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Category Archives for Team Management

Benefits of Using a VA and Our Top 4 Uses for them!

When I first started off in the online world, I was working full-time at my day job as an Engineer. I would then come home each night to eat dinner and spend the rest of the night working away at my computer. My time was very limited to spend online so I had to make the most out of every minute. I quickly realized that the small tasks that were lower level were eating up my (very limited) time, and set out to find a solution to offloading some of those tasks away from me. I had used Upwork (Formerly ODesk) in the past with another job so I decided I wanted to find a VA on here that could help me.

If you haven’t read my post before on how I hire VA’s, you may want to take a look at that before setting out on this task.

This was a pivotal move in my online career that allowed me to free up my time to focus more on pushing businesses forward and doing the higher level tasks rather than holding the business back and pushing through the lower level activities on my own. This allowed me to work smarter, not so much harder. If anyone who is working online finds themselves doing a lot of repetitive tasks that could be offloaded with the use of a simple SOP to a VA, I highly recommend it.

I know a lot of people have had a hard time finding good VA’s and find that they are spending the same amount of time on hiring, training and handhold as they would to complete the task. But what they may not know, is once you find a good VA, the relationship gets easier, the ability to assign them more is fantastic and if you need to hire more down the road, that VA can train them. However, there are a few main points that will help you with being more successful when hiring a VA.

  1. Hire and fire fast – when hiring a VA, hire a few, give them a small task to see how quickly they do it and the quality in which they provide. Keep the top and fire the rest. Never hire just one VA and give them a big tedious task without measuring their ability on a smaller scale first. This will save you both time and costs. Here is an article I created in 2013 but has been update over the years on how to hire a VA.
  2. SOP/Training is key – Before even hiring anyone, ensure that you have an SOP or good training instructions for the VA to follow. This is like throwing them into the deep end without giving them instructions on how to swim. Most of the time a VA fails and it is preventable is due to inadequate training.

My Top 4 Uses for a VA That Saves Me Hundreds of Hours Each Year!

Data research

This is one thing I use VA’s for all the time. Wether its scoping out a niche I want to go into, gathering data off the internet and putting it into a Google sheet or any type of easy research, I highly recommend using a VA.

Publishing

While putting together content plans, I use VA’s all the time to help me with managing my blog posts across all my sites. Adding images, creating tags, dealing with formatting is all time that could easily be done by a VA and allows you to be more hands off. Yes you uploading one blog post here and there isn’t too big of an issue but if you are looking at uploading 5+ per month, save yourself some time and hire/train a VA to take this task off your hands.

Here is an SOP that we use when we hire new VA’s to upload content.

Sending Client Invoices

Another part of my business that I found I was spending time on was creating invoices for clients (my current billing system doesn’t automatically generate these). They often would take only a few minutes to do each but as more and more were needed, I desperately needed to find a way to offload them to someone else so I create a simple SOP on how to fill out the proper details. Now all I need to do is send him an email once an invoice is needed.

WordPress Support

As with many people who are in the online space, there is some aspect of web development or WordPress that you could use a little hand with. Whether it’s installing plugins and themes, site maintenance or troubleshooting, a VA that has some skills in this area is a definite bonus. With having so many sites, it’s hard to keep track of them all and ensure they are all running smoothly, so having a VA going in to check on each site is a great way to not lose out on

Conclusion

A VA can be a great fit for people who find themselves struggling for time by freeing up some of your workload to allow for some bigger important tasks to have your attention. If you use a VA I would love to hear more about what tasks you use them for. If you don’t use a VA, I would love to hear why.

If you have never used a VA I HIGHLY recommend starting the process of hiring fast and firing fast until you have only the best on your team!

How to Share Passwords with Team Members – The Safe Way

As your business grows and your team expands, there could be a lot of passwords that need to be shared across team members. But what happens if you fire one of your team members? How do you know what passwords to change and how it will possibly affect your business?

Over the last year, I have thought about this dilemma and have tightened my teams security levels across all business’ and have worked hard to put in place systems so that if one member leaves, it can easily be mitigated and the impact to myself and the businesses are minimal. There are a lot of moving points in my businesses but password protection is something that can be fixed with the proper hand holding the start. The solution; password management system.

Don’t get me wrong, this process took a bit to get into place and took a while to get all team members on board and using it correctly. But at the end of it all, our security when it comes to passwords is stronger than it ever has been and the ability to deal with people leaving has become a lot easier and less worrisome.

Before when someone left, we would have to change all passwords ever shared with them, then we would have to send the new passwords out to team members. Now with a password management system, we just upload the new password in one spot and those that we have allowed to use that tool will have the updated password there for them the next time they need it. No need to send passwords over emails!

Below I have listed 3 of the top password management systems you could use to implement into your systems.

Top 3 Password Management Systems

LastPass

LastPass is a great password management tool to use. It works with a variety of different browsers and is also available on iPhone, Android and Google devices, which is convenient if you are not at your computer. LastPass upon signing up makes you and your team members set up a your master password, this will be the only password anyone on the team will need to remember and this is set by the individuals so no two team members will have the same master password. Upon signing into their account with their master password, they will also need to set up two-factor authentication. This will provide even further protection because if someone can guess your password, they would need the two-factor authentication code in order to enter your account.

With LastPass, you will have a central control system where you will be able to setup, manage and edit different teams and team members. You can only share specific passwords with them members that need it.

The passwords are all encrypted with  AES-256 bit with PBKDF2 SHA-256 and salted hashes to ensure complete security in the cloud. This means even people at LastPass will never be able to access any of your passwords, keeping it safe. The two things about LastPass that are unique and very helpful is it seems to have the best activity audit and can have people use the password without actually being able to see it.

  • Available on all browsers and mobile devices
  • Each member creates their own unique master password which grants them access to the teams passwords
  • Two Factor Authentication for added security measures
  • Central control system to easily see team members and the passwords they have access too.
  • AES-256 bit encryption for security in the cloud.

Here is the pricing for LastPass:

1Password

1Password is quite similar to LastPass in terms of features and usability. 1Password doesn’t have a Two-Factor Authentication factor available, however upon your team members setting up their account, they will be provided with a 128-bit identifier which will be their secret key. And since it never gets sent to you or your teammates, your secret key can’t be reset, intercepted, or evaded, unlike two-factor authentication. Another differences is with 1Password, it allows you to delegate responsibilities to your business leads so they can manage their own teams with custom groups and vaults. Again, just like LastPass, it works on all types of browsers through an extension or computer app, as well as it being available for most phones through the app store and is accessed by the team members independent master password. 1Password major difference is it is a more user friendly and slightly less expensive when compared to LastPass.

  • Each team member creates their own master passwords which allows them to view all passwords they have access too.
  • 128-bit secret key will be presented upon signing up, and will be used if you cannot remember your master password and you need to reset it.
  • Allows you to give business leads the ability to manage their own teams by allowing them to share passwords and well as managing members in each group.
  • AES 256 encryption technology is used when storing your passwords.

Here is their pricing:

 

TeamPassword

TeamPassword is also available on all different types of internet browsers and mobile devices just like LastPass and 1Password. Like, LastPass, Google Two-Factor Authentication is required in order to access your account after you input your master password. Get email notifications whenever someone adds or removes any team member, you can also use this to get notified whenever new passwords are added. You can also view an activity log of all passwords which, allows you to see when passwords were used and by whom. TeamPassword also uses AES-256 bit encryption which is the top of the line encryption for passwords when storing them in the cloud.

  • Works on all browsers and mobile devices. Just download the extension on your browser or the app through your mobile devices.
  • Google Two-Factor Authentication required after inputting your master password
  • Get email notifications when team members are added and removed or when new passwords are added to the system.
  • Activity and logging allows you to see which passwords are being used and which ones aren’t and when they were accessed, allow you complete knowledge of your teams usage.
  • AES-256 bit encryption for all passwords

Here is their pricing:

 

Final Comments

As with any new system, it takes some getting use to and takes a little hand holding to get setup. But once setup, sharing passwords with team members and revoking passwords has never been simpler.

If you have used any of these which ones your go to? If there is another one I should add, please let me know!

 

2 Employee Thefts – Over 6 Figures – How to Prevent

Well it has been a weird few weeks here!

I am going to share some personal painful stories here…

Two businesses (not adbank) have both had issues of employee theft which is a first for my business! We are not talking hundreds of dollars but over 6 figures!

I won’t get into the exact details but one is solved and one is in the process of being solved.

The key anytime we have a major f-up in our business is to dig in and understand why it was allowed to occur, if the risk of it occurring again is worth putting in stronger systems.

This article will cover the 2 scenarios the systems that were in place and why they failed plus the 5 keys everyone should do if they have any team members with access to hurting your business financially.

Swiss Cheese Model for Losses:

One of the ways I like to think about the risk mitigation systems inside my business is the Hazards – Losses path through multiple layers of swiss cheese. No system can be completely bulletproof but the idea is if all layers are in place and working the probability of all holes lining up is very low.

Failure 1: Speed vs Control Accepted Risk

An employee wired himself funds, oversight was not in place fast enough.

There were 3 layers of mitigation

  • Mitigation #1 – Trusted employee & controlled access
    • Never a sufficient mitigation on its own!
  • Mitigation #2 – Accountant monitoring monthly numbers
    • The accountant was unfortunately months behind not revealing the problem.
  • Mitigation #3 – Bookkeeper/Controller onboarded
    • The controller for the business was not up to speed fast enough leaving a window of time where things would go undetected.

In the end we were not pushing the pace fast enough on the 2 financial oversight systems resulting in a window for theft to occur.

Although this was the far larger of the 2 thefts it is one where no major systems upgrades are needed as there was some acceptance of risk due to prioritization and low probability of someone repeating with the systems that were too slow to get in place now in place.

  • Note – All funds from this theft have been recovered + consideration for time/fees.

Failure 2: Execution

Although the dollar amount is smaller than failure/theft #1 this one has me much more upset.

This was a known risk we had put many barriers against but the systems all failed in the same way to allow this to occur.

  • Mitigation #1 – Trusted long term team member & controlled access
    • Clearly this is not enough to rely on blindly! This employee has been with me for YEARS and involved on multiple projects.
  • Mitigation #2 – Daily Revenue and Expense Monitoring – Temporarily Not Active
    • During this time we had taken a break from the daily expense tracking due to workload in other areas
  • Mitigation #3 – Weekly unit economics review – Didn’t Validate
    • This one is frustrating as this practise was created with the intent of being able to quickly detect any issue however the theft was paired with forged numbers that were not validated. Human error on compliance to the process for validation of the numbers was the reason this mitigation failed.
  • Mitigation #4 – Monthly PnL statements and review – Not setup on new system
    • We have been in the process of upgrading our proper monthly PnL and as a result were not in a position to review them. Getting these completed slipped down the priority list and as a result allowed this issue to continue.

Note – All funds have not been recovered, the length we will go to will be unreasonable 🙂

 

5 Steps to Take:

  • Financial Risk & Access Control Matrix
      1. There are a lot of potential attack vectors. Having an organized control list of all the places that someone could impact you financially and then understanding who currently has access is key. There are the obvious locations like bank account, paypal but then you also need to think about the revenue sources Amazon Account, AdSense account etc. Plus, don’t forget places where funds could be improperly sent from Fiverr, UpWork etc. Don’t forget your websites that make the money, swapping out an affiliate link on a few pages can be another source of theft that is harder to detect.
  • Agreements Updated
      1. Ensuring compensation agreements are in writing is key to ensure there can be no debate about the amount of funds received.
  • Have Contact Information Handy
    1. For anyone with access to money you should have accurate information on them including name, ID, phone number, address etc.
  1. Proper Login & Password Management
    1. Managing logins for a team is a daunting task! 1Password and LastPass are the tools we use for a couple different projects. The key is to be able to quickly turn on/off access while controlling the ability to provide access through either the tool as a user (with the login still in the password management system) or shared access via a password management system. Strong random never reused passwords and 2FA activated whenever possible goes beyond just internal theft but is one of the most basic steps to avoiding theft from hackers.

Conclusion:

I hope you haven’t experienced any issues like these. My hope is sharing these unfortunate events and what I have learned will be helpful in preventing future problems for you or if problems do occur arming you with what you need to resolve quickly.

 

Please share any other suggestions on how to help protect your business!

Long Overdue Update!

It has been too long!

Since 2012 I had been almost always posting once/week with the exception of a couple 1 month breaks.

It has been A LOT longer and this post is to communicate…

  • Where have I been?
  • How have my businesses faired with lack of time on them?
  • What to expect moving forward at AuthorityWebsiteIncome?
  • What has my focus now?

Where Have I Been?

My focus has been and continues to be on the project adbank.network where we have a real opportunity to cause some disruption to a giant problem!

The short version of what adbank does is it is an ad network build on the Ethereum blockchain that has payments transparently flow directly between advertiser and publisher with the middle mans cut finally being fully transparent!

If you are an advertiser or publisher you can test out the beta platform here – https://beta.adbank.network/

 

 

What is exciting is that many of the skills I have developed building my online businesses have been stretched executing on this project.

 

What does my focus mean for my online businesses?

They are going nowhere, I have always been focused on building the systems/procedures and teams to continue the execution of the businesses with as little involvement from myself as possible.

So for each of the business divisions here is how they have fared with me not spending much/any time thinking about them…

My Website Portfolio:

I have continued to let this business slide especially on the monetization side it has been the hardest hit by my lack of focus.

It is relatively easy to systematize the articles (ContentRefined) and links (LightningRank) for the sites but the hard part is monitoring the monetization. Some of the assets continue to do well and even grow despite my lack of focus while others completely fell off the map from an earnings standpoint. Sites that once made $1k-$3k/month with the same traffic now are making almost zero because of a handful of very fixable reasons… affiliate program no longer exists, links broken, advertising paused due to handful of reasons.

I don’t see a lot of focus getting out here with the exception of a couple I have handed off to managers to run including focusing on the monetization of those sites.

This is the benefit of the systematized approach where many systems held and despite me not putting any thought into my portfolio sites the content from ContentRefined and links from LightningRank kept coming.

 

Productized Service Businesses:

I am very proud of the managers on these businesses!

These businesses launched with the initial push from the AuthorityWebsiteIncome audience but without any support for the last months have continued to be strong performers.

Kelley at LightningRank plus another new business she launched off of nothing more then an email idea from me had their best months ever at the end of last year.

Maddie and ContentRefined has continued to grow bringing on additional staff in house and dialing in our ideal client (portfolio managers!)

 

Whats Next at AuthorityWebsiteIncome.com?

Only useful articles!

Right now there is a large team that is pushing hard every day to get sites to perform well in Google leveraging great content and links.

As we push on this basic concept there are a lot of interesting learnings.

So… we will be sharing as much useful/actionable information as we  can related to

 

What has my focus now?

The project adbank.network did a successful token sale and is now actively pushing on 3 primary fronts.

Tech:

The tech development is going very well with plenty of challenges. We have delivered a working beta platofrm on the main net 2 months after ICO.

In addition we have hired a brilliant PH.D. In computer science with a specialty in machine learning and are continuing to grow the team.

Acquisition:

A big part of our strategy is to seed the adoption of the disruptive technology by acquiring existing ad networks and converting them to the adbank platform.

Intellectual Property:

With a patent pending on the application of AI to leverage transactions that occur on a blockchain to fight digital ad fraud we hope to have a winning position in the market.

 

Summary

It has been the craziest project I have been a part of. Very proud of the team behind adbank as well as the team that has continued to grow the other businesses with a giant lack of support from me. They are all very inspiring people!

How Do We Manage Multiple Projects

I was at a great conference last weekend (RhodiumWeekend) and among other things one of the common questions that came up was about how do me and my team manage multiple projects.

What systems, management structure, incentivization plan etc do we use to have a handful of businesses running/growing simultaneously.

Let me first say that although I really enjoy the process of having multiple projects it may not be the optimal strategy for everyone. Continue reading