and Managers Get Things Done Differently
Managers are very adept at executing a vision in a very systematic way and directing their subordinate employees on how to do so. They often focus on work and tasks, resources, processes and budgets. In addition, their primary focus is on keeping their area of responsibility running smoothly.

Leaders focus on achieving goals. Their primary focus is on promoting change. They keep a team motivated and empowered to achieve as much as they can. Leaders have an ability to rally employees around a vision. When their belief in the vision is so strong, they inspire employees to follow them.

Some managers can inspire and some leaders can systematically execute. But, those are not their respective core strengths. For a small organization or a start-up, the person in charge really has no choice but to be both the leader and manager. That's because it's probably just him/her and one or two others in the organization.

Understanding which you are will help you make important choices about whom you need to grow that complement your strengths and ensure the success of your organization. Understanding who your leaders are and who your managers are will help you create an organizational that addresses core business functions and needs, as well as promote positive morale and culture.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

When Negotiating, Validate the Other's Point of View


When you’re in the middle of an important negotiation, validating the other person's point is not typically the first thing on your mind. It's more likely that you are thinking about what you want. But considering the other person's point should actually be your top priority. If you validate your counterpart’s perspective, expertise, and feelings, you will be positioned to achieve the best outcome for yourself.
The opposing-parties approach of you vs. them is no longer valid. Today that approach must be replaced by the business partners approach to negotiation.  Openness and sincerity replace being self-centered and egotistical. Show the other person, who is now your partner in negotiation, that you value their perspective and needs.

The likely result of taking a me-only position will limit your ability to reach an amicable agreement. You may reach an impasse. The impasse is the point within a negotiation when the 2 parties are unable to see an effective agreement. As this develops, each person in the negotiation might dig their heels in deeper, anchoring themselves in their own position without compromise or a path to completing the negotiation.

The negotiation itself should be a careful evaluation of your position and the other person's position, with the goal of finding a mutually acceptable compromise that gives you both as much of what you want as possible. In an ideal situation, you will find that the other person wants what you are prepared to give, and that you are prepared to give what the other person wants. For a negotiation outcome to be positive, both parties should feel positive about the negotiation once it's over.

When you don't expect to deal with the other person ever again, or you do not need their goodwill in the future, then it may be appropriate to seek to win a negotiation while the other party loses out. However, doing so with someone with whom you have an ongoing relationship will damage that relationship and may lead to reprisals later. Instead, fairness, honesty and openness are the best policies. Considering the perspective of the other has the best chance to yield a positive negotiation result. In addition, this helps people keep good working relationships afterwards.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Should I Upgrade to Windows 10?


Microsoft released its latest operating system, Windows 10, on July, 29 2015. By the end of 2015, Windows 10 was installed on over 200 million devices on the way to Microsoft's target installation of 1 billion devices within 3 years of it's release. So, should you upgrade your PC to Windows 10 now? The absolute, definitive answer is...  "It Depends".
What is an Operating System
An operating system (OS) is the most important software that runs on any computer. It manages and controls the computer's use of memory, processes, and all of its software, peripherals and hardware. It also allows you to communicate with the computer without having to know the computer's actual "language" (e.g. via a keyboard, monitor and mouse). Without an operating system, a computer is useless.

At the end of 2015, this was the estimated PC operating system deployment market share (as per Net Applications.com):
Microsoft:
Windows 7:
Windows 10:
Windows 8 / 8.1:
Windows XP:
Others:
Apple (all Mac OS):
Linux / Other:

47.82%
15.34%
13.04%
10.63%
  1.94%
  9.57%
  1.66%

Decision Factors:
  • Windows 10 is a free upgrade to current users of Windows 7 and 8.1. There’s a good chance that your PC is already displaying a new icon in the system tray and prompting you to upgrade. Officially, the free upgrade offer ends on July 29, 2016, 1 year after the original release date. For Windows XP or Vista users, Windows 10 is a paid upgrade, which may be a bigger decision factor.
  • The Windows 10 download and upgrade are automatic. Via the new icon in the system tray or the pop-up prompt, you can have the upgrade run now or schedule the upgrade for a future time.
  • If you are not tech savvy, you can schedule a free appointment at a Microsoft store for a technician to perform the upgrade for you. You will likely need to leave your device at the Microsoft store for a few days.
  • Windows 10 includes "Cortana", the virtual assistant that is similar to Google Now and Apple’s Siri on smart phones. You can control elements of your PC simply by using your voice.
  • For major software you have installed on your PC, it is likely to be a smooth upgrade. However, check with the software provider if you are not sure.
  • For peripherals such as printers and scanners, you may need to download new drivers to ensure they work properly on the new platform.
  • The overall look-and-feel of Windows 10 is similar to Windows 7 and the Windows 8.1 desktop. But, there are some differences that you may need time to adjust to.
  • Windows OS End-of-Support dates:
    • WinXP/Vista: Completely desupported
    • Windows 7: No mainstream support (no product upgrades)
    • Security upgrades through July 2020
    • Windows 8: Mainstream support through January 2018
    • Security upgrades through January 2023
    • Windows 10: Mainstream support through October 2020

If I Upgrade and Don't Like it, Can I Downgrade?
Microsoft has built in a process that only requires a few clicks to have the system roll back to Windows 7 or 8.1, as long as you haven’t deleted the windows.old folder that stores your previous version. Click HERE to link to Microsoft's roll back instructions.

As you can see, the decision to upgrade your Windows PC to Windows 10 depends on several factors. The overall results of upgrading to Windows 10 is that process is fairly smooth, and the platform is stable. However, proceed moving forward aware of the factors listed above to minimize disruption and surprises by the upgrade process.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Business Continuity vs. Disaster Recovery


When people start to develop plans to deal with a major impact event they are confronted by two different terms: Business Continuity Plan (BCP) and Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP). A mistake often made by organizations is that if they have an IT DRP that they are OK. That is not always the case. There is quite a difference between these two plans and it is important that your organization understands the differences, and what type of planning each requires.
The nature of both of these topics is sufficiency extensive that we will not cover building a Business Continuity Plan or Disaster Recovery Plan in this post. We will save those for future posts. In this post, we will make the case that BCP & DRP are different, and you need to plan for both.

Disaster Recovery Plan
A disaster recovery plan (DRP) documents the policies, procedures and actions to limit the disruption to an organization in the wake of a disaster. Just as a disaster is an event that makes the continuation of normal functions impossible, a disaster recovery plan consists of actions intended to minimize the negative impact of a disaster and allow the organization to maintain (or quickly resume) mission-critical infrastructure functions. For most companies, the emphasis of DRP is more on their IT infrastructure than maintaining business operations.

For DRP, the question you must answer is, "If we lost any of our IT services, how would we recover?"

Business Continuity Plan
A business continuity plan (BCP) describes the processes and procedures an organization must put in place to ensure that mission-critical business functions can continue during and after a disaster. The emphasis of BCP is more on maintaining business operations than IT infrastructure.

For BCP, the question you must answer is, "If we lost our building or staff, how would we recover?"

Understanding Risk
Often, organizations consider DCP or BCP the same and plan just for one. That is an incorrect assumption. The reason why that is incorrect is either from the perspective of misunderstanding all of their risks, or choosing to accept a level of risk that is higher than the organization can actually tolerate.

Many organizations put the responsibility of mitigating operational risk on the IT department. I believe that is a misconception caused by organizational management understanding their business, but perceive IT as complicated and something they do not understand as well. Then, they look to the IT department to mitigate the risks in IT. My position is that the responsibility of mitigating operational risk falls on the Finance department since they are responsible for all the day to day accounting for the business leading to profitability. Therefore, the Finance department must ensure all risk to profitability is defined and mitigated.

Risk Assessment
The first step that an organization needs to take is to perform a risk assessment. In short, a risk assessment will identify and estimate of the types and levels of risk that will impact the organization. The next step is to compare the uncovered risks against the determination of the acceptable level of risk within each department in the organization. What should come out of the completed risk assessment are a set of risks throughout the organization, impacting both the IT and the business functions.

The risks that are identified as impacting IT will fall under the Disaster Recovery Plan. The risks that are identified as impacting the business functions will fall under the Business Continuity Plan. While the 2 plans will have details that are interrelated, the 2 plans must be defined, developed and maintained separately to be completely effective. But, they must be developed with consideration of each others goals and planned outcomes.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Cloud Computing: What to be Aware of


Cloud Computing provides an effective way to access servers, storage, databases and a broad set of application services over the internet. Services are typically offered via a subscription instead of a purchase or lease. While there are terrific benefits to implementing a cloud computing model, consider these caveats as you begin your cloud evaluation process.
Your Internet Bandwidth
Think of your internet connection as a pipe. Instead of carrying water, it’s carrying digital data. If your pipe is too narrow for the large volume of data it needs to carry, the data may not go through fast enough. As you move more of your applications and infrastructure to the cloud, that means that you will transmit and received a greater volume of data over your internet connection. You need to determine the internet bandwidth needed when you move to the cloud. Then, compare that to your current bandwidth. If your current internet bandwidth cannot accommodate your anticipated cloud services implementation, you will need to increase your internet bandwidth.

Don't Put All of Your Eggs in One Basket
Consider multiple service providers for similar services. That is especially true for data storage. Once you select a cloud service provider to host your primary data and applications, select a different service provider (or an internal solution) to manage your data backups. If you hire one provider for both, and access to that provider goes down or if they go out of business, you have lost all of your applications and data, as well as your backup data. If the application service provider goes out of business and your backup data is with another service provider, it will be easier to recover from that type of service disruption.

Service Level Agreements
Since some of the responsibility to support your applications and infrastructure will move out of your own facility (it will be with your cloud service providers), you may lose some level of control and timing when you need to address urgent situations. A service level agreement (SLA) identifies the types and timing of services you will receive from the service providers, plus any costs. Review and understand the vprovider's SLA. If the SLA stated in the service provider's contract does not meet your service and support needs, draft an amendment to the SLA to meet your needs before your engage the service provider.

Security
Understand who will be responsible to manage access to the contracted cloud services. For servers and user access to infrastructure, that is often a network administrator. If you will contract that with the service provider, review the supporting process to ensure that it meets your needs. For example, make sure you know how long the service provider take to add or remove a user account, or add a server or storage. In addition, make sure you understand who is responsible to manage threat deterrents. A cloud service facility may ensure that their server farm environment is protected from viruses and malware. Don't assume that your contracted implementation on their servers has the same protection by default.

Service Availability
Some cloud service providers may require scheduled down time for maintenance. This is more typical with application service providers than infrastructure service providers. Request the maintenance schedule and notification process from the service providers before you engage with them. Make sure that it meets your required service access time.

Contract Renewal Costs
Limit your contract renewal cost in your current contract. It is likely that at the end of a term contract that the service provider will increase your recurring subscription cost when you need to renew the contract. Place a clause in the contract that limits the increase in a contract renewal to a set percentage for each year of the original agreement. For example, set a 3% limit per year of term. When it will be time to renew your current 3 year contract, you can budget that the new subscription will not exceed 9% of your current cost.

Make sure you know why you're considering cloud computing before you start shopping around. Define your cloud computing goals. Then, align those goals by creating a service provider model that suits your needs and gives you adequate protection. Doing so will ensure you mitigate any concerns or caveats you may have as you plan a cloud services strategy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Work Effectively When Traveling

You plan to take time away from work because you want to clear some of the stress in your life, spend time with your friends or family, or to enjoy something or someplace new. However, there are times you need to bring your work with you. You may want to forget about it for a while, but you can’t. Here are several tips to help you work effectively while traveling and still enjoy your time away.
Have the Right Tools with You
You can only work if you have the right tools in front of you. Before you leave your home or office, be sure that all of the files you need are on your laptop or mobile device, and in the Cloud, so you can access them. If you will solely rely on having your files in the Cloud, you will need to be sure that you have access to the internet when you are ready to work. Also, make sure you have all of the programs/apps on your device so that you can perform your work.

Set Up a Schedule
Have a list of tasks you plan to work on while traveling. Then, set time each day that you will dedicate to working which will be separate from your non-work time. If traveling with friends or family, let them know your schedule so that they know when you need to work, and when you will spend time with them.

Seek Out a Dedicated Workplace
Most people don’t work well with interruptions. Therefore, a place devoted to work is important for a busy person. A good workplace can be almost anywhere. It can be a corner in your hotel room, a quite lounge or other common area or simply under a poolside umbrella. While this is easy to do at home, this can be difficult when traveling. The key is to set a time for work, then find a perfect place for that time period.

Don't Forget Power
Most of your mobile devices don’t have a very long battery life. So, make sure you have a power cord for each them. You can charge while at the airport or when you get to your hotel room. You may end up stuck with a dead device at some point. But, it’s better than not being able to use your devices at all.

Bring Headphones
You may not be able to have a quite work space when you are traveling. Interruptions from family in your hotel or distractions while seated in a plane are likely to occur. Since that can be inefficient for your work efforts, bring headphones so you can listen to music which will drown out the noise.

Working is not about being busy; it’s all about being effective. No matter where you are traveling, you can manage parts of your work life. There are challenges involved in working while traveling. But if you know how to organize your work time and fun time, the results will be very rewarding.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Why Job Seekers Need a Personal Website

If you're trying to land a new job this year and you want to take your personal brand to the next level and go beyond your resume or LinkedIn profile, a personal website could be your secret weapon. Since few people actually have one, a personal website can be the differentiating factor for the hiring manager when deciding on the company's next new hire.
Your resume is a key marketing tool when conducting a job search. However, it does have limitations. Your resume cannot tell the entire story about you or the depth of your professionalism and experience. It has limited reach since it is only seen by those you give it to. In contrast, a website is available to anyone looking for someone like you. It is more robust than your resume since you can organize lots of your information on several pages. In addition, it's easy to update your professional content to remain current, which becomes instantly available to anyone.

Why have a Personal Website
  1. It will get you noticed - In a Domain.Me survey of 600 professionals who have their own websites, 84% of respondents reported receiving tangible career benefits from their personal website. In addition, 70% reported believing that recruiters, employers reviewed their online presence prior to an interview. This demonstrates that employers and hiring managers are increasingly using the internet to find, and more importantly, vet, prospective candidates.
  2. It is more than a resume - A website is interactive, evolving and dynamic. You can post testimonials, work samples and add more depth to your professional history than a resume. And your website’s design and tone of voice help to convey your personal brand, and show how you will be a fit in the hiring organization.
  3. You will stand out - According to a study by Workfolio, a professional visibility company, 56 percent of hiring managers are more impressed by a personal website than any other branding tool you could use. Yet, only 7 percent of job seekers have websites. Set yourself apart from the pack by promoting yourself with your website.
  4. Having an online presence is the wave of the future - By having your own website, you demonstrate that you understand and participate in the growing social media trends. Additionally, you'll learn a few new skills along the way.

How to get Started
  1. Look for a service provider - There are cost-effective website service organizations that offer tools for creating and hosting your website. Examples are Godaddy, Google, WordPress, Wix and others. Many of these services have drop-and-drag interfaces and word processor like content editors. With a little patience and practice, you will be able to create your new site.
  2. Start planning your website - Search online for personal websites of other professionals in your field or industry. See what they are posting. Ask people in your professional network for their input.
  3. Get assistance - If you are new to website design, take advantage of learning resources. The service providers typically offer webinars and have a strong knowledge base. Look for free and economical classes at local libraries and adult education programs. You can also seek the advice and assistance from a web designer. 
Your professional website will give you creative freedom to express your personality and demonstrate your expertise in ways that are not possible through your resume. It gives hiring manages and recruiters more information to help decide if they want to bring you in for an interview. Having an informative, well designed website also sends a message that you are professionally progressive and take your career seriously.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about creating your own personal website.