Mental Health in the Workplace

Stress and burnout are something I hear a lot of my peers in IT talk about (or certainly write about in forums).  Quite often it is spoken about as if being stressed is something to be proud of or brag about, and I’ve seen it lead to people “burning out” first hand. I was keen to […]

Podcast with Rachel Hayward – Small Business 100

I had a great opportunity to catch up with Rachel Hayward (from Ask the Chameleon), who appeared in our very first Car Share Podcast. Since our first Podcast together, Rachel has applied to be part of the Small Business 100, and Ask the Chameleon has been selected!

Car Share Podcast – East Midlands Chamber’s Summer Celebration

In the run up to the East Midlands Chamber’s Summer Celebration event, Amanda Strong (from Mercia Image Print) posted on LinkedIn offering a car share.  At the time of the offer, our first Car Share Podcast wasn’t quite live, but by the time the event came around we had just published – so I was a bit cheeky and asked Amanda and Sarah Loates (from LoatesHR) if they’d like to take part in a new one.

They kindly agreed and we recorded our chat on the way back from the event, where we discussed what we take the word “entrepreneur” to means to each of us, and some of the challenges that people face when running a business.

 

I would’ve loved to include the whole conversation, but the journey was a good 30 minutes, so I’ve edited it all down to 11 minutes for a single podcast.

I’m still on the look out for topics for new podcasts, along with guests to take part.  If you have any suggestions, or would like to get involved (it doesn’t have to be in a car :)) please feel free to get in touch.

Owen

Car Share – Podcast

Rachel Hayward from Ask the Chameleon, Marco Fappiano from Motion Vehicles and I did a car share to the Derbyshire Police’s Marketing Derby Event, and we thought it might be fun to do a sort of Podcast.

With that in mind, we all met up, got in the car and put the mic on to see how it went.  Apologies for the road noise on this one, I promise our next “episode” will be a lot better.

On the way to the event, we had a chat about what “business networking” is, our experiences with it and we shared some tips on how we approach events & talking to new people:

On our way back, we recap’d the event & how we put some of our tidbits from our earlier chat in to play and the effect doing so had:

All in all, I think this went really well for a few reasons:

  • It helped focus our own minds on our marketing strategies
  • We all learned something from each other
  • In a really small way, we helped reduce our environmental impact by sharing a car for a journey

As and when the opportunity presents itself again, we’ll definitely be doing this again.  (Lessons have been learned about how to cut out the road noise as well, so bear with us. :))

If you’ve got a topic you’d like our views on, or you want to take part in a Car Chat yourself, please feel free to get in touch.

Practical Cyber Security Tips

I was asked to give a 10-15 minute presentation (or talk of sorts) at the Gone Fishing 4 Business network group around practical tips and things people could do in order to improve their own cyber security.

The session itself became very interactive and overran quite a bit, so I won’t go in to the full detail here, but the highlights we discussed were:

Cyber Essentials

This is a UK Government scheme aimed at helping small businesses (1 – 250 employees) practical and simple steps to take to improve their standing in terms of cyber security.

Cyber Essentials is backed by an accreditation which comes in 2 parts, Cyber Essentials & Cyber Essentials Plus.  The first is pretty basic and is ultimately a self-assessment questionnaire that an organisation can submit along with a small fee (£300 at time of writing) to become accredited.

The basic 5 points of Cyber Essentials are:

  1. Updates & Patches
  2. Least Privilege
  3. Perimeter Security
  4. Modern Antivirus
  5. Strong Passwords

The website (www.cyberessentials.ncsc.gov.uk) goes in to more detail, but that is the essence of Cyber Essentials.  From our point of view, these are very simple steps and a great start (note: this is by no means an exhaustive approach to cyber security).

Cyber Essentials Plus takes this further and involves a 3rd party, but (at time of writing) the extra steps involved aren’t as openly discussed.

Passwords

On the handout I passed around I had printed out a list of the 50 most common passwords.  I’ll save you from the eyesore that was a lot of “123456” and “password1” type entries and get to the point: How can you create secure passwords?

You’ll need 2 things. 1st, you’ll need an approach for setting unique passwords, so why not #ThinkRandom?

  • 3 Random Words
  • Mix upper and lower cases
  • Add a number
  • Use spaces, hyphens & underscores

For example:

Cardigan-purple 12_CLOVES

That’s a password with 25 characters, capitals, lowercase, numbers and specials (& you’ve probably already memorised it).

Note: Please do not use that example, I’m using it everywhere, so it will probably make it on to the “list of things to try” pretty quickly.

Secondly, you’ll need somewhere to store all of those unique passwords.

We use KeePass ourselves, but there are others (try searching for “Password manager”).  KeePass even has a tool in it to create random passwords of a given length, and it will copy & paste them for us!  So we can create 50 character passwords that we don’t need to remember.

Sidebar: Why are unique passwords so important?

The issue with using the same password for everything (a.k.a. password reuse), is exactly that: I’m using it everywhere.

My password for the super secure bank  I use is pointless if it’s the same as the password I use for the weakly protected volunteer sports league I go to.

This is because attackers won’t waste their effort on highly secure targets, but because it is a lot easier to attack weaker targets and expose information, they will try it.  If they attack the sports league and my password is exposed, the attacker will try it everywhere (be that my email or my bank) as they know generally people reuse passwords quite often.

This is why you need a different password for each different service you use (not even just 3 or 4 you cycle through).  You can change the pattern of words (like using a different colour) or just let something like KeePass take the hassle for you.

Taking IT Further

Taking Cyber Essentials as the base I’d then recommend all businesses undertake the following as the bare-minimum when it comes to their technology:

  • Backups (following the 3-2-1 rule)

So, what’s this “3-2-1 rule”?

A backup can only be thought of (and relied on) as a “backup” if there are 3 different copies of a file, on 2 different types of storage media (e.g. a hard drive, a USB drive, a tape or “the cloud”) with 1 of those copies being off-site.  For example this can be:

  • Planning for refresh cycles

At the event I asked people to think about their cars, and I asked for hands up of those people still driving the same car after 3 years, then 5 years and finally 7 years.  There was only one hand left up at the end.

My point?

A computer (be it a desktop or laptop) that is used day in day out needs to be thought of as a tool (much like a car), and tools have a useful life.  With that said, different types of IT equipment have different useful life periods, so it’s hard to create a hard and fast rule, but the budget for the business should have refresh cycles planned in to it.

  • Engage Experts Early

It’s important to engage experts in their area as early as you can.  The early you bring these people up to speed in your world & what is going on, the earlier they can get solutions together and the more time they have to be creative to work around constraints you’re facing.  This goes for pretty much any contextual element of a business, not just IT.  For example, there’s not a lot an Accountant can help with in terms of tax planning when you’ve already sold your house.

I know this is a long post.  If it’s prompted any questions that haven’t been answered, please feel free to get in touch.

 

Page 56!

We’ve just had our copy of the East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire) directory through the post. 

Being on Page 56 wasn’t planned by us – but well done to the layout designer!  (I’m very impressed, there’s no way that came down to random chance!)

Marketing Derby Welcome Pack Arrives!

Generally speaking I’m always excited by receiving post (simply because it becomes rarer and rarer as technology marches on).  Even invoices and bills don’t tend to come through the post any more.

Anyway, since winning the Rising Star Award a few weeks ago, I’ve been more keen than ever to keep checking the post box…and today our welcome pack arrived!

We’ve got the certificate up and on the wall, and I’ve got the upcoming events pencilled in my calendar already (I like to think I have my priorities in order).

I’m looking forward to the various events, and the things I’ll be learning about from the different Bondholders over the coming months.

Why awards can help you win big

This is one of those things that I never thought would be happening.

I arranged a one-to-one with Mary Maguire, and during our meeting we got talking about business awards and us recently winning Marketing Derby’s Rising Star award.  Mary mentioned that she had been asked to write an article on the topic and asked if it’d be ok to interview me for the article.

Fast forward and as I’m browsing through my copy of the Chamber’s “Network” magazine I spotted a very familiar face!

Keeping on track with the article, I think this is a great example of how business awards can be incredibly powerful for increasing a brand.

Bake Sale – £10 Challenge from MS Society Derby

 

A few weeks ago Ade Litherland gave *me* £10 as part of fundraising for the MS Society Derby & their activity centre.

That’s right a *charity* gave *me* money…and a challenge: “Come back to me with as much as you can make from that initial £10 in 4 weeks”.

 

 

With that in mind, we’ve just wrapped up on hosting a Bake Sale at our office to help raise funds for the MS Activity Centre in Derby.

Overall, with a little bit of seed money & some lovely donations from Steve SammansCollette Sammans and Philippa Bowen, we raised just over £215 in total.  

That’s massive and will go a long way to help the MS Activity Centre. All through the power of cakes!

We’ll definitely be doing another one next year 🙂

Marketing Derby – Rising Star Award

Marketing Derby - Rising Star Announcement

 

At today’s Marketing Derby Annual Business Event (#ABE2018) it was announced that we have been awarded this year’s Rising Star award!

It’s incredible to be recognised as this year’s Rising Star.

Being a Bondholder allows us an opportunity to raise the profile of Code 56 in the Derby business community.  Being awarded the Rising Star allows us to do this in an accelerated fashion that I’m truly grateful for.

To make the very most of being the Rising Star, my intention is to attend as many events as possible and get an event of our own (or co-hosted) on the waiting list.  I’d love to promise to be at every event, but I know that is not a realistic promise to make.

I see this as an excellent way to get to know fellow Bondholders and develop strategic partnerships where we can help each other meet and exceed our goals.  As well as the opportunities that being a Bondholder will present for us, I’m keen for us to use our “How can we help” attitude with wider Marketing Derby activities where we can help promote Derby.