As For Me and My HouseI don't generally have much use for the wave of political correctness that seems to have swept our society. That being said, I have the utmost respect for individual beliefs and traditions. For me and my house, it is Merry Christmas. For those with different beliefs, I sincerely wish you all the best.

For so many reasons, I love this time of year. I love the reminder to get outside of myself, widen my vision, and see if there is some good I can do in the world. Of course, the food, desserts, and candy certainly make the list as well. I enjoy spending time with friends and family. I love Christmas music. (In fact, I'm listening to it now.) And at the top of my list is probably Christmas trees, lights, and decorations.

Unfortunately, year after year, no matter what I do, the holidays end and life resumes. Many people resist change, but I am one of those people who thrives on it. If I had to repeat the exact same activities year after year, I think I would end up in a padded cell. So December is more than a holiday season to me; it is also a time of reflection, introspection, goal setting, planning, and because I simply cannot help it, dreaming. I guess I should clarify a bit: December is the culmination of these activities, since they are really an ongoing part of my life.

Reflecting back on 2014, it has been a game-changer for me on many fronts. I won't bore you with my personal life, but I will say that it has been a worthy journey. On the business front, I have never had a better year. Although I am not excluding finances here, I am not focusing on revenue. I am referring to internal development, better strategies, new or improved systems and work-flows, and most important: a clarified vision of where I plan to take my business.

Throughout 2014 we started surveying and listening to our clients. I was hoping to hear that everyone was a raving fan and that we could do no wrong. I learned that some of our clients do feel that way. But some were kind enough to show us where we needed to improve. I appreciate honest feedback, and thank those of you who offered it. My main takeaway was that we needed to move faster and communicate better. Sometimes the truth hurts, and in this case it was especially painful because this is where almost all IT companies struggle. But I advertise that we are better. As it turns out, that may not always be true. Again, the truth hurts.

As I write this, I wonder… is it wise for me to publicize the fact that we are no better than our competition? Probably not. But my hope is that you will see that I listen (which might, in fact, make me better). I want everyone to know that I am absolutely committed to building a business that I can be proud of. It's a personal thing, and it has to match my own personality. For some, our visions will align. For others, maybe not. That's OK. Diversity is one of my favorite aspects of life.

I digress. 2014 taught me that in order to thrive, I have to make some changes. Many of those changes are already in the works. Some are still very much in the planning stage: on the dry-erase board in my office, or the newly installed cork boards in the hallway. Here's the rundown: 

 The number one complaint we heard was a matter of speed. When bad things happen in the world of technology, it needs to be resolved. Now! Since we were already overworked, we hired more people.

 The second most prominent complaint was about poor communication. In 2013 we invested heavily in some new software that was supposed to help us with communication. It is a great program, but very complex. I realized that in order to use it more effectively, we needed additional training. So we got more training. And we will continue that process as we move forward.

 As I considered where we were as a business, our then-current trajectory, and my desired trajectory, I came to another painful realization: my pricing structure was not sustainable. I love the idea of unlimited support agreements. But the reality is: they are not fair to you. And they do not allow me to do my best work. So 2015 will bring a new pricing structure. For some, prices may go up. For others, prices may go down. But for everyone, the value you receive for the money you spend with us will increase.

 How will value increase? I'm glad you asked! We have installed a bank of 40" screens in our tech room that show us every nagging problem with every network we support. This includes virus infections, out-of-date antivirus software, security patch problems, hardware failures, imminent hardware failures, software problems, and a laundry list of additional alerts. In many cases, we will be able to see problems before you do. The value? Employee productivity. A company's greatest asset and expense is almost always human resources. If your company has an average of 1 preventable support request per week, and it takes us 4 hours to respond on average, you'll end up wasting 208 hours (8.6 weeks) per year. Ouch! So what if we could fix the problem before you ever had to call? That's 208 hours of payroll back in your pocket. Merry Christmas!

 How else, you ask? In addition to improving our preventive maintenance, we are also turning our focus on security. Without the proper security measures, data loss and/or identity theft are almost guaranteed. Once it happens, you can't fix it. So we are upping our game. On our new service agreements we will be providing two forms of anti-malware protection included for no additional charge. That's just the start, but it's an important one. Malware is a major player in both data loss and identity theft. Other areas of improvement include better data backup systems, better firewalls, and more.

 Still not convinced? Give me a call. I'll meet you in person at your office, my office, or a nice restaurant (my treat), and we'll discuss in detail.

2014 was a good year. And I am ecstatic about where we are headed for 2015. I hope you have also taken time to reflect on how you can make 2015 the best year of your life. At least until 2016 rolls around! With that, I say again: Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. And happy/merry everything else.

Justin Shelley