Golden Business Ideas


Does Neat Equal Efficient ?

Conventional wisdom equates a messy desk with a messy mind.

Don’t you believe it; it’s just one more example of how conventional people are biased against unconventional thinkers.

A recent survey of 1,000 successful executives found that only about half kept clean desks; a third described their desks as messy; and the rest said their desks were someplace in between. But those who admitted to messy desks insisted they could quickly locate exactly what they need.

The bottom line: A neat desk surely can reflect a neat mind, but it also can indicate a personality that needs to control, or puts appearance ahead of productivity. Likewise, a messy desk may point to a person who can’t get things done or keep things in order, but it also can reflect a personality that puts productivity first.

Block That Hacker

Does your organization have a Web site with a full-time Internet connection or does it use a full-time cable or DSL modem on a networked or standalone computer? Then it’s more than likely you’re being stalked by a hacker who wants:

To steal information.

To disrupt your operation.

To use your site to launch attacks.

As NASA and the Defense Department found to their shock, irritation and embarrassment, it’s hard, if not nearly impossible, to thwart a determined and expert hacker. But the good news is that very few hackers are truly determined or expert, so an effective defense is possible given a reasonable cost and effort.

The defense mechanism is a firewall—an electronic barrier to intruders. The best firewalls block unauthorized attempts to access your system, and then, if someone does manage to break in, foil efforts to steal information.

If you use a standalone computer system, there are software products designed to provide security against hackers. For more information go to www.symantec.com/product , which has one of the better offerings.

But be aware that for all but the most basic computer setup, planning or installing a firewall is not a do-it-yourself project. The key issue—deciding how much security you need for reasonable protection at minimal cost—shouldn’t be left to a novice or someone seeking to sell you a high-priced solution. Instead, find a competent computer consultant and research the subject using the keyword “firewalls.”

If you’re on a network and use Windows, here’s one quick step you can take to improve your security: Click on Start, Settings, Control Panel and Network . In the Network dialog box, click on File and Print Sharing —make sure none of the boxes on the screen are checked. That will make it harder for an intruder to copy your files.

Improving First Impressions

When customers or clients telephone your office or enter the reception area, is the first person they encounter a gum-chewing employee whose only knowledge about your organization is the location of the bathrooms and the coffee break hours?

Such first impressions are hard to erase. The lasting image is an organization in disarray (or even in financial trouble because it can’t afford a good telephone operator or receptionist).

If you think about it, you’ll find it hard to disagree that both functions should be filled by intelligent people with full knowledge of the organization’s operation. This position could be your best investment.

An Invitation

The JofA publishes a monthly collection of Golden Business Ideas and invites readers to contribute their favorites (for attribution, if you like).

Send your ideas to Senior Editor Stanley Zarowin via either e-mail ( zarowin@mindspring.com ) or regular mail at the Journal of Accountancy, Harborside Financial Center, 201 Plaza Three, Jersey City, NJ 07311-3881.

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