I made an appearance on a weekly program recently called “Coffee Break With Sabra” and discussed Planning for 2015- What businesses need to know. It is mid-December and 2015 is just a couple of weeks away. If you haven’t already begun your planning for 2015, then now is a good time to get started.

During my interview you will learn:

  • What you as a business owner need to know in planning for 2015
  • What you should be aware of in terms of changes in technology (and one significant one which is being phased out completely!)
  • What you can do to protect your business and client data
  • Risks to businesses in 2015
  • And more!

Click the link below to listen to this interview and learn how you can be prepared and take preventative measures so that 2015 will be your best year ever. With proper planning in place, only success awaits.


Episode Transcript:

Sabras: Welcome to the Coffee Break with Sabras where we answer burning questions, the questions you didn’t ask, didn’t know to ask, or were afraid to ask, we ask them for you. Each week we bring you another 20 minutes so that you can get your answers and get back to having a productive and fabulous day. Today, we are here with Raj Goel. He’s also an author, entrepreneur, IT expert, and public speaker. He is globally known as the go to man in cyber security and privacy law. Raj is committed to education individuals and organizations about online safety and how to protect their most important assets, people and data. His expert advice helps individuals, companies, and conglomerates navigate their way through the world’s ever changing technology and increasingly complex IT compliance laws. He often appears in the media and at conferences worldwide to educate the public on cyber security and digital privacy, a subject he is passionate about. Raj is fueled by his passion for enhancing civil rights in cyberspace, his love of helping people keep themselves, their families, and their companies safe online. He’s available to
consultants and a public speaker, and often sought after by major media outlets and companies. I’m so excited to have you here Raj, welcome to the program.

Raj: Thank you Sabras, it’s great to be here.

Sabras: Yeah, I’m happy to have you back. Today you’re going to be speaking with us about planning for 2015, what businesses need to know. I think that’s a really great topic because it’s the end of 2014, end of the year, and a great time to start thinking about the upcoming year.

Raj: Absolutely.

Sabras: Maybe you could start out with what are the kinds of things that businesses need to know for 2015?

Raj: Sure. I’ll break this into 2 parts. One is what they should be aware of, and second what should they plan for. First thing to be aware of and actually to plan for is that in July next year Windows server 2003 is going, going, gone. No more updates, no more patches. And because so many corporations and even small businesses have relied on Windows Server 2003, it’s now time to plan your migration. This is not something you can do over a weekend, or a week. A proper migration will take about 3 months or more. And so companies really should plan to look at what did they have running and what are their alternatives, do they move to the Cloud, do they go to Server 2012, do they move to Google, do they ditch Windows and move to Apple. Then you really need to look at how their business runs, what it runs on, and what are the next best steps for them to grow their business and keep it a viable, profitable enterprise.

Sabras: Okay.

Raj: The second thing to look at as a consumer and a business owner is the rash of breaches we’ve had for the last 12 to 18 months target Home Depot, Sony. What this proved, and these are just the high profile attacks you heard about in the media. What they really prove is every business, whether you are a one-woman law firm or a 500-person behemoth, every
business should look at and review their cyber security and their policies. I’m working with a number of companies right now who had well-written handbooks that are 4, 5, 6 years old but never took into account things like social media. Things like Instagram, Uber, and Twitter. Now they have to not only update their technology, but also update the agreements they have with their employees. And training them properly on how not to reveal sensitive information, accidentally or intentionally, through misuse of technology. Lastly, as a parent, I also look at and I advise business owners to look at what are the risks, the kids will bring into their business. What risks are the interns going to bring into the business. Are you going to be hiring in the spring and summer? Do you have an intern policy, do you have an intern program. If you’re recruiting young employees, anybody under 25 these days are kids to me. If you’re hiring anybody who grew up with technology, who grew up with a cell phone on one hand and an iPad in the other. Is your business, your policies, and your training wired to deal with them? To me that is probably the biggest risk and the biggest opportunity. The opportunity is you see young kids, they’ve got so much brains and so much energy. And since they don’t know what they don’t know, they do amazing things. I love my interns, I love my young staffers, They bring great energy, great insights, occasionally great wisdom into the conversation. We benefit from their youth and their native intelligence of new technologies. Not just technology, new ways of doing things. On the other hand we’re also spending significantly more and thinking about what do we need to teach these kids so they don’t do what they think is natural and normal and end up destroying our business or our reputation.

Sabras: Yeah, definitely. That’s something really important. That’s so possible to everybody.

Raj: You would think so but apparently it’s not. One of the conversations I have with my staffers is, “Hey, tweeting, Instagramming, and SnapChatting your latest date is probably not the smartest thing to do. He looks really cute, you’re young, you’re going out with a hot guy or a hot girl. You’re in a great restaurant. Maybe the best thing to do is leave the smart phone in your pants or your purse. Putting that out there is probably not the smartest thing to do.” You’ll be surprised how many people have never had that conversation, and how many are surprised to be told that live blogging everything is not the goal of going out. And even simple things like splitting the bill. College kids go out, there’s 4 or 5 of them they split the bill. They don’t pull out a calculator, they don’t pull out cash anymore, they pull out an app that lets them split the bill automatically. Not realizing that this is now revealing to interested parties were they entertained, who they were with, what they paid. Because these apps encourage them not to pay the bill but to tweet, Facebook, and broadcast to the world things about the events and the
people they’re with.

Sabras: Right.

Raj: This is special surveillance made fun and attractive.

Sabras: Yes, it definitely is fun, attractive, and makes it easier in that instance of the splitting of the bill. I get the relationship where people in general, everybody’s on Facebook, everyone says they have their Facebook app open and they have work open in their desktop at work. It’s important for employers to have a conversation with their employees about it. That makes great sense.

Raj: And I’m concerned about what they [Unintelligible 00:07:23] really was a private life. But what I’m really concerned about is non-engendering behaviors where 4 years down the road they’re no longer an intern they’re a valid member of our team, and so ingrained to tweeting and blogging revealing who their with. We got a business lunch, or a meeting, or an investment, and next thing you know it’s on socially media that we were meeting with so and so company, and thereby compromising sensitive conversations. And in your case, you have a meeting with a client and when you stop [Unintelligible 00:07:53] reveals, “Hey, actually I just recently came in to meet with Sabra”, next thing you know your front door is stacked of reporters. Might be great for your business, might not be so great for attorney-client privilege.

Sabras: Yeah, not so much. Definitely something to look out for. So, in addition to the security breaches and the use of social media are there other things that businesses should know about or be aware of for 2015?

Raj: Absolutely. For me, the real currency is any business is their marketing, it doesn’t matter what business you’re in, whether it’s IT, law, construction, private equity, or retail, marketing is critical and I strongly recommend companies and business owners, take a good hard look at their marketing. The marketing initiatives, what are their clients are, what their growth is, and invest properly in it. One, because it makes sense, good marketing helps businesses grow and be viable. But also because so much of marketing now is so technology-driven that it makes a lot more sense to look at your marketing and your technology spending with the same lens and see how can we tell the 2 systems together, having now the duplication or triplication of data, how do we get the most bang for our buck, and more importantly where do we spend our buck.

Sabras: So it’s tracking, it’s the metrics and really knowing the impact of what and where you’re marketing, and the impact and the bottom-line.

Raj: This goes before the tracking of the metrics. Tracking the metrics come once you’ve implemented the marketing campaign.

Sabras: Okay.

Raj: I’d say before you implement tracking and the metrics, actually define your marketing strategy and then execute against it. A lot of businesses don’t do marketing or they do default marketing. Yeah, we’ll do what did last year and that’s fine but it’s not the most efficient use of your time, money, or your people. I planned the year and this is my month to do it. I generally take the period between December 21st and December 31st. I think that’s 8 or 10 days, and review what we’re up the previous year and what we can do in the following year. And it’s amazing, every time I have this conversation with myself and my team we discover things that we could do better, we could’ve done better, lessons learned, things to do next time which would not be applied if we stuck with the default that will make sure what we did last year.

Sabras: That’s right, what worked and what didn’t work, over what could we improve upon. Those are the key questions.

Raj: Yeah. And a large part of it is not even metrics-driven, it’s more of look at your notes, talk to your team, look at the notes she took when you launched that campaign this year, what worked, what didn’t work. What did you say you were going to do better next time, what were you going to invest, what were you not going to invest in, what completely failed. And do to this analysis of your marketing, of your sales process, of your technology platform, of your security, of your privacy policies, look at your business from a 10,000-foot view. Because if you don’t who will?

Sabras: That’s a great question. It’s your business, take it seriously, and run it.

Raj: Take it seriously or hire the experts to help you take it seriously.

Sabras: Yeah, great. Is there more, I want to hear more. This is good stuff.

Raj: How many hours do you have? The other thing is to focus on your 2015 vacations, one of the best way to grow your business whether you’re a solo-preneur or you have a thousand employees is to actually plan vacations, and when necessary force your people to take them. We as Americans are scandalous at not taking vacations. We had given up millions of vacation days a year. And as a human being we really can’t function well without serious downtime and play time. As for a business perspective, what research have discovered last 40 years running is that small businesses, which are my primary market, most small businesses that die due to embezzlement or insider theft, get taken in by long term employees, trusted employees who start embezzling small amounts and become larger and larger, and most of these employees were the loyal linchpins who never took a vacation. When you look at Jerome Kerviel the guy who almost brought down the French banks, these inside traders, Nick Leeson, Jerome Kerviel never took a vacation, all the time he was on the French bank. A lot of insider stock and insider damage is done by people who everybody thinks is really hardworking. Also, by sending your payroll, your sales, your HR people, your legal counsel, your IT got out on vacation, you get to see how does your company run without them. They’ll get on vacation next year, they might quit you next year, they might get hit by a truck, they might move to Florida or China. They’re going to leave at some point, the vacation’s a great way to give them a break. And then for you to learn as a business owner, how critical are they. What stops when they are not here? What are they hiding? When your CFO’s out on a break or your bookkeeper’s out, somebody else is doing payroll, you get to see his payroll being done correctly, do you have ghost employees, have you been screwing up your numbers all these years? When your IT guy’s away on vacation you get to see just how your IT is actually being used effectively and how much of it is just make work. Are you actually using assets correctly? When your legal counsel’s away, I’m going to sued, but also you get to see how valuable is this person to your firm. Then you can look at your compensation, your training, do you
need to get a back-up person or a back-up firm in case your number 1 sales person, marketing, or legal IT person leaves.

Sabras: But there’s also benefits to having them go away in addition to that because like you said, we’re human beings and we need to take care of our bodies. It’s great to be working and making sure you provide a roof over your head, but we need the downtime. Your employee will hopefully come back, they’ll have had great experiences, they’ll have more life experiences and exposure. Maybe new ideas will come out because they had time to relax, right?

Raj: You read my mind. That’s why I felt this is absolutely important. At least once a year take 2 weeks off, minimum a week, preferably 2 weeks, no cell phone, no email, grab some real break. Go read books. Go get involved with your spouse, your kids, whatever else, go invite yourself if you want. But take a week long or a 2-week long complete technology break, complete contact break, and let your people do the same. I can also tell you, I’ve sent every one of my employees out on vacations this year, the good ones. And whatever I spent on their vacations or their training, they come back with a tenfold ROI. I went away and I came back with ideas for next 6 books and I’m working on my second one because I forced myself to go away for a week with no cell phone and no internet, just a bag full of books and a lot of food.

Sabras: That’s great. As you just said, there’s a lot of return on your investment for having that break and come back with renewed energy, excitement I would imagine.

Raj: Exactly. That’s why this is a good time to plan who’s going on vacations next year. So not only do you have that planned out, and then you can communicate with your team. They’re excited, they’re looking forward, they’re energized, and you get to plan forward versus, “Oh, Becky’s gone for 2 weeks. We needed that file, we need this, we need that.” A lot of companies don’t like getting staff on vacations because then they get unpleasant surprises or they have under productivity. I say plan for it like any other business event. It’s a risk and an opportunity. Plan for it, you’ll get a better ROI than if you just let it happen to you accidentally.

Sabras: You explained it so beautifully too.

Raj: Thank you.

Sabras: What else?

Raj: The last thing is look at your people, what training do they need, what is the most critical application in your business. Is it time tracking, is it document management in our business we look at every year, where do our people need to get trained, and we plan our training budgets. Whatever I pay in salary, I allocate 20% on top of that for each employee for training. Training is not cheap, training is extremely expensive, and it’s also extremely profitable for us. One of the thing we’ve discovered with all of our clients, the high performers, the mid performers, and the low performers is what separates the high performers from the mid and low performers. Our high performing clients, our clients who have the most revenue and the most profits, have very, very highly trained staff and they take staff training with an almost really just ferocity. Going to conferences, reading books, going to vendor training, going to industry conferences, writing, training staff on how to write articles, how to be interviewed, how to be on TV, how to be on radio, how to give a 5- minute speech or a half-hour presentation. enlisting your client in your staff communication skills. I think that’s an opportunity most businesses overlook. Because when you’re training your staff to communicate effectively they communicate more effectively with you, with their colleagues, with your clients, and they make you a better firm.

Sabras: I love this insight because it really brings to the forefront the reality that who are these people. These are the people who are the “cogs on the wheel” so to speak that make your whole business run and go. I’m extrapolating that you’re only as good as your weakest link so to speak. So that’s what it sounds like what you’re transcribing here. So you’re benefiting and improving your worker bees so to speak so that your entire business can run more efficiently and be a well-oiled machine.

Raj: Absolutely. I don’t look at employees as cogs in the machine, I think that’s an old modality. I think our employees are our biggest assets and our biggest threats, and we have to treat them accordingly. As a business, look at yours, look at mine, look at most businesses, our people make the difference. What separates Dunkin’ Donuts from Starbucks isn’t the coffee or the donuts, it’s the staff training and staff experience. You walk in a Dunkin’ Donuts, “Hi, may I help you?” You walk in a Starbucks it’s a whole different experience because their people are so better trained to take care of you. You go to a Holiday Inn, you walk into the W Hotel, or The Plaza and the staff reach is so much better, why? Because one chain invested in selling the goods at lowest cost and highest profit. The other one invested in making low profits by training the staff more effectively. Then I tell my team, I hope in our best days we’re half as good as Starbucks because their customer service is incredible. I’ve never had a bad experience at Starbucks other than looking at my wallet every month. They make a bad coffee they tell you upfront. If you don’t like our coffee, tell us we’ll fix it, or we’ll replace it.

Sabras: Right.

Raj: I’ve done it once or twice because they screwed something up, or I ordered the wrong thing, my mistake. I said, “I’m sorry, I’ll buy another one.” They said, “Don’t worry about it, whatever you like.”

Sabras: Wow.

Raj: . I was in the mood for chai but I ordered coffee, my mistake. I was ready to pay for chai and they basically said, “Don’t worry about it, it’s on us.” They bought 10 years of customer loyalty out of that, for one cup of chai.

Sabras: Yeah, they can make you happy.

Raj: Yeah. I love JetBlue. This year we fired Delta as an airline because our experience with the staff was terrible. The airline staff is rude, hostile, borderline angry, whereas I go on JetBlue, it’s a mini vacation as I get in the door. The staff is smiling, they crack jokes, they give you as many snacks as you want, they don’t make flying a pain.

Sabras: I think also with regards to what you’re talking about because we’re talking about what businesses need to know or plan for 2015. I think a lot of things in the world are changing and people are expecting more from businesses, are expecting more of compassion, but more of an interaction. They want to be treated and recognized that they are a valuable customer. From what you’re telling us, it sounds like it should be on the list of things to think about for 2015, how can we give more or create a better experience for our clientele.

Raj: Yes, they are not looking for us to be treated as better customer, they’re looking for better customer service.

Sabras: Yeah.

Raj: They’re looking for the respect that they deserve, because they have given their hard earned dollars to you. And they expect me to do my job, they expect me to do IT correctly. And we are serving our clients every year. We ask every one of our clients, from the people who hire us, to their front line employees, what are we doing right, what are we doing wrong, and what makes us different from the last guy. And hands down, and this surprised the hell out me, where we get the best kudos is not where you have mastered your technology, not in how snappy dressers we are, but on the customer service that my team engenders. How much we’re fun we’re around to be with, and how quickly responsive we are in resolving their problem. They want us to respond to it quickly, politely, professionally, and with empathy. Let me tell you, teaching nerds how to be empathic is a huge challenge.

Sabras: You obviously, successfully have learned to master how to achieve that.

Raj: I wouldn’t say master, it’s a daily battle and daily grind. I will say this much though this year, we went through 500 resumes, 40 interviews, 5 bad hires to find 1 good hire. And what separated the good hire from the bad hires was not technical skill, it was communication, a sense of customer loyalty, empathy, and a respect for the person at the other end of the phone, email, or in front of you. That’s where 499 people failed to meet the benchmark. I can teach them with skills, I can’t teach them to be nicer human beings.

Sabras: Very valuable. That’s such a key point that you’re making right now. So before we wrap up are there anything else you could share with us, or a final tip or a word of advice for businesses as we enter into 2015?

Raj: Yeah, if you’ve got kids ages newborn to 25 go spend time with them. Disengage from business for a while, go spend time with your family because at the end of the day, isn’t that why we get up in the morning to work in the first place? But if you don’t have kids, go spend it with your parents, your siblings, your aunts your uncles. We have thanksgiving, and I wish we had thanksgiving every quarter. I really wish we had thanksgiving once a quarter.

Sabras: Some people say there’s thanksgiving every day. Just like there’s only mother’s day and father’s day once a year. I would say every day is mother’s day, every day is father’s day. I appreciate them every day all time.

Raj: I absolutely agree. Appreciate them every day, but I really like that we as a society become much better at thanksgiving, and then we kind of lose it all a week later. I like when people make an effort to travel hundreds of thousands of miles to your family at thanksgiving. I think if we did that every quarter we’d be a much better society and a much better place to live and work and play.

Sabras: I think we’d be a lot happier too, a lot more happier people.

Raj: Yes.

Sabras: Wow, wonderful Raj, thank you so much for being here today.

Raj: You’re welcome.

Sabras: I want to thank you again for joining us this week and join us again next week during our weekly coffee break with Sabras.