Think you can't possibly shelve your responsibilities to take a vacation? Think again. Whether it's workload or ambition keeping you from using your well-deserved vacation time, there's research to prove that both your wellbeing and your business benefit from time away. Here are six reasons to give yourself a break.
1. It sets a good example for your employees.
Entrepreneurs and managers may be especially reluctant to leave their businesses. Yet, as leaders, we have a responsibility to serve as role models for our employees. This requires illustrating the importance of work-life balance and leading by example. Without a balanced lifestyle – which includes time away from work – employees are more likely to become sick, disengaged and eventually dissatisfied with their jobs. Nurture your workforce and avoid retention issues by setting positive examples of self-care. Take care of yourself by taking time off, and your team is likely to do the same.
2. It freshens your perspective and stimulates creativity.
It's often when I'm away from my desk and the frenetic pace of daily work when I most clearly see solutions to business challenges. SInce my work involves connecting families with child care, it's time with my own family and friends that provides insights into my customers' needs and how my business may be able to address them.
Of course, a vacation should also take your mind off work. Travel, both with loved ones and on our own, frees us from the confines of routines and everyday requirements. It gives us room to think differently. It sparks creativity – one of the most valuable attributes in business for helping us solve problems and see opportunity. Perhaps most importantly, it provides enjoyment.
3. It's good for your health.
Numerous studies show that vacation offers physical and psychological health benefits so great that we likely can't afford not to take time off. The list starts with stress relief and better sleep, and it goes far deeper, including increased productivity, a brighter outlook, less anxiety and even heart disease prevention (people who take at least one vacation per year are 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack). Vacations give us something to look forward to and opportunities to spend quality time with our families and friends. They also give us time to focus on ourselves, address personal goals and reassess our priorities, contributing to our overall wellness.
4. It reduces risk of burnout.
Burnout – physical and mental exhaustion caused by long hours and unyielding dedication to work and responsibilities – is no badge of honor. It leaves us unmotivated, inefficient, and susceptible to insomnia, illness, injury, and even chronic diseases like hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes. Burnout can have serious, long-standing consequences to your health and career. Managing stress by taking time away – even just mini breaks – to recharge, rebalance and reset priorities can prevent burnout and allow you to put your best foot forward.
5. It increases productivity.
A common excuse for not using vacation time is that there will be an overwhelming load of work awaiting your return. Think of all the emails and meeting requests you'll need to address!
While your presence will be missed, business will run without you, and you'll be refreshed and ready to tackle the mountain of work you missed when you return. It's here when the productivity benefits associated with vacations prove themselves especially handy. Consider that European countries, where vacation time is often mandatory, rank among the most productive nations.
6. It provides the opportunity to delegate.
Vacations can force you to delegate work to others – an especially tough task if you're not a delegator. While you're away, you give people opportunity to show leadership and competence. The temporary change your absence creates allows others to handle new responsibilities and try out new roles. It enables you to nurture your team's growth and make room for yourself, upon return, to focus on higher-priority tasks.
Sadly, more than half of Americans don't use their allotted vacation time. You should not be one of them. Using your time off will serve you and your business well beyond the short-term benefits. Vacation is vital to your wellbeing and, with a little practice, can become a regular addition to your calendar.
You are at your computer in your business, getting warning messages about the size of images. You wonder whether your customers will be able to see your photos. You question your system's ability to properly manage your inventory (with sufficient security and backup mechanisms), and whether it has the performance and scalability to respond adequately when you get a spike in traffic following publicity or announcement of a sale.
These concerns are shared by many organizations in the United States and beyond. Many small businesses simply do not have IT personnel on staff – and that makes sense, since IT people are often underused at businesses that have a staff of 50 or under. Plus, they may not have the capital on hand to pay for infrastructure (servers, space in which to store them, security and environmental controls) upfront.
When an organization is not sure that creating an IT department is a good investment, or if it wants its IT staff to focus on other tasks such as tech innovation, cloud hosting can make sense.
The cloud has been so successful as a technology because of its simplicity and convenience. Cloud hosting, or infrastructure as a service (IaaS), provides a central location for the storing, accessing and transfer of data between all web-connected devices. As an alternative to setting up a data center and recruiting IT experts to create applications and protect your systems, cloud solutions are engineered and maintained – patched and updated – by an outside party.
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To determine whether the cloud is right for your business, consider the attributes that many people find valuable.
Key benefits of cloud hosting
You do not have to worry about backing up or losing a single file. The cloud saves and backs up your data, making it accessible to your staff from any location. Teammates can collaborate in real time on the same file. The cloud allows you to manage various tasks and projects seamlessly without working with multiple copies.
Cloud hosting allows you to cut your expenses down for the maintenance and management of your computing infrastructure. Instead of undergoing the capital expense of building out a data center, you can use an operating expense model, allowing you to simply access the hardware and resources available through the host. This strategy can reduce your costs of operation as follows:
Core patches and upgrades to hardware and software are standard, so you don't incur additional cost for that maintenance.
You do not need to pay the labor cost of salaries for as much in-house IT knowledge.
You use less power (also improving your sustainability).
You are less likely to experience delays that cost your business money.
Rich ecosystem of supportive apps
With the cloud, you have an incredibly adaptive system. You can start delivering resources to systems that work and phase out ones that do not much more seamlessly than with traditional back ends. Once you have your cloud server in place, you can connect it to programs that bolster your communications, digitize document signing or other tasks previously completed by hard copy, automate vexing chores such as collecting on invoices, and make your workflow more efficient. Transitioning to the cloud gives you access to a vast library of applications that together can make the way you do business more intelligent.
Immediate knowledge of your finances
Using non-cloud accounting software can be a substantial investment of effort and time in the wrong direction. Using a cloud-based accounting system makes it possible to enter data into a single ledger that is shared with your financial staff. Directly integrated with all your financial accounts, and with bank reconciliation performed automatically, you can stay abreast of your company's financial status moment by moment via cloud infrastructure.
Ready-made for the global economy
A strong cloud host will give you a position from which you can approach the global economy. It is critical in today's business world to leverage IT systems for growth, and that need can be challenging to meet in a rapidly evolving landscape. The cloud can adapt to the change, since updates to equipment and software are central to this virtual model.
People have often worried about the security of the cloud, but it is actually one of the most secure environments to store data because it is monitored at all times by security professionals. For example, someone may still steal your laptop, but they won't be able to get into your data unless they have your cloud account login. The data is within that account as opposed to on your hard drive.
The cloud allows you to stay up and running, business continuity intact, if you experience a fire or natural disaster. Secure offsite storage of your data is provided automatically by cloud, since its servers are at a separate location from your business. With a web-connected mobile device or computer, you can immediately access the system and get to work.
Sometimes you will want other parties to have access to your systems and data. Within a cloud-hosted environment, you can control their levels of access. By controlling at the level of privileges, you can avoid risky activities such as using USB sticks, emailing files or even giving another person your login.
You can think of the cloud as flexible in that the easy resource access means you can run your business more dynamically, but it is also flexible in the sense that your staff does not have to be at a particular location. Employees can get into the system from home, coffee shops, airports and hotels (in other words, wherever they have a hotspot). Whenever you want to get into your systems and are not at any of your business's locations, you can simply jump into your virtual office.
A tighter ship
The cloud represents a way to tighten your organization's operations. Your efficiency will be boosted by transitioning to cloud computing. The energy consumption by IT will be reduced – a key draw for young talent. When you move your systems over to the cloud, you will want to look for organizations that comply with the well-known standards and best practices.
Once you have verified that a host passes your quality checks and has strong protocols and practices in place, you can get rid of single points of failure (SPOFs) within your IT infrastructure. Cloud will also allow you to present yourself to the world securely and reliably.
Simplifying the transition
While the benefits of the cloud may be compelling, migration can be tricky. A few important steps can help your organization transition to cloud computing successfully, without any unnecessary headaches:
1. You want to be able to rapidly and securely develop cloud apps – which means you should have people who are skilled in cloud computing on your staff. That knowledge can come from hiring people with cloud backgrounds or training your current personnel.
2. You want to rework your current applications to best leverage automation, with integrated security protections. This will allow a better fit with the capacity and security needs of the public cloud.
3. Figure out the sourcing. Generally, you will use a host to help you with the building and management of your cloud servers.
4. You need a public cloud operational model, acknowledging that you must manage infrastructure as code in the case of public cloud. To perform this management well, you need the skills of software engineers who have a sense of the security, storage and computing parameters of the cloud.
The cloud may not be right
Despite all the benefits of cloud hosting, no technology is the perfect match for every situation – and even if the cloud is right for you, that does not mean you are then required to handle your own IT. Co-location is another option from hosts (in which you rent space for your equipment), as is dedicated server hosting (managed or unmanaged), which gives you full control of the independent machine.
When you work with a hosting company that has a long history of providing diverse infrastructural services, the staff will be able to help you zero in on the best solution for your business, whether that is the cloud or otherwise.
Many people use Facebook and Twitter as a means to promote their business. Despite the popularity of the previous social platforms, Instagram is right up there in the big leagues when it comes to advertising.
There are over 1 billion users on Instagram, and 57 percent of those people log on every single day. Obviously, these people have their eyes on their smartphones or computers daily, making them ideal targets for your marketing campaign.
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The end game is to provide an excellent service to customers and secure an awesome return on investment of your Instagram advertising. Here's how you can increase your ROI with ease when using Instagram.
Track your influencers.
In most cases, companies have influencers to help them promote their product. To get a good return on your investment, you have to follow the statistics on all of your influencers individually.
When you're providing an influencer with a link, make it unique. If you have 10 influencers, give each of them a unique click-through link. As a result, you can track all 10 links individually in your marketing plan.
When you use this method, you're able to determine which influencers are giving you a good ROI and which ones are costing you money. If you can cut your influencers in half based on the click-throughs they get, you can increase your return and save some cash.
Secure a spot on the Explore Page.
Instagram has a page full of user-ranked popular images and content. If you can get on the Explore page, your ROI can increase substantially. So the question arises, how does a business get on the Explore page?
The main way to get on this page is to use popular hashtags. If you type hashtags into Instagram, they will tell you how many people used that hashtag, which you can then use as a measure of popularity.
Once you've gauged the popularity of hashtags, hop on over to the Explore page and see what's there. Try to find things that you can relate to your niche or use in a more general sense. For example, if you're looking for a general hashtag, you may want to use something like #MotivationMonday on Mondays.
Consider using Instagram Story Ads.
A few years ago, Instagram introduced a new Stories feature. Instagram Story Ads lets users create small ads that blend seamlessly within content being shown on the platform.
Instagram boasts that 50 percent of businesses on the platform use stories, and one in five get direct responses from consumers.
While those statistics are general, you can increase your chances of getting a return on your investment by using the earlier tip of targeting specific audiences.
When you use the Stories feature, Instagram gives you full access to the analytics so you can view your click-throughs and results in real time. You're then able to make changes on the fly and ensure you get the best return on your investment.
Promote a contest.
There is no quicker way to get the attention of an audience than by offering something for free. People will happily like, share and follow your business if you run a contest.
You don't have to offer hundreds of dollars in free products either. If you hold a simple contest offering something like a $50 dollar gift card, that's all it takes. If you already have an established following, you will see your return on that gift card soar.
Many businesses get thousands of shares and follows in exchange for the chance to win a prize. If you use this method, publicly announce the winner and give them a chance to respond by tagging them in the post. This builds your authenticity and involves more people in future contests.
Instagram is becoming one of the top tools for marketers around the world. Now is your chance to dive in and see why people are turning to Instagram for their marketing needs.
As you're developing your marketing plan, you will have to make adjustments to increase your ROI. Carefully monitor your analytics so you can tell what's working, what needs a little tweak and what you should stop doing.
Every business is different and has a unique audience they are trying to target. Take your time and explore these different methods in order to make the most of your marketing on one of the biggest social media platforms today.
While only a small percentage of these searches will be from your target audience, it still makes for a pretty substantial number. The problem is that a lot of small and midsize businesses do not have a data-driven PR strategy to amplify their content strategy, and thus are not reaching as many of their target customers as they could.
A data-driven PR strategy can put your business in front of more potential customers by landing placements on high-traffic news outlets or hyper-focused thought leadership platforms in your niche. For example, once a marketing campaign is in motion, a data-driven PR strategy is what you need in order to hit those growth goals. For example, maybe it's to increase new visitors to your homepage by X percent over 60 days. In case you need convincing, here are five specific reasons why you should use data in your PR strategy.
1. Data informs content.
Do you know the type of content your target audience likes, or the major talking points in your industry right now? Are you able to confirm your assumption based on the data?
Successful marketing comes down to accurate research. To land syncs on the most popular news outlets, first you'll need to publish something unique, because guess what? The biggest news outlets know exactly what their audiences like to read and are always on the lookout for content that hits the most popular themes.
Here is where the previously isolated departments of PR, content marketing and SEO converge today. If you know what your customers are interested in, you can create new content that appeals to these interests, which, in turn, can impact your industry and drive new visitors to your site. The only way to know what content to create is if you understand what the data tells you about the interests of your target audience.
2. Data tells you what is and isn't working.
Let's say you landed a couple of guest posts on important niche platforms. It took a lot of work, and you think it will bring in tons of new traffic. After a couple of months, sales begin to grow, and you want to attribute it to your PR efforts. Specifically, you want to know which guest-posting platform is bringing in the late-stage buyers. But how can you tell?
The only way you will know where your new group of high-value customers is coming from is by monitoring referral traffic in Google Analytics. The free platform will show you, for example, how much traffic came from which third-party (or referral) site, making it clear which sync was most effective and which ones were not worth it. If Google Analytics is new to you, it's a good place to start your foray into the world of digital data and its impact on website performance and business revenue.
The point is that data gives you the knowledge to create a feedback loop in your marketing strategy and accurately measure what works by …
Building an outreach strategy
Measuring what works
Learning how to refine your approach for the next cycle
Monitoring your referral track
3. Data is a shareable asset.
Data on your product offering is a high-quality linkable asset. Numbers represent hard truths about the world and the effectiveness of your product, so finding ways to incorporate data into your content publishing plan makes sense. It does not need to be a comprehensive survey or a long-term research study like you see in the academic sciences. On the contrary, you can turn a single piece of data into a linkable asset for a PR campaign.
The onus is on you and your marketing or PR team to come up with interesting facts to share with your target audience. If you can find some surprising numbers that convey the value or success of your product, then you are well on your way to showing new audiences what your existing customers already know: You make an awesome product.
Be strategic and you will be great.
In order to reach the thousands of potential customers who search Google every day, you need to meticulously use data to your advantage. PR is one of the most powerful ways to amplify your brand, but it needs to be driven by analytic insight to be effective. The PR industry, as a whole, is adapting in response to big data insights on performance – and this is good news for small and midsize business owners who want to see tangible returns on their PR investment.
When it comes to protecting your company with cybersecurity, your first impulse might be to task IT or hire an infosec leader or consultant to handle it all for you. But that's not exactly the right strategy. By thinking of cybersecurity as someone else's problem to solve, you'll create even more problems for your company.
To build the best line of defense for your business, you need to take a communal approach to your cybersecurity strategy. Cybercrime is modern crime; there is no silver bullet. That's why everybody within your company needs to be a cyberdefender.
What does it mean to build an all-hands-on-deck cybersecurity strategy, and how feasible is it? Focus on these three key principles to get your whole team on board with your cyberdefender program.
1. Set expectations that everyone is responsible for ensuring the organization's cybersecurity.
First, embrace the mindset that cybersecurity isn't the sole responsibility of your IT team. It's built into the company's DNA, and each individual within the organization must be responsible for following best practices, from student interns up to the CEO and board of directors.
Set the expectation from the outset that everyone is accountable – not only for keeping their own work secure, but for providing support to others when needed and correcting fellow employees who take risks with security.
Take the time to explain policies and expectations as part of employee onboarding. It's a great way to set the cybersecurity tone for the organization from day one.
On an ongoing basis, managers should set a good example by participating in training, following the rules and regularly bringing up cybersecurity with their teams. This also means establishing an environment of trust, transparency and encouragement. Since becoming a cyber-smart defender is a new concept for many, it's important to share with everyone why cybersecurity is so important, what the risks are in everyday work life, and what steps the organization is taking to improve its posture.
Keep in mind that any instances of poor cyber-hygiene don't need to be immediately reprimanded. Instead, they should serve as teachable moments. For example, when an employee brings up a potential cybersecurity incident, taking the conversation from "you shouldn't have done that" to "thank you for letting me know" can go a long way in building trust and transparency.
If an employee does something right, recognize it by sending a message to your team: "Big thank-you to Ashley – she found a USB drive left in the conference room and brought it to IT to be scanned!"
Your goal should be to develop the "if you see something, say something" mentality. Cybersecurity is a top-to-bottom, all-departments commitment. Get buy-in from everyone on your team that they'll do their best to follow, encourage and enforce good habits across the board.
2. Build ongoing security training into every single job description.
To make your employees the best cybersecurity defenders they can be, make sure that cybersecurity training doesn't just mean watching a half-hour video that they'll forget by lunchtime. To truly embrace a cybersecurity mindset, they need to know not just how to ensure security, but why they're taking the steps that they are.
Educate your team. Focus on building in regular cyber-education sessions, which can include online training modules, newsletters, and articles and videos that focus on addressing new threats or optimizing cybersecurity best practices.
Encourage collaborative training. Use peer-supported, in-person training activities that allow co-workers to critique one another's responses to a mock scenario.
Take it offline. You can even go as far as including fun and educational cybersecurity posters around the office to indicate how important a topic it truly is, and to remind everyone that cybersecurity shouldn't be out of sight, out of mind.
Employing quality training content will encourage discussion and promote engagement. The more often everyone thinks and talks about cybersecurity in their day-to-day jobs, the more easily we can provide the right responses.
3. Alert everyone to external risk factors.
Your business doesn't operate in a vacuum, so it's important to ensure that all of your employees recognize and can protect against external risks that could compromise the business's cybersecurity.
Send regular reminders about cybersecurity threats, whether it's a new take on a phishing email or a specific kind of attack targeting your industry.
Discuss the dangers of downloading files from third-party vendors or providing them with network access.
Be clear about company policy and expectations around employees downloading non-work-related software to their computers and mobile devices or allowing friends and family members access to their equipment.
Put it in writing. In the modern workforce, companies should have a technology and data use policy, as it's critical for employees to understand what they can and can't do with company equipment, whether on company time or theirs.
All that said, your employees shouldn't go it alone. It can be enormously helpful to bring in outside help to manage the cybersecurity ecosystem, perform assessments, audit security risks, and strategize best practices that your team should embrace. But such guidance is merely advice – it's up to you and your team to implement the steps to safeguard your company and check each other's work along the way. Build an ongoing culture of defense, and you'll have an entire army helping you protect your organization every day. After all, cybersecurity is a posture, not a project.
Research tells us a lot about why people behave unethically. For example, there is evidence that people tend to be more dishonest later in the day, because they’re more fatigued, and when they’re anxious, because they’re more likely to look out for themselves. Many of these studies, however, only look at the unethical actions people take on behalf of themselves. But what about the many times when we act on behalf of others?
We act on behalf of others in many domains: business, politics, law, the social sector, and others. Managers seek resources for their employees, for example. Lawyers represent clients in negotiations.
My research suggests that people acting on behalf of others can be influenced by the values and perceived expectations of those they’re representing—specifically when it comes to acting ethically. My colleagues and I were especially interested to know how this might apply to women. Research has found that women perform worse in negotiations because they face backlash for acting assertively – but that one way around this backlash is by advocating for others.
We conducted four studies to examine whether people were more likely to lie when negotiating on behalf of others than for themselves. We recruited a total of 1,337 participants to engage in negotiations, and we found that gender played a role in how we negotiate for ourselves and others. Men were more likely than women to lie when they were negotiating for themselves, but not when negotiating for others. But the reverse was true for women – women were more likely than men to lie when they were negotiating on behalf of others.
In one study, we randomly assigned participants to act in a property negotiation as a buyer or as an agent representing the buyer. We told them that buyers wanted to build a commercial high-rise hotel on the property, but that the seller would reject their offer if they knew about this intent. We found that female participants assigned to the role of a buyer’s agent were more likely to lie than those assigned to be the buyer (64.4% vs. 44.4%) about their plans for the property in order to get the deal done. On the other hand, men showed no statistical difference in ethicality when acting for themselves or for others (60.6% vs. 72.2%).
When we asked why participants made the decisions they did, we saw that women were more likely to report feeling guilty about letting down those they were advocating for. They were more willing to engage in questionable behavior because they anticipated feeling more guilt and worried about disappointing others.
Even though our studies focused on women, other research has yielded similar general findings that people tend to act unethically when representing others, if they believe they’re okay with it or prefer it. One set of research studies showed that “utilitarian” individuals, or those who typically engage in conscious cost-benefit analyses when making decisions (e.g., “What do I or society have to gain or lose as a result of my choices and actions?”) are more likely to act unethically if they are acting on behalf of someone else who shares a similar utilitarian approach, verses when working for someone who is more “formalist” (or focused on upholding rules/principles).
Unethical behavior on others’ behalf can spread from minor misconduct here and there to more consequential actions if expectations and norms allow for it. If it’s acceptable to cut minor corners on a client deliverable to make sure a consulting team meets a deadline, for example, that could lead one to engage in more drastic misbehavior such as misrepresenting firm capabilities to ensure the consultancy secures a lucrative account. Research shows that this slippery slope isn’t uncommon.
So how can we combat the tendency to behave unethically when acting on someone else’s behalf? Our research suggests a few approaches:
Aim for intentionality: At the individual level, it’s important to be aware of your motivations when advocating for others. Does your desire to support others lead to a “win at all costs” mentality? Will you feel excessive guilt if you fail to represent them well? Asking yourself such questions in advocacy situations will make you more mindful of your values and intents, and likely keep you in more ethical lanes of behavior.
Ask for clarification: If you’re not sure how ethical those you’re representing are, seek clarification. There can be significant ambiguity in real-world advocacy situations, and that can lead to erroneous assumptions about someone’s ethics and expectations, which in turn may lead to unethical behavior on their behalf. Break through the ambiguity by asking for clarification on expectations related to ethicality (“It’s not about winning at all costs, right?”), while sharing your own expectations.
State your expectations: When you’re representing someone, you should also be upfront about where you are and aren’t willing to go. Similarly, when you’re in a group being represented, make your expectations around ethicality clear to those acting on your behalf (“We need to do this by the book”). Don’t leave space for erroneous assumptions. Moreover, look for signs that a representative may be more likely to act questionably. For example, if someone is expressing feeling guilty about letting you down, step in and assure them that they shouldn’t feel pressure to act untoward.
While the tendency to act unethically on behalf of others exists, the good news is that you can act to prevent such outcomes.
How does race affect your workplace? In this episode of HBR’s advice podcast, Dear HBR:, cohosts Alison Beard and Dan McGinn answer your questions with the help of Tina Opie, a management professor at Babson College. They talk through what to do when your company’s board is not diverse, promotions favor some people more than others, or you want to have more conversations about race at the office.
Listen to more episodes and find out how to subscribe on the Dear HBR: page. Email your questions about your workplace dilemmas to Dan and Alison at email@example.com.
From Alison and Dan’s reading list for this episode:
HBR: Diversity and Authenticity by Katherine W. Phillips, Tracy L. Dumas, and Nancy P. Rothbard — “Simply hiring members of a minority group won’t ensure that they feel comfortable or equipped to build the relationships necessary for advancement. And as companies invest in mentorship and sponsorship programs, making these relationships flourish among workers of differing races may require special effort.”
HBR: How Managers Can Promote Healthy Discussions About Race by Kira Hudson Banks — “Many white people may avoid conversations about race out of fear of ‘saying the wrong thing.’ And many people of color in predominantly white companies may avoid these conversations out of fear of being seen as a complainer — or worse. But pretending the elephant in the room isn’t there won’t make it go away.”
HBR: A Question of Color: A Debate on Race in the U.S. Workplace by David A. Thomas and Suzy Wetlaufer — “You can’t underestimate the power of professional networks, because when they are positively focused, you no longer feel alone or isolated. You are connected with people of power in the organization in a way you have never been before. Instead of always feeling like an outsider, you feel as if you belong. You are not alone, and that can be tremendously helpful both personally and professionally.”
HBR: The Costs of Racial “Color Blindness” by Michael I. Norton and Evan Apfelbaum — “Rather than avoiding race, smart companies deal with it head-on—and they recognize that ‘embracing diversity’ means recognizing all races, including the majority one, to avoid showing preference or creating a backlash. For example, Time Warner’s annual diversity summit isn’t just for people of color (or women)—it’s populated by white males, too. Talking about race can feel awkward, but over time more companies will discover that doing so is usually better than pretending it doesn’t exist.”