Friday, February 27, 2015

Cyber Security for Small Business Owners

Tips for Keeping Your Business Information Safe

With the recent security breaches that companies have been experiencing lately – the Target credit card hacking, the Sony information leak and a few others – small business owners should be more alert than even about the safety of their business information. Hackers have the ability to retrieve financial data, emails, and even customer information if this data is not being secured properly. Small businesses need to be especially vigilant as even the smallest security breach could mean the end of their company.

Keep Software Up to Date

One of the most important and easiest ways to make sure information is secure is by having all of the software your business uses up to date. Modern software has many more security measures built into it and making sure those barriers are in place is crucial to information safety. Make sure to download any and all security updates on a regular basis as well as making sure all of your anti-virus and malware protection is up to date. Also, consider encrypting personal data such as credit card numbers.

Use Complex Passwords

Cyber Security is a
Major Concern for Small Business
Another first line of defense between business information and potential hackers is to make sure you are using very secure, complex passwords for all business applications. In addition to creating unique, complex passwords for all the accounts you and your employees use, it is also a good practice to change those passwords at regular intervals, such as every 30, 60, or 90 days. Always include lowercase letters, capitalized letters, numbers and symbols and never write down or store passwords on your computer.

Security for Wireless Networks

More and more businesses are using wireless connections to get online and complete their daily tasks. While it is convenient to not have your computer tied down by an Internet cord, wireless networks are also highly targeted by hackers. In order to keep your business, your employees, and yourself safe, make sure to use your wireless router’s highest level on encryption and protect both the connect and the router with a complex, changing password. This will not only help keep hackers from accessing your information but will also help to stop non-employees from using your Internet access.

Security for Cloud Networks

With more employees working on the go, having a cloud network to access files and applications is almost required. But, much like wireless connections, cloud networks are highly targeted. In order to keep this information safe while still doing business, make sure to choose a service that only allows vetted employees access and be careful of what information is stored in this network – if confidential information must be stored in the cloud, make sure it is encrypted and protected by a password.

When we think of security breaches and information hacks, we usually imagine that only large businesses and corporations are the victims of these types of crimes. It is important to realize that just because you run a small business does not mean you cannot become the target of a hacker looking for confidential documents, customer information, or simply who want access to your wireless network. By taking the steps outlined above, you can greatly reduce the risk of your business being infiltrated by a hacker.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Keeping Your Small Business Costs Under Control

Easy Tips for Cutting Costs and Running Your Business Better

When it comes to running a small business, managing costs is often the key to having the right cash flow and an overall profitable company. As the old saying goes, “It’s not how much you make, it’s how much you keep,” and this could not be more true for small business. Good business owners know how important it is to manage costs but it can be difficult to do so – successful entrepreneurs review their financial state on a regular basis to identify cost structures that may be draining their business’ profits.

Review Your Interest Rates

Cut costs to improve
your bottom line
Many business owners borrow money to help start up their company and many times this funding comes with a very high interest rate. This rate can be due to a number of different factors such as high overall interest rates in the market or even securing funding with poor or adverse credit. Higher interest rates means you will be paying significantly more than you borrowed over time. After six months of successful repayment – on time and in full – you can apply for a lower interest rate to help lower costs.

Think Outside the Box When Buying Equipment

When you begin a new business, it does not mean you should go out and buy all new equipment to make it run. Restaurants, for example, go out of business every day and leave behind great, functioning equipment. Before running out and buying new, find an equipment broker and see what they may be able to sell you to furnish the business. The same goes for office equipment like printers and faxes and even some industrial or operational equipment – chances are, you can find it used.

Negotiate with Vendors

There is no harm in asking vendors or creditors to cut a deal based on the amount of business your company is bringing them, not to mention some vendors already have deals in place, like discounts for prepayment or lower rates for the higher number of items you order. Chances are, if you are providing a vendors with consistent, profitable business, they will be very likely to offer you some type of discount – the only thing holding you back from saving some money on inventory is asking for a break.

Share Office Space

Some small business are, well, small and do not require a lot of office space. If this is the case for your business, consider sharing a larger office space with another small business. This will definitely help to reduce costs for both businesses and, depending on the nature of each business, the employees of each can also share office equipment like printers, copiers, and faxes. By sharing all the costs, it can be mutually beneficial for both businesses without wasting any funding or office space that is not needed.

Manage Staff During Slower Periods

If you work in the retail business for any period of time, you should be able to identify peak and valley times for the business, meaning when the store is busiest and when it is not. During those times that business is slow, make sure to be proactive about cutting back on labor hours. Part-time employees are generally not eligible for any type of benefits and are used to having more flexible hours. Once you see a certain shift is overstaffed take a proactive step to send part-times home to cut back on costs.

*Photo Courtesy of frankieleon via Creative Commons License

Monday, February 23, 2015

You ARE Your Brand

Personal Branding Mistakes You Should Avoid

small business branding
You ARE Your Brand!
As much as small business owners know the importance of branding their business and having the right image for the company, they sometimes forget about branding themselves and what their personal image is. Owners are a direct reflection of their business, and how customers and other consumers view you is probably the way they also view your company. It is important to consider your personal brand and image when you run a small business in order to make sure that both of them are positive.

Have the Right Attitude

“You attract more bees with honey than you do with vinegar.” This old saying is a direct hint to how a person’s attitude can affect them, those around them, and what they are trying to accomplish. Even if a business owner is the very best at what they do, constantly producing results and going above and beyond everyone’s expectations, if their attitude is poor, they will not get very far with their business. Consumers do not want to work with or do business with someone with a bad attitude.

In many cases, a consumer will walk into a business and be excited about the product or service they are about to receive. When they encounter someone who has a poor attitude – seems annoyed about helping them, speaks as though they are above others, overheard complaining – the experience becomes negative quickly. At the end of the interaction, even if they are happy with what they received, they will be very unlikely to recommend the business to others based on their poor experience.

Dress for Success

Although we would like to believe otherwise, how you present yourself on the outside is often how customers will perceive you and how they will form their opinions about not only you, but also your business. If you dress appropriately for your job and keep a tidy outward appearance, consumers are much more likely to feel comfortable doing business, feel as though you are well versed in your industry and generally have a higher level of trust.

When you dress in a sloppy or inappropriate manner, it often sends up red flags. Some of the common questions they ask themselves are, “how does a person who dresses like that know how to run a business?” “Hopefully the products /services they offer aren’t as terrible as their clothes/appearance.” Although this may seem exaggerated in some ways, consumers form their opinions based on what they see in front of them – a poor appearance portrays poor performance in the eyes of consumers.

Taking Constructive Criticism

In some cases, a business owner is lucky enough to have someone in their business or personal life that will let them know when their personal image is harming their businesses brand. Generally, employees, family and friends are hesitant to give constructive criticism on how someone acts or appears, but when they do, it is important to take it the right way. When someone makes a suggestion to improve your personal image, do not react negatively, and make sure to thank them for their feedback.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Creating Positive PR for Your Small Business

Important Public Relations Tips for Small Business Owners

small business
In the minds of many small business owners, marketing and public relations go hand in hand and often sit next to each other on the backburner. While marketing and public relations are related in some ways, public relations is the key to representing and maintaining the values that the business has been built upon within its overall branding image. Without properly managing public relations for a small business, it can often suffer from brand confusion and loss of respect from the market and consumers.

Be a Good Writer

Part of a good public relations plan often includes sending out press releases, social media postings, blog entries, and other announcements to keep the market and consumers up to date on what the business is doing. Since these messages are going out into the public it is important to make sure they have been edited multiple times and are of pristine quality – no consumer or potential business partner will take a company seriously when they have grammatical and spelling mistakes all throughout their written work.  

Be Friends with the Media

It is no secret that a business’s relationship with the media can make or break their public relations image. While newspaper writers, TV anchors, radio DJs, and bloggers can be a great asset to the branding and image of your business, they can also become your worst enemy when they broadcast bad publicity. 

Although some business professionals say, "All publicity, good or bad, is good publicity," this is not really the case in today's viral atmosphere. Whereas a single bad review would previously barely dent a business, today, millions of potential clients can see it, truly hurting the appeal of the business. Getting on the wrong side of just one person that is media-savvy can do irreparable damage to the business.

Make Use of Available Search Tools

With more consumers getting on the Internet to find out everything they need to know about local businesses, it is very important to make sure your company has a presence on these sites. Sites such as Bing Local, Google Place, Yelp, and Yahoo Local are all places where consumers search for products or services they need, so it is very important to make sure your business is listed on your area’s popular search sites. Additionally, you can help boost your business’s SEO, or search engine optimization, by making sure all the company’s relevant contact and location information is listed correctly.

Alert Consumers to Important Stories

Staying on top of public relations is beneficial when it comes to spreading the word about your business or alerting the market to a new product or service you are offering. Local news outlets, TV, print, and radio are always looking for good, local stories to share with their audience. When a local story is needed, it is a great opportunity to get beneficial media coverage and exposure for the business.

It is always important to send out well written press releases to local media outlets for events such as store grand openings, launch parties, new products or services releases, charity events or community service efforts, awards that have been won and much, much more – if a reporter needs a story, you want to make sure you are the one that they cover. Having a good relationship with the media, as mentioned early, is important to making sure these stories reach your target market in a big way.

Would you like more help promoting or even starting your own work from home business? If you have heard of Dani Johnson, you already know how effective her training techniques can be in the business world. Stacy O'Quinn has used the lessons learned at Dani Johnson training to help dozens of entrepreneurs earn six figures a year! If you would like to join that list, click here.

*Photo Courtesy of PRNewswireGlobal via Creative Commons License

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What Does it Take to Become a Successful Small Business Owner?

4 Traits All Successful Small Business Owners Have

stacy oquinn, dani johnson, dani johnson training
Stacy in the front row of
Dani Johnson Training Session
One thing that all small business owners have in common is that they believe there simply are not enough hours in the day to get everything done. Between running the day to day operations of the business, growing your target audience, and everything else that goes into running a business, they may not be wrong, which is why it is so important for them to be multi-tasking masters. Multi-tasking, among other important traits, is what sets successful business owners apart – but how do they do it?

Successful entrepreneurs have a specific set of skills that allows them to be so good at what they do. Although many of us have a dream of opening our own business and having it be lucrative, the reality is that not everyone is cut out to be an owner – not having the right mindset or the right skills could mean the business will never take off or it will flourish and then fail. It is possible, however, to hone your skills and acquire the traits of a great business owner as long as you keep these things in mind.

Keeping Up with Trends – Focusing on Digital Content

Some of the most successful business owners know how important it is to stay on trend with how consumers prefer to receive their communications. With the explosion of the Internet and social media over the last decade, it is no surprise that a majority of owners are focused on areas such as email, social media marketing, and maintaining their business’s blog. While tradeshows and other traditional marketing efforts worked in the past, successful business owners are marketing for the future.

Digital Communications – Email is Your Best Friend

Another digital asset that small business owners love is email – in a recent poll, 56 percent of business owners say they send email marketing campaigns out at least a few times a month to help keep in touch with their target market. Additionally, 70 percent of those polled say that email communications help to generate additional revenue for their business. Email can also help business owners save time with favorite features like newsletter scheduling, dependable delivery, and auto-responses.

Wearing Different Hats – Become a Multitasking Master

When you think of a small business, you think of a company who does not have a lot of employees. Many small business become very successful even with a small number of workers – a recent study showed that 94 percent of the most successful small businesses have five employees or less and 9 out of 10 owners own all of their marketing efforts. The reason these internal associate models work is because the business owner wears many different hats and hire the talent needed to get the job done.

Learn from Others – Staying Connected with Industry and Marketing News

Since many small business owners act as their own marketing experts, they know how important it is to stay up to date with the latest news and trends happening in their industry and around the marketing world. Successful business owners most often check different news outlets, such as email newsletters, online publications, social media pages, blogs, and other areas to get the information they need in order to stay ahead of the curve – if the fall behind, it could mean losing their success and their business.

Do you need help getting your small business out of the starting gate? Have you ever heard of Dani Johnson? Did you know Stacy O'Quinn started his home business out using techniques he learned from Dani Johnson training and teaches those very techniques to other work at home professionals today? If you would like to learn more about Stacy and how he can help you with your own business, please click here.