Axe Throwing in Vegas

Hanging out with our clients is one of the coolest parts of the job

Recently a couple of our Switchbox employees were able to fly out to Las Vegas to attend one of our clients, Dueling Axes, holiday party.

Being able to be a part of a client’s holiday party is cool enough, but flying out to Las Vegas for the weekend to attend the party at their newest location is beyond awesome. Joel was able to pick up our developer Tim from Indiana on his plane, to also have him fly out to get to see the Dueling Axes team. Take a look at some of the photos from the weekend, and if you’re in Las Vegas anytime soon, check out Dueling Axes!

Thanks so much to the Dueling Axes team for inviting Switchbox out to their holiday party in Las Vegas! Being able to see what your clients do with software that you help create and develop in person will never get old.

Switchbox’s Annual Chili Cook Off

Battle of the Chili Puns

Switchbox celebrated our 100th Annual Chili Cook Off in October! We were able to gather some of our remote employees to come in for a couple of days and get our Columbus area team together to battle it out for the best chili! And what does the team love more than good food, competing against each other!

For the chili cook off, everyone who enters a recipe is kept anonymous, with the use of our wonderful Chili Pun Celebrity cards made up by our Product Owner Kristin. Some of which include: Beefer Sutherland, Chillian Anderson, Queen Labeefa, Chili Mays, and Chili Ray Cyrus, just to name a few.

The Switchbox Chili Cook Off is just an awesome way for us to relax for an afternoon, get some of the team together, bond of chili puns and eat some good food. But of course, the most important thing is declaring a winner! Everyone gets to vote for their top 3 chili picks, and the most points wins. This year, it was declared that the winner was Beefer Sutherland, which was actually made with alligator meet from our UX/UI Director, Schwing, turns out Beefer didn’t have any beef in it after all.

We can’t wait to see who wins the 2023 Switchbox Annual Chili Cookoff.

Switchbox Team at Boo at the Zoo

Who doesn’t love a good scare?

It’s always a great time when our Switchbox team members can participate in the cool events that our clients put on! Some of the Switchbox team members took their families to the activities at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium‘s annual Boo at the Zoo! This family-friendly event featured Tommy C. Turtles Trick or Treat Trail with 13 treat stations in Adventure Cove, around Conservation Lake, and Asia Quest.

For those who wanted a little more scare for the older kids and adults, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium had their 2nd Annual ZOMBIEzi Bay event which featured haunted houses and zombie scares! No matter what age, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has something for the whole family and our Switchbox Family loves to partake.

Keep an eye out for Wildlights starting on November 18th, another Switchbox team favorite of the year, and check out some of the other work we’ve done for the Zoo here!

Internal vs External IT Teams

The difference between hiring inside developers vs. an external consulting firm.

We get the question a lot from clients on whether they should hire internal web or information technology professionals or hire external or consulting firms (like Switchbox) for their business or project. The struggle is if you look at what you can pay a web developer per year vs paying a consulting firm per week, obviously the consulting firm will be more expensive for the same amount of hours. But is it actually worth hiring someone for internal work vs. external? Let’s take a look at that.

There are benefits to both ways. Obviously in house, or internal, web developers allow you and your company to retain more control. If they are your employee, and work for you 40 hours a week, you can dictate their projects for the week. Whereas with a consulting firm, or external team, they may have other projects and dedications that they have to fulfill first, which means your project may not get attention that week.

If your company is large enough to justify a large IT team and web development, then it would make sense for you to go that route. But for most businesses, there may not be enough work to justify the expense of having an in house web developer all year long.

Redundancy and Longevity

Let’s say that you have hired two in house developers – a web developer and a dev ops or server person. If you lose one of those people – they quit, retire, or become ill – you have essentially lost 50% of the knowledge, process, and work capacity. But if you have hired an outside firm and you are paying for 40 hours a week, you are essentially having two dedicated developers on your project each week, even if one person would be out sick or quit.

Variety of Skill Sets

With your web developer and your dev ops/server person, that is the extent of their skill set for your company, unless you hired a larger team. With an external firm, you are essentially paying for their variety of skill sets with their different team members – whether that be a UI/UX developer, technical business analyst, or senior web developer. Trying to turn your internal team members into those roles and positions, just never end up working out correctly, and you’re more likely to waste more time and money having them learn new skill sets. With the external firm, you can have a senior level UI/UX person spend 2-3 hours on your project and be done with the user interface. This allows you to tap into the variety of skill sets without making a huge commitment to your business.

Misnomer of the Hourly Rate

You’ve hired a senior level developer, and are paying them for 40 hours per week, and you assume that you are getting 40 hours of work. When you hire an external firm, you’re expecting the same 40 hours of work each week, but we’ll explain why that is just not true. Any reputable external consulting firm will not guarantee you 40 hours of work from the developers, and any that are charging you a straight line item of 40 hours is probably just not being truthful.

At Switchbox, we have our staff at any given time of the year, that are getting paid for to get training, and that is something that the client does not pay for. We’re also paying them for internal company meetings, so if we have a 15 minute all staff meeting to talk about health benefits, none of our clients would be footing the bill for this. But if you have hired the internal senior developer at your company, and your HR department has to hold a 1 hour meeting to go over benefits, you are paying them for that hour and not getting any development benefits from it. You are also paying for that water cooler time, and are chit-chatting with their co-workers. While as the external firm, the developer or team member is only logging time when they are being productive and working on your project and task.

Here at Switchbox, we find that the true ratio is that for every one of our developers we’re only charging our clients for about 80% of their time, the remaining 20% is for internal company meetings and activities that are not charged to the client’s projects.

Knowledge Atrophy

If you’ve hired the internal IT staff – they are only working on your project. Their knowledge is limited to only your company’s project, the app, website, or database. They are only ever learning in your own environment, and not able to diversify their knowledge. At Switchbox, we work on a minimum of 70 projects a year, which means a large pool of knowledge is getting passed around through our developers to learn and grow with. A developer is able to work on multiple projects at the same time, and when Client A’s project reaches a road block, they can take the knowledge from Client B’s project to trouble shoot and figure out a solution to their unique situation.

Thinking more about hiring Switchbox as your external consulting firm, Contact us to chat about it!

Cyber Security and Your Business

Why should everyone be taking a strong cybersecurity stance?

With the ever growing technology, people don’t see something physical they tend to forget that it needs to be secured. When you walk into a bank, you can physically see the security that is protecting your assets. With IT, people have a tendency to forget about their server that might be located in a different state, and they do not know who has access to that information, which leads to vulnerabilities for your businesses information to be stolen.

Small to mid-sized firms are the most common for cyber security attacks since they are more vulnerable with easier access to their information.

What Should Small to Mid-Size Businesses Do for their Website?

Figure out who runs your external website, and ask them what security measures have been taken to secure their website, and what they would recommend doing to beef it up. While this isn’t full proof, it always is helpful to hear about what more that you can do to help protect your business.

Online tools are a great way to find a free security online analysis that will give you more of an idea of something simple that you can do to secure your business. 

Call a cyber security firm, who will gladly talk with you about questions about your business, and take some time to offer suggestions, without necessarily charging you for those recommendations yet. Most good, reputable cyber security firms will highlight the top 2-3 issues that you should fix immediately. Beware of companies that will insist that you must fix everything on the list in order to remain secure.

What should you do to protect your business from Cyber Security threats?

You absolutely need to have a firewall that is being updated on a monthly basis, at all of your physical locations so that your printers, computers, etc. are being protected every day. 
If you process any type of credit card, you should absolutely be in talks with a cyber security firm to talk about locking down that data and becoming PCI Compliant (learn more about PCI compliance here).

By identifying where you can secure parts of you business contact Switchbox today to see how we can help. Contact us to chat about it!

Business Automation Through Technology Part II

How to make your business smarter and more efficient

The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.

Bill Gates

As you read in our first in the series of Business Automation blog posts, business automation is taking tasks within your business that are repetitive, and having someone or something do them automatically. In continuation of the series, we’re going to dig a little deeper into what else you can do with business automation within your business.

Once you have identified what your always and your every’s in your business that are possible to automate within a technical aspect, the next step is to dig into those tasks further to break them down. Ideally, you will have more than just a couple of tasks that you can automate within your business. 

Identifying Multiple Tasks Within Your Business

If you own a restaurant, and you wanted to start doing proactive marketing. You start to look back on customers that visited your restaurant for Valentine’s day and you want to send them a special coupon for them to come back and visit. Or you have a list of customers who have purchased gift cards, and a holiday is approaching and you want to reach out to those customers and promote a gift card special that you are having. It could also be you wanting to reach out to new customers to visit your restaurant, so you want to automate an email every Wednesday at 12pm you want to remind everyone of your happy hour special from 2-6pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays. 

Categorize Your Tasks

It could also be identifying areas that you’d like to improve, such as making sure you are properly staffed for busy times of the day, or automatically ordering your supplies and food when inventory starts to get low. Once you identify a large list of items in your business that you could potentially automate, start looking at grouping them in categories, ie. financial, marketing, managing vendors, etc. 

Once you start grouping your tasks, take a look at them and start asking yourself what technology systems that you use to manage each task, ie. scheduling software, email, payroll systems, credit card processors, point of sale systems. When you have your list established, you will start looking to hire someone with a technology background or someone who is comfortable with the systems and digging into what they are capable of doing for your business. This will get you into the third step of business automation, so keep an eye out for your next blog post in the series.

Interested in Business Automation for your company?

By identifying where you can automate parts of you business, you can in turn have higher productivity, increase performance, and help to reduce your operating costs. Think that you have an area in your business that could be automated, but need some help with the technical side of it? Contact us to chat about it!

Business Automation Through Technology

How to make your business smarter and more efficient

The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.

Bill Gates

What exactly is business automation?

Business automation is taking tasks within your business that are repetitive, and having someone or something do them automatically. For example, you may send a reminder to your customers after their invoices are more than 30 days late, or you follow up with a customer 5 days after they visited your restaurant and you send them a customer satisfaction survey.

You may even add in a little business intelligence in there as well. For a positive survey that a customer left you you may ask them to leave you a positive Google Review, and for a negative survey response, you would send them a coupon for 20% off their next meal. These are just some small examples of business automation in your company.

What is the first step of business automation?

First, you need to identify some of the areas where you can automate your business, and where it can actually help you make smarter business decisions. We suggest you look at your Always & your Everys.

Find out in your business where you, or someone on your team, says the phrase: “When x happens, I always do y.” A great example of this would be, “whenever a customers invoice is more than 30 days overdue, I always send out a reminder email.” Or, it would be, “whenever a customer’s invoice is 45 days overdue, I always resend the reminder email, with a $100 late fee attached.”

Where can technology help you with the Always & the Everys?

If you already are using accounting software, or your website already collects customer satisfaction surveys – those are already great areas where you can automate your business.

Some areas are less obvious than others though. We had a customer in the utility and rental space, and whenever one of their tenants had a leaky pipe, they wanted to create a warning to flag their maintenance department that there was a problem.

Their question was, how can a computer system figure out that a pipe has physically broken or that a pipe has developed a leak? Those are areas where you are not exactly sure if technology can help out your business. The solution that we found was, as a proxy for determining if a pipe has physically broken, we can determine if their water meter has used a significant amounts more water (whatever the threshold that you set would be) then it will send an email to the customer that their water bill has increase by 20%.

By identifying where you can automate parts of you business, you can in turn have higher productivity, increase performance, and help to reduce your operating costs. Think that you have an area in your business that could be automated, but need some help with the technical side of it? Contact us to chat about it!

Meet the Team: Alexi

In this blog series, we’ll be featuring our staff here at Switchbox Inc. to give you a little more insight into what it’s like to work here, and all the interesting stuff that our team gets up to! Next up is our Lead Developer, Alexi!

Company Role: Lead Developer for the Rails Team

What do you do at Switchbox?

I help the Rails team run projects, work on software development and write programming. I also am a team lead and project coordinator for the Rails development team.

What is your favorite memory at Switchbox? 

Universal Studios work/GGOB trip – really great to get everyone together, and going out and getting dinner. Vegas was also a memorable experience. 

The day the wall fell over in the parking lot and crushed a bunch of cars was pretty awesome.

And of course the chili cookoff is always a great time at the office.

What’s your favorite movie or TV show?  

Movie: Arrival

What do you like to do when you aren’t at work? 

Submission grappling – which is a form of ground wrestling. Jujitsu, building custom mechanical keyboards, walks outside, dangling things in front of my cat.

What is your favorite thing about working at Switchbox?

The culture that we’ve built up and doing a great job of hiring like minded people who get along well and become friends. Friendly, welcoming, atmosphere.

Meet the Team: Tess

In this blog series, we’ll be featuring our staff here at Switchbox Inc. to give you a little more insight into what it’s like to work here, and all the interesting stuff that our team gets up to! Next up is our Business Analyst, Tess!

Company Role: Business Analyst for the Discovery Team

Tess and her daughter Cora at Columbus Zoo & Aquarium’s Boo at the Zoo

What do you do at Switchbox?

I work on the Discovery team, so I’m an idea translator for our clients, meaning I get a problem from our client and translate that into technical specifications. I usually start in the sales process, and dive deep into the client’s business and website or software to see what the problems are and translate them into what could be done and assist the Switchbox development team in how to make that work.

What is your favorite memory at Switchbox? 

Probably taking my daughter Cora to Disney World on our Switchbox 2020 GGOB, that was the first time that we got to travel with her since she was born and it was so much fun to get to take her to Disney with my company.

What’s your favorite movie, TV show, or book?  

Movie: Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

TV: Gilmore Girls

Book: Looking for Alaska by John Green

What do you like to do when you aren’t at work? 

Take care of my child, write & read books (fun fact, Tess is a novelist!), play video games and hike.

What is your favorite thing about working at Switchbox?

Oh my gosh the people, we work with a lot of really great people and it makes coming to work every day so much fun.

Meet the Team: Evan

In this blog series, we’ll be featuring our staff here at Switchbox Inc. to give you a little more insight into what it’s like to work here, and all the interesting stuff that our team gets up to! Next up is our Lead Developer, Evan!

Company Role: Lead Developer for the .NET team

Evan riding the Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee this summer

What do you do at Switchbox?

I help run projects, and support the development staff. Sometimes I write code, but lately I meet with clients to go over their projects and offer a technical process when trying to figure out what will be best for their project and business.

What is your favorite memory at Switchbox? 

One of them, as others have said, is the Universal Studios trip with the Switchbox team. But there are so many that I have with my 11 years at Switchbox that it’s hard to pick just one. Touring client facilities is always cool to see what they are working on and how our project will them will help their business.

Another funny memory was when the office building was under construction and a pipe had burst in the basement while we were working. It was like a fire hose level burst, so we had to put a trash can under it so it didn’t flood the office.

What’s your favorite movie or TV show?  

TV Show: Babylon Five

What do you like to do when you aren’t at work? 

Riding my motorcycle, watching cat videos, learning how to play the guitar, and working out has become a new hobby recently until I broke my collarbone mountain biking with some co-workers.

What is your favorite thing about working at Switchbox?

Oh, the people that work here are awesome (Joel is the best boss ever).

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