Manage for Success: Clean the Slate, Newsletter #21, January 2003

Happy New Year.

The beginning of the year is a great time to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. I'm not suggesting you should have made New Year's resolutions, just that this is a good time to look at everything you're doing, decide what's working and what isn't, and make necessary changes, particularly in certain common day-to-day procedures that may not be working smoothly or adequately.

Here are some suggestions of a few things to look at.

Clean out old or obsolete files, or at least move them to inactive status and put them where they're out of the way but can be gotten to if necessary. This will make room for 2003's new and active files. Be aware of certain legal file retention requirements before you destroy papers, so consult with your accountant and lawyer first.

Take an inventory at your plants, office, and any other locations where you store CDs and other things you sell, if you haven't already done it before the end of the year. It's something your accountant will likely need.

Take a good look at your staff. Are they working together like a well-oiled machine or do you have squabbling and internal problems? Praise your good people and consider replacing those that are not working out. It's particularly important with a small staff of people that they get along well while in the office. Collegiality leads to better work and a greater desire to go to the office everyday.

Take a close look at all functions, operations, and procedures, particularly routine ones. Are they working as smoothly as you'd like or think they can? If not, make changes, adjusting or fixing those in most need of repair. We sometimes continue to do things through habit, although that may not always be the best or most efficient way. On the other hand, leave alone those that are functioning well.

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Take advantage of my many years of record industry management experience to help you solve these and similar problems. I'm an expert at devising procedures tailored to your specific needs, and showing you and your staff how to implement new solutions.

Don't hesitate to call me to discuss your particular situation to see how I might be able to assist you to more effectively manage your label for success.

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Check such routine functions as network security and back-ups. If your computers are networked, and there's probably no real reason why they shouldn't be, are you secure both internally and externally? If you're connected to the internet do you have firewalls – either hardware or software – in place and are they activated and working? Be sure to test firewalls from time to time to be sure they're working as they should.

Are all of your computers that have sensitive material on them protected with good passwords? An effective password is one that is no less than eight characters with letters and numbers intermixed. An example is "dr0wss1p" which is "password" spelled backward, with numbers replacing vowels. It should not be this obvious, but you get the idea. And be sure that you and your personnel don't keep a "cheat sheet" handy in their top drawer -- the first place someone is likely to look.

Do you back up your computers on a regular basis, such as every night? If you have a server, is it backed up daily? Do you keep your backups in a secure, off-site location? I hope your answer to these questions is "yes." If not, then that's one of the best and most helpful things you can accomplish in 2003. There's lots of information about back-up procedures available on the web, and I'd be happy to give you advice.

Dantz has a series of documents available at their web site (http://www.dantz.com/en/about/press/white_papers.dtml) that define common back-up strategies. Surely one can work for you. You might particularly look at "Understanding Backup: Guidelines for a Successful Backup Strategy" a downloadable PDF file which is obtainable at the above URL. Dantz is the manufacturer of Retrospect, one of the most respected pieces of backup software available today. It comes in various flavors for PC and Mac, and for individual use or for companies of varied size.

Take an inventory of all valuable office equipment such as computers, monitors, keyboards, fax machines, typewriters, etc. Also keep an inventory of purchased software with their serial numbers where applicable, and list what software is loaded on each computer. I'm assuming you've purchased software or licenses for each user and are not pirating. If you already have inventories, check that they're up to date.

Is your web site always kept up to date and properly maintained? If not, that's one of the most important ways you can keep your customers informed of your latest releases -- making them available for sale on your web site, or with pointers to Amazon.com or other worthy on-line music retailer.

This may also be a good time to upgrade your software and hardware as appropriate so that key people are working efficiently and are not being slowed down by obsolete programs or equipment.

Consider upgrading internet access if your business relies heavily on the net. For example you may wish to go from a DSL line to a measured T1. It all depends on the size of your staff, and their need for speedy access.

How is your relationship with key suppliers? The beginning of the year is a particularly good time to take them to lunch and thank them for their previous hard work.

Finally, let me offer best wishes for a healthy, and prosperous 2003.

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Copyright 2003 by Keith Holzman, Solutions Unlimited. All rights reserved.