2014 Has Been Declared the Year of the Internet Security Breach

Posted on by TJ Van Voorhees

The biggest lesson learned by businesses in 2014 is that Internet security needs to be their top priority regardless of the organization’s size. Many business owners think their company is too small to be a target for cyber thieves. The fact is small to medium size businesses (businesses not on the Fortune 1,000) are easy prey for attacks because they lack even the most basic security defense strategy.

Financial loss as a result of an Internet security breach is only part of the story. The most devastating loss is the damage done to the organization’s brand. Loss of trust from their customers can put the company out of business over night. No one wants to do business with a company that cannot protect their private information.
An astonishing eighty percent of all bot (automated applications that scan Websites) visits on the Internet are to small and medium sized businesses with less than one-thousand visitors per day. Smaller to medium size Websites can be hacked automatically with no human participation whatsoever. This is why they are prime targets for malicious attacks. They are easy money.

In an article published by the U. S. News & World Report called “The Science of Cyber Security,” Shankar Sastry, Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, said “We want…to be the start of this science base, upon which an inherent defense system can be built that will operate almost like the (human) body’s in the event of an attack.” In other words, an Internet attack defense system so advanced that is in essence self-healing just like the human body.

The top three things you can do to protect your business from a cyber attack is as follows:
Install and keep your anti-malware and anti-virus protection software up to date on all your computers including mobile devices. Run protection software after every software install to make sure your devices have not been compromised.

Encrypt your data so it is compliant with the Payment Card Industry’s Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) and Cloud Security Certification SSAE16. Encrypted data protects your sensitive client information by adding an additional level of complexity in the event your data is stolen. Most hackers will not spend much time trying to crack your encryption because there is so much unprotected information available to them.

Keep your employees educated on your Internet attack defense guidelines. They should receive updates on security risks and prevention measures regularly via email, video trainings or brief update meetings.

Benefits to the business owner of having a solid Internet attack defense strategy are numerous. The most salient example is increased employee productivity as outlined in the Pacific Crest Group case study titled “Adopting an Open IT Strategy Increases Office Productivity”.

Pacific Crest Group (PCG) provides professional services that keep your business focused on your critical objectives. We create custom made financial and Human Resource (HR) systems based on creative strategies that are always delivered with exemplary customer service. A PCG professional is happy to meet with you to discuss solutions for your unique requirements to maximize all of your business opportunities.

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Hire the Right Person for the Right Job Every Time

Posted on by TJ Van Voorhees

The success of your company depends on your employees. Each person you hire either raises the probability of you meeting your goals or lowers it. The best way to guarantee the growth of your company is to have a solid hiring system in place. Your system needs to be as well planned as launching a new product, service or developing the long-term strategic plan for your company.

The three most crucial pieces of your hiring process are knowing the skills required for the job, testing for these skills and involving the right people in your hiring process to make the best decision possible.

Know the Skills Required for the Job

What are the top four skills a person must have to succeed in this position? Describe the education, experience, knowledge, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors a candidate must exhibit to not only excel but thrive in the job. Talk to people who have been excellent in this position in the past. Interview the people they came in contact with such as their supervisors, customers, vendors and peers to find out why they were successful. What did they do or not do that set them apart from everyone else?

Skills Testing

Test the people you are about to hire to make sure they have all the skills needed for the position. The tests can be written, role playing or “hands-on” projects. If the job requires selling, take them on a sales call and watch them do the selling. If writing is required, have them do some writing projects for you. The tests do not have to be complex. They just need to be designed to prove to you without a doubt that the person you hire has the necessary skills and attitudes required to be outstanding in the position over the long-term. The “Recruiting and Hiring” (http://jobsearch.about.com/od/recruiting) Website has some great ideas on creative tests to measure a person’s aptitudes in certain skills.

Involve the Right People

Make sure candidates have an opportunity to talk with the people they will be interacting with on a consistent basis as much as possible. This will give you several different perspectives of the candidate. How they relate with those people can be a great indicator of future performance.

Taking your time in the hiring process is critical to making the right decision the first time. Rushing your decision can be a recipe for disaster as evidenced by the Pacific Crest Group case study “You Never Want to Rush the Hiring Process.”

Pacific Crest Group (PCG) provides professional services that keep your business focused on your critical objectives. We create custom made financial and Human Resource (HR) systems based on creative strategies that are always delivered with exemplary customer service. A PCG professional is happy to meet with you to discuss solutions for your unique requirements to maximize all of your business opportunities.

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Why Is Concentrating On Your Core Business So Important?

Posted on by Franka Winchester

Current studies show most businesses fall short of their growth objectives by a wide margin. Failure rates are as high as eighty percent. Why is attaining your expansion goals so difficult?

No matter what growth strategy you choose, your company’s infrastructure must be able to support its successful execution. Devising the strategy and implementing it are two very different things. The solution lies in focusing on your company’s core business.

Your core business is defined as the products, services, customers, distribution channels and geographic areas that yield the largest return on your investment (ROI). It is mission critical that systems be put in place to measure the overall performance of each segment of your core business. Peter Drucker, the world renowned business consultant, said “you cannot grow what you cannot measure.”

The best place to start the assessment of your core business performance is with the following five questions:

Who are our core customers?

What is our firm’s main competitive advantage and how can it be strengthened?

What are the most attractive growth opportunities given our core business? What performance measurements should we use?

In what direction are key performance indicators going and why?

The answers to the above questions must include input from your employees, customers, senior management and external stakeholders such as vendors and strategic partners. Be sure to include both loyal and not- so-loyal customers in your research. For more information on performance management techniques, see the article in the Harvard Business Review titled “Reinventing Performance Management

The probability of fulfilling your growth objectives is significantly increased when your organization has a clear and well defined growth strategy combined with a strong execution infrastructure. One without the other can be devastating as illustrated in the Pacific Crest Group (PCG) case study “Creating a Strategy That Smoothes the Path for Growth.

Pacific Crest Group provides professional services that keep your business focused on your critical objectives. We create custom made financial and HR systems based on creative strategies that are always delivered with exemplary customer service. A PCG professional is happy to meet with you to discuss solutions for your unique requirements to maximize all of your business opportunities.

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How to Write a Clear Job Description

Posted on by TJ Van Voorhees

A common misconception in Human Resource policies is that job descriptions are for lower level jobs and mission statements are for higher level positions. Higher level jobs include “C Level” positions such as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Operations Officer (COO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Chief Technology Officer (CTO). This perception can be very costly to employers when employees question what they are responsible for and what they are not responsible for in their positions.

All employees in your company need to understand what is expected of them and how their success will be measured from the first day of their employment. A job description fulfills this requirement like no other employment tool. It guides the hiring, ongoing evaluation and potential termination of each employee no matter what position they occupy.

There are seven main components of a job description as follows:

The “Purpose Statement” is normally two to four sentences that describe why the job is important to the success of the company.
An “Environment and Culture” section describes the physical attributes of the job location (office, outside job site or phone center) and the personality (culture) of the job and the people that work there.

Your “Function” portion is usually the most detailed. It describes what duties need to be performed and when. It should be as clear as possible about the tasks that the employee must perform each day. Will the position include interactions with the public, your customers or internal personnel? What are the priorities of the activities to be performed?

A “Requirements” area must detail what education, technical skills and prior experience is required for the job and why those requirements are important.

“Responsible Parties” section provides details on who the employee reports to in the organization and when. It should provide the employee with an organization chart when necessary and how the employee’s activities impact the company in the big picture.

A “Performance Measurement” portion must be as specific as possible. Define what is most important for the employee and the organization. Describe the type of activities and requirements that will enhance the future success of the business. Provide details on when evaluations will take place, who will give them and if any advance preparation is required.

The “Compensation and Benefits” area can include either a specific compensation amount or a range if the position is based on reaching certain performance levels or seniority. If your company uses salary grades, be clear about what needs to be done to reach each level. Are any employee benefits offered such as bonuses, retirement packages, vacation time, cars or special recognition? What needs to be done to receive the benefits and when are they available?

A clearly written job description can literally save thousands of dollars in potential litigation costs. A succinct example of this is presented in the Pacific Crest Group (PCG) case study “Why You Need Well-defined Job Descriptions.”

A job description is not difficult to write. Some type of job description is infinitely better than no job description at all. For a more in depth discussion of job descriptions, please go to “Reference for Business.”

Pacific Crest Group provides professional services that keep your business focused on your critical objectives. They create custom made systems based on creative strategies that are always delivered with exemplary customer service. A PCG professional is happy to meet with you to discuss solutions for your unique requirements to maximize all of your business opportunities.

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Increasing Medical Practice Profits

Posted on by TJ Van Voorhees

Medical costs have skyrocketed over the last several years. Since 1960, healthcare spending in the United States increased as follows according to HealthCare Facts (http://www.justfacts.com/healthcare.asp):

  • from a yearly average of $147 per person to $8,085 (55 fold increase).
  • from 5.2% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) to 17.68% (3.4 fold increase).

Pacific Crest Group (PCG) continues to work with many medical professionals to help them increase their profits despite spiraling costs using the following three main strategies:

The first strategy is called Data Mining. This strategy involves analyzing the medical diagnoses in your practice. Patients are categorized based on their needs. They can be grouped as “New Patients,” “Established Patients,” “Acute Patients” and “Preventative Care Patients.” Each patient sector requires different procedures. Making sure required procedures are communicated to the patient well in advance increases patient satisfaction and profits.

The second strategy is known as “Schedule Management.” Every unfilled appointment results in a loss of income. Patients with chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease are scheduled for multiple visits over a defined period of time right away. This reduces administrative costs because future visits are scheduled in a single visit and revenue from patient visits are planned for in advance. Patient visits can be scheduled using “Fixed Interval” or “Seasonal” scheduling. Train your office staff to schedule appointments proactively for preventative care purposes. There is a big difference between saying “call us if you are not feeling better” and “see you in five days.”
The third strategy involves ”Prescription Refill Procedures.” Policies are drafted to maximize efficiency and therefore profits. For example, filling prescriptions when patients are in the office or hospital is always more profitable than over the phone because of the additional administrative time, follow-up and provider review required for over –the-phone refills.

The strategies above are designed to increase productivity, patient care and patient satisfaction resulting in optimizing profits due to improved operating efficiencies. A great example of this is when PCG helped an Oncology clinic significantly increase its profits by establishing an in-house pharmacy (See “Helping a Bay Area Oncology Clinic Recover its Profits). [http://www.pcg-services.com/helping-bay-area-oncology-clinic-recover-profits] Additional revenue has also been received from health care providers for exceeding their “quality indicator” requirements.

Pacific Crest Group provides professional services that keep your business focused on your critical objectives. They create custom made systems based on creative strategies that are always delivered with exemplary customer service. A PCG professional is happy to meet with you to discuss solutions for your unique requirements to maximize all of your business opportunities.

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Build Your Business Using Financial Key Performance Indicators

Posted on by TJ Van Voorhees

One of the best ways to grow your business and monitor your company’s financial health is to use financial Key Performance Indicators (KPI). Pacific Crest Group (PCG) has written extensively on the benefits of KPI management strategies.

Stockholders, investors, customers and competitors can use financial data to measure the performance and sustainability of your business model. You want to make sure that critical financial key performance indicators are working for you rather than against you. The Advanced Performance Institute has a wealth of information available on the use of KPIs.

Your company’s current ratio is a great example of a very useful financial key performance indicator. The current ratio is your current assets (for example cash and accounts receivable) divided by your current liabilities (such as accounts payable due in thirty days or less). It measures the ability of your organization to pay its current debts within a defined time period (normally one year or less).

For example, if your company has $22,500 in cash and $15,000 in accounts payable due in thirty days, your current ratio would be 1.5:1 ($22,500 in cash divided by $15,000 in accounts payable). A high current ratio indicates solvency and sustainability. A current ratio of between 1.5:1 and 3:1is considered healthy.

A current ratio of less than one indicates that your company would not be able to meet its current financial obligations within the next thirty days. This could be because of a cash flow problem due to the business funding growth by accumulating debt.

If your current ratio is more than three to one, it could indicate your company is holding excess cash instead of investing it back into the business. This will significantly slow down the growth of your organization.

The current ratio KPI provides owners, investors and financial professionals a great deal of information about the efficiency of your company’s operating cycle. It answers the crucial question: “Is your business able to generate a constant revenue stream with consistency over a specific period of time? “
Blue Frog Quadruples Profits by Tracking Key Performance Indicators” is an excellent example of how PCG used a “Revenue-to-Staffing” KPI strategy to give one of its clients the tools the company needed to properly manage their cash flow to successfully fuel their business growth.

Pacific Crest Group provides professional services that keep your business focused on your critical objectives. They create custom made systems based on creative strategies that are always delivered with exemplary customer service. A PCG professional is happy to meet with you to discuss solutions for your unique requirements to maximize all of your business opportunities.

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Risk Management Saves Thousands in Litigation Fees

Posted on by TJ Van Voorhees

Overview

One of the key advantages of a successful Human Resource strategic plan is that it allows the company to minimize risk exposure with regard to its employees. Many companies overlook this very effective strategy. This point is well illustrated in the case of a large fitness company.

Client Introduction

The Client provides fitness services to the public. It was weighing the advantages and disadvantages of acquiring a competitor. The competitor had legal problems due to employee issues so severe that the competitor was forced to file for bankruptcy protection. The Client had to move fast to make sure that the competitors’ two-thousand employees were fully compliant with current employment laws to avoid additional litigation as well as government imposed penalties and fines.

Problems in the Infrastructure

The competitor had no Human Resource (HR) systems in place. They had very complicated payroll requirements because many of their employees were paid by the hour at different rates. The competitor did not keep accurate time keeping records. Employees were located in different states and were subject to different employment laws. Many benefit packages were not compliant with mandatory laws. Performance reviews were not given correctly, timely or properly documented. Break and vacation laws were not followed.

Solutions Were Implemented Right Away

The Pacific Crest Group (PCG) helped the Client create systems and strategies to build trust with its management and employees very quickly. PCG immediately organized all the employee data so it could be integrated into a complete Human Resource Information System (HRIS) to track every payroll function. All employment records were brought up to date and in compliance with applicable local, state and Federal laws. A team of five payroll specialists worked closely with the Client to train them on how to use their new system.

New employment contracts were created that were electronically signed by all employees. The agreements documented the employment offer, pay rate, “at will” termination clause and many other critical employment terms. Clear communication channels between management and employees were established. A twenty-four hour response time was instituted so that employees could get their employment questions answered accurately and quickly. A new employee benefit specialist was recruited and hired by PCG for the client. Employees felt that the new policies were fair, properly explained and applied equally to all.

PCG’s Unique Value Added

A process that would normally take at least one year was done in six months. Pacific Crest Group added specific value that only it can provide through its comprehensive Human Resource services. For example, the Client was trained on risk management strategies that resulted directly in saving thousands of dollars in additional litigation and government imposed penalties and interest charges.

Due to PCG’s special relationship between its HR and accounting departments, it was able to strategically advise the Client using its specialized business acumen in such a way that it had profound effects on the Client’s bottom line. PCG acted like a partner in the decision making process by considering the Clients’ needs first each step of the way.
Systems were installed that allowed the Client’s HR people to utilize PCG professionals to complete projects without having to rely on expensive temporary employment services. Pacific Crest Group acted like a full-time HR department on a part-time project basis. PCG assisted in hiring and training all new personnel. The Client was provided the extra service of helping their HR personnel by handling all payroll related questions before they became a legal issue. This saved them a great deal of money in potential legal fees.

Pacific Crest Group provides professional services that keep your business focused on your key objectives. They create custom made systems based on creative strategies that are always delivered with exemplary customer service.

A PCG professional is happy to meet with you to discuss solutions for your unique requirements to maximize all of your business opportunities.

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Proper Differentiation between Wage and Hourly Employees is Critical

Posted on by TJ Van Voorhees

Overview

How many times have you heard company executives say that it is less expensive to hire contract labor than employees? This is not always true. In fact, most often the opposite is true. Making sure there is a clear distinction between contract labor and employees in your company is imperative. The following case emphasizes this point.

Client Introduction

A TV show production company is very successful and growing. They have over one-hundred employees composed of two primary employee groups. One group is internal staff that consists of writers and editors. The other group is made up of production people who do set creation and onsite filming. The internal staff typically work eight hour days. Production people can work anywhere from eight to fifteen hour days or more depending on the required filming schedule.

Lack of Clear Employment Policies

The company’s employment manual was confusing and not in compliance with current employment laws and regulations. Ambiguous employment policies led to disagreements, bad feelings and tension between employees and management. There was a great deal of confusion about breaks and overtime payment rules. Day rates were being paid that did not include required overtime compensation.

Lack of proper overtime documentation created a huge liability for the Client. If even one employee had filed a claim and the company was audited, the Client would have owed overtime compensation going all the way back to the first instance for all their applicable employees at exorbitant rates.

In addition, if the company was found negligent in not providing proper times for legally required breaks, they would be subject to employee lawsuits as well as Federal and state penalties for failure to comply with mandated employment laws.

Comprehensive Pay Rates Were Created

The Pacific Crest Group (PCG) wrote two employee manuals. One manual was for the internal staff and a different one for the production employees. The new manuals clearly outlined the policies for each group. Distinctions between exempt and nonexempt overtime employees were made conclusive with examples and illustrations for each segment. Nonexempt employees were properly classified and contacted to let them know they would be paid overtime for all applicable work.

Day rates were calculated with both overtime and non-overtime pay rates. This made sure all employees were compliant with Federal and state overtime rules. PCG made sure both management and employees were confident that standard employment laws were being implemented.

PCG’s Unique Value Added

Every two weeks PCG professionals provide office hours for employees and management to answer questions about employment policies and procedures as well as changes in career paths. Joint training presentations are done with all personnel concerning employment rules and regulations that need to be followed to create a winning culture for everyone. Providing access to trained Human Resource (HR) professionals builds trust between employees and management.

The biggest success for this company was there were no employee claims filed. Management was instructed on how to communicate clear employment policies to employees in a very supportive environment on an ongoing basis. All personnel felt heard, appreciated and valued. Employees and management agreed that when the company as a whole does well everyone does well.

Pacific Crest Group provides professional services that keep your business focused on your key objectives. They create custom made systems based on creative strategies that are always delivered with exemplary customer service.

A PCG professional is happy to meet with you to discuss solutions for your unique requirements to maximize all of your business opportunities.

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How to Increase the Effectiveness of Your Company’s Culture

Posted on by TJ Van Voorhees

All companies have a culture whether they are aware of their culture or not.   Most company executives agree that culture is the key element of a company’s success.  Pacific Crest Group (PCG) puts a large emphasis on understanding, utilizing and improving the culture of your company.company-culture-hiring-managers

Culture can be best understood when you think of it in terms of the behavior of a Tribe.  “Tribes are groups of twenty to one-hundred-fifty people in which everyone knows everyone else, or at least knows of everyone else.”  Large companies consist of a “network of tribes.” (1)

The benefits of an effective company culture include high performance, outstanding innovation and unparalleled team work.  The achievement of a successful culture leads to a positive spiral that makes the team’s performance seem almost unfathomable to people outside the tribe.

The key to increasing your company’s performance is to first identify which stage of growth the culture of your company resides.  You can then begin to move your organization’s culture to a higher stage of growth and thereby increase its performance.

There are five stages of growth as shown below.  Stage two through four indentifies some key elements to move to the next level of growth.

Stage One:  Tribes whose members are hostile.  They gossip, create scandals, steal, lie and may become violent.   It is impossible for a business to survive in this type of culture.

Stage Two:  This is the dominant culture for about a quarter of most workplace tribes.  Members tend to be passively antagonistic, sarcastic and resistant to management’s objectives.  Recommended ways to move to a higher stage of growth include identifying each individual’s skills, offering progressive training with attainable goals and providing opportunities for members to use their skills to make contributions that are meaningful to them based on their values.

Stage Three:  Almost half of all workplace tribes are in this stage.  Behaviors include “knowledge hoarders” who want to outwork and outthink the people they perceive to be their competitors. Manipulation techniques are common.  Suggested ways to move to the next stage includes expanding the definition of success to include collaboration.  When people receive training, require that they share the training with other team members so those members can understand and apply it.

Stage Four:  Team members shift from thinking “I am great” to “we are great.”   People are happy to work together for the benefit of the company as a whole.  They understand that for each individual to be successful the company must be successful.  Moving from stage four to stage five requires eliciting feedback from all stakeholder groups including groups that the tribe does not normally communicate with.  The company must seek out best practices from different industries.  It focuses on global problems rather than just industry problems.

Stage Five:  Less than two percent of all tribes are in this stage.  Members who have made tremendous innovations in their fields use those skills and their future potential to make positive contributions on a global scale.

Pacific Crest Group (PCG) provides professional services that keep your business focused on your primary objectives.  They create custom made systems based on creative strategies that are always delivered with exemplary customer service.

A PCG professional is happy to meet with you to discuss solutions for your unique requirements specifically designed to maximize all of your business opportunities.

(1)  CultureSync’s book entitled “Tribal Leadership” is based on ground breaking research in the study of the culture of Tribes.  Please see www.culturesync.com for more information on tribal culture.

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Q&A How to Better Manage Your Small Business Cash Flow

Posted on by Franka Winchester

Cash flow is to business like water is for plants, both are critical for growth. While several small businesses may never experience these problems, others may experience the need to cut costs or look towards alternative funding just to make it past payroll. This can cause additional pressure for your business as loans become harder to obtain, and you may face the decision to ultimately close up shop. Bookkeeping Continue reading “Q&A How to Better Manage Your Small Business Cash Flow” »

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