Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Future of Passwords

Passwords are the most common form of authentication on the Internet. Today, the average user has 90 different accounts that require usernames and passwords, making it improbable that the average consumer will effectively remember all of their passwords for each of their accounts. All too often we choose predictable passwords and pins and reuse the same password for multiple accounts. Cyber criminals and thieves will often engage in credential stuffing to use compromised username and password combinations to breach other accounts associated with their victims.

While there has been a trend towards businesses offering two-factor SMS-based authentication, this process is also not not entirely secure. It is becoming increasingly common for cyber criminals to hijack a victim’s mobile phone number and intercept the password reset link.

The proliferation of knowledge-based authentication requiring users to answer questions to verify their identity is also compromised by the plethora of publicly available personal information posted on social media or in public records. While we can change our passwords, we cannot change other details of our lives in the event of a security breach, such as our mothers’ maiden names or the city where we were born. 

Friday, September 7, 2018

The World Will Keep Turning Without You—How to Address Pre-Vacation Stress

Now that the Minnesota State Fair has come and gone, students are back in school, and temperatures are cooling off in Minnesota, I have started to prepare for fall. This includes preparing for my fall vacation.

Like many people, I know all too well how the period before a vacation can be filled with stress.  Luckily, I recently ran across an article in the Harvard Business Review, “How to Take the Stress Out of Taking Time Off,” written by time management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders. Saunders offers a few suggestions on reducing what she typically sees as the two types of pre-vacation work stress: (1) completing work before a vacation, and (2) being away from the office.

Saunders’s tips include:

  1. Planning ahead to prioritize and complete “must-do” projects;
  2. Partnering with peers to cover for you; and
  3. Deciding, and communicating to your team, what projects you will not do until you return.

Saunders’ fourth tip, and in my opinion, the most important is that “…if you can truly unplug, do.”

Thursday, August 30, 2018

My Newest Invention: Wicked Bread

As I was looking back on my entreVIEW posts, I realized that in the over seven years since my first post on this blog, I have somehow never managed to write about my cooking. If I never really cooked or didn’t have much interest in cooking, this might be about as surprising as having never written about celebrity marriages, country music, or the British royal family (which I indicated at the outset were topics about which I was unlikely to write). 

However, I really enjoy cooking and, in fact, do almost all the cooking for my family (other than the occasional “chopped challenge” with my almost 12-year old daughter). I rarely follow a recipe, although I often look at a few recipes for inspiration as I conjure what to cook. 

In some ways, I think cooking is like being an inventor—trying to find ways to invent new and interesting dishes, experimenting with new ideas, and discovering new ingredients and types of cooking. Just ask my family how obsessed I’ve been with Mediterranean cooking since our trip to Israel three years ago (no I haven’t experimented with Cuy—that’s guinea pig for the uninitiated—which I ate during our trip to Peru this summer).  

I’ve had a lot of fun this summer with a local farm share program through The Good Acre that delivers a box of produce to me (and others) directly to Gray Plant Mooty every Wednesday. I’ve made a lot of new dishes with new ingredients, including a rich broth with chickpeas and swiss chard, topped with a poached egg, inspired by this recipe. When I received a jalapeno pepper in my box a couple of weeks ago, I ended up “inventing” something my family has dubbed “Wicked Bread.” It is a sort of spicy garlic bread that they claim is “wicked good, wicked spicy, and green (like a certain witch in the musical “Wicked”)!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

An Adult’s Playground: Extreme Sandbox

For those of you who have read my previous posts, you’ll know I’m constantly in search of new activities to try. That’s why, while watching a Shark Tank rerun at the gym one evening earlier this year, I knew I (or someone close to me) had to give Extreme Sandbox a try.  

Extreme Sandbox is an adult playground. Located in Hastings, Extreme Sandbox provides an opportunity to play on 10 acres of sand by renting and operating heavy industrial equipment, such as a skid steer, bulldozer, excavator, or other large “toy.” You can even choose to crush a car. Packages are available for individuals, small groups, and corporate outings, and keep your eye out for special offers.  

Randy Stenger, the company’s CEO, was born and raised in Wisconsin and previously worked as a retail consultant. His kids provided the inspiration for Extreme Sandbox, which he refers to as a “heavy equipment adventure company” and a “bucket list experience.” In the company’s initial three years (2012–2015), it did $1M in sales, and when Randy’s appearance on Shark Tank aired in early 2016, he said that at least $500K in sales was expected for the year. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Apple Hits $1 Trillion

To say last Thursday was a good day for Apple Inc. may be the understatement of the century. On August 2, 2018, Apple became the first U.S. company to surpass $1 trillion in market value. Think about that for a minute. In 1997, Apple had just cut a third of its workforce and was about 90 days from going broke. Twenty-one years later, that same company is worth $1,000,000,000,000. 

Apple’s meteoric rise has been driven, in large part, by the sustained success of its blockbuster product, the iPhone. In the first quarter of 2018, iPhone sales accounted for approximately 70 percent of Apple’s total revenue. In total, Apple has sold more than 1.4 billion iPhones worldwide (three of which were sold to the author of this blog). I think it is safe to say that the iPhone has completely changed the way we live (an analysis on the societal impact of smartphones is beyond the scope of this post). 

The $1 trillion milestone reflects Apple’s explosive growth and its role in the tech industry’s rise to the forefront of the global economy. Unsurprisingly, the five most valuable U.S. companies (Apple, Inc., Alphabet Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Facebook Inc.) are all technology companies. Apple and Google combined now provide the software for 99 percent of all smartphones. Facebook and Google take 59 percent of online advertising revenue in the U.S. Okay, enough statistics. We get it. The tech industry is king and Apple wears the crown (for now). 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Favorite Entrepreneurial Takeaways from the Retail Success Summit 2018

This past month I attended the 10th Annual Retail Success Summit, presented by WhizBang! Training in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This training is geared towards store owners, but employs principles that can be universal in their business application. Last year I came home filled to the brim with ideas and motivation, so I went back this year hoping for the same.

I was not disappointed! I made an entire book of notes, but I thought I’d pare them down and share a few favorites that other entrepreneurs across various industries can also put to use. 

  1. This one did not come in the form of a session or a tip, but it was used heavily and successfully throughout the conference, and I brought it home to my own July staff meeting for a bit of fun and some great results. This website allows you to create live, interactive presentations where participants can pull out their smartphones, enter a code, and submit their votes. These can be open-ended “word clouds,” multiple choice questions, scales, reactions, and so much more. It’s a great way to keep your audience’s attention, to brainstorm for honest input, and to encourage participation by allowing anonymous responses.  

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Jot Your Thoughts

We are all familiar with Field Notes, those rather basic, yet timeless, notebooks in which you can do what the name implies, take notes. Beginning a few years ago, the Field Notes people came out with their own Field Notes Brand Books, the first of which was “A Drive into the Gap” by Kevin Guilfoile. It’s a nice, little, fits-in-your-back-pocket-sized book set against the backdrop of Roberto Clemente’s 3,000th and final hit before his early death, the stories and memories that have created a mystery about which bat Clemente actually used for his historic feat, and the relationship of the author to his father who worked with Clemente while with the Pittsburgh Pirates and eventually had a career with the Baseball Hall of Fame before falling victim to Alzheimer’s. 

This little book caused me to reflect on my own memories and ability to remember. Sometimes it seems that our brains pick and choose at random what they want to retain and discard (or hide from us).