Keeping User Names and Passwords Safe and Secure

I don’t know about you, but between clients, my business, and my personal “stuff” I have a LOT of user names and passwords and pins to keep track of.  I mean, sometimes all the things we need to remember just to Log In to a computer or a piece of software is ridiculous.  For example, for one of my clients, in order to log in to the customer management database I need a 1. My User Name which has to be ten characters long and contain one upper case letter, one lower case letter, a number, and one special character and 2. A password that is also ten characters and also contains one upper case letter, one lower case letter, a number and a special character and 3. A five digit pin and 4. A picture I have to pick out of about twenty on the screen.  And that’s JUST to log in to one piece of software I use at this client!

So, I came up with two ways to keep track of all of my user names, passwords and pins.  Each way is customizable and not obvious to a hacker or even someone in your company or household who doesn’t need to be accessing your computer or bank accounts or software, or whatever else you might want to keep secure and private.

The first way is to create a unique contact in your email account.  Most email accounts allow you to create a contact profile, you know, name, address, etc.  In addition to all the usual information, there’s also a place for notes about that contact.  This is where I store my user names and passwords.  Now, I don’t use my name as the contact name, nor do I call it “passwords” or something obvious like that.  What I do is make up a name that I will remember is my “Passwords” name.  In the past, I’ve used the maiden name of one of my great-grandmother’s.  This wasn’t a name that would jump out at anyone scrolling through my contacts (except maybe my mother).  Don’t use anything like “PeeWee Herman” or some other name that is obviously not a real person.  Use a name only you know, and, since the profile is in your email accounts contacts, it’s easily accessible.  In the event you work at a company, it’s also easily deleted when you leave, or you can easily cut and paste all of the notes into a word doc or email and forward to your boss.

The second way I’ve tracked user names and password is a little tip I got from my daughter.  You all know how much I love a nice color coded spreadsheet, right? ☺ But, I didn’t call this spreadsheet “Passwords” because that would be, well let’s just say short-sighted and leave it at that.  What I did was once again make up a name.  When my daughter started school each year, she puts all of her class syllabi (Syllabuses?), her annual school calendar, class schedule, school handbook, etc, into a binder that she called her “Everything Binder”.  This binder was her go to resource for that school year and went with her to school every day.  I took that idea and morphed it into a spreadsheet that I used to call “My Everything Binder”.  I’ve since changed that name, but you get the point.  This is a file that can sit right on your computer’s desktop and is easily accessible every day as you need it.  You call it whatever makes sense to you, that you will remember, and won’t be obvious to anyone else.  It could be “Mary’s To Do’s” or “Grocery List”, or anything else that makes sense to you, and someone else would pass right over.

Oh, one more thing, be sure to password protect the file.   Remember when creating passwords, use upper and lower case letters, numbers and characters.  Unfortunately, documents and spreadsheet passwords can be hacked, but there’s no reason to make it easy!

Best of luck, and let me know if this worked for you or if you have any other “Best Practices” for keeping user names and passwords secure!

Economies of Scale

We briefly talked about Economies of Scale when we discussed Barriers to Entry, but I thought I’d delve into it a bit more since it relates to so many things in business.

Economies of Scale basically means buying in bulk is always cheaper. It’s how Wal-mart, Sam’s Club, and Costco stay in business. It’s why we buy the package of toilet paper that has 36 rolls, or anything that is buy one get one free. The more we buy at one time, the less it costs us for each thing. It’s your grandmother’s adage of “everything is cheaper by the dozen”.

For example, Wal-Mart can buy truckloads of toothpaste from Colgate, while a mom and pop may only be able —or need— to buy a case of toothpaste. I can pretty much guarantee you that Colgate is going to give someone buying a truckload of toothpaste a way better deal than someone who only needs a case. Thus, economies of scale can prevent a mom and pop from even thinking about starting a little store because they’re going to have to sell their toothpaste for a $2.59 (for example, guessing here), while Wal-Mart can sell the same thing for $1.19. And thus, economies of scale become barriers to entry.

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Barriers to Entry for Small Businesses

Is your business David to someone’s Goliath? A Dingy to someone’s Steamer Ship? Is there a Dragon guarding the entrance to the Kingdom you want to own, or a jester dangling the keys just out of your reach? Well, in business, the fancy-dancy term for these kinds of challenges is “Barrier’s to Entry”.

What’s a “Barrier to Entry”? Anything that stops a newbie (whether a single shingle guy or a fortune 500 company) from entering a niche or business. This could be another company which is already well established in your niche, or it could mean that there’s a significant cost to get a company up and going, also known as “sunk costs”.

Maybe it’s not equipment, maybe it’s a special skill or license you need. If you want to own a beauty shop, you’re going to need a cosmetologist license and if you want to own a real estate agency you’ll need a Broker’s license, not just a Realtor’s license.

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The Three C’s: Common Sense, Commitment and Cash

There are three C’s you must have, in my opinion, to start a business and take it from Kernal of Hope to Thriving Cash Register:

1. Courage.
2. Commitment.
3. Cash.

Without all three of these attributes, your Tiny Idea will never be the Next Big Thing. Running a small business is a lot like a marriage: it’s a constant never ending struggle and you have to be present in every moment. It’s also amazingly rewarding and some of the most fun you’ll ever have.

Let’s take the first “C”: Courage. We all know what Courage is, and a small business owner or home-based business owner needs Courage as much as a knight of old needed courage to hop on his trusty stead and ride out to fight the dragon. Because fighting dragons is what you’re doing all day every day when you’re running a business. Whether that dragon is rising insurance rates, plummeting sales, employee issues, or even too much cash (and, yes, believe it or not, that can be a problem!), a small business/home-based business owner spends most of her day slaying dragons. And that, my friend, takes courage. The courage to get up every morning, confront problems head on, make a decision, implement the decision, and live to fight another day. And, the NEXT day…and the next one, and the next one, and…you get the picture.

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