Welcome To Our Newsletter

I’m starting this newsletter to share stories, insights and perspectives gained from running L.A. Creative Technologies (along with a few creative projects) for the better part of a decade. Expect advice for running a more streamlined & scalable business as well as tech tips that will be helpful to you, your colleagues and your employees.

If there’s anything you’d like to see here or stories you’d like to share, please send them over to {email}!

The last two years have been filled with transition and growth for both me and for my projects. I’ve worked with a brilliant team of consultants to document, automate and streamline every facet of L.A. Creative Technologies’ internal workings with the goal of providing the best service possible to our incredible & valued clients.

I’m flabbergasted at the inspiring and creative group of clients I get to work with here at LACT. Architects, designers, record labels, civic leaders, upstart real estate agencies and creative & lifestyle brands of all kinds make up an incredible client base. To better serve our core client base, we’ve worked diligently to improve L.A. Creative Technologies systems.

Here’s a few examples of how we’ve benefited from this process:

  • Client Service: We’ve documented & implemented procedures for all the vital steps in our interaction with clients to make sure clients get the same great service every time they contact us.
  • Virtual CIO (Chief Information Officer) Services: We’ve become part of a small, international cohort of Managed I.T. Service providers that provide true “Virtual CIO” services to our clients: assessing their business environments, helping them truly understand the myriad options available for assembling a tech infrastructure and how to achieve their business goals through properly leveraging these tools.
  • Operations: We’ve streamlined our behind-the-scenes internal operations to ensure we’re always on top of finance, admin and internal service tasks while ensuring tasks get done right every time.
  • Marketing & Branding: Our partnership with a few different marketing & branding consultants has allowed us to redo our website, start a blog & newsletter and to more closely consider who our core clients are and how to communicate with them on many different levels.

And I’m so excited to keep growing with more creative businesses and the people behind them. Undertaking this process of development and learning has made me excited to see the amazing benefits our new service offers will have on small & medium sized businesses in the Los Angeles area! So if you’re focused on excellence and success, or just making a little more money and having a little more free time, then I look forward to working with you and your company.

Ignorance is No Longer Bliss for CEOs

A Chief Executive Officer’s main job function is to be a visionary and lead the company in a direction where the company can continue to prosper and grow. In order to properly accomplish this, I have seen CEO’s build different corporate cultures and focus on utilizing capital to bring in the proper resources needed to accomplish the company’s goals. One aspect that is often overlooked is the importance of information technology and its applications to common business practices. With today’s technological advances, CEOs can no longer turn a blind-eye to technology initiatives. With the exponential growth we are experiencing with the current Technology Age, general business operations and marketing are highly automated. Without the leader of the company having a clear understanding of the technology-based options and execution, a small to mid-sized company will not have a chance to flourish.

IT for marketing

IT is a Must for Marketing

Having owned an IT service company for some time, I have seen the demand for the services of a company like mine grow significantly over the last 10 years. Consumers no longer look to the Yellow Pages or friends for business services and products. Consumers have been trained to go straight to a search engine such as Google or Yahoo or social media outlets like Facebook or Twitter to be educated on an item and actually purchase the good or service. There are many different online marketing approaches a company like mine can utilize depending on the needs of the company we are servicing, such as:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Email Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Media Buying
  • Re-Targeting

Each approach has its own pros and cons, so while the execution of the online marketing approach should be left up to an in-house professional or an outside IT firm like mine, it is vital that the CEO understand what each approach has to offer. This conceptual understanding is critical, especially when the company cannot afford to have an in-house Chief Information Officer.

Analytics and Big Data For the Company’s Success

Other than marketing, the necessary technology initiative every company should be implementing is to recover data on its consumers’ behavior through analytics and analyzing the data to predict future trends and behavior. This concept is known as “Big Data” and the application of it has grown significantly in recent history. I had a client who was using Google’s Adwords and Facebook Ads to attract customers, but they had no idea of which ads were working, where they should spend more money and which initiatives should be cut. The benefit of today’s online advertising versus more traditional ad placements is the ability to track a Return-On-Investment (ROI). Not only are ad spending results measurable, but they can be tracked down to a very granular level and these applications will allow you to accomplish this.

Analytics programs, such as Google Analytics, are necessary for any company spending marketing capital to implement. They allow the company to not only understand where their sales are coming from, but by understanding the data of the consumers such as geographic location, time of day, sex, and age, the CEO can redirect his technological marketing initiatives to target the correct audience at the right time and at the right place. These types of initiatives put in place by the CEO can not only push company growth significantly, but can be the difference in a company’s survival.

As the leader, the CEO has to set the course of the proverbial ship. Surviving in today’s environment requires an understanding of the tools that are available. Gone are the days where CEOs can bury their heads at current technology trends which they are either unaware of or do not understand. As a CEO, you may not have the in-depth knowledge to execute the initiatives or the resources, but understanding what needs to occur is critical. Luckily, a CEO now has the ability to outsource the execution in order to have top-notch results. {company} is the trusted choice when it comes to staying ahead of the latest information technology tips, tricks, and news. Contact us at {phone} or send us an email at {email} for more information.

Get Enterprise-Level IT For Your Small Business With a Managed Service Provider

Information technology is essential for businesses of all sizes. Any business owner who’s suffered through a network outage or tried to keep customers happy while they dealt with a dead app server can attest to that. Large enterprises can manage this risk of service disruptions by investing in additional infrastructure. This is often not an option for small businesses, but thanks to recently developed networking tools they can now access these kinds of enterprise-level IT services through a Managed Service Provider (MSP).

Small Business

There are a variety of managed IT service providers and packages available, but the defining feature is an active, remote management of your business’s IT systems through a subscription contract. Some MSPs allow you to use a portion of their enterprise infrastructure to run your business’s email, storage, or applications. Others will monitor and maintain your infrastructure with enterprise-grade network tools. Either way you receive enterprise-level IT tools and expertise, and you get proactive not just reactive management of your business’s technology. These features of MSPs can provide many benefits for small business owners.

Adaptability

Dealing with seasonal swings or unexpected market turns are challenges many small businesses face, but using an MSP’s infrastructure might allow them to better adapt to such changes. Rather than worrying about short term hirings or budgeting to expand your own infrastructure, MSPs allow you to quickly adjust subscriptions to the right amount of IT resources, either temporarily or permanently.

This also ensures the quality of your IT systems and the expertise of your IT staffing remain consistent. You don’t to worry about ‘make do’ hardware purchases or dubiously qualified temp staff.

Cost Control

Most MSPs offer their services through set subscription plans that keep your IT costs more predictable. Some small businesses try to get by on the break/fix model where they just wait for something to break before they pay to fix it. But over time dealing with such disruptions to your business is not cost-effective.

Even if your business retains its own IT infrastructure there is still considerable value in the active management provided by an MSP. Your provider’s network tools could notify them when your business is being targeted by hackers for example, and they can adjust security settings on the fly. The MSP model of IT service is essentially an insurance plan for your business’s technology. You pay a small amount over time to reduce the risk of that one big failure.

Business Continuity

An industry survey (PDF) found that the median cost of IT outages was $3000/day in lost income for small businesses. Using an MSP’s management tools to address small issues before they spiral into big ones minimizes the chances of such disruptions.

Managing IT takes up business owners’ time even when things go right. The financial and administrative decisions surrounding IT infrastructure requires research, planning and consultations with vendors. Delegating this work to a reliable MSP through a service contract leaves business owners free to focus on core business priorities.

As you can see, using an IT managed service provider can make sense for many small businesses. They provide flexibility in operations and reliability in expenses.

Learn More About IT Managed Service Providers

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What Memorial Day is REALLY All About  

It’s easy to think of Memorial Day as a convenient day off in a busy calendar and the start of summer, but we suggest you take a step back and think a bit harder about it. Millions of men and women have put their lives on the line to defend our collective way of life. It’s hard for those who have not made that sacrifice to really understand what they have done. Take advantage of a few spare moments on Memorial Day to think about that.

Memorial Day

Most of us have friends, colleagues, or relatives who have served in the military. Perhaps you have an older relative who served in Vietnam, Korea, or even World War II. Imagine being away from home for months or even years, wondering how your family is doing. (For those older veterans who served before cell phones and internet, that often meant being totally out of communication, feeling lucky to get a letter at some point.) Imagine being called on to do things that you thought were impossible, either mentally or physically. Imagine seeing your friends not survive a day of battle, and why it was them instead of you.

Supporting Veterans in a Tangible Way

You can show your support of our service men and women who have faced things unimaginable to the rest of us by doing business with veteran-owned businesses. Think of all the skills that people learn while serving in the military – logistics, transportation, maintenance, security, communication, and management. If someone can solve those challenges on and around the battlefield, they can probably handle whatever issue you bring into their place of business. That even applies in our own field of information technology. The Department of Defense has some of the most sophisticated computer systems in the world, and there are plenty of veterans out there who are putting their experience to use as IT experts. We wouldn’t normally promote our competitors, but this is the one and only instance when we can make an exception. It’s the most worthy cause there is, and if it means that a veteran-owned business gets a customer and we don’t, well, then that’s one way that we can contribute to supporting veterans. Perhaps it makes that “thank you” sound like we really mean it.

{company} is the trusted choice when it comes to staying ahead of the latest information technology tips, tricks, and news. Contact us at {phone} or send us an email at {email} for more information. Please join us in honoring our veterans on Memorial Day.

How to Organize a Professional Services Business

Trying to systemize a professional services business is different from franchising a less technical operation; however, it is necessary to expand beyond the limiting wall of self-employment into true business ownership. It is possible to expand a personalized services business beyond the capacity of its original partners. Here are some important tips to consider if you are trying to grow past self-employment into a scaled business enterprise.

Modern Business

Automating the System

New CRM, email marketing and administration software makes it possible to automate business processes that previously required manpower. The first step towards the expansion of a professional services business is to take as much of the grunt work out of the creative’s hands as possible. Although there are certain aspects of professional services that cannot be automated, 90% of the work surrounding each account certainly can be.

Even if you want to maintain a system of labor, virtual assistance is cheaper than ever. You now have the ability to outsource to administration companies around the world, call in specialized administration orders every day and have those orders followed without needing the follow-up for the personal attention of the creatives.

Create Tools, Not References, For Employees.

Any process that you leave in the hands of an employee must be regulated past the point of suggestion. Although you want to challenge employees to put their own thoughts into their work, this should only apply in the case of gathering more business, not rote administration. Until your employees have proven that they can remove you from the process of systems automation and administration and function properly, you should retain their creativity in the background.

Do not create operations manuals for your employees. Create an entire system in which you can place any administrator without a loss of efficiency. The best example of this would be a five-star restaurant with a chef that makes specialized dishes, but a wait staff with a regimented form for taking and reporting orders.

Consistently Analyze Your Process.

You are unlikely to get your system correct on the first try. As much as you will try to automate the business aspects of your professional services, you will likely leave some aspect of your administration that is fully able to be automated out of the system. Forgive yourself; after all, you are a creative at heart. However, take every opportunity to advance the automation in your system so you can expand offices into locations without your physical presence.

A Look at Whether CEOs Should Be Held Accountable for Data Breaches

Should company executives be held accountable for data breaches? It is a question currently being asked in business and legal circles around the world. The threat of digital security breaches is quickly ramping upward as we hurtle forward into the age of the Internet and the computerization of just about everything.

About One-Third of IT Managers Support Holding Executives Accountable for Data Breaches

A recent study performed by the market research company Vanson Bourne shows that there is moderate support amongst IT managers and office workers throughout the United Kingdom for holding executives accountable for meaningful data breaches. The details about the Vanson Bourne survey are as follows. Questions about cyber security and CEO accountability were asked of 250 information technology decision makers and 500 office workers throughout the United Kingdom. The responses to the survey are a clear sign that IT experts have sympathy for executives who are blindsided by a digital attack that exposes sensitive data to malicious parties. After all, modern day hackers are willing to go to great lengths to access private data.

CEO Data Breach

The bottom line is that cyber attacks are becoming a regular occurrence across the world. Large organizations are especially vulnerable to digital hacks. Nearly one-quarter of IT decision makers at large companies believe that their company will be hit with a cyber attack within the next three months. As these attacks continue to increase, more and more people will echo sentiments like those expressed in the above referenced VMware survey. IT departments can only do so much. In many instances, relying on outside IT security expertise is necessary to handle all of the fall out from these increasingly complex cyber attacks.

An Alternate Take on the Survey’s Results

Some will take the data provided by the Vanson Bourne study and argue that executives from the ranks of the CEO to the board of directors and C-suite should be held more accountable in the future. There is some credence to the argument, as the survey results do show that nearly one-third of IT leaders believe that executives should be held accountable. If this percentage continues to increase in the future, there will likely be a groundswell of support for penalizing executives whose organizations suffer a significant digital attack that results in a data breach.

An Ever-Evolving Threat

The survey’s results also show that IT decision makers are concerned about their organizations’ ability to stay up to date with the complexities of the highly dynamic digital world. Nearly 40 percent of respondents answered that their organizations’ vulnerabilities will remain under threat, as their defenses can’t adjust quickly enough. It is no longer acceptable to be reactive when it comes to the prevention of data breaches and other digital attacks. Organizations must be proactive to safeguard their sensitive data or, eventually, executives might be held accountable for large-scale data breaches.

Possible Solutions

Allying with IT security experts is the best way to proactively protect private information. Some recommend a software-driven approach to IT that incorporates security measures into just about every aspect of the system. Executives should not hesitate to spend the time and resources necessary to train their employees on digital security matters. A whopping 55 percent of the Vanson Bourne survey respondents answered that an organization’s cyber security is indeed under threat due to employee carelessness or ignorance.

{company}

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Good IT Security Means Stronger Client Relationships  

The relationship between a lawyer and their client is based on trust and confidence. Most clients assume their lawyers use the best cyber security available, and they believe their confidential information will never be lost or stolen. Law firms who work with a qualified, experienced IT management service can have rest assured they are doing everything possible to make sure this is true.

Lawyer Computer

However, they first have to be aware just how vulnerable their law firm is, and because cybersecurity attacks are often not publicized, it can lead to the impression that the threat to security is minimal, resulting in complacency.

Law firms are extremely attractive targets for hackers because they have an abundance of valuable information, such as corporate personnel data, confidential health details, financial records, corporate trade secrets and business strategies. Regulation of this sensitive material has tightened, while vulnerabilities continue to surface, making it a never-ending exercise in plugging holes.

That’s why it’s important to be proactive and to invest in the right IT team who understands the specific needs of a law firm.

In addition to bad publicity, damage to the firm’s reputation, fines, and possible lawsuits, there can be the additional expense of contacting affected parties to inform them of a breach and forensic investigations to determine the cause and impact of the problem.

At the very least, a breach is a distraction, taking the firm’s attorneys away from the work they contracted to do for clients while they pursue resolution.

Lawyers are charged with keeping current with the risks and vulnerabilities connected with new technology, and they have an ethical obligation to prevent the access or disclosure of client data. The best way to do that is to work with an IT team that specializes in technology designed expressly for law firms.

While hackers present a major risk, the threat can come from within or without.

Comprehensive security monitoring can spot a problem before it turns into a serious situation, and managing vulnerability keeps your firm in line with compliance mandates.

The right IT company can provide customized solutions, around-the-clock responsive support, and a variety of solutions designed to fit your specific needs. Dependable cloud storage on secure servers can ensure the firm can continue operating while addressing the issues arising from the breach.

Partnering with an IT service that understands how to protect crucial data assures clients that the law firm they trust places a priority on their privacy, respects their confidentiality, and cares about protecting their information. This leads to stronger client relationships, increased business, and more client referrals.

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How Offering Free WiFi Increases Your Bottom Line

WiFi has become so common that today’s customers expect it to be available. If it’s not, their impression is that your business is outdated and they may go elsewhere. However, if you’ve been on the fence about adding WiFi, you might be surprised to learn there are very good reasons to act now.

Restaurant Free WIFI

WiFi increases your bottom line. It leads to:

  • A better experience. Connected customers report higher satisfaction with their experience in your establishment. When they are happy, they are more likely to come back and bring their friends, creating repeat business and growing your customer base.
  • A preferred environment. Groups often pick a restaurant or coffee shop based on whether they offer WiFi, and use these locations as community hubs for gatherings, meetings, and social events. This brings new people to your location, who can, in turn, become returning customers, building loyalty.
  • Longer visits and higher sales. Customers tend to spend more time in your business, and consequently purchase more than if they didn’t linger.
  • Quicker purchasing decisions. Customers use WiFi when making decisions to buy, researching pricing while in the store and comparing products. Price-matching can ensure your customer stays in your store rather than shopping around, and purchases from you.
  • Less frustration. Every business has times when the consumer has to wait, but those who can use their time in a positive way feel less stress and aggravation when there are delays.

Get the best WiFi available.

Slow WiFi can wipe out all the possible benefits of offering it in the first place. Consumers see WiFi as part of your business and a reliable system that is fast, even with multiple users, enhances your company’s reputation.

Safety is everyone’s concern, so it’s crucial to protect your data. Keep the business WiFi separate from the customer-accessed WiFi so you don’t compromise your network. Choose a company that offers strong security, sufficient bandwidth, and reliable service to keep breaches at bay.

Take advantage of the branding opportunities.

Make the most of the connection with a strong branding impression, from the public name of the network to the portal page that might ask for a Facebook “like” or offer a coupon or promotion prior to logging on. Once they log on, you can continue the relationship through emails, special offers, and social media.

Target customer needs.

The final significant advantage is the ability to monitor and track customer activity. Businesses can see where customers go in the store, what items they are searching for on the internet, and even deliver targeted offers.

Our technology and marketing services provide a reliable, secure WiFi system, as well as maintain and troubleshoot any issues. With {company}, offering WiFi is the right choice to make now. It’s time to get off the fence and into the game.

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Let’s Not Let Cyber Dangers Eat Our Young

Children Internet SafetyYour 7th grader used the family computer this evening for homework. You are a diligent parent and take all the precautions you can to keep your child safe from predators, online bullies and hackers. The computer monitor is always in plain sight and you subscribe to a service that monitors your child’s online activity.

During the homework session, your child receives an interesting looking e-mail from a classmate. The e-mail says something like, “Hey! Look at these great photos of The Bieb at his last concert! They are radical! Take a look and tell me what you think.”

The photos have innocent looking .jpg file extensions, but they are booby-trapped executable files that take your child to a site somewhere in the Ukraine, whereupon your family computer and all its data – everything – becomes the latest victim of ransomware.

Social Engineers End-run Safeguards–Time for Another Talk

The foregoing scenario is a classic example of how hackers look for vulnerable targets in seeking victims, stealing identities and bilking millions of dollars from private citizens and businesses. You may have taken the precaution of installing the best virus protection software, but your child became a victim of an end-run through a social engineering hack.

You’ve had the talk with your child about online predators and never disclosing personal information on line. It’s now time for a second talk on cybersecurity with overtones of protection against social engineering. Before you do, read up on the basics and the threats. This security tip by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team is a good starting point.

What to talk about

Here are 3 points you can cover in protecting your child from social engineering:

1. Always be suspicious. A healthy skepticism and awareness of common tricks (phishing, etc.) will overcome curiosity. Caution your child to never click on a link in an e-mail, even if it is from a friend.

2. Repeat this: never give out any confidential or personal information. Remind your child that no website or commercial service will ever solicit personal information, user names, or passwords unless the user is actually logging in. That “Log in here” link in the fake e-mail will likely lead to an equally fake landing page.

3. Don’t use the same password for every website. Likewise, go for strong passwords that are easy to remember, but hard to guess. Click on over to this piece by ConnectSafely.com on devising effective passwords.

Smartphones are everywhere, but security awareness isn’t.

Finally, remember that with the proliferation of smartphones, our children consume technology at an unprecedented rate. They just tap their screen and go web surfing with little or no regard to security awareness and with scant training to guide their behavior.

When out and about with their heads bowed and thumbs working on those smartphone screens, they need to be reminded that:

  • Their phones are part of a family network and could be a doorway to trouble. The smartphone, tablet, laptop and desktop devices that the family owns are interconnected. For example, a smartphone can be one way to breach a home alarm system.
  • A simple screen lock could be a lifesaver if the child loses or misplaces the smartphone or tablet.

The World Wide Web and the information age are now older than most children who are becoming increasingly tech-savvy, but are not necessarily security conscious. Parents need to take on the role of senior and experienced net denizens. Children, after all, tend to display the sincerest form of flattery to their parents: youngsters imitate good example.

And now a word from our sponsor…

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Bank Policies that Put Private Financial Data at Risk

Cyber attacks. They dominate many of the headlines and we read and hear about them almost daily. Many of us have been the targets of such attacks.

Each day the stark reality of a data breach remains a sobering thought for businesses of all sizes. Government officials, the media and business leaders repeat that cyber attacks are not a matter of if, but when, and the apparent efforts to defend against them seem to be a step behind the cyber criminals. Unfortunately, most organizations will not discover they have been hacked until after the damage is done.

Banking Computers

As data breaches and cybersecurity incidents continue to grow in size, frequency and cost, relying upon internal security measures are not an option for small- to medium-sized businesses. Being prepared to defend takes a collective effort and collective accountability. The government, consumers, financial institutions, businesses and regulators must make cybersecurity a top priority to create a safer environment.

Outdated Banking Policies that Put your Data at Risk

This leads us to a look at banking policies that have not kept up with the increasingly sophisticated methods of attack. Most Americans keep their money in financial institutions for safety and security. However, they might be surprised to learn that one banking policy in particular which is designed to protect their data and money may actually put their information at risk. This is the minimum password requirements. In fact, most banks have less rigorous password requirements than other industry sectors including social media.

Surprising Results

A research group surveyed the password requirements of 17 banks. The survey raised concerns about the password requirements of 6 of these banks: Citibank, Wells Fargo, Chase, Capital One, BB&T, and Webster First Federal Credit Union. These 6 financial institutions had flimsy policies that failed to meet baseline industry standards, and they represent approximately 350 million account holders.

In addition, the survey discovered that these banks did not call for differentiation between lower and upper case letters for account holder passwords. In other words, the policies did not require case-sensitivity for passwords. The failure of financial institutions to support strong passwords is both troubling and surprising. Most people naturally make use of both cases when writing, especially when typing in passwords. However, banks often fail to mandate stronger passwords, thus putting the security of financial data and sensitive personal information at risk.

Another Disturbing Discovery

The survey found another disturbing discovery beyond the issue of case-sensitive passwords. The financial institutions had no established, user-friendly methods for consumers and businesses to report security issues. Many had no email addresses or listed phone numbers to report unauthorized activity. In fact, the researchers had to contact the financial institutions of the weakness by using their phone hotlines. Bank representatives did not seem to understand the survey team’s concerns or the potential for critical security breaches. In addition, they failed to notify their own security or IT departments or seem to understand the important need to do so.

So what do I recommend for businesses trying to keep data safe and secure? Certainly, patronize a financial institution that has at a minimum stringent password requirements and have open channels for businesses and consumers to report problems to the bank.

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