The Right Way to Arrange and Manage Small Business Funds

Managing funds

The sustenance and growth of a business depends on how well it manages the funds available to it. The first step is to arrange the right funding based on a proper business plan. As a business owner, you don’t want to end up getting more funds than you need because you will then overly spend the money and end up with debt that’s hard to pay off.

The second step is to manage the funds properly and invest them for short-term and long-term benefits both. The biggest challenge for most new businessmen and entrepreneurs is capital. They either don’t know how to raise the money and fund their business, or mismanage the funds they have available.

Raising Funds for a Small Business

Looking at how easy it has become to arrange funds for businesses today, there aren’t many excuses left for entrepreneurs as to why they were not able to start their business. The first thing you want to keep in mind when raising funds for your business is to avoid accumulating too much debt. Avoid any kind of debt if it is possible. If you have saved some money from the jobs you have been doing, use that money to fund your business. If your parents or someone in your family is willing to fund your business, do not be hesitant to accept their help.

Among many good options to arrange funds for your small or starting business you have microloans. Microloans, as the name clarifies, are small loans. Since the amount is not that big, it is easy for the borrower to return this money. In most cases, microloans will not be more than $50,000. The good thing about such loans is that they are easy to obtain even if you don’t have the best of credit score. In many cases, you will get the loan amount credited into your bank account within two weeks after applying. However, the biggest drawback of microloans is that they have a huge interest rate associated with them.

Another way you can avoid burying your business under debt and still receive enough capital to fund the business is by having a partner on board. Rather than starting a sole proprietorship, you should consider making a partner. Making partners is easier when you already have a running business, even if it is a small one. The partner will come with their personal investment and help you fund your business. In fact, you could have a partner on board without offering any investment yourself. You can agree to be the service provider and allocate the partner to fund the business monetarily.

Managing Funds of a Small Business

Once you have arranged the funds for your business, it is time you get a grip on how you will spend that money. The most sensible thing to do here is to ask for investments only after you have created a business plan which clearly states how you will be spending the investment money. You don’t want to spend the invested funds randomly. Here is how you should manage your funds.

  • Separate Business and Personal Account

The first sign of your seriousness with your business is you separating your personal account from your business account. If you have use your personal account for your business as well, you will never know how much money you made from the business, how much you spent back on the business and how much you spent on your personal needs.

  • Be Cost Cutting

You don’t make a business successful by just increasing its revenue. The true art is to reduce the costs of running your business. Work on your B2B connections to partner with entities that can help you reduce the costs of manufacturing and production. Pinpoint the marketing campaigns that produce converting customers and stop spending money on campaigns that only bring in traffic but contribute nothing to conversions. Investors think the money you spend on your operations is money wasted. You want to spend money on productive processes. On the cost cutting side, you should use energy-efficient appliances, all-in-one office equipment, virtual office space, etc.

  • Hire Professionals

Sometimes, you have to spend more to save more. In some areas, it is the professionals who can help you the most. For example, when it comes to tax filing and the calculation of your tax deductions you want to have a professional on your side. Professional accountants can help you reduce your taxable income by working on your business expenses and figuring out any deductions and exemptions that your business qualifies for.

  • Create Cash Reserve

While you are managing your funds and running your business successfully, you want to put some money in cash reserves as well. It will be hard for you to manage a cash reserve amount if you are already making thin profits but the long term benefits of this sacrifice are huge. Your cash reserve saves you from obtaining loans and hence getting buried underneath debt.

Conclusion

Keep in mind that having a lot of money in your bank account does not guarantee a successful business. It does not matter how much money you have, a business owner who does not manage his/her finances properly will end up burning even millions of dollars without making a dime in profits. Use the options you have available today for funding the business. Do not think they will not work for you before you even try them.

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What Sets a Small Business Apart from a Large Business?

small business

You probably hear terms like small business and ‘large business’ quite commonly whether you are looking for software solutions, investment opportunities or something else. Sometimes, it can be difficult for business owners to figure out if what they own is a small business or a large one. The confusion is valid because you don’t often find clear definitions to help you distinguish one from the other. However, it is essential to know the difference so you can pick the right services. This is because most service providers design their service packages differently for small and large companies. There are also other reasons why you would want to know their differences.

Why Know the Difference

You need to know the size of your company because of the laws that apply to these entities. Large businesses have to follow a different set of rules and regulations than small businesses. In addition to that, several federal programs are available that are different for small businesses and large businesses. As an example, you won’t qualify for certain programs unless you are officially a small business and are entitled to the program. You can get into trouble if you think your business is small but the government deems it otherwise.

Also, keep in mind that when you operate as a small business, but spend like a big one, you can put your venture in trouble. So, what sets the two apart from each other?

The Differences between Large and Small Businesses

The Size

How do you determine the size? How do you know that the size of your business is small or large? The federal government has its ways of determining the size of a business. They will look at either the number of employees you have or your yearly receipts. However, the standards are not uniform across industries.

What this means is that a small business in one industry might not be small in some other industry. In most cases, your average yearly receipts have to be over $7 million for the federal government to treat your business as a large one. The number of your employees should be more than 500 for your business to be considered large.

However, this standard of 500 employees is more applicable to the manufacturing and mining industry. However, keep in mind the varying standards across industries. For instance, in some service industries, your yearly receipts could amount to over $21 million, but the federal government will still not consider your entity as a small business. The agriculture industry’s standards can be quite the opposite of that with the government treating businesses with average yearly receipts of more than $500,000 as large businesses.

The same rule applies to the number of employees as well. For example, if you are a part of the wholesale industry, and you have more than 100 employees, your business could be termed as a large business. On the other hand, if you are in the manufacturing industry, the government will write you down in its books as a small business even if you have 1,500 employees.

Internal Structure and Hierarchy

A large business will often have a more clearly defined structure and hierarchy. Almost every case in question will go through various departments before the company comes to a final decision. On the other hand, the structure is not fully defined or is not as detailed. The employees and the owner are not too far from each other. A complaint from a customer can reach from an agent to the owner pretty conveniently. On the other hand, there are several roles beneath the manager that can handle numerous tasks and take decisions.

Due to the hierarchy that normally exists in large businesses, they often delay their decisions. Contrary to that, small businesses take their decisions very quickly. The hierarchical structure also gives rise to a culture of workers performing their respective tasks only. In a small business, the same person could have multiple roles.

Financing Options

There is a stark difference between the financing options that small business and large business owners choose. Large business owners have good PR, a name in the market and some level of dominance in the industry. Such a position allows them to go for options like investment banks. They can naturally attract well-known investors of the country as well when they are in need of finance.

On the other hand, small business owners try to avoid bank loans because of the hardships they face when it comes to paying back debt. In most cases, small business owners rely more on their savings or funding from someone in their family.

Salaries and Perks

Since large businesses are financially more independent, they can offer their employees attractive packages and benefits. Health insurance, dental insurance, yearly bonuses, provident funds, etc. are just some incentives that employees at large companies enjoy.

On the other hand, people working at a small company do not get such benefits in most cases. They can have attractive salaries, but a small business owner cannot afford medical insurance and comprehensive benefits for employees. It is one of the reasons why most of the people working at a small company often look for opportunities at large companies.

Nowhere does it say that small businesses have less potential for growth and expansion than large businesses. For this reason, small business owners should be confident in their efforts to grow. While large businesses have access to big bank loans and broad markets, even a small mistake in their predictions and estimates can result in huge losses.

On the other hand, small business owners face smaller risks when you consider the volume of their loss. Be sure to identify your business size and take advantage of all the benefits that the federal government has made available for small businesses.

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Some Unnecessary Small Business Expenses to Avoid

Business Expenses

When you start a business, you have to be extra careful with how you spend your capital. There are many ways for small business owners to increase their profits. Reducing their costs is one of the simplest and most effective ones. A lot of the times, entrepreneurs would add costs to their budgets that they don’t necessarily have to make. It might appear to them that these are necessary expenses when that’s not the case. They can add many of these expenses once their business has established.

Expenses That Small Businesses Should Avoid

Excessive Advertising

Yes, advertising is quite important for businesses, but excessive advertisement is not. It still makes sense for large businesses to go full-on with advertising because they have the budget to do so. However, when it comes to small businesses, they must do intelligent and selective advertising only. Their first course of action should be to identify the advertising channels that work best for them. Just because you are a restaurant at the corner of a street does not mean you have to use awnings, vinyls, neon signs, and all other types of materials for advertising purposes. Pick the ones that work and skip what doesn’t.

Too Many Work Hours

You don’t necessarily have to follow the trends of your competitors to compete with them. It does not matter how good they are, even the best ones can make mistakes at times. Many business owners choose to keep their premises opened for customers for long hours. They will open the business early in the morning and close it late at night just so they can serve more customers. However, one must do cost calculation before taking such a step? What if you are getting only five customers in the first three hours of the business and five more at the last two hours?

Now imagine the cost of utility, wages of your employees, etc. Are you covering the costs of keeping your business opened for five additional hours with only 10 customers? Even if you want to continue this way, you better test it for a week only. If the response is cold, you should quit this practice as soon as possible.

Pursuing the Best of Everything

The idea sounds great but is not the way to go about doing business when you are in your early stages. You should spend your money on things you need, not the things you want unless you have the budget to do so. If you are renting space for your office, you should look for a place that you can easily afford. Going for the best location in the most commercial area will cost you a lot of money. You can save your money even when it comes to internal equipment. Why buy new couches, seats and brand new computers when you can do with high-quality used equipment?

Why go for a printer with fancy looks and capacity to print hundreds of pages in a minute when you won’t ever need that many printouts at a time? Go with simple and beautiful when it comes to decorating your office. You don’t want to spend your budget on things that are not going to yield any benefits for your business.

Hiring IT Staff

IT is integral to any business today, tech or non-tech. However, it does not mean you have to have an IT team on board. One of the beauties of modern technology is that it allows you to outsource a lot of the business processes. The best thing about outsourcing business processes is that you can save a lot of money by doing so. Managed IT services are a perfect way for you to save IT costs while benefitting from expertise of the best professionals of the industry. Rather than paying thousands of dollars to three or four IT people, it makes more sense for small businesses to outsource their IT processes for a small monthly fee.

The good news is that you can outsource almost anything IT-related. From basic helpdesk to on-demand data officers, IT outsourcing can cover a lot of ground for you.

Unnecessary Debts

Taking loans when starting a business is imperative for your growth and to have enough cash in hand to support your operations. However, there are more ways to fund your business than you might realize. Many small business owners follow venture capitalists and conventional banks when it comes time to fund their businesses. However, crowdfunding has emerged as an amazing funding option for startups and small businesses. The good thing about crowdfunding is that you do not necessarily have to offer equity to the investors in your business. Sometimes, you can just reward them with a sample of your product.

Hiring Only Full-time Employees

If you own a small business, you might want to consider hiring interns. Interns can benefit your business in many ways. First, you do not have to pay them the salary of a full-time employee. Second, you can ask them to do a lot of the mundane tasks that otherwise affect the productivity of your full-time employees negatively. While it might not be the best practice, in some countries of the world they have free internships as well wherein you do not have to pay your interns. However, that’s not the right thing to do, and you should compensate their work to keep them motivated.

Conclusion

You should consider avoiding these expenses if you are a small business owner or about to be one. You can always take advice from those who have their own businesses to figure out what’s necessary and what’s not. Keep yourself up-to-date with new technological advancements. Taking advantage of modern software and hardware solutions can help you save a lot of money. Take the example of a printer with duplex printing option. You could cut your paper costs in half by printing on both sides of the paper. In the end, look into your current setup and operations to see what some expenses are that you can easily live without.

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Aspects that Trigger Your Customers Buying Interest

Customers

Irrespective of how exquisite the product or service is, it might not sustain itself in the market for long if the makers or providers are not aware of the reasons behind the success of their product or service. It’s crucial for any business to understand their customers – thoroughly get into the minds of consumers – to sustain and thrive in this world of stiff competition.

We human beings generally have the same mental forces that drive us to take certain actions. For a business to be successful it is highly recommended that it identifies those driving forces and utilize them as part of their marketing strategies. This is because our minds work in strange ways, leading us to take actions that we ourselves are not even fully aware of.

The three questions that all businesses should ask themselves regularly are; what do we know about our customers? What makes our customer buy a certain thing from us over everything else and everyone else in the market? What impact will your product or service have on the lives of your customers?

What Do We Know about our Customers?

Having knowledge of the very basic things, such as name, age, gender, etc, to having in-depth knowledge of demographic, psycho-graphic, and socio-economic factors provides a multi-dimensional view of your customers’ choices.

It allows businesses to strategically analyze these insights and find patterns to anticipate the current and future needs of their customers.

Whether it’s a B2B, B2C, or any other kind of business, knowing your customers – their  likes and dislikes, interests and disinterest, cravings and distaste -is imperative before striking a deal. It’s actually quite simple, knowing about your customers will make things easy for you as well as them.

Here you’ll implement a crucial cognitive rule; less is more. We do tend to opt for the shortest ways to achieve the fastest results. By using words like: easy, convenient, fast, and systematic in marketing campaigns businesses implicitly, as well as explicitly, gives out a vivid message that they are the simplest solution providers to individuals’ problem.

This ensures success in generating current and well as future sales. Even simple transactions, such as ordering a pizza or buying clothes, if the organization will already have insights about the previous orders that the customer placed, they can easily make customized suggestions to that customer. They can also skip taking the basic details about their home address, phone number, etc, and most importantly they can ensure an optimum level of satisfaction from the customers’ side.

What makes our customers buy a certain thing from us over everything else and everyone else in the market?

Think of this as someone choosing a life partner; what possible reasons they could have to choose you over anyone else, and what possible reasons could they have to break-up with you and move on to your competitor.

Looking on the bright side, businesses can easily find answers to these questions, as compared to individuals. Fortunately, businesses can be divided into multiple characteristics, from service, price, magnitude, and recognition to customers’ experiences, product range, and accessibility – to name a few – to access their current and future progress.

It is worthwhile to find that the reasons behind the choices that your customers make helps you discover your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Your USP is the gist of this answer; it determines why your customers show a certain level of interest in you over your competitors. Your USP can (and in my view should) change with changing market trends and you can even have different USPs for different customers.

Businesses should always have the big picture in mind that with this one transaction they are making way to many more. One way of achieving this is by providing customized product or service. This will make your customers feel important and you will let them know that you actually care about their needs.

Don’t give them a reason to be back, but make sure that they have a choice that if they do, their query will be the most important duty you have to perform. Furthermore, it is even more fruitful to have your USP constantly in-check because if your competition has adopted your USP, then it is not unique anymore, and your customer can easily switch to your competitors.

Moreover, we as homo-sapiens have a tendency to grow indifferent toward monotonous things. Hence, it is advisable that products, marketing campaigns, packaging, and other elements associated with selling a product or service, are revised after every few months or so.

This creates a sense of novelty and it is scientifically proven that experiencing something new releases dopamine in the human brain that plays a vital role in motivating behavior, thus driving more sales.

What impact will your product or service have on the lives of your customers?

A business’ duty does not end after ensuring successful sales of their product; on the contrary, it starts from there. Businesses would want to ensure that customers have a great experience using their product or services to not only make a long-lasting relationship with that one customer, but also to exponentially increase sales through the referral of all the satisfied customers.

Did you know that consumers are two times more inclined to share their bad customer service experience as compared to a positive one! Moreover, it costs 5 times more to engage a new customer as compared to sustaining an existing one.

We as individuals would know this very well that we tend to love taking advice – whether in business or in our personal matters – consultation has always been that one thing which gives us a sense of assurance and guides us to a specific path or thing. Likewise, that is the power of referrals.

Businesses can ask their customers to refer them and let individuals know that their references are highly appreciated or they can utilize the most powerful cognitive tool to ensure their attention toward the product that is – memory. By associating products or services with top celebrities in a marketing campaign, it not only triggers a memory whenever the consumer spots the product, but subconsciously they are already drawn toward that particular product or service.

 

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8 Silly Ways Small Businesses Waste Their Marketing Budget

Marketing Budget

Irrespective of your business size, your business’ marketing budget is a precious resource. It is your investment, which can help you grow your company’s business and stock value. So you surely want it to give results for the growth of your business.

Large-scale businesses usually have high marketing budgets as compared to small-scale businesses. Small companies normally allocate a small budget for marketing due to their limited resources. It means that if you are a small business owner you do not have the finances to put to waste.

As a small business owner, you need to ask yourself these questions:

“Are you spending your budget on the right tactics?”
“Are you making effective and optimal use of your budget?”
“Is it working for your business?”

To put in simple words, are you wasting away your marketing budget?

Adobe researched how effectively companies spend their marketing budgets. It was not a surprise that most of those companies were not doing a good job.

Do you feel that you also fall in the category of these small businesses that are not spending their marketing budgets the right way?

Then you should continue reading to know the silly ways in which you might be wasting your marketing budget and how to fix them.

Use of social media for building following:

Undoubtedly, social media is a great tool for small businesses to use for their marketing. But most businesses start their marketing on social media without a proper strategy.

Gone are the times when Facebook marketing was free and reach was high. Now you need to invest money and efforts in Facebook marketing thanks to its evolving algorithm. Small businesses need to spend on the paid advertising to make their business ads visible and get their content seen by the target audience.

How to fix this?

The price of Facebook ads is not too high but due to increased competition, it is likely to get higher shortly. This means you may need to spend more money to make your content visible to your followers. Presently, what you can do is use your social media investment to build an email list of your followers. This will allow you to have direct communication with them. Give incentives to your followers for sharing their email addresses.

Expecting instant and high-end results:

Many small businesses begin with a strong ambition, but most of them fail within a few months. The problem lies in their unrealistically high expectations. They want to see results in just a few months following their launch. And when they fail in getting those results, they back out.

How to Fix this?

As a small business owner, you should expect a ramp-up period of two years. If this looks impossible to you, smartly create a marketing strategy to keep your marketing engine fueling and running. Then, create as much influential and informative content as you can afford to create to promote your business.

Inability to understand your target audience:

To grab the attention of your audience, you must understand the behaviors and attitudes of your potential customers. Otherwise, you are just making your marketing budget go down the drain.

A Fix:

KNOW your target audience, their behaviors, and attitudes before you even create a content strategy. Then figure out ways to communicate with them effectively.

Not realizing how you succeeded in attracting your valuable customers:

You can refer to them as your loyal customers or valuable customers who come back to you again and again. You should know what marketing techniques and content brought those invaluable customers to your business. These top 20% of customers may give you nearly half of your business revenue.

Spending a significant portion of your advertising campaign: You can find lots of marketing tactics to give a try. Some of these may perform great, but in most cases, they may not work for you especially when you have a limited budget to give a one-time shot. Small businesses should avoid diving into big-time five-figure spending on marketing campaigns.

What is the Fix?

You need to adopt a test and trial method before investing big. First, invest in $1000 or less. If that particular marketing tactic does not work at an investment of $1000, it is highly likely that it will not work on $1500 or more.

You are not keeping proper track of your marketing investments and efforts:

Many small businesses set up a Google Analytics account, but don’t use it. In case, some are using it they don’t know how to make optimal use of it and get the benefit. Same is the case with Google AdWords for PPC. You may buy the space for ad campaigns, but end up wasting a lot of money without analyzing how those ads performed.

An Easy Fix!

You can easily learn Google Analytics tracking and AdWords through free online courses on Google. Setup conversion tracking for your advertising campaigns in Google analytics. This enables you to effectively see and analyze the activity of your potential customers on your website. If you haven’t done this yet, do it right away!

You are trying to be the jack of all trades:

Small business owners with limited resources often try to manage multiple things alone. You cannot afford to hire a complete marketing staff, but just one or two people for it. You cannot manage the entire marketing strategy all alone.

A simple solution!

Keep your focus on understanding your audience, on which platform you can mostly find them and which marketing tools and content they like.

You are following the same marketing strategy for years:

This is the biggest mistake because the marketing landscape is evolving at a rapid pace, nowadays. While focusing on the above-mentioned things, it is also recommended that you try a few new techniques every year.

The solution:

With the evolution of marketing tactics, you need to evolve as well! Always remain on the lookout for the latest marketing techniques that fit your low budget.

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5 Outside The Box Ideas For Marketing Your Small Business

ideas

Introduction

If you think you cannot market a product with a small budget, then you are mistaken. To run a successful business, whether it is small or big, you need to implement top-notch marketing ideas strategies. So, it is essential to take the time and plan effective ways to market your product or service. Take note not that every marketing technique requires a hefty budget.

Therefore, you can find budget-friendly ways to target an audience. In the light of this, here are five outside of the box marketing ideas for your small business.

Develop a Loyalty Program

Loyalty program ideas are simple. They create interest based on top of a brand’s value. So, if you love buying a particular brand, and if you’re offered something extra, such as 30% on your next purchase, you will most likely take advantage of the opportunity. Hence, announcing 50% flat off, coupons or different consumer-friendly offers can provide the limelight to your business that it needs. Moreover, consumers love going to the same brand if it sells high-quality products. One of the best ways to develop a loyalty program is to provide better quality so that consumers come back for more. As a small business owner, you need to retain existing consumers along with attracting new customers. This step is crucial to growing your small business further. When you reward your existing consumers, they will likely return and purchase more.

Plus, if a customer returns to your store more often, it will increase sales, brand image, and brand loyalty at the same time. Therefore, opt for customer loyalty programs as they work as a marketing tool as well. If your existing and satisfied customers recommend your brand, it will help you reach a wide market, influence your customer base, and of course benefit your startup in an excellent way.

Promote Customer Engagement

Sometimes a simple tactic like talking to your customer casually can feel engaging to them. You might ask; ‘would you like to see more items in this range?’ A positive response to this is an open invitation to talk to them, ask for their feedback, their thoughts, and how you could probably make things better for them. You can also use social media to boost your customer engagement. Social media profiles allow you to interact with a wider audience in a short time.

You can always use social media profiles to ask for suggestion and answer queries using direct messaging. Moreover, asking your customers to review your official page on Facebook is another quick way to give your small business a boost.

Moreover, when launching a product go live on your Instagram and Facebook profiles and keep your audience engaged. When you stay active and interactive on public profiles, it will let people know about your business ideas. Apart from this, using social media in the right way can benefit your business in numerous ways. For instance, you can engage the audience by starting a selfie campaign, which also encourages them to share or post more. You should customize hashtags and encourage the audience to use them in their post along with tagging. This is also an effective way to target a new audience.

Personalized Incentive

Customers love to be treated well, and this is for those customers that have value. For example, one valuable customer might be a regular one at your outlet, and another might buy bulk items from you periodically. Both types of customers could be justified recipients of personalized gifts from your brand. You can add complimentary items or products in their orders. It will show that you value and cherish your regular customers. Moreover, organizing a giveaway is another fun way to treat your consumers, especially if they are outside the country. You can arrange a giveaway in partnership with another small business to reach new people.

Host a Webinar

Hosting a webinar shows your expertise in your niche. Engaging experts in this webinar will show how connected you are. Also, the more people you successfully invite as participants will also demonstrate how much people already follow you and trust your expertise. Moreover, a webinar can do wonders for your business. According to a survey, 58% of marketers prefer to use webinars for promotion. Many successful marketing strategists even think that marketing on a webinar is great to reach a wider audience.

Data from different surveys have revealed that up to 40% people become qualified leads after attending a webinar as it provides the information they need. In fact, webinars retain 30-40% more attention so there is a chance that attendees will make a purchase.

Elevate content distribution        

Content production and distribution go hand-in-hand, and your content is only as good as your distribution mechanism. Leveraging major social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube is crucial. This technique is ideal to share valuable, relevant, and constant content on your social media.

It helps in two ways that are significant for any small business. First, it helps attract or target your audience. Second, it will help them turn into potential leads. Make sure your content provides information and resonates with the audience.

You should use blogs and social media posts to distribute your message. Also, the content you share should not be the typical advertisement that forces people to make a purchase. It should speak to them on personal level so they trust you and your brand.

Concluding Lines

Marketing a small business may seem a hassle at the beginning. But, if you opt for outside the box marketing strategies, you will get the desired outcome even on a shoe-string budget. For marketing, you only need to develop and leverage top-notch social media platforms and keep them updated. Other strategies like casual interaction are a smart way to identify your shortcomings and work on them to take your small business a step ahead. If you or are planning to launch a small business, try these ideas and make a difference.

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The Growing Cyber Security Risks for Small Businesses and How to Counter Them

CyberInteractivity and interdependence of devices are increasing with time as the concept of IoT (internet of things) strengthens with time. While IoT pursues maximum convenience for individuals and businesses, it has its associated challenges too. The more intertwined the modern devices become, the higher the risk of cyber security threats will be. Small, medium or large, your exposure to serious internet threats does not depend on the size of your business. If you are a small business, you are exposed to just as many dangers as large enterprises. In fact, the downside for small businesses is that they are not as prepared as large businesses against cyber threats.

So, how are cybersecurity risks are increasing with time and what kind of risks facing small businesses today? Take a look at the many ways cyber threats pose a danger to small businesses.

The Ever-increasing Count of Cyber Security Risks

The BYOD Issue

BYOD (bring your device) is an attribute of IT consumerization. To stay productive and efficient at the same time, more and more companies are allowing their employees to use their own devices to access and use corporate data. An example of this would be a worker using his tablet to open company’s employee-related document repository or an employee accessing work emails from his smartphone. Unless you have strict policies and standards set for your BYOD implementation, your business could be at risk of being infected by malware coming from users’ devices.

Software Update Delays

Do you ever wonder why companies are so adamant at making their users update to the newest software version? This is because of the older versions of the same software, application, plugin, etc. are open to risks of cyber attacks. With small businesses relying on various applications, web applications and plugins for smooth website operations, database works, on-premise security, etc. they have to be extra careful at updating them all. Any non-updated software or application is an open window for internet thieves to jump into your system.

Internal Threats

You have to be extra careful when authorizing access to any of your employees to your network and database. Many of the attacks on big companies in the past have been allegedly perpetrated by “inside men.” Sometimes the threats from your employees are not intentional but rather innocent. The authorized person might have access their account and forgot to log out while leaving the station. Some third person can then take advantage of the situation and cause damage to the system.

Sophisticated Phishing Scams

This is a common issue with small businesses as they don’t have strict protocols for employees to follow before opening emails or social media links. While phishing scam has been around for a time, the new form of this scam is called spear phishing. In this type of attack, the scammer sends email from an address that appears to the receiver as known and acquainted. This fools the person into clicking on the link and letting a dangerous malware (a ransomware at worst) enter the system.

Lack of Cyber Security Knowledge

Sometimes, the problem is not being prepared to face a problem. This is a common case with many small businesses where owners and caretakers are under the impressions that cybercriminals won’t attack them—why would they? They don’t realize the top aspect of cybercriminals, i.e., they don’t believe in discrimination. One of the common indicators of lack of cybersecurity knowledge at a workplace is when employees choose common, easy and predictable passwords for their entry points to the company’s system.

What Small Businesses Have to Do to Counter These Threats

Set Policies with a BYOD Approach

If you want to follow a BYOD approach at your workplace, you better document policies and regulations about it. Make your employees read these manuals carefully, so they know what standards and requirements they have to meet before they bring their own devices into the office. For employees that have to access your system from remote locations, set up a secure VPN.

Gives Employees Cyber Security Training

They won’t know unless you tell them, so make cybersecurity-related training a part of your hiring process. In fact, make internet security related questions a part of your interviews. Tell your employees to log out of their accounts and computers while leaving stations. Ask them to have strong passwords. Facilitate them with applications to not only remember those passwords but also generate random and difficult passwords. Explain to them why such measures matter and what the consequences of not complying with the regulations can be.

Take Professional IT Help

Go for outsourced managed services or hire your own IT professionals to take care of the security-related issues. An outsourced service or the internal IT team will set up a complete system consisting of policies, hardware and software technologies to not only protect your database from cyber threats but also respond in time if you get attacked nonetheless.

Give Authorized Accesses Wisely and Monitor Them

You can give access to sensitive company information and the system to only a select few employees. When you give them access to the system, grant them only the permissions according to their roles. Secondly, have a monitoring system to keep an eye on the activities of these employees. Furthermore, delete the accounts or change the passwords of accounts that are no longer in use because the employees they were created for have left the company.

Choose Third Party Services Wisely

Have proper meetings and consultations before you subscribe to any third party services. To run a business in today’s digital age, you have to subscribe to many platforms or applications as services, e.g., cloud CRM. You want to be sure that you are picking an industry-recognized and reliable partner. They must have the right security measures taken to protect not only their system but every bit of information that goes on their cloud platform from your databases.

Do not forget the security of your website among all this. In addition to your databases, internal software, applications used by employees, etc. you want to update your website plugins and applications in time too.

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No More Excuses for Small Business Owners for Not Growing Their Businesses

owners

When talking about business owners related issues, solutions, and technologies, you will almost always group businesses as small and large. While the separation is there, it won’t be wrong to say that in a modern where digital technologies prevail, it should not be a problem for small businesses to compete with large ones. The large corporations have the advantage of having more resources without a doubt. However, there was not a time in the past when growing and expanding was as easy for small businesses as it is today.

Digital Marketing for Everyone

Digital marketing starts with a website today. When it comes to website designs, more money does not always mean a better design. If owners are working with the right people and are clear about your requirements, your website can be just as impressive as the website of a large business. In fact, internet users today are more in favor of simplistic websites with a focus on the information they are looking for rather than the glitter and sparkle.

As for social media marketing, there is no difference in the size of the market that small and large businesses have to target. They are both targeting global audiences and how good they are at it is not defined by how much money they put in their marketing efforts. Social media marketing is free marketing, so there is no excuse as to who has more resources.

And if you believe that the large corporations make it to the top of the search engine results, you always have a better and more effective niche to compete within – local. With local search engine optimization, small businesses can compete with the medium and large businesses head to head. In simple words, regardless of the size of the business, everyone has access to the same market and same people today. What matters is who does it better.

Digital Solutions Are Available Specifically for Small Businesses

When it comes to software solutions for businesses, the focus is not on large corporations anymore. Today, all types of software solutions have their versions built specifically for small businesses. These digital solutions allow small businesses to cut down their costs and make use of the same technologies that large companies are using.

Take the example of CRMs. At one point, there was a notion that customer relationship management software are only for large businesses, but the things have changed quite a bit today. Web-based CRM are a revelation for small businesses. First, these CRMs provide great marketing, database, customer service and sales solutions to the businesses. Second, they are unbelievably affordable. If you own a small business, you don’t even have to worry about software integration, hardware compatibility, updates, and upgrades, etc. Keep in mind that with in-house solutions, these are the costs that make it difficult for small businesses to grow financially.

With web-based solutions designed for small businesses, owners can now have access to a world-class CRM at a fractional monthly or yearly cost. Other affordable digital solutions available include invoicing software, bookkeeping software, payroll software, etc.

Customers Have the Power in their Hands

The Internet has empowered customers like never before. Owners can’t say that just because a business is in multiple countries, it will be impressive enough for people to buy its products. The amazing thing about today’s economy is the power that customers have in their hands. Online reviewing websites, YouTube videos, blogs, etc. are among many platforms that allow customers to know more about businesses. In fact, even Google now puts business ratings and customer reviews right within its search results.

What this means is that when customers searches for a business today, They are sometimes able to see the reputation of the product they are going to buy. Furthermore, negative reviews from customers can affect business sales, giving other businesses a chance to make their name.

Furthermore, it’s not just the quality of products that matters today. In the modern world, businesses are competing for better customer experience. If your business can give customers the experience they are looking for, your growth is inevitable despite the small size of your business.

Funding Is No Issue for Startups

It is always the starting days that matter the most for business. When you are a startup, you are looking for ways to fund your business so you can materialize your idea and polish your product/service according to the requirements of the customers. Finding a platform where you could connect with angel investors was a challenge in the past. This is not an issue anymore.

It is now easier than ever for small businesses to get in touch with investors and get the right amount of investment that sets them on the path of growth. These are websites that act as a bridge between investors from all around the world and startups.

With online funding websites, all you have to do is create a convincing pitch that explains the viability of your startup to the investors and its scope. Your business plan along with all the necessary information that you think investors should see can be posted to the website and start getting the right kind of exposure. If you have done your homework and have a team of right professionals on board, getting the right investment can come sooner.

Final Words

Owners can see that a small business and startup business can overcome almost all of their challenges much more efficiently today. Starting a business has become so easy that even students can be entrepreneurs. They can lay the foundation for a business using just their pocket money. From connecting with the right investors to cutting down operational costs, all can be done from the comfort of a person’s home. The only thing that makes the difference today is if you are confident enough to take the first step.

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The Importance of Disaster Preparedness for a Small Business

Any business, whether small or big, faces many challenges and some of the biggest challenges are in the shape of disaster, especially the natural ones. It does not matter which part of the world your business operates in; natural disasters are possible in every part of the planet. Floods, storms, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. are among the most common types of natural disasters. This is why it is highly recommended that you have the right preparation for a natural disaster. According to Red Cross, major natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods are so damaging for small businesses that 40% of those that get hit by one of these shut down forever.

So, what is the importance of preparing for disasters for small businesses?

A Professional Impression

Disaster preparedness and disaster recovery plans are often associated with large enterprises and organizations. But are small businesses protected from disasters? Your small business needs a disaster plan just as much as any big business out there. Having a disaster plan integrated into your system and documented gives off a very professional impression of your business. When you become a big business, you can get audited for a hundred different things. Furthermore, your employees will also be happy that they are working with a company that thinks long-term.

Prevention of Various Disasters

While there is nothing much that can be done about natural disasters, you can do something about disasters caused by humans and their errors. A human can cause damage to your property on purpose as a result of jealousy, reaction to some unfair treatment or as a bad business tactic. When you have the right equipment and system in place, it is difficult to cause such damage to the business. In most cases, human-made disasters are in the form of a fire that can burn all the important documents for a company and any systems that store valuable customer information.

Safety of Employees

Preparing for a disaster does not always mean you have to maintain business continuity. In fact, another important part of disaster preparedness is the safety of your employees. At times, you can’t instantly tell what might go wrong. A storm or hurricane can cause damage to electric poles and wires. If not protected properly, this damage can result in the deaths of your employees. Furthermore, when you are not prepared to face a flood, you might end up calling your employees to work and getting their vehicles damaged.

Business Continuity

One of the reasons to be prepared for disasters is to maintain business continuity. If you reside in a region where certain types of natural disasters are common, you have to prepare for these first and then for other types of disasters. For example, a business in Japan will have to prepare for an earthquake and the Tsunami. In some parts of America, there are more tornadoes every year than there are storms in the entire country. When you have a plan for such disasters, you can ensure the continuity of your business even when the disaster strikes.

Continuing business operations can be as easy as asking your employees to work from home. To make this possible, you might want to have all your data and important business applications moved to cloud, so when your company servers are down, you can ask your employees to work. Another important aspect of continuing your business despite great disasters is backing up your data. When it comes to backup, you can’t back up the data in one location only. The idea is to back up your business data every day and move the backup to another location. If your budget allows, you can back up the data in even more locations than two.

Quick Response

An important aspect of disaster preparedness is to share this knowledge with your employees. You also have to update them with any changes you make to your disaster preparedness and recovery plan. For example, if a sudden fire breaks out inside your business premises, your employees must know what the first course of action has to be. You should also ask your employees to have all the important business applications, software tools, etc. installed on their devices if your response to a disaster is asking them to work from home. When your employees know exactly what to do in the case of a disaster, they can get a response to a bad situation instantly, so you face virtually no downtime.

Cost-efficiency

Disaster preparedness and recovery are not just about being ready to handle a disastrous situation. In fact, it is also about being able to operate the business and recover business operations after a disaster hits with as minimum resources as possible. A business without a disaster plan can also recover from a disaster. However, the huge difference here is that the unprepared business will have to spend a lot of money and resources to get back on its feet whereas a business with a plan will continue its operations with minimum efforts.

Improved B2B Relations

It is not just your customers but also your business partners that get affected when your business shuts down temporarily due to a disaster. They might be relying on you for their mission-critical processes, and your absence can cause them to either stop their operations or find another partner to make things work instantly. On the other hand, if your business is still running despite getting hit by a disaster, your business partners will take a very positive impression of you. This is going to help you retain your business partners as they can now trust your professionalism and seriousness with business.

Conclusion :

To prepare for disasters, the first thing you have to do is change your mind about the whole situation. Many small business owners think that things like disaster plans are better suited for large enterprises or when a business has grown big enough to have multiple branches. What they don’t realize is that it is much easier to recover from a disaster when you have multiple locations than it is when you have only one location. So, start assessing your risks today, create a sound communication plan and document your disaster preparation plan today.

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Small Business Should Invest in Big Data and Analytics

Data

Big data refers to huge volumes of structured and unstructured information; however, processing such massive volumes of facts via traditional information management tools is inefficient and impossible. To understand big figures you have to realize the devices that are collecting it today e.g. bar code scanners, mobile cameras, CCTV cameras, motion sensors, smoke alarms, web analytical tools, CRMs, etc. From the examples, you can see that these devices collect a vast array of data types hence the structured and unstructured part in the definition. The sheer velocity at which the data is being produced cannot be controlled and processed using traditional methods and tools.

However, the use of big information and incorporation of big data analytical technology gives businesses the competitive edge over their competitors.

Big Data and Small Businesses

It is only a thing of the past when terms like big information and business intelligence were associated with large enterprises only. Today, small businesses have to leverage the facts they are collecting in order to remain a part of the competition. For years, cost has remained the main reason why small businesses did not adopt big data analytical technologies, but this has changed now. There are budget-friendly tools available for small businesses to take advantage of the data they are collecting today. According to some experts, small businesses can take better advantage of big information since they are able to make the necessary changes far more quickly than large enterprises i.e. real-time response to insights from available data.

According to an IDG study in 2016, 78% of the large enterprises agree that big data strategy has the power to change how businesses have always operated. This shows the acceptance of big data technology and strategies for large enterprises and strengthens the fact that small businesses could become irrelevant if they did not adopt the same strategies.

Benefits of Big Data Analytics

Big Data and Big Companies, a report by IIA Director of Research, Tom Davenport, reveals that businesses are benefitting greatly from big data analytics especially in improving their products, making business decisions faster and reducing costs. Here are some ways small businesses can benefit from big information.

·         Cost Savings

The upfront cost of implementing big information tools and strategies is high undoubtedly, but the long term benefits of doing so are matchless. The healthcare industry is a great example of how the use of big data can help businesses reduce their costs regardless of their size. Using predictive analytics, Medicare and Medicaid Services forestalled more than $210 million fraud in healthcare with just 2 years of utilizing the aforementioned technology.

In addition to preventing frauds, small businesses can also reduce their costs by steering clear of creating more inventory than needed, including better partners in the supply chain, etc.

·         Improved Decision Making

This is the biggest benefit of big data. It allows businesses to expedite decision making by processing the data fast and giving insights in timely manner. In the past, business decisions were reserved for future strategies in the light of available data and the trends that were observed in it. The amount of data that businesses are sitting on today is huge and thus more powerful insights are to be gained from it. This vast amount of information requires the use of modern big data hardware technologies. Once both the things are in place for a business, they can understand customers better, create products that are a closer reflection of what customers want and develop a brand based on most reverenced values.

·         Impenetrable Security

Businesses are more focused today on using big details to improve their core capabilities, but less attended to a more serious concerns i.e. cyber threats and security breaches. Almost every small, medium and large business is connected to the internet today. Moreover, the Internet of Things has broadened the attackable security surface for businesses making it easier for cyber criminals to attack networks and penetrate company databases.

The biggest concern for modern businesses is that they have to “respond” to cyber attacks that have already occurred rather than being able to prevent them from occurring. The use of big information and big data analytical tools can be a game changer in this area allowing businesses to prevent any security attacks way before they are executed.

Key Technologies Helping Businesses Make the Best of Big Data

As a small business, you will have to familiarize with various technologies that help you store, analyze and take action on big data. Here are some important ones:

·         Hadoop

It’s a framework supporting the storing of large amounts of information using an open-source approach. Once information is stored, Hadoop enables the use of a variety of applications using “clustered hardware” at its base. Due to the cluster of commodity hardware, it becomes possible and easy for businesses to process big data despite its increasing volume.

·         Data Mining

This is the technology that enables business owners to capture insights, patterns and trends from big information that otherwise cannot be obtained with a traditional approach. Data mining is what allows you to jump in a large sea of structured and unstructured data, make sense of it all and produce analytical insights that help businesses with real-time and future decisions.

·         Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics walk side by side with data mining. Artificial is at the heart of predictive analytics, enabling business owners to adjust their present strategies by giving predictions about what will transpire for the business based on existing details.

·         Text Analysis and Mining

One huge concern for modern business is to analyze the noise on various web platforms such as forums, blogs, social networks, etc. to understand what customers expect from a particular brand. Finding out about brand mentions and understanding customer’s impression of your brand can help you readjust your marketing approach to gain customer loyalty. Text mining helps small to large sized businesses go through text data from emails, blog posts, social networks, etc. and hear customers “voice”.

With the rise of smartphones, artificial intelligence and IoT (internet of things) it has become clearly visible that businesses will now have to handle mountains and mountains of data, and make use of big data analytical and processing technologies to have the competitive edge.

 

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