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CTN Solutions has been serving the greater Philadelphia area since 1997, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Don’t Make the Solutions More Complicated Than the Problem

Don’t Make the Solutions More Complicated Than the Problem

The act of “yak shaving,” also known as “bikeshedding,” is a specific kind of procrastination that can hold you back from getting the most out of your workday. This week’s tip is dedicated to explaining what this nonsensical phrase means and why it’s beneficial to keep your employees on track.

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A PSA PSA: Build a More Efficient Business

A PSA PSA: Build a More Efficient Business

In order to build a profitable business, productivity has to remain consistent. If your business offers a service, and you are having a hard time managing all its moving parts, then professional services automation (PSA) software may be right for you. Today, we will give a quick overview of what exactly a PSA is, and how it can serve as an extremely useful tool for businesses who operate in the professional services space.

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Tomorrow’s IT: Why Managed Services are Crucial in 2019

Tomorrow’s IT: Why Managed Services are Crucial in 2019

Technology has fundamentally altered the capabilities of businesses. Cloud computing has provided access to enterprise-strength computing at small business costs, and now IT providers are more able to deliver value than simple repair-and-replace services. The name of the game is value, which is why the value-driven IT services of tomorrow are here to stay.

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Should You Outsource Your IT Project’s Management?

Should You Outsource Your IT Project’s Management?

Any project manager will tell you that there are countless issues that can get in the way of a successful implementation. To nobody’s surprise, business technology can aid project management by streamlining operations and making the entire process much easier for everyone involved. Project management software and value-based managed IT services can help you complete projects on-time and on-budget.

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Overburdened Business Owners Should Consider Managed IT

Overburdened Business Owners Should Consider Managed IT

It’s no secret that a business owner has more than enough to deal with, regardless of that business’s size.

Whether the business has 10 employees or 100, the business owner manages the minutiae of everyday operations, along with any other stress-inducing issues. As one might assume, financial concerns can contribute considerably to that stress.

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Why You Need to Be Certain You’re Using Licensed Software

Why You Need to Be Certain You’re Using Licensed Software

Using pirated software or abusing your software licenses is highly frowned upon in business. However, many software companies, in an attempt to protect their products, have unleashed a practice that can actually reward those who let it happen.

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Tip of the Week: Why You Should Reexamine Your Business Practices

Tip of the Week: Why You Should Reexamine Your Business Practices

As a business adopts certain “best practices,” it is important for business leaders to consider why they are adopted and, more importantly, are they really for the best? There are many problems that subscribing to false best practices can produce, and so it becomes important to identify, adjust, and resolve them.


The term “best practices” is used exceptionally often in business communications, blogs, and other messages, to the point that it is fair to say that the term is bandied about just for the sake of using it. However, so much stake is placed in what is considered “best practice” that whatever is purported to be best is accepted without any further examination.

In his recent book, Breaking Bad Habits: Defy Industry Norms and Reinvigorate Your Business, and in an interview with the Harvard Business Review discussing this publication, Professor Freek Vermeulen discusses this phenomenon.

In the interview, the subject of reverse benchmarking is brought up, and with it, the example presented by Capitec. Capitec is a bank in South Africa that leveraged reverse benchmarking in order to cement their place in their market.

Reverse benchmarking is where you examine the standard practices of your particular industry in order to determine how one can do better, often by abandoning what other businesses treat as status quo. Returning to the Capitec example, Capitec observed that the other banks in South Africa were closing at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. In response to this, Capitec extended their hours to allow those who are employed to attend to their banking after work, and many of their branches have Saturday hours as well.

This is just one example of how “best practices” may not always be “best” for all businesses. However, when many businesses are questioned specifically regarding their supposed best practices, the response is often some variation of “this is what is safe and/or comfortable, and this is the way it has always been done.” According to Vermeulen, this is a good sign that there needs to be an examination into whether or not an organization is subscribing to practices because they are truly helpful, or if they are just stuck to the status quo.

There is also the danger of assuming that, because a company became successful by doing something, that something is a best practice. Vermeulen brought up the possibility that the companies who have reached the top have done so by following risky strategies and lucked out, while the vast majority of companies who did the same thing they did ultimately failed and died out in obscurity.

Vermeulen also acknowledges that changing an established practice is not an easy conclusion for many businesses to come to. According to him, companies will wait as long as they can before they make a change out of necessity--when they begin to see productivity and profitability suffer--but by then, change is more difficult to make.

This is why Vermeulen offers this advice: “Be proactive.”

By evaluating your business and establishing what actually works and--more importantly--what doesn’t, you can identify weak points and resolve them before they cause your business too much trouble.

CTN Solutions can do the same for your IT, evaluating your systems and network to ensure that everything is up to standard. Give us a call at (610) 828-5500 for more information.

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Small Businesses Face Challenges in 2018

Small Businesses Face Challenges in 2018

The modern small business will face several challenges in 2018. The world is changing, and with it, so is business. For many small businesses, this can either be looked on as the opportunity they’ve been waiting for, or, it can be viewed as the beginning of the end. No matter what situations you are faced with this year, understanding what problems your business faces, and how to solve them is imperative to your small business’ success.


In the technology world, 2018 will be more about utilizing innovations to the technologies that are already available rather than deploying newfangled technologies, as many small businesses focus on revenue generation rather than simply cutting their technology costs. Chances are your organization already takes advantage of many of today’s most cost-prohibitive technology trends. Whether or not you are using them properly will ultimately be the difference in meeting your yearly projections. We take a look at some of the most compelling variables a small business owner needs to consider in order to take their business in the right direction.

Running a Smarter Business
While 2017 was a good year for the small business, many smaller organizations fall into the trap of not focusing on revenue generation; setting their sights on sustainability rather than success. If your business has been around the block a bit, you may be comfortable with the “business as usual” approach. You may be surprised to know that by changing the way you approach certain core strategies, you can initiate greater revenue generation and stop focusing so much of your time and effort on practices that aren’t effective and just hold your business back.

Cost cutting initiatives have been all the rage for the past several years. Many businesses utilize outsourced services such as cloud computing, print services, and staffing agencies to reduce their capital expenses. This strategy is sound--it provides an organization with more upfront capital--allowing for more a targeted approach at projects that can spur on revenue generation. The issue is that by not making ANY true capital investments, you are likely paying more.

One way to improve your business’ position is to consider the value you get from recurring services. A service like the one CTN provides, where you can see an immediate return on your recurring investment, is valuable, and rare. There are some services, however, that don’t provide a rapid or sustainable return, and by paying more up front, you could actually mitigate cost that adds up over time. Paying for software you barely use per month may seem affordable if you look at the operational cost, but in true capital, renewing a yearly license for a single copy of the software may actually save you money.

As far as the revenue generation problem goes, there are two solutions that are available to every business that, once implemented, are likely to provide a solid ROI. The first is analysis. Your company generates a lot of data, and much of that data is relevant in the context of making better business decisions. Business intelligence, that is the structured analysis of warehoused data, can provide some very useful answers. Consider that your operational data, data about staff effectiveness, data about your marketing and advertising initiatives all hold in them a small piece of truth about the way your business operates. By gaining a more comprehensive understanding of how your business functions, you can make better strategic and operational decisions.

At CTN, we are just starting to understand how to help our clients run smarter businesses. Since profit margins and returns on many goods have shrunk significantly over the years, businesses have looked to services to fill in the gaps when they don’t have the capital to undertake major investments for staff, technology, or otherwise. Today we can set up a data warehouse to store all the relevant data so that you can use automated analytic software to crawl the data to get the truth about how your business functions, and what to do to boost revenue generation.

The second is sometimes looked on as an antiquated strategy; but, in the information age it remains as true today as ever. Invest in your people. It’s simple, the better your people enjoy working for you--the more they see your sacrifice and hard work--the more they have reason to be proud to have their job with your organization--the better your company will function. While we push automation every day to help you get more out of your company, you won’t get anything out of it if you view your employees as a hindrance. Think about it this way, your people are your biggest expense, and as a result, should be your biggest priority.

With the technology that is coming, this tried-and-true method of running a smarter business is going to be tested. Many larger enterprises have begun utilizing automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence in an effort to provide higher returns for their investors. It’s only a matter of time before small businesses around the world will be using the same technologies to try to turn a penny into a nickel. While there are some jobs that can be eliminated with these technologies, there will be different jobs created through the use of them. With automation beginning to redefine the job market, independent workers will be in demand to fill in the gaps. So, while these jobs have less definition, the need for hungry, happy workers will be there for as long as goods and services are produced.

To get your staff working the way you need them to work, you have to invest in them. Here are three ways you can run a smarter business by getting more from your staff:

  1. Improve Retention - Onboarding new workers is expensive and time-consuming. It puts a strain on almost every part of your business. Small businesses often can’t pay their workers the same rate that a major corporation might, but they can provide them with more value. By investing in training/professional development, benefits, and other courtesies, people will want to work for you and won’t be continuously looking for an exit.
  2. Improve Morale - If your workers are stressed out, you can see it immediately. How do your workers interact? Is there a buzz in your place of business, or is it silent? A silent workplace is great if you run a public library, but if you run an office the lack of noise is deafening, and a telling symptom of people just waiting to punch out for the day. Most people may work for the paycheck, but if they are working for the weekend, you need to make an effort to boost morale.
  3. Two-way Loyalty - Many small business owners demand loyalty out of their people, but refuse to reciprocate. There is nothing that will make a worker throw in the towel faster than a lack of loyalty. Very few people prosper in an unsupportive environment. To keep your workers in a productive mindset, make them realize that you are working together for a common goal, not just working for you.

Getting smarter about the way you do business doesn’t start with technology, and doesn’t start with capital, it starts with a dedication to do the right thing for your clients, for your staff, and for the myriad of other people that depend on your business. If you handle your staff in the right way, it will provide you with the largest ROI of any investment you can make this year, and any year.

Learn Where You Can Compete and Where You Can’t
Many of today’s small business owners look at their more-successful competition and try to emulate the practices that have made them a success. The fundamental problem with this strategy would be that you are in competition with these companies for revenue, and by doing things the same way as they do it doesn’t set your business apart from them. That being said, there is are reasons that the company you are setting out to emulate is having success. By copying your competitors’ best features, you could create some space in even the most saturated market. Whether they boast superior brand recognition, have superior customer service, are superior at fulfillment, etc. you have to know your place in your market. In fact, many experts consider the act of finding your niche inside of your target market to be one of the largest differentiators to achieving success for a small business.

Consider your smartphone for a minute. You decide to start a company to make smartphones. Chances are you aren’t going to compete with the Apples, Nokias, and Samsungs of the world. So, while it stands to reason that you may want to abandon your plan altogether, you start looking at the data and there are no phones made specifically for doctors. If you deliver on your promises and create a device that works for the needs of doctors, there is a chance that you can compete within that niche market, while not really competing at all in the larger market at all.

Anything you can do to deliver your goods and services to the most people should be the aim, but be cognizant that by setting your sights too high, you may just be putting your company in a perilous predicament. You need top tier customer service, a trustworthy product that you stand behind, and a plan on how to get your product to your consumers if you are going to compete in any market. Find your differentiator and exploit it.

2018 is another year where technology will be in the mind’s eye of every business owner, but to find success by using technology, you have to apply it in the right way. For more information about business technology, how to stretch your IT budget properly, or any other technology related subject, call the IT professionals at CTN today at (610) 828-5500.

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Unpaid Invoices are a Major Problem For SMBs

Unpaid Invoices are a Major Problem For SMBs

While many different people open businesses, the primary reason that they all do so is to make money. A positive cash flow is essential if the business is to generate funds that support a cause or provide a decent living. However, to collect this cash flow, a business must have their invoices returned. As it happens, this doesn’t often occur in a timely manner.


Whether you own a business or work for one, you need the business to make money so you can make money to settle your finances and debts. This becomes challenging when the status quo dictates that payment terms can stretch the time, up to three months, for an invoice to be paid. This delay between the transaction and the actual payment has led to many operational difficulties in many businesses.

There’s a good chance that you know about this from firsthand experience, as these difficulties are exceptionally common. Estimates have attributed 5 percent of the national gross domestic product to unpaid invoices. 81 percent of invoices are past due by 30 days or more, with the average small business waiting for approximately $84,000 to come in from invoices that have yet to be paid. This average business also only has about 27 days of assets saved.

Added up, estimates say that businesses were owed $825 billion in unpaid invoices in 2016.

It is pretty clear that outstanding invoices are a considerable problem for small businesses, and in some cases medium-sized establishments as well. Improvement and innovation simply can’t happen if all of a business’s funds are tied up in sustaining themselves as they wait for payment. When was the last time you had to postpone something as you waited for money to be available for it?

Sometimes you have to spend money in order to make money. With the services we offer at CTN, you can have your capital spend reduced by budgeting your IT costs into a predictable monthly rate. We’ll provide you with software to keep track of from where, and when, you should expect a payment.

For more information about line of business applications and the other solutions we have available, give us a call at (610) 828-5500.

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Tip of the Week: 7 Easy Ways to Encourage Collaboration in the Workplace

Tip of the Week: 7 Easy Ways to Encourage Collaboration in the Workplace

One of the most effective methods to boost employee productivity is to encourage your workforce to work together in order to achieve their goals. Workplace collaboration allows multiple employees to combine their efforts and energies into a common project, adding value to the final product and often completing it more quickly. The benefits don’t end there, either. Here are some of the other advantages gained by encouraging collaboration among your workforce.

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Tip of the Week: Don’t Let Work Ruin Your Friendships, or Friendships Ruin Your Work

b2ap3_thumbnail_be_the_boss_400.jpgAs a business owner, you walk a fine line between boss and friend. While you want to be approachable and have a company culture that’s friendly, you can’t have your employees be your closest friends. Being too close to your staff will blur your authority, breed favoritism, and make it difficult to fire people; but not being friendly will make for a cold working environment. How do you manage this social dynamic?

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What Backsourcing Your IT Looks Like

b2ap3_thumbnail_backsourcing_it_from_success_400_20150112-220133_1.jpgIf you’re looking to save some money on IT, outsourcing your company’s IT services is a simple and effective method. This concept has grown tremendously over the past several years, and the saved expenses are one of its biggest attractions. However, businesses sometimes decide that it might be time to backsource their IT.

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Herding Cats is Harder Than it Looks [VIDEO]

b2ap3_thumbnail_cats_cats_cats_400.jpgHerding cats is a business term used to describe the task of organizing and controlling entities like people and systems known for being uncontrollable and even chaotic. Due to the unpredictable and independent nature of felines, cat herding captures the idea of controlled chaos perfectly. Does running your business feel like you're working on a cat ranch?

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