The dog days of August

It’s been a pretty mild August so far. Will it get hotter?

The answer is, alas, yes.

With increased temperatures comes other nuisances: Lackadaisical and unmotivated employees, including temps, students and interns; employee vacation issues; hardware problems; even employee theft.

Hardware issues? In this day and age?



Excess heat can be a big problem for small business servers, since an overheated server usually costs more in energy, fails more often and is more likely to crash, too. And that can mean hours or even days of downtime, a great deal of stress and thousands of dollars lost.

Here are a few things you can do now to prevent your server and network equipment from overheating and crashing:

  • Use the cloud. There are multiple, proven cloud storage systems these days, many of them free. Placing your data in a secure cloud will mean far less computing on your end, easy access from anywhere and of course less heat in your office.
  • Clean up your server room, if you have one. A neater room will increase airflow and cooling.
  • Don’t let the server room temperature exceed 77 degrees Fahrenheit, again if you have one.
  • Keep the doors to the server room closed! Letting hot air in can rise the temperature very quickly.
  • If you can’t afford an air conditioner specifically designed for computers or don’t conduct your business in a cave like Stronghold Data, Joplin or Mark Twain Cave in Hannibal, consider buying a rack enclosure with cooling built into the bottom of the rack.

Unmotivated employees

Many of your employees have likely taken vacation at this point. Some will likely take a Labor Day break, too. You may notice a certain reluctance or slowness in them: Their bodies may be back from vacation, even if conducted in the back yard, but their minds may not be. Transitions are hard, especially one from relaxed and sleeping late to being on time and performing.

Give them a little time to get back on company time. If they’re still not back up to snuff in a few days, consider taking them aside and asking if something is wrong. A kind, caring approach generally works wonders, often even with hostile employees. Just be prepared to respond if they feel they have legitimate grievances.

Blasé temps and interns

Those hot-shot temps or interns who blew you away during the interview and in the first few weeks on the job may not be performing quite as well these days. But remember, they too are in transition, and are busy thinking about their next move, be that corporate, personal or academic.

If they are still doing the job adequately, it might be wise to leave them alone until their exit. If they are no longer meeting basic job functions, however, it might be time to accelerate that exit. Just don’t break any HR laws! In general, temps are not under contract and serve at will. You may be legally obligated to keep an intern on for a specified period, however, absent approval on both sides. Consult an employment attorney if in doubt.

Employee theft

If yours is a business that booms in summer, especially during this summer of the Great Eclipse, you’ve probably taken measures to ensure your permanent and temporary summer staff are trustworthy.

But even the most honest individual can be tempted, especially as business scales up to meet increased demand and orders and payments fly. Such opportunistic individuals suddenly have a very good opportunity to override your procedures, find a sneaky way around or just ignore standard processes.

And we’re not just talking about seasonal employees. Studies consistently show that long-serving employees are more likely to commit fraud, because they have a stronger knowledge of processes and know how to best circumvent them.

So what warning signs should you look out for?

  • First, just as in cyberattacks, realize that any business is at risk. Focus on stringent procedures and controls, especially those involving cash, inventory or account receivables
  • Lack of documentation for standard transactions
  • Shoddy or inadequate documentation
  • Sudden, often subtle changes in expenses

By following these common-sense precautions, you’ll ensure that your business survives and thrives in the dog days, emerging stronger and more organized in the fall.