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Why We’re Fighting the Good Fight For Small Business
Steve Banke, CEO 3points
Picture Winston Churchill’s bulldog face, the characteristic cigar hanging from his mouth, as he bellows one of my favorite quotes, “When you are going through Hell, KEEP GOING!”
I lived by that quote a few years back. More on that in a bit.
Yes, Mr. Churchill, 3Points is fighting the good fight. Our rallying cry champions every small business owner in Illinois.
Since 2011, our company has been an active member of the Small Business Advocacy Council (SBAC). This Chicago-based organization channels one loud, collective voice for small business through political advocacy, special events and educational programming. When we joined the SBAC, there were 50 members. Today, there are 1,100 and growing, making us one of the largest business associations in the State of Illinois.
So, when you engage 3Points, you invest in more than just technology expertise. We relentlessly work to improve the climate for small businesses here in Illinois. As one of eight people who lead the SBAC, I devote a substantial amount of time to causes important to small business owners. I have visited Springfield and Washington D.C. many times, and fought for small business rights in front of legislators, bureaucrats and lobbyists.
Why am I doing this? Here is the backstory. When 3Points started, Kevin Doyle and I decided to do one thing really well, and that was to provide enterprise class IT services exclusively to small businesses. As we got deeper into the market, we made a startling discovery. Not to borrow too much from Rodney Dangerfield, but small business gets no respect from Illinois legislators, who received an “F” for their small business acumen according to Thumbtack’s annual Small Business Friendliness survey.
3Points felt passionate about standing up for our clients, and ourselves, and we wanted to play an active role in finding ways to improve the economic climate for small businesses throughout Illinois. What we found was a void that was begging to be filled and an organization called the SBAC that was on the front lines of the war. When others were running away from the fight, the SBAC was running into it. We liked what we saw. In 2011, we joined the SBAC and never looked back.
Today, there are 35 other states with like-minded organizations. Uniting all of us is the National Small Business Association (NSBA), which is the nation’s longest running small business advocacy group (78 years young with 150,000 members). Earlier this year, many of us gathered in Arizona for the Small Business Congress where we crafted and voted on recommendations that are currently being pursued in the 114th Session of the U.S. Congress.
Results come when small businesses band together. The power of critical mass behind the SBAC has created an advocacy army with one distinct voice carrying the flag for small business. As a client of 3Points, you are already with us, investing in this fight and empowering small businesses like yours throughout Illinois. Thank you.
As for Churchill’s quote, we poignantly embraced his words when we joined the SBAC. There were no legislators willing to support our ideas or champion our cause. It was as if we were transparent to them, even though we kept showing up with more and more support. Eventually, our voices got so loud they had to be heard.
Now, several years later, we represent the voice of small business for dozens of local chambers, and business associations, throughout the State of Illinois. The SBAC is regularly asked to comment on legislation that is making its way through the halls of Springfield and Washington D.C., and we have authored bills that are now the law of the land. All of these good things happened because when the chips were down, we found a way to just keep going.
You see, we were, and continue to be, a small business. We’re just like you. We “get” it.
In the next post, we’ll talk about three notable SBAC initiatives, underway right now on a federal, state and local level.
Steve Banke is founder and CEO of 3Points, LLC. Stay tuned for future articles on small business topics in both the 3Points newsletter and blog posts. If you want to know more about the SBAC, email Steve or call him at (708) 491-0300.
Why Office 365 Might Help You Outperform Last Year’s Numbers
Mike Magnesen, 3Points Tech Team
We are all competitive creatures. From the inaugural kick of a soccer ball to our pursuit of a higher GPA, we take our thirst to be first right into the workplace. And nobody works harder to be in the winner’s circle than small business owners. You put yourself out there to earn the business, rally employees and keep work flowing better than your competitors in order to improve that P&L. In one respect, small business heroes mostly compete with themselves. The question: “How do we outperform last year?” gets tossed around again and again for one important reason: That’s how companies grow.
Well, Office 365 just might be one of your most overlooked secret weapons.
About half of 3Points’ maintenance clients use the cloud-based software primarily for email (customers under Microsoft’s E3 Plan get the latest version of this popular software suite automatically). The ranks are growing monthly. Funny thing about Office 365 suite, though: The majority of users underutilize its full potential. Office 365 is a complete office suite of tools. Its built-in functionality allows users to accomplish more, oftentimes faster and easier. Here are three little known facts about how Office 365 might help you outperform last year’s numbers:
1. Collaborate Anytime, Anywhere. No, We Really Mean It.
Only 25 percent of 3Points’ clients are taking advantage of Skype for Business (formerly known as Lync), an enterprise-grade communications platform included in Office 365. Hear me out on this one because it’s something that could change the way you do business and save you valuable time.
Skype for Business syncs with my Outlook calendar. This feature is like having an invisible secretary. People trying to reach me immediately know if I’m busy. They then may redirect their questions to someone else or wait until I’m free. (Only 5 percent of users are aware of this particular feature.)
Also, Skype for Business is great for instant collaboration spread out across different locations. Within Outlook, press the button under the appointment tab that says SKYPE MEETING. Then join the link/phone number to join in. We do this all the time at 3Points. Everyone arrives first thing in the morning at our two locations, and connect over coffee and fresh energy for the day (if you’ve used GoToMeeting, you’ll love Skype even more).
We use this application for training and client meetings, too. Recording sessions multiplies Skype’s benefits tenfold as people have the option to remotely watch feeds live or save for later viewing. Isn’t it great that nobody has to miss an important meeting?
At 3Points, we are seeing a major shift from silo work to collaborative work. Using Skype for Business is cool because it creates a more personal experience for people and offers fast resolution via conversation as opposed to the static, and sometimes lengthy, back and forth of email.
2. Putting Everything in One Place Means More People are in the Know
Many of you are familiar with project management software applications like Trello, Basecamp, Wrike, Smartsheet, and others. The beauty with these is that everything is in one spot. Oh, you’re preparing the annual report over the weekend, you say? Access images, a projected sales and revenues chart, and the big CEO interview from the project card marked “Annual Report.” It’s like a big filing cabinet in the cloud for authorized users. SharePoint Online is the same concept. Honestly, it’s a small businessperson’s dream (and one that middle market and large enterprise companies have been living for a long time).
Think of it as the National Archives for your company. SharePoint Online centralizes your policies and procedures, sales decks, security access and framework, internal or external website, your logo and other branded images, Excel online docs, and training docs. At 3Points, we put all our set-up guides on SharePoint Online so our high standards are repeatable by everyone across the company. The different color boxes feed my need for visual cues.
Just this week, I pulled up Excel on my iPhone, entered my weekly metrics in the doc and posted it on SharePoint so everybody could see my progress real-time. SharePoint gives visibility into your company and breaks down barriers and excuses to understanding how and where your company is growing.
Wondering about Dropbox? In some instances, it’s still a great choice. Hate to be noncommittal, but that call is truly situation-dependent. Contact your account manager to inquire about a small SharePoint Online site set-up, and we’ll help you figure it out.
3. Save Money and Space
OK, we promised to help you outperform last year’s numbers and that means impacting your P&L. With OneDrive for Business, another Office 365 feature, every user gets 1 terabyte of space in the cloud. How does this impact the bottom line? Use less storage space on your online backup (which saves you money) and on your server (which saves you space). It’s also easy to use: Just redirect OneDrive for Business and point it to MY DOCUMENTS. Then, pull up all the documents you want. 3Points is currently using OneDrive for Business internally, however there are known syncing issues that Microsoft is aware of and working on resolving so it may not be for everyone right now. If you would like to track the progress of these fixes, see the Office 365 Roadmap link below for more details about what’s been released, what’s coming soon, and what maybe didn’t make the cut.
Has this blog post transformed you into an Office 365 fanatic? You can follow the latest updates at Office 365 Roadmap.
Right now, for example, there are 22 “fully-released updates” available to customers and 29 slated for roll out soon. Exciting!
Now, if checking app updates isn’t right up there with following the Hawks or Bears, you’re in luck! 3Points is hosting the Office 365 for Small Businesses webinar on December 9. Short, sweet and to the point, we’ll outline the Office 365 suite and take questions live. Or, go ahead and tap your account manager’s shoulder to get some one-on-one help through onsite visits or the 3Points help desk. As for the latest versions: Mac users will be good to go next July when your 2016 version comes out. For all others, it debuted this Sept.
Mike Magnesen leads the 3Points Operations Team and is a member of Tech Team, a group dedicated to research and development of new technology for small business. Connect with him at
mmagnesen@3Points.com or 708.546.4945.
3Pointer: 5 (Shocking) Trends That Confirm: BYOD is Here to Stay
The new guy sitting at the small business conference table is Bring Your Own Device (or BYOD for short—a concept similar to BYOB, but not nearly as much fun). One thing about BYOD you should take note of: he’s not going away.
By 2020, it’s expected that 60% of employees will use BYOD, a policy where company employees use their “personal” smartphones, tablets, or other mobile devices for work purposes (IT ProPortal). The concept is economical and convenient for both employer and employee. After all, why invest in technology that people already have?
At first pass, BYOD for small business is a win-win. Take another look though, and the topic gets a bit murky thanks to eyebrow-raising changes emerging in the United States court system.
Over the last 18 months, the courts have begun developing case law (law established by the outcome of previous cases) on BYOD. The intent is to define the parameters of company systems, and data, on personal devices. Case law is important because it sets precedents for future court cases. Based on legal work to date, here are five emerging trends you should know.
More and More employers are allowing employees using their own devices (BYOD) on the company network. There are two types BYOD situations. First is the unsanctioned BYOD device, where an employee wants email on their phone for their own convenience. Typically, this is not a considered a reimbursable expense by the employer as it’s more of an understanding that productivity and workplace communication will now be easier for the employee. In contrast, some employers require employees to use their own mobile devices for business, and typically provide some type of reimbursable incentive. This is called sanctioned BYOD. Lookout, a cybersecurity company out of San Francisco, just completed the State of Federal BYOD survey. The results show how unsanctioned BYOD poses security risks (insert Hillary Clinton’s email debacle here). Consider this: 24% of Federal employees send work documents to their personal emails accounts and nearly 40% are “willing to sacrifice government security to use a personal mobile device at work” despite the risks of cybersecurity (Lookout). For small business, the lesson is to make sure you understand and define BYOD polices from the get-go.
Companies must reimburse employees who use their own devices. According to the courts, not reimbursing your employees for use of their cellphones is called involuntary wage reduction. What happens when you violate this policy? You risk a lawsuit, which you then have to disclose. It’s costly, and a judgment against you remains on your company’s record forever.
Companies have the right to wipe all personal data off a BYOD device. Having your device wiped clean is a risk that employees take when they agree to use their mobile device on the company network. Since business data resides on personal devices, an employer has the option to remove it if the employee quits, is terminated, or the device is lost. If an employer deletes an employee’s “personal” data while wiping a device, the courts have ruled in many cases that the employer is not liable. (Backup those pictures from Hawaii)
Electronic holds are legal. If an employer is involved in a lawsuit, and there is email, financial or other electronic data housed on a BYOD device, an electronic hold may be placed on that device by the courts, even if the employee is no longer employed by the company. This creates a challenging situation for employers and employees, and can lead to sanctions by the courts if the legal holds are not honored.
After-hours work is now a sanctioned environment. If you require an hourly employee to monitor their phone after work hours then he or she must be paid for it. In these instances, hourly employees (those who are paid on an hourly basis) may be eligible for overtime pay.
As technology experts, we constantly reevaluate BYOD because it is a workplace tool in flux. Our end goal is to make sure productivity and security remain high and our employees are happy with the policy too. While we have no crystal ball, we do see more blurred lines emerging between home and work when it comes to technology. How those lines converge will be something 3Points pledges to share with you in the days ahead.
If you would like to learn more about the BYOD solutions 3-Points is planning to provide, please contact your account manager or the 3Points sales department at (708) 491-0300. Or feel free to email us.
1. T ProPortal, “BYOD: What to Expect in 2015,” by Abby Perkins, January 24, 2015.
2. Lookout, “Lookout Study: Nearly 40 Percent of Government Employees Ignore Policies Prohibiting Mobile Device Use, Put Sensitive Data at Risk” press release, August 19, 2015.
Product Focus: Windows 10 Update
Mike Magnesen, 3Points Tech Team
From a technology perspective, it feels like my birthday. My cake (angel food with vanilla frosting, just in case you were wondering) has 10 candles on it … as in Windows 10. It. Is. Here.
For months now, I’ve been playing with Windows 10 beta versions and having a ball doing it. When I got the final release mid-summer, I tossed my Windows 8.1 aside like a tattered pair of Chuck Taylor high tops. Windows 10, how do I say you’re the best of the past and future? Well, you are. I love having the start menu back (Windows 8.1 users, rejoice!)—a savvy mash-up of the traditional menu format and metro tiles. Cortana, you’re so intuitive as a personal assistant; you just seem to “get” me. Bye, bye, Internet Explorer, I grieve not for you. Edge edged you out. Oh, and I would be remiss to not address Continuum, a Windows 10 feature that sports seamless integration across all my devices. Makes my life flow easier, that’s for sure.
A bit more detail on what makes these upgrades sing. First, virtual assistant Cortana can be configured for voice activation, allowing you to just say “Hey Cortana!” followed by a command like “Remind me to dial up Frank next week.” Honestly, it makes Siri look downright feeble-minded; Cortana is much more intuitive.
Also, Windows 10 gives you interaction with your PC similar to the kind you’re used to with your phone. The Edge browser may be the first suitor worthy of prying you away from Chrome (or Firefox and Safari, all heavy users of memory and server resources). You’ll be pleasantly surprised by Edge’s minimalistic overhaul, enhanced security, and less resource-intensive features.
A few housekeeping notes: the actual upgrade process is easy. Windows 10’s minimum system requirements are about the same as Windows 8.1. Before upgrading, consider: are your applications currently Windows 10 compatible and supported (if you’re not sure, we can tell you this)? If your apps worked and were compatible in Windows 8.1, they’re likely going to be compatible with Windows 10. HOWEVER, that does not mean that your third-party support vendor will support Windows 10 just yet. By far, this is one of the most important question to ask before running the update.
Ok, so I’ve gone through all the gotcha’s. Let’s say you know that your system is supported and can run Windows 10. What now?
Use the search feature on your start menu and click or type “Get Windows 10.” Find the upgrade app, then click “Reserve Your Free Upgrade” to join the upgrade queue. If you don’t see it, you may need to ensure all of your Windows updates are current. If you’re still having challenges, call us!
The upgrades take about 20 to 40 minutes depending on your setup. The cool thing is, it hardly requires any interaction (although you can’t use the computer while it’s upgrading). The download itself is about 4 to 5GB so the longest part may be just downloading Windows 10 (20 minutes to a couple hours, depending upon your Internet connection).
Of course, the big wow is that WINDOWS 10 IS FREE for the first year for almost all Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users! After the first year, the Professional Edition will cost $200. Microsoft may extend the free period but, for now, that’s the plan from the folks in Redmond, Washington.
CRITCAL NOTE: If you are using your PC in a work environment, 3Points recommends that you wait to upgrade to Windows 10. There may be many incompatibilities that exist in a business network that may not be apparent on your PC. Please contact 3Points for advice on whether or not upgrading to Windows 10 is appropriate for you.
1. See a great, in-depth review of Windows 10 and find out why it scored 91 out of a hundred by Engadget.
2. Read a good, quick Windows 10 overview.
3. Read a Windows 10 article from Small Business Computing.
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