BEC Story #2: The Password Problem

Legal pad with pen on wood background

Legal pad with pen on wood background

What, Breaking Even Communications has problems?!?

Of course we do. My goal is our problems over time 1) change or become different and 2) become smaller. This story is about a semi-recent problem we faced.

Problem: Our client passwords were precariously stored. They were mostly stored in Google Docs. And while this made my life easy (look up client name, find document, copy/paste/share as needed), I knew it wasn’t the best idea ever. “Hey, our Google accounts had two factor authentication, that’s pretty good,” I thought. Plus moving to anything else would require research and mind numbing data entry that would not make us more money. There is never a good time for doing this kind of thing but the worst time to do it is when something terrible happens, so I knew we had to do it before then.

Solution: While it was in the back of my mind, the whole “Um, client passwords need more secure storage” thing was brought up in our next company retreat.

Now when a staff member points something out to you, as a boss, your first gut reaction is to feel stupid and defensive. But that is also the reaction you feel when someone is right. And so the research began.

There is something called ‘analysis paralysis’ and it’s something I like to avoid. It’s when you research something to death and then end up having more questions than answers.

Newsflash: There is no perfect password management system. I spent a whole workday looking for one. But what I decided to do is look into the 2-3 that kept coming up in articles.

KeePass fit our criteria. It was multi-platformed, meaning it could work on Macs, PCS, and smartphones (all of which we have in our company). It was searchable. It seemed pretty secure.

So I spent two weekends moving passwords into this system. And as a company, we all learned how to use this thing together.

Most people don’t want to spend time learning new software. I get it. I barely wanted to do this move but we all gritted our teeth and moved forward, knowing how beneficial it would be for the company in the long run.

Fast forward 6 months. I have somehow accidentally made three different files that seem to each have most of the passwords but not all of them. So I paid someone to merge the databases, which in most cases gave us three copies of the same password… but hey, at least it was all in one file! I emailed John and Kassie, told them I was an idiot, and that I would work on deleting duplicates over time.

Realizing this and other tasks like it were falling to the wayside, Alilia came into our lives. I gave her the crappy, non-glamorous first task of meticulously go through all the folders  in the now singular password database and ensure not only we didn’t have duplicates but to get them arranged in some order (Did I mention this software does not automatically put password groups in alphabetical order? Yup, not perfect!).

Now we have one file that we can all access, and it’s now much more secure than what we had. It’s not perfect but it’s better. I would estimate it saves me about 5 minutes a day to be able to use the ‘search’ function to find the password information in KeePass, versus having to go find the client’s Google Doc, find the actual password in the document and copy and paste it in. All those minuted definitely add up, even if it felt like a real ‘journey’ to get here with the passwords.

Epilogue: The one part of our company retreat I’ve often thought of dropping is the part where everyone picks a topic and presents to the group about it for 10ish minutes. This time around, I assigned some topics (because there was some things we all needed refreshers in). I gave Alilia KeePass as a topic even though we made this move over a year ago… and she proceeded to blow our minds by showing us things about it we didn’t even know that’ll save us even more time using it.

Values demonstrated: Open to ideas of others, willing to learn, doing the right thing, hard work, flexibility, self improvement, delegation, goal setting.

How could this story be improved?

So this story is already better than my first story. Imperfect people are easier for us all to relate to (and let’s face it, the part in the fairy tales where everything starts going wrong is the more interesting parts of them.)

We all want things to work out in the end (or at least for things to be neatly wrapped up) and this story does that. So what could make it better?

Adding quotes/other voices. Putting in quotes from Kassie, John, and Alilia would make this better. It would also take longer to write of course but it anything that has multiple points of view makes stories better.

Be ready for ‘feedback’. Several IT friends had very strong opinions about my software selection. (One was literally horrified.) Please note though I asked all three of them what they would recommend and not one of them agreed on something else. Sometimes in putting a story out there, you have to expect feedback, but not necessarily base your life or business on it. In telling your stories, you may rub some people the wrong way and, so long as you aren’t mean to them, it’s ok.

Reframing it more positively. A problem I personally have is self deprecation. I always mean it as funny and, if you could read my mind, you’d know I have a pretty positive view of myself. But sometimes in writing, I come off as not confident. To me, a good ‘boss’ is one that shares praise and shoulders blame. “We did a great job.” and “I really should have done X better.” are things you will hear me regularly say. To me, that’s what a leader does and believes. But I need to balance that with making clients, potential clients, and the world at large understand that I am a very capable person. Kassie and I have started reading each other’s blog posts before publication, in part to catch this tendency.

Next time, I’ll write a story about Breaking Even ‘big picture’ problem.

Previous Stories:
BEC Story #1
Original post about why we’re doing these stories.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.
Nicole Ouellette
Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she's not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.