Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Five Smart Tech Gadgets for the Home Office

Is your home office in the 21st century?  Are you utilizing “smart technology” to make your home office smarter, safer, and more efficient? These five gadgets are worth looking into:

1.     Video doorbell.
A motion activated video doorbell enables you to see and even speak with visitors at your door—from anywhere. So even if you’re working at the coffee shop or on the beach—you can see—via the app—who is at your door.  When the “no solicitation” signs don’t work, and your day is constantly interrupted, this gadget is a must have.

2.     Smart Speakers
Certainly not new, smart speakers use wifi to sync with your electronics allowing you to use voice commands like play music, turn off lights, or even make the coffee.  Now if they could only make your lunch too!

3.     Smart Light Bulb
By no means a new concept, these $10 bulbs are dimmable and wifi-enabled. These LED light bulbs allow you to adjust your lighting from the app—or even from your smart speakers.  Great for when you don’t want to walk into a dark home at night.

4.    Smart Plug
This wifi enabled adapter allows you to shut off appliances—like your coffeemaker—remotely. No more burnt coffee.

5.    Remote Thermostat
Devices like Nest learn the climate of your home and adjust accordingly. If you’re like me and adjusting to AC, this is a must have.

What are your fav smart tech gadgets for the home office?

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The remote work hiring process

Remote work is becoming mainstream. The benefits of remote work range from no commute (hello Angelenos!), to increased productivity, to happier and healthier workers, to flexibility and more. But what does the remote work hiring process actually look like? I spoke with Zach Montroy, Director of People & Team Strategy with Summit CPA Group about the remote work hiring process, and here’s what he had to say:
Andrea: What does the remote work hiring process look like? Where do you start?
Zach: The hiring process actually looks very similar to a brick-and-mortar company process. However, being a distributed firm allows us to be more agile in the process and we’re able to expand our possibilities. For example, we have the opportunity to recruit talent from anywhere in the USA, and we don’t have the added costs of relocation. The way we advertise for the job is different as well. We target a variety of markets and home in on areas of expertise by tapping into platforms such as LinkedIn, Indeed, Virtual Vocations, and FlexJobs.

 Andrea: Do you interview candidates remotely as well?
Zach: We do. Our team is in front of a screen interacting with colleagues and clients every day, so it’s a perfect filter. It’s important to see how candidates interact with the camera, and also how they handle the technology. We utilize the power of our team in every step asking candidates about their professional journey, how they live out our core values, what their core values are, and we test for things like emotional intelligence and job skills. For our Virtual CFOs, we do interviews in person as well.
Andrea: How does culture fit into the hiring process?
Zach: We take our core values very seriously and we work to live them out daily. We ask our candidates examples of how they live out our core values and what they look like to them. We’re “changing the way people think about accounting”– it’s at the core of who we are, and we need to ensure the candidates’ values align with Summit CPA Group. Studies have found that Emotional Intelligence accounts for 60% of job success so we test for that in our process as well. Emotional intelligence testing gives us a good sense of how the candidate will interact with others and how their emotions play into, and help manage, relationships.
Andrea: Do you require candidates to perform test projects?
Zach: We use case studies as a way to assess past performance and knowledge around the job. We ask candidates how they would approach situations. This allows us to see first-hand how the candidate will likely function in the environment.

 Andrea: What is the biggest challenge of hiring remotely?
Zach: If you had told me 10 years ago that I’d be hiring people without ever meeting them in person, I would have called you crazy. I think there is value in spending extended lengths of time with a candidate, but that can be done virtually as well. Spending an entire day with a candidate is really telling. Anyone can be in character for an hour or two, but throughout a day, you really see their personality and how they handle different situations. You lose a bit of that aspect with remote hiring, but we’ve really tried to compensate for this in our process to make sure we’re getting the right people on the bus and getting them in the right seats quickly.
Andrea: What’s the biggest opportunity of hiring remote workers?
Zach: Being able to pull from a larger geographic area. I can find the best of the best when I don’t have any geographic limitations. Remote work opens up opportunity for people with expertise who have “traditional work hour” limitations. We’re also helping people get their lives back. When we lived in Chicago, my wife commuted 3 hours each day. That was 15 hours of her week, GONE. It also helps team members be more efficient, I’m able to collaborate and be social, but working remotely allows our team members to focus when they need that space as well.
Andrea: What qualities do you see in remote workers?
Zach: Grit, resilience, adaptability, strong work ethic, integrity. The tech tools we use as a remote company are always changing, and at Summit CPA Group we are always embracing new technology. Our team must be comfortable with technology and with change. Self-discipline is huge. As a remote worker you must be able to shut it off. No one is going to show up with their best self if they are working 24/7.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Healthy meetings must start with a healthy planner

In the report The 10 Most Stressful Jobs of 2017 by Forbes, Event Management came in 5th, beaten only by enlisted military, firefighters, pilots and police, which are undoubtedly high pressure, high-risk careers. While no one is going to die as a result of planning an event or meeting, any meeting planner will attest, the job is stressful and demanding and requires heavy travel (you often live in airplanes and hotels) and deadlines rule your world.

With a new focus on healthier meetings that incorporate wellness, it’s fair to state that healthy meetings must start with a healthy planner. How can a planner take better care of themselves so they can focus on planning healthy meetings? The first step is to acknowledge that health and wellness is a lifestyle, not a seasonal hobby. As a figure competitor and meeting planner, Here are my top five tips for staying well:
1. Disconnect. Studies have shown that you’ll be 30% less productive if you check email within 60 minutes of waking. Why? You go into fear and stress mode straight away. The number one cause of stress is the feeling of not having enough time. Oh and btw, stress is highly contagious.
2. Keep 45–50 minute hours. In other words, schedule meetings/calls for 25 minutes vs 30 minutes or 50 minutes instead of 60. This will allow you downtime in between meetings to process, and avoid the feeling of being rushed.
3. Recharge daily for 5–10 minutes several times throughout your day.We need downtime. Examples include connect with a friend, perform an act of kindness, physical exercise, aromatherapy, take a walk outside, play with kids, or pets, guided meditation, listen to music.
4. Eat healthy. Drink at least one gallon of water a day. Stay away from sugary snacks and opt for healthy whole fruits, plain nuts, raw veggies.
5. Exercise. Find an activity that raises your heartbeat and that you truly enjoy. That may be a run in your neighborhood, or a session on the treadmill in your house while you watch the Young & the Restless. It may be playing beach volleyball a few nights a week, or weight training. Find what works for you, and stick with it.
Feel free to reach out and share your tips on staying well. Look for my next blog post where I’ll discuss tips for incorporating wellness into your meeting.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Where to Take Your Incentive Groups in 2019

When meeting planners educate and pitch their first-hand experiences of off-the-radar destinations to their clients, companies become more risk-adverse and more adventurous.
As an experiential marketer and meeting planner, I love introducing off-the-beaten-path destinations to my clients. My distributed model clients particularly demand undiscovered hidden gems for their company retreats. Their employees are based around the world, so it makes sense to look beyond those first-tier cities and help them discover something new.
Beach destinations are always a hit—especially in the beginning of the year when it’s freezing in most of the northern hemisphere. Culturally-rich destinations are also a draw as they allow the teams to learn in different ways and incorporate local customs into their bonding time. Not to mention, attendees will walk away from these destinations more worldly, and you can bet they will always remember the event.
Here are my four off-the-beaten-path destinations that should be on your radar for incentive groups in 2019:

Cartagena, Colombia

You may be thinking “Narcos,” but you should be thinking safe, cultural, beach, with unlimited unique meeting space. In Cartagena, you have both city life and the beach all within a few blocks. The old, walled city is a must for dinners and even a scavenger hunt during the day. Coffee is king, and I highly suggest a coffee tasting class for team building. Cartagena also has ample infrastructure to host meetings of all sizes—and it’s affordable!

Anchorage, Alaska

While this is not exactly a warm destination, it’s certainly one your attendees will never forget. It isn’t called the “Last Frontier” for nothing! Plan your incentive around the Iditarod (March 2 this year), and let your attendees meet and greet the mushers and dogs. With more than 8,000 sleeping rooms and two convention centers, Anchorage is a beautiful destination that’s also affordable—and did I mention there’s no sales tax? Oh, and your attendees may even see the Northern Lights.

Panama City, Panama

Panama City has modern infrastructure, easy air access, and a wealth of cultural and natural attractions for team building. Of course, it’s home to the Panama Canal, which is a bucket list item for many people. Plus, it’s home to various indigenous tribes that welcome visitors into their villages for a day of cultural learning. Panama City is just plain easy: English is predominantly spoken, no U.S. currency-exchange is needed, and it’s safe. There are more than 15,000 sleeping rooms from boutiques to big-box chains. Choose a beach destination, a rainforest destination or the city. You can’t go wrong.

Asheville, N.C.

Who knew this little mountain town—known for its bohemian flair—had so much to offer? With the second-growing airport in the U.S., it’s easy to access. Plus, new boutique properties are popping up left and right. And the food: Top-notch cuisine is available all around, coupled with craft breweries. With more than 8,000 sleeping rooms, this walkable destination offers unique team-building activities galore. An added bonus: The CVB staff is one of the best in the country.

This article was first published in Prevue Meetings on January 29th. https://www.prevuemeetings.com/spark-blog/flip-the-script/take-incentive-groups-2019/