Small Business guide to IT Security

Small businesses face unfamiliar challenges as they move into the online marketplace and security gains a new dimension.

The good news is small business owners are already familiar with passwords, pin numbers and identification checks and will understand the perspective presented here supported by UK legislation.  While it is easy to feel overwhelmed-once it is understood; it becomes second nature.

Knowing the features of fraudulent activity on the internet and train staff to spot it.  Reduce the likelihood of being tricked.  Above all know that anyone could gain malicious access to your systems at any time.

It is important to use professional help to enhance some systems and understand what the professional is telling you.

ANTI-VIRUS

The threat of being conned or hacked is sufficient enough most SME’s use anti-virus to ensure Information Security.  No system is ever 100% secure, it is impossible.  Some owners believe there is no need for experts because they can do it themselves or think experts are no guarantee, this is fine but these people inform us of new events and trends taking place.

The Data Protection Act 1998

The aim is to protect peoples and businesses data but also businesses and people working with data.  It is important employees and small business owners to know the law and are trained to understand what it means.  Protecting your business is the first step in protecting others.

The threat spectrum is difficult to defend against.  Another way of saying number of attacks are rising, organised crime more involved, and nation states adapting technological warfare through the internet.  Data security is more sophisticated than ever.  Every honest business is in the same boat and wants to do the best.

Misuse of Computers Act 1990

 

MCA 1990 sets out the laws governing the use of Computers.  It can help you design policies, protocols and procedures for using computers and dealing with infringements.  It is a duty to do this, not just good practice.

Readers from outside British territories can find information here: USA Computer Fraud Act, US Data Protection Laws, EU Information on Data Protection.

Training based on MCA 1990and DPA 1998 is advisable.

 

What does this mean?

Using technical software such as antivirus and predefining settings on operating systems limit depth of access people can have.  Download updates from software manufacturers because they lower weakness in the software.

Furthermore sending sensitive information outside EU jurisdiction has to be permitted; the recipient must be able to meet the same standards as EU law.  Encryption software should be used when sending sensitive material.  Making it harder for predators to get what they want is the biggest deterrent to them.

Other Material Demands:

Implement differing levels of access to different areas (security clearances).  Store customer’s sensitive details on a separate hard-drive, keep it backed up, and off-limits to irrelevant parties.  Back-ups are best kept off premises and on physical devices but do use online storage too.  Be aware that smartphones and tablets are less secure than thought.  Diligence should be maintained.

Master-keys and Password Rotation

Use different passwords across the system because this removes unnecessary master keys.  Understand what makes a strong password and apply the knowledge.  A password rotation system should also be used to lower predictability.  Using up-to-date knowledge helps show the business was doing all it could in the event of a breach.

 

Data Gathering

The Data Protection Act 1998 says what is necessary for collecting data.  It also tells businesses what to do when data has incorrect records.  Having consent and ethical standards is paramount to good Data processing.  Younger people are well versed in this Act so it is wise to make sure they are not unduly alerted by your business, on the other hand criminals could be able to judge how clued up you are and see gaps in practice as ways into your business IT.

Convenience

Perhaps the trickiest thing is to balance convenience with good security because stronger IT security usually reduces convenience.  However there should be no mercy when it comes to the data of customers and clients.

It is important to acknowledge how important IT Security is and address any concerns because if it is ignored, you waste time and put innocent people’s data at risk from criminal enterprise.  Using professional services really is an investment.

More information can be found here: UK Information Commission

 

 

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Business like: A Real Leader

Successful differentiation and brand presence is a pinnacle of supremacy.  Great leaders are instantly recognisable and separable from others.  Demonstrating intelligence in your communications to customers will create business identity and character.

  1. Convince the audience of your intelligence.
  2. Create simple messages derived from complex information.
  3. Provide all the information consumers need to know what you are about, simply.
  4. Be coherent.
  5. Make the audience feel intelligent and empowered.
  6. Be respectful.
  7. Look at other businesses and see what they do to get some ideas.
  8. Use any knowledge you do have to develop what you say to customers.
  9. Rely on your own confidence and demonstrate your expertise.
  10. Tell customers why this is important and what they can do about it.
  11. Repeat the process over and over to be consistent.

Snakes and Ladders is a good example for demonstrating points Two and Three.

Problems are usually flaws in the basic levels

The basic problems all businesses face is enticing an audience to buy.  Service orientated businesses such as Whitehill Business Consultancy have paradoxical problems: simple tasks that require complex knowledge.  Relationships are very important to Small Business Service providers but many beat about the bush.

Suspicions are naturally formed candles that can light the Darkness

I harbour a suspicion that relationships begin when the business has managed to convince its observers of its intelligence and humanity.  In other words the observer will find answers whenever a question is asked of a business, but discover new thoughts in the process.

It is Complex, but Complication is Needlessly Introduced

Service providers have different marketing concerns from others, because they are selling something that is experienced: in other words expectation and predictions.  Make it a no-brainer, people evaluate various offers and take time to decide who to invest in but then look for reasons to continue investment.  Therefore delivering anticipated service consistently across all frontiers goes a long way to convincing consumers of value.

Empower the Customer

Use clear language, define all benefits of choosing your services and allow them to make their decision.   Engage with customer’s feelings of personal intelligence appeal to it. Empower the customer and let them know their power post-purchase.  In other words do make choosing your business a benefit from start to finish.

­Empowerment is Greater Control

Apple’ decision to provide an adaptable tool demonstrates what empowering customers can be.  Another example is reading work that makes you feel clever just because you read it.  You feel personally enriched and grateful for having read it and therefore empowered to tell everyone.  Apple let customers do the talking but try to control output by what they put in.

Complete customer respect can only exist when companies pull together all knowledge to create something more valuable: for the customer.  Customer Empowerment as a concept needs attentiveness and gratitude.

Final Thoughts:

  1. The problem business experience are trends to simply state information and making it quirky or unusual.  Convincing the audience of intelligence is also about demonstrating what you know about your customer.
  1. Doing this makes customers feel intelligent and because the business recognises their intelligence; and therefore must be intelligent as a result.  Customers feel buying your services or products must then be intelligent:  a mental but personal bond forms.
  1.   Customers will develop your brand for you as long as you continue to conduct the music – it is that simple.  Keep connections together.

The fifth verse of Rudyard Kipling’ “If” contains a line which is applicable here:  “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,  Or walk with Kings-nor lose the common touch”.   When honest and confident use of language is credible, bonds strengthen and grow.

Small businesses unimpressed by government red tape initiative

Businesses are not seeing refinement of legislation as promised and this makes their management more problematic.  Legal issues still seem to be a major burden.

 

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via Small businesses unimpressed by government red tape initiative.

 

Stone Written Marketing needs Strong Foundations

A Start-up and other small businesses are having a difficult time attracting consumers to make sales and therefore profit.  It is a simple goal which can be very difficult to achieve, especially over time.  Using mixtures of Inbound and Outbound marketing are common (that is making content that catches the customers eye or ears and they come to you, or promoting it to them unsolicited):

  1. Word of Mouth.
  2. Internet: social media, ads, websites and pages, listing sites.
  3. Add new features.
  4. Adjust prices.
  5. Make new products.
  6. Flyers around local area.
  7. Inclusion in Yellow pages and Telephone book.
  8. Radio ads.
  9. Newspaper ads.
  10. Sponsor a local team or event.
  11. Hold events to get customers attention.
  12. Sales promotions.
  13. Interviews in local newspapers or other literature.
  14. Ads and logos on vehicles and uniforms.
  15. Premises in visible location.
  16. Partner with other businesses such as construction partnerships or service agreements.
  17. Referral promotions i.e. introduce a friend or family member.
  18. Host-beneficiary.
  19. Cold Calling.
  20. Billboards.
  21. Competitions.
  22. Sub-contracts on larger projects.

These ways businesses attempt to capture customers from the market are well known.  Businesses, especially start-ups may automatically begin making adverts using some of the channels mentioned above before researching their audience.  For many a business the audience is well defined and it is simply a matter of choosing who to work for.  Price is another consideration that can affect the trajectory of choice.

Small businesses that need to define their customer could begin using the above channel and probably as many as they can afford to run.  There is a possibility of running campaigns that could be more effective than they are: generally targeting everyone but missing some.

The average age of customers and technology preferences influence where and how to reach them.  Research enhances robustness of Inbound and Outbound marketing promotions.  Targeting the customer is more effective.  It is necessary to know what they like and do not like (informs style), how much customers are likely to pay, the frequency of purchase and aspirations.  Knowing where they live and what they buy and where they shop all lend influence that you can use to develop seductive and alluring messages to these people.  Yes it is manipulation and not organic, but it is not meant to be dishonest either.  Knowing or having an idea of rising trends is another good piece of information to use when conducting a campaign.  Businesses that use information to craft their marketing experience more effective gains in market share and therefore sales.

It is important to note competitor disruption.  Disruption is when rivals respond to activities and produce counter-offers to keep or distract buyers away from competitors.  This is to be expected and pre-emptive plans can reduce the effectiveness of others disruptions.

Jumping straight into the action does get businesses customers that will use their services in both the long and short term, however without research customer numbers and sales can drop-off.

You could find yourself asking questions.

External searches for answers do lead to major changes of fortune.  However it is just as important to look inside the business too.

Know its strengths and weaknesses, what it excels at, what it is good at and what it is not so good at.  Identify inefficiencies inside the business and alter the conditions, to ease a major capture of opportunity.  What I mean by this is-to make more from the most the business can do.

Know what can be added or taken away in order to save money and be make money more easily.  Think of it like sculpting which takes away pieces at a time to leave a crafted object.  Making realistic and achievable goals will lead further to goals that were not possible in the past.  Chipping away each unnecessary piece from the right place at the right time yields more of the form contained within.  Expert knowledge and skills is a key influencer, and this is where the management consultant can help you carve out that masterpiece.

The quality and skill of the work done for customers at every stage of their journey is a very persuasive indicator to customers that they have made the right choice.  Managing an excellent journey for them makes them feel special and validates their decision to choose your business over others.  The good thing about this is that it will power word of mouth, especially if the business is making a grab at opportunities to sell as often as it can.  This builds reputation and consideration.  It strengthens all other marketing claims made and proves the integrity of the business.  In essence bringing the best out of the business and then marketing to the customer, means the customer has responded to messages with truly substantial and unchangeable value.

Still Battling the Demons

Simple, elegant advice. Really like the reflective practice aspect S.D. uses to develop her journal.

S. D. Keeling

It’s nearly the end of January. Not sure how that happened. I don’t think it’s legal to set your New Year’s resolutions in February, even if you do have excellent reasons for being behind schedule (see my last post), so it’s time to get this done. Top of my list? Tackling my issues with procrastination.

Yeah, that was a joke, but I’m also completely serious. Remember the post where I said my twin demons were perfectionism and procrastination? Those demons have been kicking me around more than I realized. I’ve been reading a book by Richard Winter, PERFECTING OURSELVES TO DEATH: THE PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE AND THE PERILS OF PERFECTIONISM. Many of Winter’s words hit home for me—sometimes painfully so. Now that I understand the basis for my struggles with procrastination, doubt and indecision, I’m determined drive those demons back to the dark cave where they belong.

My…

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Increase Sales and Compel Innovation.

The latest Guinness advert reminded me of one of my favourite poems written by William Ernest Henly, called Invictus.  The poem was written in 1875 and published in 1888.  The poet was inspired by Stoicism.  Stoicism is about disregarding emotional states in order to achieve success by focussing on intellectual and moral influences.  This reminded me of the reasons I write the blogs and post content in the first place – we are all masters of our own fates, and should seek answers rather than accept fear nor suffer pride.

(Skip to the list if you have little time and please return to read the rest later)

The Federation of Small Businesses reports that there are four point nine million SME businesses in the UK sharing £3300 billion of turnover.  The mean value of the market per business is over six hundred thousand assuming the figure provided by the FSB is accurate.  Using the downloadable Government report “Small Businesses and the UK Economy” this figures is reduced too £334795.  The variance is due to the division of turnover attributed to SME’s being smaller than reported on the FSB website, although the Government report is dated 2012.  Either growth was substantial between 2012 and 2013 or some other reason accounts for this discrepancy.

Differences between Big and Wee

The Federation for Small Businesses reported figure appears to combine those of SME’s and large businesses.  There are very few large businesses taking over half of all income.  Microbusinesses make up 96% of the economy but represent a fifth of the total turnover at £305.8 billion.  The average turnover of each micro-business is around £66593.  Larger businesses have more market share are far outnumbered by Micro-businesses.  This is a simplistic view of the MSME economy and incomplete.  There is certainly a large gap between micro-businesses, and their nearest sized rivals when it comes to gaining income.  Small to Medium enterprises combined take two thirds more income than Micro-businesses.  It seems factual to state larger businesses make more money.

Small to Micro-businesses have a sales problem.  If turnover is smaller per business, sales per business are less than at other larger businesses.  Improving sales is a vital interest to every business owners, and a reason for increasing demand for business services.

Evidence of Problems

In 2012 the FSB produced a survey which shows MSME businesses are accessing more finance and business support services.  Thirty two percent of businesses were aiming to grow turnover by 2013.  Of their members 68% diversified output by introducing new services or products between 2009 and 2012.  Indications that competition for sales was necessary to maintain performance.  However the increase in borrowing to maintain cash-flow suggest sales were disrupted.  Over half of members stated they would develop online presence to reach new customers or markets.  Marketing and other services increased in popularity during this time as businesses accepted the need to adapt for survival.  One principle reason has been the increase in running costs.  I am certain readers are acutely aware of the demands and challenges of managing a business over recent years.  Two powerful barriers to growing are power of larger suppliers and the tendering process for contracts is either too long or too costly.  MSME business must specialise on day to day sales.

Improving Sales

Improving sales is not always scientific because multiple variables affect truly accurate predictions but there are several scientific findings that inform managers of their options.

These come from various arenas of research inside and outside of the business world. Marketing Research is powerful; it informs sales and distribution strategies because it measures performance of sales activities and monitors changing customer attitudes.  Businesses are moving into the online world because it offers high returns for little cost and explains why many Scottish businesses are preparing to develop online presence.  Human Resources provides methods such as training staff in great service principles so customers feel valued and therefore value your business more greatly.

Business efficiency is a crucial aspect from Operations Management, Economics and Logistics which assist sales: the reason being easy or quick transactions encourage people judge businesses more kindly.  Being first with new or good quality products is another indicator of value because people want to connect with businesses that make them feel connected but successful.  It is not straight forward- but there are informed views that work well in different environments.

Ideas for Action

Seventeen constructive things you can do or achieve.  At less than twenty entries, it is a good list!

  1. Develop and deliver a style of joie de vivre: Be considerate to the customer:  Approach and inform customers with consideration, curiousity, kindness and gratitude.
  2. Introduce, Invite and be a warm Host:  Let customers know of new things you sell, new offers, and old favourites.  Create a welcoming workspace and personal attitude to make buyers feel part of it already.  Match atmosphere with visuals and audio to business needs. Gratefully, Funeral Directors are respectful by behaving carefully at all times.
  3. Pay Attention to the Customer:  Listen to them!  Find out what they like and search for something to sell that fits the bill.  Essentially the basis of all market research.
  4. Satisfy the Customer:  Find out and learn to understand your customers’ wants and needs’ interpret these and then provide them.  Happiness comes from getting what you want but success comes from getting what you need.  In this way both your customer and business will share the benefits.
  5. CLEARLY let people know what you have and all benefits:  Be captivating by using what is known about the audience.  Provide informative but truthful messages and ask for nothing from the public!  A basis of good advertising or promotional campaigns.
  6. TELL EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE – ALL THE TIME:  Online, posters, newspaper ads, sandwich boards, sponsored doggy coats, name on the van, leaflets and WOM are great.  When talking about business in company choose insightful stories from experience.
  7. Customers Are Treasures:  Be supremely interested in customers and make them precious.
  8. Interact:  Do not sit back and listen or continually agree; refer, debate or inform suitably with high standards of politeness – defer to customer as necessary.
  9. Offer Complementary Goods:  I bought shoes, once, and the cashier asked me if I would like protective shoe care! I said “No”, but then changed my mind because it was on offer!  My shoes have lasted twice as long but I plan to buy from that shop again.  The moral is to draw attention to relevant solutions.  Be mindful of customers’ future needs when possible and offer them answers straight away.
  10. Learn to be happy and positive:  Employees will perform better and customers will feel more open to making a purchase.  Staff will feel at home in their job and if this is hard for you: Fake it until you Become It.
  11. Provide Variety:  Variety means organised grouping of products together i.e. swimming trunks or brands together.  Conversely offering groups of fewer products can also increase sales i.e. three cereals filling one side of a supermarket aisle.
  12. Forewarn:  Discount Sales tell customers about it beforehand:  When I am told to delay a purchase because a Sale is approaching, damn sure I make that place my first consideration for many purchases thereafter.
  13. Do a Few a Favour:  If a customer needs something kept back – do it whenever you can.  If they do not turn up when agreed you have only delayed one sale.  Always determine a policy for unreliable people later.  Always go the extra mile if appropriate and legal.
  14. Be FUN:  Find that way to introduce fun or imply fun, be it ambience and marketing efforts wherever it is justifiable.  Unless requested; undertakers’ should never do this!
  15. Become Excellent:  Reading about Excellence Organisations in between shopping for bargains on Ebay during quiet spells will give you some ideas.  This tip I feel is a powerful differentiator and competitive advantage.
  16. Concise and Succinct:  List the Benefits then write a summarising sentence containing them all!
  17. Assume the best:  You want customers to think your business the best-then be the best: If selling services but it is found that the client also needs a new computer-get them the best you can for the best price for them!  Do the extra thing and be brave!

Inspire Confidence:  Being afraid of failing is equal to being afraid of succeeding.  Learning from failure is a powerful aid no doubt.  Nevertheless being prepared to fail (or die trying) is what confidence is about; being confident reassures clients and business partners.  Michael Jordan said that his scoring record fails to mention the 20000 or so shots he made during his career.  This reveals a key attitude held by champions that mastery comes in spite of failures, but be progressed by them too.

Suggestions here do not guarantee sales will increase-nothing does.  Taking some form of relevant action should alleviate problems.  Being curious will uncover answers that will help.  In the case of complex or compound problems remember it is an opportunity to learn and to reach out for help.  Accepting there is a problem is the very first step every business needs to take because it is the first step in facing it and diagnosis.  Do not avoid proactive attitudes for fear of failing and persevere.