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5 Approaches to create a successful business strategy

Small businesses should create a business plan that breaks down their goals and plans to achieve them, yet few businesses actually do.

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Photo by Álvaro Serrano from Unsplash.com

Just 5% of small business owners report achieving all their business goals in the past 12 months, according to a new survey from Clutch, a B2B ratings and reviews platform, which found that although 95% of small businesses fall short of meeting their goals, 77% are somewhat or very confident in their ability to execute their strategy.

“I think the best goals are realistic but slightly optimistic,” said Malte Scholz, CEO and co-founder of project management tool airfocus. “If you don’t aim high enough, you risk setting unambitious goals, but if you aim too high, you may never hit your goals and feel discouraged.”

No matter their industry, Clutch found that small businesses tend to create strategies in three areas:

  1. Sales (46%)
  2. Marketing/advertising (41%)
  3. Customer service (36%)

A sales strategy places businesses’ products in front of target customers, while an advertising and marketing strategy reaches those customers and persuades them to make a purchase. Finally, a customer service strategy keeps customers happy.

All three strategies go hand-in-hand with one another.

“If you don’t aim high enough, you risk setting unambitious goals, but if you aim too high, you may never hit your goals and feel discouraged.”

“If the marketing department is failing, so will the sales department, and so will customer service,” said Rueben Yonatan, CEO of VoIP research database GetVoIP.

To create a successful business strategy, Clutch recommends the following five approaches:

  1. Set actionable and clear business goals.
  2. Focus your efforts on the business areas that matter most.
  3. Find a mentor to help guide your business strategy.
  4. Draft a formal, documented business strategy.
  5. Follow your business plan, but revise it regularly.

Overall, 65% of small businesses achieved at least half their goals in the past 12 months.

For Scholz, small businesses should create a business plan that breaks down their goals and plans to achieve them, yet few businesses actually do.

Clutch found that just 15% of small business owners report fully documenting a strategy in the past year — and 27% developed no strategy at all.

Companies can benefit from a documented strategy to meet objectives and motivate employees. Business owners should, however, be flexible to changing their plans, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

Strategies

Tips for staying secure while working from home

Because many devices attached to home networks don’t get patched or updated as frequently as corporate devices, the most common exploits detected so far in 2020 have targeted older systems. Nearly two-thirds of attacks targeted vulnerabilities disclosed in 2018, and a quarter targeted vulnerabilities from 2004.

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Due to the global pandemic, nearly two-thirds of companies have moved half or more of their employees to telework. Sixty-two percent of employed Americans, for example, say they have worked from home during the crisis, with the number of remote employees doubling between March 13 and April 2 of 2020, and this is not just a temporary change. Nearly a third of all organizations with remote workers expect that half or more will continue working from home after the pandemic. 

The security implications of such a dramatic transition in such a short period of time cannot be overstated. Under normal circumstances, moving an entire workforce from secure IT environments to home networks with very little cybersecurity would take long-term planning and preparation. But that was not an option in 2020. As a result, 32% of respondents to Fortinet’s 2020 Securing Remote Work Survey found that setting up and managing secure connectivity to be the most challenging aspect of switching to telework.  

Part of the problem was that the devices at the company’s core network were not designed to manage the volume of VPN connections required. As a result, many connections were not secure. Or even if they were encrypted, existing firewalls were incapable of inspecting VPN tunnels to ensure they weren’t being used to deliver malware – at least not without significantly slowing down connections. 

But the other part of the challenge is that many home networks were not setup to support the bandwidth requirements of VPN, let alone bandwidth-hungry business applications such as video conferencing. In addition, end user devices (many workers began working from home using a personal device) were often unpatched and unsecured as were other devices connected to the home network. These challenges made home networks an ideal target for cybercriminals. 

Cybercriminals Are Targeting Remote Workers 

And as one might expect, threat researchers saw a significant shift in the behavior of cybercriminals. According to the latest Threat Landscape Report from FortiGuard Labs, global sensors detected that the top attack targets identified in the first half of 2020 switched from targeting corporate devices and applications to things like consumer-grade routers and devices such as DVRs normally attached to home networks.  

There was also a significant increase in attacks targeting end users that used concerns about the coronavirus to lure them into clicking on malicious web links or open attachments infected with ransomware or other malware.

Part of the problem was that the devices at the company’s core network were not designed to manage the volume of VPN connections required. As a result, many connections were not secure.

The FortiGuard Labs team saw an average of about 600 new phishing campaigns per day during the spring. And because home users were no longer protected by corporate security devices, web-based malware became the most common attack vehicle, outranking email as the primary delivery vector used by cybercriminals for the first time in years.  

And because many devices attached to home networks don’t get patched or updated as frequently as corporate devices, the most common exploits detected so far in 2020 have targeted older systems. Nearly two-thirds of attacks targeted vulnerabilities disclosed in 2018, and a quarter targeted vulnerabilities from 2004. 

Seven Recommendations for Remote Workers 

During the last several months, IT teams have been scrambling to close the security gaps in their remote worker strategy. But while 92% of organizations report budget investments to address teleworker security, end users are still the front line of any security strategy – and never more so than now. Here are a few suggestions of what they can do to reduce risks. 

  1. Learn to Spot Attacks: Many organizations are sponsoring training programs to help their workers identify suspicious emails, websites, text messages, etc. In addition, there are free programs available online to provide end users with essential security training and information. And make sure everyone at home using the network, from roommates to children, get cybersecurity training as well. 
  2. Harden Passwords: Another easy step is to simply make passwords harder to guess, and also use different passwords for different accounts. To manage these passwords, use a secure password management system that can remember passwords. Then all anyone needs to remember is the login information for that one application. 
  3. Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Also known as two-factor authentication, MFA combines something a user knows, such as a password, with something they have, such as a fingerprint or a security token. MFA should especially be used when accessing financial information or logging onto the company network. 
  4. Patch Home Devices: Have users look at all of their devices at home and make sure they are running the latest versions of their operating systems. Even gaming and entertainment systems have options that let users check to see if they are running the latest version. 
  5. Secure Home Networks: This is probably a good time to consider adding or upgrading a security application to protect the home network and devices from attacks. In addition, many home routers now include gateway security which should also be enabled. Some cable operators and internet service providers also provide free security. Remote workers should make sure that logging onto the home WiFi requires a password. They should consider an email gateway that can detect and filter out malicious email attachment and links. 
  6. Improve Device Security: New advanced endpoint security solutions, known as endpoint detection and recovery (EDR), not only provides better threat detection, but also prevents infections that manage to get onto your device from executing their malware. EDR solutions should not only be applied to remote worker devices, but also on other endpoint devices in the home.   
  7. Upgrade Internet Connections: Remote workers should consider upgrading their internet service so they can run business-critical applications even when others are streaming movies or playing online games. Companies should consider providing funds to help offset the cost of a bandwidth upgrade. 

Enhance Your Remote Work Security Now 

Cybercriminals will continue to target remote workers, with no signs of letting up. Adding these seven steps to any corporate security strategy is the right way to begin protecting today’s distributed networks that include remote workers. 

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Strategies

Save money and score energy savings

Small changes around the workplace now can deliver big energy savings particularly during colder months ahead.

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Photo by @jdiegoph from Unsplash.com

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the profits of businesses; and yet expenses may remain the same – e.g. energy consumption – so that companies need to reconsider their approaches until things normalize.

Here, Georgia Power is reminding customers that small changes around the workplace now can deliver big energy savings particularly during colder months ahead.

  • Let the Sun Shine In – Keeping the blinds and shades open during the day is a no-cost way to naturally heat your workplace. Close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.
  • Let it Flow – Heating and cooling accounts for as much as 50% of a venue’s typical energy usage during colder seasons. Maximize the efficiency of your units ahead of cold weather by changing the filters once a month, or every three months for pleated filters.
  • Thinking Thermostats – Install a smart programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts the workplace’s temperature settings when you are away from the venue and save in energy costs.
  • Caulk & Strip – Replace cracked or peeling caulk or weather stripping around doors and windows to save up to 10% on energy use
  • It’s Great to Insulate – Keep heat where it belongs with proper insulation in attics and walls to help save energy 24/7.

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Strategies

Financial tips to help prepare for the unexpected

Over the past year, most people have noticed how truly unpredictable life can be. While it’s impossible to predict what the next few months have in store, practicing a few fundamental financial skills can help you prepare for whatever comes next.

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Photo by Damir Spanic from Unsplash.com

Over the past year, most people have noticed how truly unpredictable life can be. While it’s impossible to predict what the next few months have in store, practicing a few fundamental financial skills can help you prepare for whatever comes next.

“According to a survey by Bank of America, 42% of (people) say their top financial goal over the next three months is to increase their savings,” said April Schneider, head of consumer and small business products at Bank of America. “The pandemic has highlighted the importance of building a safety net. Whether you’re looking to improve your current financial habits or starting from scratch, the most important thing is to make a plan that fits your needs and to stick with it.”

Consider these tips from Schneider:

Track your expenses. Review your expenses, big and small, and separate them into categories like groceries, transportation, utilities and entertainment. Then total the amounts in each category to get a better picture of your monthly expenses. Knowing how much you spend each month is the first step toward finding money to save.

Make a plan and set a budget. Categorize your expenses into wants versus needs. Groceries, rent and mortgage payments are examples of needs while streaming services are a want. Compare your expenses against your total household income to figure out if you have money left over to save or if you can find money to save by reducing your spending on nonessentials. For example, keep an eye out for phantom charges – or reoccurring payments – you may no longer need and redirect that money into savings.

“If you’re already saving, that’s great,” Schneider said. “Review your behaviors and see if there’s room for improvement. It’s also not too late if you haven’t begun saving – everyone has to start somewhere.”

Also keep in mind your budget is meant to adapt with your circumstances, so make sure you’re updating your budget as your life changes.

Make savings automatic. Saving can fit seamlessly into your everyday life when you set up automatic transfers from a checking to a savings account. Saving automatically helps prepare you for the future without adding to your to-do list. You can start small by automatically transferring a few dollars each week.

Build an emergency fund. Take a look at your current expenses versus total income to identify any extra wiggle room where you can save. Next put your emergency savings in a separate, but accessible, account to avoid temptation and accidental overspending.

“When building an emergency fund, I recommend saving enough money to cover 3-6 months of expenses,” Schneider said. “Contributing to an emergency fund keeps saving a priority and ensures you have financial flexibility should the unexpected occur.”

Use spending tools for savvy savings. Being a better saver means becoming a smarter spender. While looking for deals and price shopping can be helpful, there are times when it’s better to spend a little more for quality. For example, buying a more costly refrigerator may pay off in the long run compared to buying a cheaper option that could break down after a few months.

Another way to be a smarter spender is by earning rewards on your everyday purchases. Whether you’ve seen your costs shift from in-person to delivery services, using a card that adapts and rewards your spending can be a valuable asset.

While you may not know what the future holds, planning and actively taking steps can help you feel more secure and prepared for whatever it brings.

Find more tips at bettermoneyhabits.com.

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