Monday, September 21, 2020

The past six months

 Who would have thought any of us would have been living through a pandemic.  Well, we have for the past six months here in Canada.  On March 13, WHO (World Health Organization) declared that Covid-19 was a pandemic and that was the day that everything changed for a lot of us.

When you look back and think about how things have changed in the last six months there are a lot of things that changed and I am going to be talking about some of what happened here in Ontario for us.

  • Schools - were going into March break so they decided that they would extend the break by an additional week.  That March break turned into online learning for the rest of the spring and then finally students have started to go back to school in person in the last week.  For this year parents and students could decide if they wanted in person learning or online learning so that is happening. Masks are mandatory for in class learning.
  • Colleges/Universities - they also started to hold most of their classes online in early April and they continue to hold most classes online.  Of course, there are some courses that need to be in a lab, etc and those are the ones that are actually being held in person. Masks are mandatory for in class learning.
  • Businesses - a lot of businesses as soon restrictions were starting to be put in place asked staff to work at home as much as possible.  I know that some businesses couldn’t operate with staff at home but the businesses that could are still working remotely. Masks are essential when you work in an office unless you are at your desk and able to maintain a distance of 6 feet from others.
  • Retail – a lot of businesses if they were not considered essential closed their doors in late March and slowly started to reopen in June through now.  Yes there are still a lot of restrictions about how many people can be in a store at once and how you pay for your purchases.  A lot of stores are now debit and credit where possible and some are NO cash. Masks are mandatory for entering a store.
  • Restaurants – these also closed their doors in March and were only providing drive through or take out where possible.  Finally in early August some restaurants were able to open and have table service on patios so that was a nice change. Later in August limited in restaurant dining was allowed but with a lot of restrictions such as masks until you are at your table.

Yes, things have changed a lot over the last six months and things continue to change.  The number of people that you can have in a private home for an event changes depending on the number of cases that we have in Ontario. 

A lot of municipalities have put by-laws in place making it mandatory to wear a mask in any public place. This by-law also means that people living in apartments and condos are also required to wear a mask outside of their units.  This can sometimes be a challenge but it is best for everyone.  Also for apartments and condos they are recommended limits to the number of people in an elevator at one time so that creates its own challenges.  Apartments and condos with a lot of families with school age children now have to figure out ways of getting their kids to school on time. 

I know that there have been some challenges through these last few months but if we all do what is necessary by social distancing, wearing masks and limiting our contact with others maybe one day we will be able to get back to seeing our friends and families again. 


Monday, July 13, 2020

Customer service and its importance

As someone that deals with customers for my business I understand the importance of good customer service and also quick responses.  If you are dealing with customers via the web you need to try and ensure that you can provide a fairly quick response time.  The better experience someone has with you the move changes you have of getting a repeat customer. 

Recently I had an experience with one business where I started to talk with them about a purchase and everything seemed to be doing well until all of a sudden the communication stopped and even after sending additional emails and a phone call I got no response.  As this was a purchase that I wanted to get completed I decided to try another contact with a competing business.  Well, the good news is the communication with the second business was wonderful and within a few hours I had all the information I required and I also had made the purchase.  Getting a quick response made me feel that I was valued by them and that they were available to assist me.

Customer service is a way to make or break a business and understanding how keeping customers happy is very important.  It ends up through this experience that I will be trying to make more purchases through the second contact as they have been available to assist quickly.  I understand that everyone is busy trying to make sales and help everyone but if it takes you three days and I still haven’t got a reply I think that shows me know that I might need to check another spot for the purchase.  If you are away and are unable to reply to a person it is a good idea to ensure that you have your out of office notification on.

Customer service from a single-person shop to a major retailer has to understand that one bad experience can affect recommendations to others.  If you are looking for a successful business know that assisting your customers or even future customers can help or hinder your overall success.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Rules of the road and socail distancing

Social distancing not working
As a lot of the world, we are still dealing with COVID-19 and all of the restrictions that are being put in place.  One of the biggest things is the idea of social distancing and staying 6 feet apart (2 meters) from others when you are standing in lines etc.  Well, in this picture you can sure see that people aren't standing the distance apart and most of them don't have face masks on either.  I understand that they are outside but it is still recommended to wear a mask if you can't social distance.

Another issue with this situation is that the van which is selling fruit and veggies is parking in a bike lane.  Just in front of the van is a no stopping sign that seems to be ignored on a regular basis by these vendors.  Also in the bike lane is another vehicle that is parked and the person is standing in line to purchase things.

For us, it is very frustrating to see these vehicles stopped in the bike lane because these lanes were put in our neighbourhood to promote biking.  Now with these vehicles stopped it means that the cyclists are forced out into the live lanes of traffic instead of in their designated lane.

I have continued to report these vehicles and it just doesn't seem to help at all.  If we were to stop in one of these lanes we would probably be the ones that got the ticket. I understand that people want to purchase things but either find a safe spot to park this vehicle or go to the store and get the stuff.

Social distancing rules have been put in place for the safety of everyone and I hate seeing so many people think that these rules don't apply to them.  So please when you are out and about remember that we all want to get back to doing the things that we enjoy doing and the only way to do that is to wear a mask and social distance.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Working from home, is it really that bad?

I can answer that question very quickly for me, and I would say no, it isn’t bad working from home.  With our business, we work most of the time remotely, so working from home is something that we usually do. 

What is interesting about this time when everyone is working at home is understanding that we can’t go out to a coffee shop or another place for a break.  For us, a coffee shop for a treat when we wanted to have a break from sitting at home and doing the things that we had to do.  We would take our computers or paper with us and do the things that we needed to do. The routine of getting up at the same time and trying to get to our desk has remained the same currently.  I am not sure how things are going to change if this self-isolation/stay at home continues for quite a while.

For people that haven’t worked from home, I think this would be a challenging time.  It does mean that you are juggling a few extra things while also trying to get work done.  If you have children, it would be more of a challenge to work remotely as you also need to keep them entertained as they aren’t seeing their friends currently. 

Here are some points that I see can be both a benefit and a disadvantage of working from home:
1)     No co-workers wanting to talk about non-work related things.  This is offset by the family being around and wanting to talk when you are trying to work.
2)     Commute time doesn’t exist.  It can be a nice advantage not having to go to the office, but it means that work is always close by and you don’t get that time to yourself on your commute.
3)     I can get more things done at home.  This is something that I can see could happen if you don’t have children, or you can close a door for a bit of time to get work done.  Being able to get the things done quickly is excellent as you don’t have the usual distractions of everyone around you when you are in the office.
4)     Meals can be easier to prepare.  Lunch is something that becomes easier to make when you are at home, but you also need the discipline of getting back to work after you have taken the time to have lunch.
5)     Distractions can get frustrating.  When you are in the office, you can forget about the things that need to be done around the house.  When you are working from home, you can see the items you want to get done, and it can be difficult.
6)     Quality family time.  This is something that can be nice because you don’t have the extra commute time to get too and from the office.  It does mean that the commute time can either spent getting tasks done around the house, or you can spend that time with family and do the jobs when you would typically do them.

Working from home can be difficult, depending on your job.  There are going to be jobs that cannot be done at home, so there is no choice but to go into the office. Working remotely isn’t going to work for everyone, even if you have the opportunity.  Working remotely can be a challenge during this time when we can’t go out and see people for a break, but at least we know that we should get back to our regular routine at some point.  Until then, I am going to figure out ways to get things done well, also making sure that I can take care of myself.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

October conferences

People ask when all the conferences seem to be for the IT industry, and I can answer that by saying that October here in Toronto is a busy month for IT shows and conferences.

In October, there were two IT conferences/shows that we attended, and they were SecTor and iTech Downtown.  SecTor is a multiday conference with sessions, and an expo floor and iTech is a one day show with some vendors and a few sessions.  Both of these conferences/shows are entirely different, and the cost is just one of the factors.

SecTor is an IT security conference with multiple high-level sessions that are happening over two days.  The sessions are done by experts in the field, and each person must submit a paper before they are even considered to do a session.  Yes, there are vendor sessions, but those are the extra sessions and not the core of the conference.  The expo hall is full of vendors, and it is a great location to find out about what is new and available for companies that are looking for the various IT security software and training.  The cost of this conference for the two days is around $1,800 if you don’t get the early discounts. The cost of the expo hall is $50 if you don’t have the discount code that is normally on the website.

iTech Downtown is a one day show with a few vendors and some talks.  Most of the talks are offered by the vendors, so you are looking at a more selling presentation than an informational/knowledge talk.  Yes, there are some of these talks, but not as many as at SecTor.  This show is very small, and you will get a large difference in the booths at this show from Backup solutions, telecommunication and equipment recycling.  The cost of this conference for the day, if you have to pay is $50.

Both of these conferences/shows do offer a free expo pass if you are in the industry and look for the discount code or the offers that you get via email.  We do attend both of these conferences and normally will do more sessions at SecTor than we do an iTech.  Also, with iTech, they offer a spring show in the west end of Toronto, so the sessions in the fall are quite often the same as were in the spring.

These are just two of the conferences that are available for the IT industry, and I know that there are more.  A lot of the conferences are based on a product or core area, so it depends on what you are involved in, which conferences are best for you.  Sure there are always difference conferences that you can go to and the price of attending various depending on what the conference actually offers.  There are some conferences/shows that are general IT, and then there are conferences/shows that are quite specific, so check to see what you want out of the event you attend.

If you are looking to attend IT conferences in Toronto, there will be events in the spring from March through June, and then there are the various other conferences in September through early November.  The best way to find some of these conferences is to talk to people in the industry as they will know of some of them as well as doing some research yourself. You could spend a lot of your time going to various shows/conferences, but you need to figure out what you want to learn and what is important to you.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Small Business

Definition of small business:
A privately-owned and operated business with relatively small turnover and staff numbers, typically seen as constituting part of a specific commercial or economic sector. Typically a small business employs fewer than 100 workers and has revenues of less than $25 million. 

Running a small business can have its challenges, and sometimes the biggest challenges are how we are treated by other businesses.

Recently we have been trying to set up a couple of new partnerships, and both of them seem to have their challenges.  I understand that there are some big businesses, but nowadays, most businesses are small businesses, and that needs to be understood. When dealing with the smaller businesses, individuals have to understand that you never know who you are talking to when you call.  The person answering the phone could be one of the business owners or could be a staff member.  Treat whoever answers the phone with respect and never refer to them as “the receptionist.”  One big clue that the person is not a receptionist is the greeting you get.  When we answer our phones even when we not sure who it is calling, we will state the company name and then our name.  If you know a little bit about our business, you will clue in that you have reached one of the owners.

Small businesses like dealing with other small businesses because normally we treat each other the way we want to be treated.  In several ways, we understand the challenges that small business deals with and know how we want to be treated by others.  My feeling is I want to ensure that I treat all of our clients the way I want to be treated by others. I also want to treat any vendors and possible clients in the same way because they will help build our business.  I understand that everyone can have a rough day and not always be happy, but everyone is as important as the next person.

Recently we have been dealing with one company and the person calling hasn’t been the nicest to the person answering the phone.  The person answering the phone is one of the owners of the business (me), and during one call, he was rather upset that the other person wasn’t available to immediately take his call.  Emergencies with clients happen, so even a scheduled appointment might have to be changed when you are dealing with a small business.  Now the call got rescheduled and handled, so that was ok.  Now the salesperson called again today and expected to talk to the other owner, and as I handed over the phone, I commented that “at least he was friendlier today.”  Normally I wouldn’t have said this, but after yesterday, I was frustrated with how he had treated me.  Well, it ended up he heard what I said and has now sent an apology to “the receptionist.”  I think he is going to be digging himself out of that comment for a while as I am also one of the decision-makers for the business.

The other vendor thinks it is easy to get into discussions with clients and provide them with answers in future meetings.  In most cases with small businesses, you have one chance to talk about something, and if you can’t even give them a ballpark cost, they don’t want to talk about it any longer.  I know in several cases if I am in a meeting let me know a cost (even an estimate) before I waste my time otherwise I am not interested.

Small businesses don’t have a lot of time to spend in meetings. If we are in a meeting where you are trying to sell me something, please let me know a cost (even an estimate) before I waste my time otherwise I am not interested.  A small business can be a challenge, but understand how they want to be treated and treating each person with respect can go a long way. If you are going to be calling a business to try and do business with them, do a little bit of homework first. Find out the size of the business because that could make a difference in how to approach them.