Are you building a winning team?

“Are you building a winning team?”  It seems like a strange question coming from a technology company whose focus is in workflow automation, AI, and business intelligence, but it’s actually quite related to what we do for our clients on a daily basis.

Recently, Sherwood Chamberlain gathered to re-align and tweak our vision, mission, and goals.  This gathering, like every other gathering, spent quite a bit of time focusing on team building and how we can help each other and our clients to achieve more.  In this post, we’d like to share with you one of key thought-provoking questions asked by our VP of Client Development, Luke Kumanchik.

Our mindset

First, it’s important to understand that our mindset behind technology is that systems allow us to focus on people – their big ideas, their greatest struggles, and the opportunities surrounding those struggles.  Essentially, we’re concerned with the question, “How can we be both catalyst and bridge builder of dreams to reality?”

What can the NBA teach us about practice?

What Luke brought up in our gathering was an observation about sports and team achievement.  He observed that the quality of play throughout an NBA season doesn’t change much.  Generally, the team deemed good, bad, or great at the beginning of the season performs as expected.  Yet, whether a team is good, bad, or great can change quite a bit from one year to the next.

Compare this to the NFL, where there is a lot variance in play quality throughout the season and greater still from one to the next.  A good, bad, or great team often under- or over-performs during the season and can turn around expectations from one year to the next quite easily.

Why don’t NBA teams improve as much as NFL teams during the season?

Now, there are a few possibilities for why this is.  One reason is that there are more players on a team and, another, is that injuries may occur at a greater rate in the NFL, a more contact-heavy sport.  A third possibility is that the NFL has far more practices both during the season and in between.

If you think about it, more players and injuries creates more chaos and a dependence on others.  So, you’d expect a lot of variance.  You’d also expect that the better a team is at practicing, at creating depth on a team, the more they will outperform the rest whose skills lag behind.  Making good use of practice compared to the competition matters greatly.  ‘Practice makes perfect’, as they say.

Practice and how it effects our business

If this is true, we can draw some conclusions about our own teams and businesses:  1) Playing isn’t practicing and 2) Our businesses aren’t going to build new skills at any appreciable rate.  If this were basketball, we’d conclude that we aren’t going to get better without a new talent acquisition.  (Time to ask yourself just how good are you at attracting and keeping great talent – new employees and vendors alike.)

Developing talent internally

Of course, our interest is in developing talent internally, for ourselves, and externally, for our clients.  Our vision is a world of human excellence through business technology.  Even if it weren’t,  from a dollars and cents viewpoint, it’s the right thing to do:  it’s cheaper and staff tends to stay.  Team members who know you care about them contribute more and care for their clients better.

But, then, the question becomes, “How do you plan to build a winning team (to practice) when the season is 365 days a year?”

Our answer has two parts.  First, you’ll probably want to work with a business coach.  Our leadership works with Doug Barra of ActionCOACH.  He and his team are second to none at helping us to develop training plans customized for our team members.  Second, automation.  One reason we work with Doug is because his mantra is to, “Systemize the routine, humanize the rest.”  The only way your business will have time to practice is if they aren’t busy with “paperwork.” A business coach will help you develop your talent and teams, while automation tools give you the time to develop a winning team.

Take the next step with automation

Contact us to begin using automation to free your team to develop new skills, improve client satisfaction, and close more sales, reach out to us.  We work with businesses in the Legal and Construction industries in the South Florida area.  You may always contact us via email, by phone at (888) 967-7768 x2, or via our contact page.  We look forward to speaking with you.

Hurricane-proof your business with these 7 tech solutions

Your largest client out in New York called to push forward a deadline that conflicts with another project.  You and your team are already squeezed because of the approaching hurricane.  That’s when your phone buzzes.  It’s a text message from your Secretary.  The hurricane has changed course and school is canceled.  She won’t be in while her kids are out.  You know more texts are on the way and that your clients won’t wait.

You stop to think about how to get everything done, but you can’t concentrate. “When was the last time I checked the generator?  How soon can I re-open the office?  Do I have copies of all of our important documents?”

That’s when you realize:  You’re in trouble.

 

4 of 5 Businesses Don’t Have an Up-to-Date Disaster Recovery Plan

You are not alone.  68% of small business owners report they do not have a written recovery plan.  Even when a recovery plan exists, 80% do not update it. Business owners also fail to protect themselves against the threats they consider most devastating.  Just 21% of business owners with less than a month’s cash reserve have continuity insurance.  It’s no wonder only 40% of businesses re-open after a natural disaster.

 

Use technology to bridge the gap between operations and disaster planning

The reason businesses don’t plan for hurricanes and other natural disasters is always the same:  they lack the time and money to do so.  Put another way, it’s not essential to daily operations.  When it comes to deciding where to spend money, businesses purchase things that generate more business:  inventory, staff, equipment, etc.  Everything else can wait – or so the thinking goes.

Modern technologies ease the burden of disaster planning by pulling double duty.  When designed and implemented correctly, the same technology that helps make you money daily also enables your business to run during or immediately after a hurricane.  This drastically reduces the costs of disaster recovery plans and ensures the plan is always up-to-date.  Better still, you’re likely already paying for some of these technologies – you just aren’t using them to their full potential.

So what technologies do we use to hurricane-proof your business?  Here is our list of 7.

 

7 Tech Solutions for a Hurricane-Proof Business

  1. Cloud Storage

You may already use Dropbox, Box, or Microsoft OneDrive to share files with clients, but few have setup their businesses to work from it exclusively.  There’s usually a good reason for this.  Unfortunately, it means that you won’t have all of the files you need when presented with limited access to a specific computer and other staff members.  It takes time to identify workflows and properly customize the product to fit your needs.

 

  1. Cloud Email Provider

G Suite and Office 365 have become ubiquitous in business because they work extremely well “out of the box.”  Where they fall short during a disaster is that they usually aren’t structured beforehand to share contacts and emails.  You may be surprised how often businesses forget to post an “Out of Office” message with information relevant to their clients.  There’s no better opportunity to set your client’s expectations than with an immediate response to their inquiry.

 

  1. CRM

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management.  There are a variety of tools and platforms, many industry specific.  For your needs, CRM becomes the easiest way to overcome limited access to information.  When you can’t contact your sales or project manager, everything relevant to a client or potential client resides in one known location.  This is an invaluable tool when failed electrical grids and downed cellular antennae limits communication between team members.  For the full effect, CRMs need to be configured to work with your email provider and/or cloud storage.

 

  1. VoIP

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is another popular technology meant to help businesses place phone calls using the internet.  It’s exciting because the internet is everywhere and it’s reasonable to conclude, “I can make calls from anywhere.”  Sadly, that’s not always the case.  While some VoIP solutions do work from anywhere (on your smartphone or tablet, for instance), some don’t even work when your office loses power.  Before you sign a deal, be sure to understand fully what kind of VoIP solution you’re buying.

 

  1. Video Collaboration

Video Collaboration includes tools that help share your desktop, run webinars, and place face-to-face video calls.  We’ve written about why we think video collaboration is great before.  When discussing hurricane-proofing your business, the reality is that people want to know you’re OK and able to get the job done.  A video call does just that in a single click.

 

  1. Virtual Hot Site

In the “old days”, a hot site exclusively referred to another physical location ready to work.  This meant servers, computers, and phone systems had to be ready-and-waiting for you at the new location so you never lost business operations and you continued to produce for your clients.  It was hugely expensive.  Today, you can create a hot site using the cloud for a fraction of the cost.

Most businesses utilize a warm site hybrid cloud solution.  That means they work from their offices until they can’t.  A loss of connection signals something is wrong and the cloud automatically begins loading backup systems.

Turn to a hot or warm site when consistency and security are paramount.  You can’t always take a top-of-the-line computer with you when you travel and you don’t want your staff to work on the virus-riddled computer their child uses.

 

  1. Cloud-based Archives

Many business owners are surprised to learn that tucked away in the Terms and Conditions of most online services is a provision which states that the service provider is not responsible for their data.  That means you must find a way to backup your documents, emails, templates, etc. across the multiple cloud services you’ve purchased.  Extra caution must be applied to the legal requirements for storing specific documents and identifying where online providers have their data centers.  There’s little reason to archive to a facility in the same hurricane path as you.

 

Your business, hurricane-proofed

The 7 technologies above allow you and your staff to work from anywhere without interruption.  Better still, every dollar you spend improves your daily operations.  A shift in thinking and the way you work is no longer necessary to plan for a disaster or to keep up-to-date.  While your competition struggles to return calls and is incapable of taking on new projects, you continue to deliver for your clients and increase revenue.  A hurricane-proof business is now a reality.

Get the help you need

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to hurricane-proof your business.  Each technology requires additional configuration and an understanding of how to make it run smoothly to meet your needs.  It can be a lengthy and technical process that spans more than a half dozen vendors – but don’t worry:  We’ve helped businesses across South Florida with this exact problem.

If you would like to know more about how we can help you to hurricane-proof your business, you may leave a comment, send us an email, call us at (888) 967-7768 x2, or contact us.  Be safe out there.

That’s cool, but will it work for you?

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” is an oft-repeated phrase in business.  You learned long ago not to believe the hype. But when are marketers going to understand that hype works against them while case studies create converts?

Google Duplex:  Another failed Wow?

Google Duplex was announced to the world earlier this week. The on-stage demonstration is highly compelling: an AI places a phone call, impersonates a human, and successfully negotiates scheduling an appointment with a real-life human.  Wow.

Except, Google has wowed us before only to fail its delivery.

In 2017, Google’s Pixels Buds wow’d us with instant translation.  Eight months later, the product seems more like a test run than anything truly functional. In 2012, Google Glass showed us a new way of looking at the world with the aid of augmented reality, only to be shutdown three years later.

The reason for the failure is simple:  Google promoted a gimmick.

Fall in love with the problem, not the product

It’s said, “Fall in love with the problem, not the product.”  The reason is simple:  When you understand the problem, you design everything around solving it.  Anyone with that problem immediately understands its value – and, once it’s in their hands, it’s even easier to prove it.  You don’t waste effort trying to convince people it’s cool and you don’t generate dissatisfaction when it isn’t.

This is made clear when you consider Google’s limited relaunch of Google Glass with select partners.  Each partnership focused in on select activities and developed solutions to meet those specific needs.  The result is radically improve efficiencies that will force the rest of the market to adopt the technology sooner rather than later.  This is the value of proven case studies over gimmick marketing.

How to cut through the hype

A huge take-away from the Google Glass story is that hype isn’t very useful, but that doesn’t mean the product itself isn’t useful.  The difficulty you face in business is in discerning whether the product works for you.  To find the answer can be extremely difficult, costly, and time-consuming.

That’s why we cut through the hype on behalf of our clients with real case studies.

We make it our responsibility to learn your workflows and investigate ways to improve them.  We use our status as a technology provider to demo products and partner with designers to perform case studies.  That way, we can cut through the hype and find what truly works best for our clients.

Sherwood Chamberlain helps businesses in the Legal, Construction, and Non-Profit industries to save time and scale for growth easily.  If you’re looking to partner with a technology provider dedicated to making your vision a reality, we’d love to hear from you.  Leave a comment, contact us, or send us an email at sales@sherwoodchamberlain.com.

Dinner and a show versus all-you-can-eat

In the old days, technology was about buying more.  More hard drive space, more speed, more features.  These were things you needed and could leverage for a competitive advantage.  This is the equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet.  The food isn’t of the highest quality, but you can have whatever and however much you want.

Today, technology is about crafting a better experience.  Everyone has unlimited hard drive space, speed, and features just a click away on the cloud or in an app.  Your competitive advantage comes when you improve an event or a service that didn’t use technology before.  This is the equivalent of dinner and a show.  The food is no longer the sole focus and the overall experience is improved.

To take a real life example, consider this writer’s most recent experience at a legal conference.  The conference was the same format as all others for the past 40 years, except in one way: this time they built an app to facilitate human interactions.  The app let you build a profile, post updates, rate events, and navigate the conference. In short, it built a temporary Facebook.  It created a truly immersive experience, where the conference became a talking point for building new and real connections.

As a bonus, I’m sure that conference was able to collect a lot of data on their most devout attendees.  They likely recorded foot traffic, attention (how often was a person on their phone during an event), event ratings, which posts created the most buzz, and how far the attendee traveled, just to name a few items.  They’ll take this data to build an even better, more engaging event next year.

Improving experiences, building stronger relationships, is where technology now has the greatest opportunity for competitive advantage.  Data Analytics will only continue to grow in the coming years.  Those who elect not to participate in designing a better experience for their clients will find it increasingly difficult to compete.

Retrieve information faster with chatbots

Chatbots are best known as a marketing tool. You’re familiar with them as the pop-up chat windows on websites and the way businesses provide 24/7 response on Social Media.  More recently, they’ve become great for internal workflows.  You can setup bots to schedule meetings, pull quotes, quotas, or inventory.  In the featured image of this post, I’ve setup a personal bot to save information and retrieve it easily using Hangouts Chat for G Suite, but you can do similarly with #Slack or across teams.

Your client’s expectations shift thanks to IKEA

You can now showroom-style browse IKEA’s furniture selection from the comfort of your own home on your latest smartphone.  The app automatically scales the furniture to fit your room with 98% accuracy, sufficient detail to see texture, and automatically adjusts shading to accommodate lighting.

The move is significant for a lot of reasons.  It will impact future online sales and retail space, surely, but it is most significant because the app sets expectations.  Your clients now expect an extremely high level of confidence in a product before they buy and they expect they can have that confidence in the palm of their hand.

Augmented Reality (AR) is the future of architecture, interior design, and construction.  If it wasn’t on your radar for this year, IKEA’s move may make you reconsider.

Luckily, AR is still relatively new and is only now beginning to have an impact in manufacturing, engineering, and construction.  Your business can take advantage of IKEA’s move if you act quickly.

IKEA’s app pushes forward the adoption of the technology by bringing AR into our personal lives as consumers and users.  It creates familiarity, sets expectations, and establishes a firm competitive advantage for the company.  Your advantage is that the technology is readily available and friendly.  Smartphones are already in everyone’s pocket and training is almost non-existent.  No additional cables, peripherals, or futuristic helmets – everything comes standard with the latest iPhone or Android.  It’s an ultra low-cost way to lead your field.

The simplicity of integration into your business means a quick and successful adoption.  As the technology continues to mature, your business will be poised to take advantage of the latest breakthroughs.  Now is when augmented reality can yield the greatest return for your business and is, thus, the perfect time to invest to transform your business.

Should you have any questions about AR in your business or how to use technology to free up your team to do work that matters, Sherwood Chamberlain is here to help.  Leave a comment, send us an email at sales@sherwoodchamberlain.com or contact us.  We’d love to hear from you.