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Making DesignSmart Your Own

Choose your colors, fonts and more

This week we were working with a client who had customized various layouts and reports in DesignSmart more than we had ever seen before. It was really impressive! When assigned to the "Administrator" security level in DesignSmart, you can modify the look and feel of every layout and report. That means you can rearrange where things are positioned, change font and colors. Most of our clients are too busy to do this so they have us make changes for them.

While we are always happy to make changes, we generally recommend that clients consider taking the time to learn 


Categories: Best Practices


Macs versus PCs

The debate never ends

Some years ago discussing the pros and cons of Mac versus Window operating systems could lead to heated discourse. Today the topic doesn't evoke as much passion or interest, but I will share some recent experiences since I work with both operating systems on a roughly 50/50 spilt.

Apple Macs

I switched to Macs five years ago when I couldn't figure out how to get our home printer to work with a PC laptop. In the bell curve of computer competency, I am in the top 10% of computer geeks (admitted with embarrassment rather than pride), but doing basic tasks like connecting a PC to a network or adding a printer had become inexplicably difficult on a PC. When I moved to a Mac the first week was "Hmmm, this isn't how we do things on a PC so I'm not sure I like this". That hesitation was replaced with a sense of wonder, appreciation and relief. Relief that I could easily connect my Mac to a printer or a network 


Categories: Technology


Reflections on Commissions

Not for the faint hearted

Lately our firm has been developing customized versions of our SmartCommissions module for firms that have commissioned sales reps, and it has been interesting to learn how much commission processes can vary.

While some firms have a simple process of paying the designer a fixed commission rate for each item they sell, usually the process is quite complex. For example, some firms will pay commissions on client deposits, while others don't. Some firms will require that an invoice be paid in full before paying a commission.  When design teams are involved, then another layer of complexity ensues as the commission has to be split among the team. Bonuses make matters even more daunting. For some firms, calculating commissions require several days because the process is so complex.


Categories: Best Practices, Inventory


Easy way to make life simpler

And safer

The vast majority of people use the same password for all the sites they visit which is similar to leaving your front door wide open, your lights on and a blinking neon sign in the front yard indicating, "Come On In!". Sure you can get away with this for awhile, but eventually you are going to get burned. Big time.

There is a simple solution - get a password manager. There are a dozen out there and they

Categories: Best Practices, Technology


Storing client credit card numbers

So you can charge them multiple times

Goal: Store your client's credit card numbers safely so you can charge them for multiple invoices.

Challenge: How can a small design firm do this safely when firms as large as Target are unable to? 

Solution:  Don't store the actual credit numbers, but "tokenize" them.

Background: When your clients provide you with their credit card number, it is important to store it in the safest way possible. Millions of businesses do this by using a technology called "tokenization". The way it works is that you enter the credit card number into your software program. The number is sent to something known as a payment gateway provider. This provider will store the actual card number and send back to the software program a "token" which is string of letters and/or numbers. The software program stores this token. When it is time to charge the client's credit card, the software program uses this token rather than the actual card number. The charge transaction works exactly the same as if the credit card number was sent. 

The main benefit of tokenization is that it means that you are not storing actual credit card numbers. If your computer is stolen, or you have a dishonest employee, the tokens are meaningless.

Sound scary and complicated? It can be, but it doesn't need to be. Here are some important bottom lines: 

Categories: Best Practices, Design


Are credit cards worth the cost?

The answer depends on your clients

Do accepting credit cards make sense for your firm? Here are some things to think about:

For many business owners, their intial reservation about accepting credit cards is the fees that they would have to pay to the merchant card provider. Fees vary greatly and the merchant card industry is notoriously convuluted and full of hidden feels, so you have to shop around carefully for the best deal. The good news is that in one or two hours surfing the net you will get you the information you need. We recently changed our merchant card provider and were pleased at how affordable they were compared to our previous provider.

Yes it can feel painful at times to pay the merchant fees, but this should be weighted against the cost of collecting from

Categories: Best Practices

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