From the Desk of Paul:

Your company’s core values will become the basis for your company’s culture.  Once the core values are established, you can arm yourself with questions that will give you insight during an employment interview as to whether or not the candidate is really aligned with the core values you have identified.  Allowing you to more easily identify potential employees who truly align with your company’s core values will further solidify those values when you make those candidates a permanent part of your team.  When your employees are aligned with the company’s core values, then there are fewer personnel issues, productivity challenges and staff is more engaged and get greater job satisfaction, which are all great things!

Now that your company has identified the core values, you must not only use those core values to make hiring decisions, but you must also use those core values to either coach your staff up or move them out.  Your employee evaluation process should be designed such that you can easily communicate to the employee how he or she measures up to each core value; but before you do that, do this first!  Walk your employee through each core value and ask him or her, “How do you think you measure up with this core value?” If he or she responds with very short answers, such as “pretty good”, follow up with this question, “How do you mean?”  The idea is to really get the employee to consider the core value and sincerely reflect on what it means to them and verbalize how their typical behavior compares with each core value.  This will help to reduce the likelihood of a defensive attitude which will make the evaluation conversation more productive and worthwhile.  It also requires that the employee give some serious consideration to the core values and sends the message that the values are not just marketing slogans but they are to become the very fabric of the organization as a whole.

As you evaluate the employee on each core value, it may be helpful to systemize this part of the evaluation, give examples and ask for agreement.  This keeps the evaluation objective, qualifies the objectivity, and gives the employee a voice, and therefor buy-in, to the evaluation process.  Some organizations use a “plus or minus” or a numbers-based rating system to rate alignment for each core value.  A “+” on the core value might imply that the employee is almost always or always aligned with the core value, whereas a “- “, would imply almost never or never.  Between those might be a “+/-“, which would indicate sometimes aligned.  In the numbers-based system, you might rate the level of alignment based on the number, such as on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being always aligned and 1 being never aligned.  What’s most important is consistency in the evaluation process.  While the core values portion of the evaluation may not be the entire evaluation, I think it should be the most important if you want to be intentional about creating the right company culture.  Most of all, the same standards must be used for all employees, including the evaluators.  If the employees feel that there is a lower standard for managers and owners, they won’t take the core values seriously.  Managers and owners should make every effort to demonstrate in their actions what true alignment with the core values looks like.

Based on the results of the evaluation, as an owner or leader you must be willing to coach employees to perform within a reasonable level of alignment with the core values or encourage them to seek other employment.  Employees should definitely be given the opportunity to improve while also being made to understand, without a reasonable level of alignment, then the employment agreement may be terminated.  The hardest part may be sticking to that.  Be honest with yourself and don’t allow the challenges that come with a vacant position to be the reason you choose not to move someone out who doesn’t fit the core values.  For whatever challenges it creates, it is always worth it when you fill the vacant spot with someone whom you know is a good core value fit.

Next month I will touch on the third point of “Hiring for Values” which details the interviewing process.  As always, if you have questions or comments that you would like for me to address, please contact me at

3 Questions You Should Ask Any IT “Expert” Before Letting Them Touch Your Computer Network

There are seemingly countless IT services providers to choose from these days, and it can be challenging to tell one from another. However, not all IT services providers are created equal. Some offer independent services, while others are part of larger firms. Some are new to the field, while others have been around for years. There are also companies that put out slick marketing to grab your attention but make it hard to tell if they really live up to the hype.

Well, we’re here to help you cut through the clutter. You want to hire someone who knows what they’re doing and will take care of your business the right way. To do that, there are a few questions you should ask every IT expert before you let them anywhere near your network – to ensure you’ll be in good hands.

1. What’s Your IT Experience?

Education, certifications and hands-on experience are all important. You want to know your “expert” is actually an expert. It’s all too easy for someone to pass themselves off as an expert when they really have limited experience, so you should never hire an individual or a company without vetting them first. After all, this person (or team) will be handling EXTREMELY sensitive hardware and data essential to the operation of your business. This isn’t the time to take risks or give someone the benefit of the doubt.

When you work with an IT services company, or MSP, you can generally expect that the people you work with are educated and experienced, but you should always ask. It’s okay to dive in and ask them about their certifications, how long they’ve been doing their job and how familiar they are with your industry. And if you aren’t sure what certain certifications are, feel free to ask follow-up questions. There’s a very good chance they’ll be more than happy to answer all of your questions, especially if they’re a true professional who knows what they’re doing!

2. What’s Your IT Approach?

There are different approaches to IT and network security. You have the old-fashioned break-fix approach and you have the modern proactive approach. The break-fix approach used to be the staple of the IT industry – it was the business model of just about every IT support firm in the 1990s and early 2000s. This approach is pretty straightforward: something breaks, so you hire someone to come in and fix it. If many things break or something complicated breaks, you could be looking at a pretty hefty bill – not to mention the costs associated with downtime.

Today, most MSPs take a proactive approach (and if they don’t, look elsewhere). They don’t wait for something to break – they’re already on it, monitoring your network 24/7, looking for outside threats or internal issues. They use advanced software that can identify trouble before it strikes. That way, they can go to work, proactively protecting your business so you avoid those hefty bills and long downtimes. These are companies that are willing to collaborate with you and your business to make sure you’re protected, your IT needs are met and you’re getting your dollars’ worth.

3. What’s Your GUARANTEED Response Time?

This question often gets overlooked, but it’s one that can make or break your business – and it can make or break your relationship with your IT services provider. You need to know that you won’t be left in the dark when something goes wrong within your network. If you’re experiencing a cyber-attack, or a power surge has taken out part of your server, the cost to your business can be catastrophic if your IT services provider can’t get to you right away. The longer you have to wait, the worse it can get.

You need to work with someone who can give you a guaranteed response time in writing. It should be built into their business model or, better yet, the contract they want you to sign when you hire their services. They should be doing everything they can to instill confidence that they’ll be there for you when you need them. If you’re working with an IT company that doesn’t have your full confidence, you may need to rethink that relationship.

Making & Keeping Customer Connections In A Digital Era

Make the value that you give your customers so high it doesn’t matter what the price is. Based on the experiences your brand consistently delivers, your customers should have no idea what your competition charges. You don’t need to raise your prices. You need to bring value and better service. This includes employee training – and be sure they understand how to build and keep relationships.

3 Strategies To Dominate The Relationship Economy

  1. Use technology to allow employees to focus on what’s most important: building relationships that result in higher customer loyalty.
  2. Build a culture that creates emotional connections with your employees.
  3. Create relationship-building training for new and existing employees.

Things That CAN Be Trained:

  • Authenticity
  • Insatiable curiosity
  • Incredible empathy
  • Great listening skills

The 1 Thing That CANNOT Be Trained:

  • The ability to love people

Let’s focus on what can be trained and what these traits look like.


  • You love what you do, and it’s obvious.
  • You’re transparent – if you have bad news, don’t hold it back.
  • You are as committed to the success of your customer as they are.
  • You know your clients’ top three goals for the year.
  • Your customer should not be able to imagine a world without your business in it.

Insatiable Curiosity:

  • You’re dying to learn about others.
  • You want to know about both familiar and unfamiliar subjects.
  • You’re willing to meet as strangers but leave as friends.

Incredible Empathy:

  • You look at things from the customer’s perspective.
  • You put yourself in your customer’s shoes.
  • You listen and think from the other person’s point of view, allowing their message to become much clearer.
  • You’re wary of empathy fatigue and able to reset yourself.

Great Listening:

  • You give them fierce attention.
  • You ask a question and then more questions.
  • You don’t defend questions and instead explore new ones.
  • You bounce questions back.
  • You fight the urge to reply before you finish listening.

Every employee should possess these four traits, and you should be willing to train your team to deliver on these traits. When you successfully bring these four elements together, you are set up for success and have the foundation to build and maintain strong relationships with your customers.

Leah Tobak is a Project Manager with Petra Coach. With a background in public relations and marketing, she’s done a lot of work building relationships with customers and prospective customers. Outside of the corporate landscape, Leah is an international model and is known for her work in front of the camera.

Top 4 Security Certifications You Should Have In 2021

GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC)

Ideal for those who may not have an extensive background in IT security and networking but who work in an IT security (or similar) role and want a baseline certification. No prerequisites. Learn more at

(ISACA) Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

Less technical and more managerial. Ideal for those in IT and risk management roles that are not strictly technical. Prerequisites for certification include five years experience in information security (including three years as an information security manager). Learn more at

(ISC)² Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

A high-level certification aimed at those with an extensive and knowledgeable IT security background. This certification is in very high demand by companies around the world. Prerequisites include five years experience in a position related to CISSP (or one year of experience plus a four-year degree). Learn more at

(ISC)² Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)

Ideal for those experienced in IT security with an emphasis on cloud-based solutions. Prerequisites for certification include a minimum of five years of full-time IT experience (with three years in information security). Learn more at Infosec, Dec. 22, 2020



The research is clear: people have a habit of putting more value on opinion rather than fact. It’s because it’s easy! This is discussed in Daniel Kahneman’s best-selling book, Thinking, Fast And Slow, and in numerous research papers. Accepting opinions requires less thinking than evaluating facts.

Data-driven companies need to take this into account when it comes to their teams. According to Kahneman, some people are “type 1” thinkers or fast thinkers, and opinions mean more to them. Others are “type 2” or slow thinkers – they take their time and evaluate what they hear.

Michael Schrage, research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, says you can’t just switch between the two types of thinking automatically. It’s more fundamental – you have to change people’s mindsets over time. His suggestion is to incentivize analytical, fact-based thinking and recognize employees who take this approach. Inc., Oct. 29, 2015



  1. Focus On Mental Health. Whether it’s your own mental health or the mental health of anyone on your team, make sure everyone has the time and space they need to take a break and refocus their energy. Make sure anxiety and stress are recognized and addressed in a positive way.
  2. Be With Your Team. Simply being present and available for everyone on your team goes a long way. Have regular one-on-one chats just to see how things are going and to ask if they need anything. When they do need something, do what you can to help (and be sure to follow up).
  3. Recognize Your Employees. Recognize their work and reward them. Everyone should be aware of the effort individuals and teams put into their work. At the same time, make sure they have ownership over their work and give credit where credit is due. Inc., Nov. 4, 2020

This monthly publication provided courtesy of Paul Meadows, President of Integrated Technology Group.

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