This is the second in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) nine lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each lesson has application in the current health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.
For years, fitness experts have been telling us that stressing our muscles makes them stronger. When we hit a fitness plateau, we’re told to challenge ourselves. Run a little farther, lift a little more weight, change our routine. That change is inevitably painful, but our bodies adapt. And after the discomfort, they are improved – faster, stronger, more resilient.
The same principle applies to the “fitness” of a business. A successful enterprise often falls into routine habits of doing business, just like a fitness plateau. Innovation and creativity are set aside in favor of “business as usual.”
Today’s economic challenges can seem like a too-heavy lift, unless we think of them as an opportunity for improvement. We have a chance to break out of the routine, dust off our creativity, and invent new strategies for business success. Consider some of the new ways you might do business:
- Make telecommuting a permanent part of your operations. Support teleworkers with electronics and remotely-accessed imaged documents. You’ll reduce the number of workers in the office and keep that ideal 6-foot separation.
- Re-shape your facility’s interior to accommodate social distancing.Condense your documents and supplies into a high-density storage system that reduces storage space and provides more area for personal space.
- Establish additional services or products to bolt on to your current ones. For example, add delivery to manufacturing, as many restaurants have. Or add installation to design, as some interior-fixtures companies are planning.
This period in our history may feel like an enforced “time-out.” But like switching up our fitness routines, today we have an opportunity to apply our innovative instincts, do something different, make a change, and grow stronger. Break out your business imagination!
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The benefits of digital asset management (DAM), including RFID, are a hot topic these days. RFID applications are available for any sort of business. But owners and managers of organizations in the service sectors, from finance and law to healthcare and education, may think RFID is just an inventory tool for the retail and logistics sectors.
If you think your enterprise couldn’t benefit from RFID, think again.
- Asset Tracking – Ever notice how there are never enough chairs in the conference room? Furniture, laptops, and other work tools have a way of wandering from their assigned locations. RFID tags keep tabs on the location of these peripatetic items, as well as providing information on their age and condition. Office and facility managers can easily identify aging furnishings that need repairs or replacement, and pinpoint the location of every physical asset. Plus when inventory time comes, the RFID system can deliver a document listing the assigned value of each item currently in the facility, making financial reporting quicker and simpler. What is does it cost your business to update capital inventory records by hand?
- Personnel Tracking – In busy public settings like hospitals or schools, knowing the location of key personnel can save time, or even save a life. RFID-enabled personnel badges keep track of people’s movements and current whereabouts so no time is wasted when someone is urgently needed. RFID personnel badges work with an institution’s security system to manage access to restricted areas and maintain safety. And in emergency situations, an RFID system can tell first responders who is inside and where they are. What is the dollar value of RFID-managed security and safety?
- Document Tracking – We always advocate converting paper documents to digital documents via a well-planned imaging program; imaged documents are secure, shareable with teams, and save the real estate costs of large file rooms. But in many offices there are documents that need to be retained as paper even if they have been imaged. Paper files are easy to lose or misplace (one of the advantages of imaging), but with the addition of small, inconspicuous RFID tags, the location of a file can be tracked throughout an office. Doorway RFID readers monitor the movement of files from one room to another, and files can be located with a quick look at the tracking record. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates an average of 25 extra hours to recreate a lost document; how much would that cost your business?
Keep in mind that RFID, unlike bar codes, doesn’t require direct sight lines to record and track business assets carrying RFID tags. Once items or personnel are assigned their unique RFID tag, doorway readers track their movements automatically as they pass from one room to another. And inventory updates can be as simple as walking into a room and pressing a button on an RFID reader. You’ll instantly collect data on all the capital assets the room contains; no need to look through cabinets and underneath furniture to read bar code IDs. RFID is a timesaver, and like its other benefits, that translates into money.
RFID systems come in many shapes and sizes, and can be scaled up or down to suit your organization’s needs. When you start adding up the costs of lost documents, lost equipment, and lost time, it’s clear that you shouldn’t miss out on the benefits of RFID.
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It’s time to wrap up this year’s business activities, and often it can seem like a mountain of paper has collected while you were tending to your organization’s core mission. To get a fresh start in the new year, you’ll have to deal with all those documents. Conquer the paper mountain by sorting documents into three categories: Scan, File, or Shred.
Scan It – Transform your paper documents into digital assets through a well-designed imaging program. Much more than a simple PDF document, imaged documents offer the advantages of secure information access, speedy information searches, and extraordinary space savings. The National Association of Productivity & Organizing estimates that a four-drawer file cabinet holds 18,000 documents. A single desktop hard drive can store the contents of 100 file cabinets. What could you do with all that extra office space?
File It – Certain original documents simply have to be retained in paper form. However, they don’t have to take up an excess of storage space. Offices can reduce their document storage footprint by 50% with a high-density shelving system that eliminates all but one of the center aisles between file cabinets. Add security features like biometric locks, and your one-of-a-kind documents won’t fall into the wrong hands.
Shred It – Is a document outdated? Or if it’s still relevant, has it been imaged? Or do you have multiple redundant copies of a document? If you answer “Yes” to any of these questions, you may not need to hold on to the original documents any longer. Shredding unneeded documents, like imaging, reduces your physical storage footprint. Take care, however, that your documents are shredded securely, so intellectual property, private information, and trade secrets aren’t exposed.
SmallBusinessTrends.com offers a number of ideas for office organization, including document management tips. Make your New Year’s resolution now to talk to a document management consultant in January, and next year you’ll avoid the end-of-year paper mountain. And if you’ve already implemented a well-organized document management system, you can enjoy the holidays without paper anxiety
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Those bold, shameless porch pirates are out in force, appropriating delivered goods and selling them for whatever they can get. But there could be a different kind of “porch pirate” targeting your business – data thieves who trade in the business of stolen information.
Whether it’s package theft or data theft, it affects your bottom line. In cases of HIPAA violations, identity theft, or other unauthorized information releases, you can face costly fines and lawsuits. And your profits take a hit when you have to replace shipments that the customer never received.
When clients don’t trust your security, they take their business elsewhere. Fortunately, there are some smart storage technologies that boost security and reduce your liability.
- Imaging – Paper is often called an “ephemeral medium.” It’s easy to lose, easy to damage or destroy, and easy to steal. Document imaging shields your business from the liability of missing documents and information theft. The electronic versions of your documents are accessible only to authorized users. With the originals shredded or in secure archives, your imaged documents are safe in their virtual file cabinet. Those who shouldn’t touch your documents will not be able to lay their hands on them, quite literally.
- Smart lockers – Amazon was one of the earliest adopters of smart-locker technology. A customer’s package is delivered to a numbered locker with an electronic lock automatically set to a one-time combination. The combination is emailed or texted to the customer, who can then retrieve the package at a convenient time. Smart lockers are now cropping up in apartment complexes, in college campuses, and in business settings, eliminating highly insecure door delivery. It’s a win for the package recipients and a win for the business or the property management.
- Secure high-density storage – High-density storage systems are known for their space-saving attributes, reducing storage footprints by as much as 50%. Sliding on floor-mounted rails, these systems eliminate all but one aisle between shelving units. Their electronic locks eliminate something else: unauthorized access to sensitive material such as patient health records, legal documents, or intellectual property. Locks can be programmed to track access based on security codes. Biometric locks add an even greater level of security.
People are wising up to the ways smart technology can defeat porch pirates around their homes. Talk to a storage consultant who can help you assemble the right security solutions to keep the porch pirates and data thieves out of your business.
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The IRS is acting like Oprah, and small businesses across the U.S. are benefiting. Thanks to Section 179, the IRS is handing out a $1,000,000 deduction to every small business that puts qualifying equipment and/or software into use before the end of the year. Rather than depreciating equipment over the course of several years, Section 179 allows businesses to deduct the full price of equipment in Year 1, up to $1,000,000. That’s an enormous tax benefit.
And it gets better: Even if you finance the equipment rather than paying for it up front, you still qualify for the deduction. Leases as well as purchases are included in this rule. You don’t have to hand over a pile of cash in order to reap the Sec. 179 benefit.
Almost any tangible business-related product qualifies for the deduction, including:
- Equipment purchased for business use
- Computers and off-the-shelf software
- Data hardware (essential for imaged-document storage and access)
- Office furnishings and fixtures, including high density mobile storage and lockers
- Office equipment
- Certain business vehicles, including fork lifts and 9-passenger vans
- Property attached to your building that is not part of the building structure (casework and industrial shelving, for example)
- Tangible personal property used in the business, or equipment with a partial business use
- Some improvements to existing business-only buildings, including security systems, HVAC, and roofing
There’s one small but essential thing to remember: The new equipment must be placed into service by December 31.
With only a few weeks left in the year, that deadline may seem like an insurmountable scheduling problem. Luckily, many business-equipment vendors offer quick-ship programs for their clients who want to take advantage of the Sec. 179 deduction. If you’re planning an equipment acquisition in the first quarter of next year, why not buy it now, put it into use before the end of this year, and get the money the IRS put under your seat?
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It’s never easy being an HR recruiter. Whether the job market is tight or wide open, the competition for top talent is ever-present. One of the proven strategies for attracting the very best recruits is a visible, well-integrated corporate value system.
Prospective employees want to see their own values reflected in the workplace, especially when it comes to corporate social responsibility. From millennials to Gen Z, recruits view sustainability as an expression of corporate social responsibility. They’re not going to be satisfied with a token paper-and-plastic recycling bin. They want to see sustainability infused throughout the company’s operations.
Your business storage systems may not be the first things that spring to mind when you’re looking for ways to increase sustainability. Nevertheless, there are storage solutions that give your enterprise a definite sustainability advantage. These include:
- Electronic records – When you reduce the quantity of paper business records stored in file cabinets, you reduce your storage footprint. Less storage space means less overall space and lower utility consumption. Further, converted documents become digitally accessible to everyone who needs to work with them, eliminating multiple redundant copies and thereby reducing paper consumption.
- Modular casework – Unlike traditional casework, the “building block” modules of high-quality casework can be reconfigured as operational needs change.Yesterday’s credenza is today’s wall cabinet. It’s recycling at its finest.
- High density shelving – These space-saving cabinets slide along floor-mounted tracks, eliminating aisles between shelving units and reducing your storage footprint by as much as 50%. In tandem with an electronic records conversion program, your paper document storage will take up far less space than previously, and you’ll reduce your overall space utilization.
There’s a bonus to these sustainability-friendly storage solutions: lower operating costs, including real estate costs, office supplies and utility expenses, and build-out costs.
When you choose storage systems like these, you’re telling recruits that your business takes sustainability seriously. Your corporate values increase employee loyalty and retention, which in turn improve productivity and profits. Further, customers prefer to do business with socially-responsible companies.
When you can both do good and do well, it’s a win for everyone, including your HR department. Sustainability is a really good look for your brand, and your storage systems are part of the picture.
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