When it comes to cyberattacks, the targets are typically the behemoth companies and organizations you read about in the news. But according to IBM, small and mid-sized businesses are the target of 62 per cent of all cyberattacks – which equals about 4,000 attacks per day. The reason? They are an easy target.
Can your company or clients be under attack?
We hear a new story about cyberattacks almost every day. A business gets hacked — allowing sensitive proprietary and customer data to be accessed and compromised. The list of the world’s biggest data breaches is littered with recognizable names, including Anthem, JP Morgan Chase, and Target.
But don’t think for a second that hackers only target large organizations. In fact, small businesses are often just what hackers are looking for. Why? The main reason is that small businesses often have inadequate online security, and with sensitive data housed in the cloud they become an easier victim.
A quick night’s work for a hacker can mean disaster for your business. According to a report by the U.S. National Cyber Security Alliance, 60 percent of small businesses that suffer a cyberattack are out of business within six months.
Nobody will protect your business except you
Banks and the government haven’t done much to assist small businesses with hackers and data breaches. The recently introduced MAIN STREET Cybersecurity Act in the United States will help small businesses protect their digital assets from cyber threats, but it’s far from a silver bullet. Businesses of all shapes and sizes need to start taking data security seriously — proactively and with full accountability.
Now is the time to put together a solid security plan.
Don’t just go with the first solution you find. Instead, take the time to find the approach that fits your business, customers and industry. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. More importantly, don’t leave data security to just the IT staff. Get everyone involved — including your managers and all levels of employees. Train each of them on protection measures and show them how to stay compliant. For example, teaching employees to avoid opening suspicious email attachments can be a safeguard against malware that could easily creep into your network.
If your workforce is highly mobile, you may want to consider the rules around any bring your own device (BYOD) program you may have in place. Security Magazine explains how a BYOD program, whether formally in place or not, could create unintentional risk within the organization — simply based on the lack of awareness of such programs. The publication states that, “17.7 percent of survey respondents who bring their own devices to work claim that their employer’s IT department has no idea about this behavior, and 28.4 percent of IT departments actively ignore BYOD behavior.”
Once you start protecting your company, you must take the next steps to stay safe.
Obtain cybersecurity insurance, create a strong password strategy for your users, and utilize virtual data rooms (VDR). For in-house IT departments and office managers, it’s important to upgrade your tech as well. Start with this list of five tools and services your small businesses can use to protect against cyberattacks.
Taking cybersecurity to the next level
Want to dig deeper? Consider employing an ethical hacker — a cybersecurity expert who works within your company to locate weaknesses and vulnerabilities by duplicating the intent and actions of hackers.
Also talk to a company that specializes in cybersecurity protection. Many of these businesses will offer free vulnerability assessments to give you an idea of where your weaknesses may lie. They’ll also explain how they can help you manage those threats. If you don’t currently have an in-house IT team, outsourcing the work could be an efficient option.
As if all that wasn’t enough, here’s one more thing to consider. When crafting a data security policy, make sure you’re actually protecting data privacy by including the following nine elements in your policy, as detailed once again by Security Magazine. It’s crucial to consider your policy from all angles – after all, your data can make or break your business.
|1||Ensure Data Security Accountability||All IT staff, workforce and management must be aware of their responsibilities.|
|2||Create Policies that Govern Network Services||How to handle remote access, IP addresses, routers and network intrusion detection.|
|3||Scan for Vulnerabilities||Have a routine in place for checking your own networks regularly for hacking vulnerabilities.|
|4||Manage Patches||Implement code to eliminate vulnerabilities that can help to protect against threats.|
|5||Create System Data Security Policies||Rules around company servers, firewalls, databases and antivirus software.|
|6||Have a Response Plan for Incidents||If a security breach occurs, have measures for handling the issue along with evaluation and reporting.|
|7||Educate Staff on Acceptable Use||Employees should understand and sign an acceptable use policy, which includes disciplinary action.|
|8||Monitoring Compliance||Regular audits to ensure staff and management are complying with the data security policy.|
|9||Account Monitoring and Control||Designate someone to monitor and control users, and keep track of active and inactive user accounts.|
It seems like a lot, but it can be done. More importantly, it must be done. When it comes to today’s advanced hackers, organizations must be prepared for when — not if — they will have a data breach. Taking small steps now will ensure you’re not facing bigger problems down the road.
1. Say “Hello from the other side!”
Given the reach of today’s digital world, anyone wishing to expand their Social Capital can do it easily just by following Adele’s advice, by saying “Hello from the other side!” What I mean by this is for you to use the reach and facility of social platforms to connect to anyone, anywhere, just by saying “hello” and introducing yourself.
Use LinkedIn or Facebook to identify persons across 1st and 2nd level contacts, who share a common industry or profession and reach out to them and ask for introductions to key persons in your field, sector, industry, city, or state. No matter if your business is Staffing, Insurance, Banking, Finances, or any other from services to manufacturing, join groups pertinent to your business. Once in these groups begin to interact using “Likes”, “Shares” and “Comments” to expand your contacts, which will eventually place you in contact with new business introductions, or obtain access to capital to potentially grow your business. In a similar manner, use Twitter to like, follow, and retweet on potential contacts, influencers, or even Client prospects.
So whether you do it like Adele and “say hello” from this side, that side, or the other side – it really doesn’t matter, just as long as you do it – reach out and say hello — to your Network that is.
2. “At least buy a ticket…”
There’s an old story of a Catholic priest who dreamed of winning the lottery. One day during his prayers he heard a voice from above inquiring…”Fergus”? Startled, he responded “my Lord, is that you? You’ve heard my prayers and are you going to award me by letting me win the Lottery?” The voice from above then responds, “Fergus…help me out my son…start by at least buying a ticket!”.
My 2nd suggestion is rooted in the notion that to expand your social capital requires a firm, personal commitment toward action from you – analogous to “buying a ticket”. It requires that you personally and physically interact with your Network, going to trade functions, breakfast meetings, lead groups, luncheons, happy hours, and “Meet & Greet” events. It requires that you join a local chamber of commerce, which could also include ethnic or minority versions such as Indian, Asian, African-American, or Hispanic chambers of commerce, and attend them frequently and consistently. Unlike Fergus who wouldn’t even buy his own lottery ticket, you on the other hand, must buy a ticket, and then stick your neck out, attend, be participative, network actively, and follow-up with all your personal leads either with a call or Email. It’s hard work and can’t be done from your laptop or phone, but instead requires your personal and active involvement, because the only person who can build the relationships which will eventually lead to new opportunities for your business is you.
3. Do like your Browser and “REFRESH”…Yourself!
The “Refresh” button present on your browser tells it to reload the current website and by doing so, reproduces the entire page. Take this notion from your Browser and apply it to your digital profile — and “Refresh” yourself! Invest in a professional headshot and update the profile photo and banners on your LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook pages. Rewrite your profile description, updating it with your latest professional accomplishments, positions, promotions, job changes, or publications. If you write a Newsletter, redo the background artwork with something and create a storyline to attract interest from your network base, both current and new. You’ll be amazed at the results this will produce for you.
I recently did all these things in preparation for the August 15th launch of my book “The Success Factor – Unconventional Wisdom for Small Business Success” and the results have been astounding. I had >100% improvement in the open rates of my Newsletter, 30x increase in the click-through rates, 10x-15x increases in the number of followers on my LinkedIn profile and blog articles, and a barrage of personal responses from my Network. All this anchored to an event (my book launch, in this case), but clearly tied to my action of “refreshing” my profile by providing new, interesting content to my Network. So if your profile and social capital becomes stale, static, or “freezes up on you” and you’re at a loss of what to do, then act like your Browser… and Refresh yourself!
The CCC is your “cash conversion cycle” (or simply referred to as the “cash cycle”) and it tells you how many days it takes for your company to turn your inventory purchases into cash. The shorter the CCC, the more flexible your working capital, and that is every business owner and CFO’s dream.
With a shorter CCC, you’ll be able to pay bills, make payroll, take advantage of supplier discounts, order new product or inventory, and execute on your growth strategy with much more ease.
But to shorten the cash cycle, you need to first find a way of adjusting these three key variables:
- DIO: Days Inventory Outstanding.
- The average # days you turn inventory into sales.
- DPO: Days Payable Outstanding
- The # of days it takes to pay your accounts payable.
- DSO: Days Sales Outstanding
- The # of days it will take to collect on sales after they’ve been made.
Want more details on CCC including DIO, DPO and DSO? Read part 1 now.
To positively impact the three variables and shorten your CCC, you have multiple options:
1. Improve sales times
If your sales team can speed up the time to make deals, you’ll be shortening your DIO – the time it takes to turn your inventory into sales. Sell faster – it’s every company’s goal, but often easier said than done.
2. Enhance supplier relationships
Likewise, improving your supply chain can create efficiencies in your DIO. By developing good relationships with suppliers you can take advantage of just-in-time inventory practices, where your goods arrive only as needed. This may already be a common option for some industries, like manufacturing and perishables, but it is also becoming more popular in retail with the rise in drop shipping, where companies never handle their own inventory – instead, when your customer orders arrive you’ll purchase the inventory from a third party who ships directly to the end customer on your behalf.
3. Better credit and collection process
There’s no doubt that an effective collections department will improve your ability to collect customer invoices on time. Effective collections can help create a more stable and reliable DSO. However, this requires staff training, likely more personnel hours (translating into payroll costs) and leadership’s time to make sure this process is effectively managed.
4. Ask for extended payment terms
Extending your accounts payable will increase your DPO, and help offset the other two factors of your CCC. But this could negatively impact your relationships with suppliers if you extend too much, and breaching the terms could put you at risk of becoming the delinquent account you’re trying to avoid in your own A/R.
5. Reduce your 30/60/90 day payment terms
Fortunately, you’re in control of your accounts receivable terms and can shorten them to receive payment earlier. By reducing your terms, you lower your DSO and speed up your cash cycle.
Unfortunately, many customers request and expect longer terms. Some industries abide by certain time frames to pay, which may not match up with your cash flow needs. And other customers will be delinquent on payment no matter what terms you agree upon. You may risk losing sales to competitors offering better terms.
6. Early pay discounts
These are generally not very effective at reducing your DSO and some customers take the discount even when they pay on normal schedules. Overall, this can lead to lower revenue than expected, which doesn’t amount to a cheap option.
7. Smart & strategic financing
Being strategic with your billing and collections is one of the most accessible ways to improve your cash cycle, and you can use commercial finance solutions to dramatically shorten your DSO. In fact, instead of having a DSO of 30/60/90 or more days, you can have a DSO of one day.
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