TriNet – Article 5 of 6

Tools of the Trade (TotT) Series – Give your HR a boost by trying TriNet

By: Zach Detweiler, Ph. D.Top of Form

Date: January 26, 2021

Tags: Trinet, HR, payroll, compliance, software, professional employer organization (PEO)


While often credited as the most valuable asset of any business, employees are often underserved by HR departments that are intended to provide *ahem* resources to these humans.


One of the main reasons for this lack of support can be summed up by the statistic that 70% of small businesses treat HR as an afterthought, using people with other primary roles and responsibilities to manage these functions.1  Often owners fill this role, averaging 25-35% of their time covering HR functions, and 7-25% of their time handling employee paperwork.2


Perhaps one of the things that is underappreciated about the role of HR is the extensive amount of essential paperwork that needs to be performed.  These functions, while less visible than the hiring, onboarding, and problem solving/addressing functions that HR is typically associated with, are indispensable to an organization.  Namely: payroll, employee benefits, compliance management, and employee information access all represent substantial weekly workloads.


The prospect of hiring a full-time employee in an HR management role can be viewed as unnecessary or even frivolous (a viewpoint I would challenge) and finding the right person for the job is one more activity for an owner or executive to undertake.  The good news is that many of these tedious but crucial items can largely be offloaded without hiring more people, but by employing a team of experts in the form of a professional employer organization (PEO) such as TriNet.


TriNet provides a suite of services that include payroll services (including expense management compatible with tools like my personal favorite money app: Expensify), benefit options, and compliance management.  One of the main benefits of employing Trinet is that small businesses can enjoy the benefits afforded a larger institution, such as better insurance rates, transparent tax returns, and resources for employees that are easy to understand.  The service comes with individual employee access to an account that can be viewed to understand company policies, previous paychecks, W-2’s, and more.


A major benefit of engaging TriNet as a business owner or executive is the peace of mind that is afforded through TriNet’s compliance management expertise.  This ensures that your payroll practices, benefits, and liabilities are legally de-risked for possibilities such as injury, discrimination, wrongful termination and more.  Hiscox points out that 10% of small to midsize businesses face discrimination charges, which settle for $160,000 on average.3


The cost structure for TriNet is quoted on a case-by-case basis, but for a 15-employee company the rates have been quoted between $180-$250 per employee, per month, equating to $32,400-$45,000 per year.4  This number may be highly variable depending on the services engaged and the size of the company.  At this cost, the service may seem steep, but if compared to the work of a full-time employee, TriNet provides a reasonable price-point for a comprehensive PEO platform.


If you believe that your people are the most valuable asset, in addition to taking work off your plate, you should consider joining the 65% of small businesses that employ some form of HR software.  I would tell you to go one step further and seriously consider the implications of engaging a PEO.  Personally, the transparent access to financial and personal information that TriNet provided felt empowering as an employee.  Having access to these services not only streamlines HR operations, but has the added benefit of providing a sense of professionalism that would otherwise be difficult to recreate.


Considering the cost of losing an employee is roughly equivalent to their yearly salary, keeping your people happy should not be overlooked, and TriNet goes a long way to ensuring that your humans are given adequate resources to be happy and effective.



(1)        Study Finds 1.5 Million Small Businesses Spend Billions to Manage HR (accessed Jan 26, 2021).

(2)        Work With Me, People! Statistics on Small Business Human Resource Trends | SCORE (accessed Jan 19, 2021).

(3)        TriNet. Risk Mitigation | Risk Management Solutions | HR Compliance (accessed Jan 19, 2021).

(4)         TriNet Review 2021 | Pricing, Ratings, Complaints. Merchant Maverick.

Box – Article 4 of 6

Tools of the Trade (TotT) Series –Put your data and documents in one Box (A place for everything and everything in its place)
By: Zach Detweiler, Ph. D.
Date: January 21, 2020
Tags: Box, cloud storage, data, security, software, apps
Have you lost sleep wondering whether your organizational data was secure? Is the information that makes your organization valuable one dropped laptop or errant key stroke away from popping out of existence? Is data stored on individual employees’ computers and not localized? What happens if you or an employee is out of commission unexpectedly?
IDG estimated that small businesses managed 48 terabytes of data in 2015 (estimated to double by 2016, so assume that number is much larger by now).1 Unless you have spent thousands of dollars on a local server to store all of your data, bets are you are either already using a cloud storage service, or allowing your organizational data to exist haphazardly across several computers and platforms.
Given the data-centric demands of business today, it is difficult for me to imagine not employing a cloud service to centralize data, share documents, and mitigate losses of both. It is estimated that small instances of data loss (~100 files) cost businesses an average of tens of thousands of dollars, while larger ones (>100M files) can cost tens of millions!2
Cloud storage platforms exist mainly to provide a location to securely store data without having to own and/or manage the hardware associated with storing bits and bytes. As these storage options become more viable and integral to the function of business as usual, prices continue to drop. The internal efficiency of cloud datacenters is easy to conceptualize given their economies of scale, with WSP estimating a 90% reduction in waste compared to traditional small business datacenter management.3
One of several options in the cloud storage marketplace is Box. Box is a little special in that it is specifically designed for business use and has several features that separate it from the pack. Box provides individual users of an enterprise account with unique access to different folders based on the administrator’s authorization. The data is accessed through the Box web application, or the Box Drive application can be locally installed to computers for a direct link to the account. Viewing the Box account, especially through Box Drive, is effectively identical to viewing folders on your local computer, but if the files are not all stored locally, allowing access to a quantity of data that could not be stored on an individual computer. The folder hierarchy within Box is completely customizable.
The ease of authorization to different folders means Box can be readily organized at a business level if you have sensitive information or need tight document control. Individuals that have not been granted access to folders or files do not even have the ability to see that the file exists in the account, so while it is important to correctly administer files and folders to the right individuals, one can rest easy when hosting sensitive documents. One of the nicest features of Box is that folders can be shared with external email addresses so that data can be exchanged without having to send the data directly. This has been useful for providing large data sets and documents/presentations with outside groups without having to give access to the larger Box account.
Box also provides apps for phones (Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Blackberry), which makes viewing files remotely or on the fly easy. It also provides a very simple way to upload photos directly to relevant folders without having to shuffle files from device to device and folder to folder.
If you’re concerned with security in a cloud storage system, Box is effectively as good as it gets when it comes to encryption (256-AES), and has been recommended to a higher level than products like Google Drive, when considering file sensitivity.4
The pains of using Box are not unique compared to other cloud services. The act of using cloud storage removes data one or more layers further from your RAM, which increases the time required to perform any computation on that data. Box Drive attempts to alleviate this by locally caching recently used documents on your local computer. If you find that you regularly are using data that is not locally stored you can choose to locally store specific files and folders, allowing their use offline while maintaining their up-to-date status when connected. This was helpful when integrating some R scripts with a large number of excel sheets; when stored locally the compute time was cut by three orders of magnitude, taking a process from 10 minutes down to a fraction of a second.
One of the issues with many cloud services is the offline nature of working with many of the documents, then uploading these documents and getting conflicting versions. Box increments versions with the uploader’s user identification information, and always stores old versions so that they can be recovered. It can also be integrated with Microsoft Office Online to work in real time on documents, however, this feature is not in league with the live document features present in Google’s Suite.
Box pricing is tied to number of users, starting at $5/person/month, and going up to an enterprise version at $35/person/month. The four levels of service are delineated by storage quantity, number of users, integration to other enterprise apps, and generally has more data safety and security features at higher tiers. This makes for a strong insurance plan against data loss, which not only costs more (see above), but is effectively all ‘paid’ at once.
I have used Sharesync, Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive. I would certainly recommend Box when you have a need to be secure, and are turned off by the notion of entrusting your data to an information gathering service such as Google. If you have no such aversions, and value collaborative compatibility, you may find Box a little clunky at times. Whether Box is right for you is your choice, but I think there are few organizations that wouldn’t benefit from using cloud storage institutionally.
(1) Data/Analytics, B.; Paper, R. T. | W. 2016 Data & Analytics Research •IDG (accessed Dec 28, 2020).
(2) Rock, T. Do You Understand the Real Cost of Data Loss? Invenio IT.
(3) Environmental Benefits of Cloud Computing | WSP (accessed Dec 28, 2020).
(4) Google Drive vs Box: Which cloud storage is best for you?-IT Support -UMD (accessed Dec 28, 2020).

Podcast_003: Mary Holzkopf – Owner Blessed Little Kitchen


In this episode we interview Mary Holzkopf, Founder and Owner of Blessed Little Kitchen located in Huntley, IL. Mary started out baking in her home under the Baker’s Act and quickly grew into a full sweets bakery of her own with 11 employees. Mary is very faith based and shares her story growing her business and how they have dealt with the impact of COVID. She truly embraces the “Growth through Giving” model. We hope you enjoy it!


Watch here:

Slack – Article 3 of 6

Tools of the Trade (TotT) Series – Slack helps keep communication manageable and tight

By: Zach Detweiler, Ph. D.

Date: January 6, 2021

Tags: Slack, communication, organization, software, apps

Handwritten letters are a lovely gesture to the individual receiving them, but in a business setting, this form of communication was made obsolete by email. Email arrived instantaneously and was disseminated readily, as well as provided a form that was amenable to record keeping.

However, email is not perfect. If you have ever tried to locate a specific, month-old email, then you have likely felt the pain induced by wading through hundreds to thousands of emails, especially with certain services (*looks bitterly at Outlook). Additionally, much like actual mail, anyone who possesses your address has equal opportunity to draw your attention and fill your mailbox. American workers receive an average of 126 emails a day and over 50% of all emails are spam.(1,2)

The advent of text messaging took connectivity even further, allowing constant communication. It also narrowed down channels to those who had your phone number and allowed important information to be supplied omni presently to key stakeholders. However, the use of text messaging as an official method employed by a business has remained unusual due to tracking issues, lack of structure, and the superficial depth of information that is transmitted. Communication among a group in an organization is a challenge. Email and text chains rapidly get convoluted, lose focus, and are difficult to capture and disseminate. This becomes even more difficult if the content is highly technical, as it is often necessary to cite extra-thread content (articles, reports, data, etc.). The normal tools used by businesses do not serve communication needs adequately. Now, software such as that provided by Slack, is trying to bring communication one step further into the modern, computing-information age. Slack provides a platform that allows you to establish communication channels between selected parties on selected topics. The key being intentional “binning” of communication. Slack allows documents to be attached to a channel thread, ensuring that relevant information can be readily viewed.Slack is a freemium product, with up to 10,000 messages and 10 integrations with other tools available for free, and a host of other features available at cost. Standard service equates to $6.67 per month, per person, which allows unlimited messages, unlimited apps, group video, screen sharing, and secure connections with external organizations. Further administrative tools, priority service, and data loss prevention security can be had with the upgraded packages.

Forrester found that Slack provided an ROI of 338% over three years, paying for itself in less than 6 months.(3 )Interestingly, the report finds that roughly two-thirds of the return were due to technical team productivity improvements, and one-third due to improvements in general productivity. There were minimal returns in replacing other tools, speaking to the need for Slack to fill a communication niche. Some of the major attributions for these savings were the reduction in engineers having to switch between applications and interfaces to view relevant information and tasks, as well as supporting both synchronous and asynchronous communication. Return was generated in the form of freeing up engineer time by decreasing the number of emails and the amount of time spent in status meetings. This methodology found similar, though lesser, returns to the general productivity of an organization.

In my experience, Slack provides a vastly superior platform for communication for several reasons. It is effectively a pre-organized messaging app, integrates documents and data seamlessly into threads, and provides a much-needed balance between the formality and delay of emails with the informality and expediency of text messaging.As with most communication and connectivity tools, there is the risk of allowing work-life to overstep into home-life. In order to ensure buy in on use of such a tool, rules and intended use should be established organizationally, and it is important to avoid policies that force employees to be “on” 24-7. That said, remote work and the flexibility demanded by today’s work force are well supported by the use of Slack.

If you feel like communication could be better at work, or in other settings (Slack is replacing message boards and community sites all over), then I would recommend trying Slack FOR FREE. I am not familiar with other similar platforms such as Telegram and Discord, but these are among the potential alternatives you may be interested in. I think you’ll be surprised by how much simpler communication can be and how effective Slack is at tightening up group communication in a technical setting.


(1) Email Usage Statistics in 2019 (accessed Jan 6, 2021).

(2) 10 Interesting Facts & Statistics About Email (accessed Jan 6, 2021).

(3) Slack. Introducing Forrester’s new study: “The Total Economic Impact of Slack for Technical Teams” (accessed Jan 6, 2021)

Zoho – Article 2 of 6

Projects can definitely be managed with Zoho Projects (but there’s a learning curve)

By: Zach Detweiler, Ph. D.Top of Form

Date: December 16, 2020

Tags: Zoho Projects, project management, tracking, scheduling, software, apps


Project management is so well established as a valuable pursuit in a business setting that even McKinsey takes for granted discussion of “project management science” these days.1


Surprisingly though, while more than 75% of businesses have a project management office (PMO), only 22% of all organizations use PM software, and it is estimated that 77% of high-performing projects use PM software.2


Translation: If you want to progress your organization to “high performing project” status, employing PM software may be your ticket to better outcomes.


Larger organizations are more likely to have a PMO platform to mitigate the higher failure rate associated with the complexity of larger projects and report the highest number of dedicated project managers.3  Meanwhile in small enterprises, dedicated project managers may not be present at all.  Adding process supplemental software to encourage the practices and checkpoints that project managers embody can alleviate the difficulties that arise without a specialist measuring the health of projects.  If you regularly find your organizational costs, timelines, and goals are not transparent to the entire organization, it is likely that picking up a software tool is the right thing to do.


One of those tools that you can find on top ten lists around the world wide web is called Zoho Projects from Zoho Corporation, which offers an entire suite of enterprise solutions.  Zoho projects allows you to create projects, attach users, and plan out the detailed execution of these projects, monitoring costs and status along the way.  We decided to use this platform based on a search through reviews of comparable software, landing on this one due to its potential to integrate into the other Zoho packages.


In my experience Zoho Projects has been extremely useful in many ways, but cumbersome and not so helpful in others.


Positively, Zoho Projects ensures that a project is executable, and that tasks and timelines are clear.  Creating a project, establishing milestones within that project, and outlaying tasks transparently ties the importance of any discrete action to the larger project, and therefore the business.  Tasks can be assigned to individual owners, subtasks can be partitioned further if necessary, and the deliverables can be attached directly to the project so that the entire team has access to important information in the same location.  The timeframe and dependencies of tasks can be set, allowing Gantt charts to be automatically generated, highlighting the impact of moving certain items up, or (Iet’s be honest) back.  It is easy to sort action items by user, team, or date, or more, which makes keeping track of your upcoming and overdue items a breeze.


Personally, one of the most useful aspects of Zoho projects was the template feature.  This allowed a specific project to be replicated, which substantially reduced repetitive project generation.  This was useful in situations such as onboarding new hires, allowing systematic preparation well in advance of an individual’s first day, and providing a more homogeneous approach to ensure quality. Zoho task tracking lists serves as perfect evidence of formal training plan and training completion records during a quality system audit.


On the negative side of things: firstly, there is a reasonable learning curve to being able to effectively use the software.  Secondly, since the software was built to solve generic problems, the intent of the different features may mean different things to different users, causing confusion.  Lastly, the user interface is not always intuitive (it’s been updated and reskinned several times, making it better, but also requiring relearning).  Performing tasks for the first time can be surprisingly time consuming while you learn how to navigate.


All of these problems are manageable, but take some up-front work to establish best practices, and training to ensure users understand the tool and how the organization will use it.


Zoho projects costs $3-6 per person per month.  With 25 people, this translates to $1800/yr for the enterprise version.  This accounts for only 20% of the budget that the Project Management Institute recommends for small projects.4


Zoho Projects does not take the place of good planning when designing projects.  It does help flesh out the details of the project to help understand timing before launching a project.  It increases transparency of status once work is underway.  It captures actual costs compared to forecasts, which helps future projects more realistic and likely to succeed.


If you currently are not using any project management software, instead of developing your own, I would recommend checking out Zoho Projects.  The system is customizable enough to fit the needs of most scenarios, but do not take it as grounds to ignore good project management practices.



(1)The art of project leadership: Delivering the world’s largest projects (accessed Dec 16, 2020).

(2)Cohen, H. Project Management Statistics: 45 Stats You Can’t Ignore (accessed Dec 16, 2020).

(3)Complete Collection of Project Management Statistics 2015 (accessed Dec 16, 2020).

(4)Project Management: How Much Is Enough? – Appropriate Amount (accessed Dec 16, 2020).


Podcast_002: Tony Pierce – Founder of Wayward Studios and Fingerlakes Grindhouse Entertainment

To evolve our network, education, services and training/media tools to directly support small and medium sized businesses and entrepreneurs; Aiming to improve the community, economy, create jobs and further develop innovative ways of doing business.


Watch Here:—Founder-Wayward-Studios-and-Fingerlakes-Grindhouse-Entertainment-eokcrf/a-a49j4jl