WHAT WE LEARNED THIS WEEK: Hire from outside your comfort zone

The announcement that Google executive Marissa Mayer would take the top job at Yahoo! took the market by surprise. And with good reason – it’s actually a competent decision. Mayer is well qualified to transform the media company into a powerhouse, having spent the past 13 years leading major projects at Google.

But there’s no denying it’s an unusual choice. After all, no one really expected Mayer to be given an offer. She hasn’t served as a chief executive before, although she’s worked as an executive for several years. And she doesn’t have much of a media background, which is the direction in which Yahoo! wants to head.

And yet, it seems the perfect choice. With Mayer’s background, she’s incredibly well positioned to make the company successful again.

So what’s the lesson here? Easy – hire from unexpected places. If Yahoo! wanted someone who actually had been a chief executive, they’d rule out an excellent choice. Don’t make that mistake. Instead, look within your own industry for potential successors to various roles, even if they don’t stand out immediately. Think about what someone can bring to a specific role, especially with an outsider’s view.

Everything good is in the cloud

Microsoft has managed to put up a good offer with its new Office suite. Office 365 is all based in the cloud, so whenever you save a program, it will automatically be backed up away from your computer. If you use DropBox, or any other cloud service, then you know how to use this.

It’s all part of an effort to make cloud technology as easy as possible. Apple’s done it with iCloud, and now Microsoft is following suit.

The lesson here is simple – cloud technology is how you should be operating with all your files right now. Yes, it’s important to keep back-ups, absolutely. But you shouldn’t be relying on just one place to save your files, and one of them should definitely be in a cloud-based server.

Remember that feeling of having deleted a file with no way to find it again? If you use cloud services, you immensely reduce the risk of that happening.

Make the paying experience seamless

Apple finally introduced its new EasyPay system last week, after months of the program being available in the United States.

It works like this: You walk into an Apple store, armed with the Apple Store app, find a product you want, scan it, and then walk it. Once you’ve scanned the product you pay for it using your iTunes account, and that’s it.

It’s a little bit alarming, considering you can just take a product off the shelf and just leave without having to tell any staff member what you’re doing. But it’s also the extension of a trend towards self-service. We’re so used to doing things by ourselves now, including online shopping, that we don’t need anyone to help us.

As Telsyte senior research manager Sam Yip told SmartCompany earlier this week, the fact Apple has introduced this system means they are less concerned with the risk, and more focused on the reward that comes with providing more convenience to the customer.

So what’s the lesson here for small business? Get out of the customers’ way. Provide as much opportunity as you can for self-service, while still maintaining a customer service line for people who need help. Make it intuitive, make it simple – but just make sure customers can shop however they like.

Invest in more credit security

The Australian Bankers’ Association warned merchants and consumers this week they need to be more vigilant when it comes to taking care of their credit card data.

According to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), the number of fraudulent transactions rose from 834,684 in December 2010 to 1.15 million by December 2011. The total fraud also rose from $223 million to over $300 million.

Credit card security is everything. All it takes is one incident for your customers not to trust you, and from there, you’ll be constantly rebuilding.

Invest in as much credit card and payment security as you can – it’s an investment you’ll never regret.

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