By Izzy Schulman, Director at Keys 4 U
Despite the current global coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty it has placed on the modern workplace, businesses cannot afford to relax their attitude towards security. Especially as there have been reports of increased break-ins and cyberattacks among the crisis.
Conducting a thorough security audit could be the key to improving employee awareness and identifying weak points in the business to avoid breaches.
Starting from scratch
The first step in an effective business security audit is a risk assessment – reviewing the workplace and all business processes to identify every risk.
No stone should be left unturned. This means conducting a physical inspection of the office, plus breaking down all employee tasks and demands and even reviewing how employees are working from home amid the current pandemic.
It’s important all risks are identified, so relevant and proportionate measures can be put in place – from heavy lifting to ensuring a comfortable office temperature.
At this stage, it’s also important to get employees to buy-in to security policy. Everyone needs to play their part to ensure complete safety.
Let employees know you understand they’re busy with their role but everyone needs to pull together to stay secure.
Offering incentives like employee recognition emails or even small rewards like gift vouchers may incentivise employees to go the extra mile.
Assessing the workplace
The average small business break-in sees around £2,000 lost in stolen property – not to mention the cost of disruption as a result of lost or damaged equipment.
Office security audits should begin with entry points, checking potential break-in spots like doors – and windows if you’re on a low floor – are monitored by alarms and cameras. Make sure these are visible, as this is known to deter potential intruders from trying their luck.
The workplace must also be protected against fire risks. Not only do fires threaten to destroy property and disrupt businesses, but hefty fines can be issued for failing to meet fire safety standards.
Carry out a thorough fire risk assessment, including nominating and clearly signing fire exits, establishing an emergency procedure and educating staff on its steps.
Safety audits should also highlight any trip hazards or danger of falling objects, plus any electrical or flooding risks.
Plus, this year has brought its own health and safety risks, with the coronavirus pandemic demanding new hygiene and social distancing measures.
For businesses with over five employees, the government has put together a specialised risk assessment for a COVID-19 compliant workplace, including advice on handwash stations and staggering shifts to avoid contact.
The online threat
The cost of cyberattacks to UK businesses is estimated at around £34 million a year – from the theft of intellectual property and the cost of recovering from the attack.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has only increased the risk, with many employees encouraged to work remotely, away from employers and IT managers.
A combination of technical IT solutions and educating employees on cybersecurity best practices can help businesses navigate these uncertain times.
For example, multi-factor authentication technology means employees are prompted to enter multiple login credentials to confirm their identity – typically their standard password plus a one-time code sent to their phone.
Even if their password is stolen, the attacker is still unable to log in to the company network without the additional code.
Managing permissions by employee case adds an extra layer of security, with individuals only able to access the data they need. If an employee’s device is breached, it limits the amount of data available to the attacker.
Keeping the company network secure is a team responsibility. Arrange calls in small groups in which IT professionals can explain new remote working protocols in detail and emphasise the importance of adherence, as well as answering employee questions.
Investing time and budget into identifying and addressing threats now, places businesses in a stronger position to maintain high standards of security in the future.
All information gathered from the security audit should be recorded, laying the foundations for a security framework and annual security audits. Log each hazard, along with the status of the risk and measures taken to prevent it.
The idea is to create a clear and structured audit process, which is intuitive to follow if personnel changes occur, or in an emergency. Include a priority checklist with the most significant risks, along with key dates for renewals or updates of any key equipment or facilities.
Update the file year-round, with all new information which may impact business or employee security. Any physical changes to the office should be recorded, along with new or updated equipment and machinery and any significant IT updates. Include key contacts and manufacturer information in the notes to speed things up in case of an emergency.
Why Continuity and Succession Planning is Crucial for Businesses Right Now
By Chris Allen, a Chartered Wealth Planner at Arbuthnot Latham explains why it is crucial for businesses to review continuity and succession plans at this current time.
Coronavirus has created many challenges for businesses and an area of discussion that has rapidly escalated in importance is around protection. Protection should always be an area of priority for a business, but the situation we find ourselves in has understandably brought this topic to the fore.
When reviewing continuity and succession plans, you need to consider:
- How would your business cope with the death of a key person that has a direct influence on the profitability of the company?
- What would happen to the business should a director, shareholder or owner pass away?
Key Person’s Protection
53% of businesses cease trading in under a year after the loss of a key person. Why? Often the effect the deceased individual had on turnover or profit was so great, that the business can no longer continue without them. There could also be litigation, brand damage and liquidation issues to contend with which can ultimately lead to business failure.
So what can we do to help? We can help you:
- identify: key people in your business,
- quantify the financial risks of an individual passing away
- create a solution and implement it.
The typical result here is a life assurance plan, where the business receives the sum assured on a specific individual passing away.
Another area of great importance is relevant life cover. This is a tax efficient policy that allows an employer to offer a death in service benefit to their employees. Life cover policies are applicable to small businesses who do not have the scale to qualify for group schemes. This offering helps businesses offer competitive employee packages to attract and retain the right employees.
Similarly to personal life cover, the pay-out would go to the employee’s family of financial dependents, however, it is important to note that this is an employer funded policy and the premiums paid by the employer allows the company to benefit from corporation or income tax relief. This is a key area of planning for employers to protect their employees or indeed directors who are paid on PAYE.
Six out of ten business owners state that they have no protection in place to cover the cost of purchasing shares should a business owner die.
Simply put, a shareholder protection arrangement allows the surviving shareholder(s) to have the funds available to purchase the shares of the deceased shareholder from their estate and maintain control of the business and the direction they want to take it.
When discussing shareholder protection, it is important to think about the following:
- What happens if you or one of the shareholders were to pass away?
- What is the succession plan for the business?
- Would the deceased estate/spouse inherit these shares and what does that mean for the future direction of the business?
A good wealth planner can assist you by assessing current agreements you have in place, the type of business you are operating and also understand if any shareholders have medical conditions which will need to be considered.
From there they can help with the valuation of each member’s shares, work with other professional advisers to get the correct agreement in place, and structure the plan properly to accommodate the different % ownership of various shareholders.
Recent events have shown us the future is unpredictable and we should all think about getting our house in order should the worst happen. A lack of planning could have a huge impact on your business and loved ones. Having the correct advice and solutions in place is always important, but even more so in these uncertain times.
Overcoming Barriers That Threaten Your Creative Output
By Charlie Worrall, Digital Marketing Executive, Imaginaire
Working in a creative field doesn’t happen by chance. Years of study and research – not to mention a distinct disdain for formal attire – help you climb the ladder one rung at a time. But what happens when the creative tap runs dry? Amazing ideas you came up with at the drop of the hat are now replaced with crumpled pieces of paper being directed towards the bin. All while the clock is ticking as your client drums their fingers on the desk, waiting for the brilliance that you simply cannot give them.
Many barriers exist that can threaten your creative output. They are out to get us all, regardless of how many years you’ve spent working in the industry. Even if you have a really successful project, that doesn’t mean the next will follow suit. The only solution is to knock your creative barriers down as if you were playing a game of skittles.
It’s your turn to bowl and you’re required to aim the ball at the following…
Your Stress Levels
A recent survey undertaken by YouGov found that 74% of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope. Given this survey was conducted pre-pandemic, it would be little surprise if that number isn’t more like 100% now.
Constant uncertainty and restrictions on how we carry out our everyday lives can soon affect your creativity too. After all, how can you let your imagination run wild while you are essentially being held captive in your living room, only dressed appropriately from the waist up on a Zoom call?
Stress of any origin isn’t a friend of creativity, because your brain goes into fight or flight mode and literally shuts off any non-essential processes. Then your sleep suffers and so does your diet. You don’t exercise which causes a lack of dopamine, etc. Therefore, finding a healthy output for your stress is the only way to truly rid yourself from it. Even a quick walk in the park will give you a change of scenery and will help your brain to relax, thus relieving some stress in the process.
A Lack Of Inspiration
Often, a lack of inspiration originates from playing it safe. It’s not a coincidence that ‘sameness’ and ‘lameness’ rhyme either. The likes of waking up at the same time and eating the same thing for dinner is terrible for fostering creativity. As Albert Einstein put it: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” That’s why you need to be switching things up now more than ever.
While all of us might be experiencing physical restrictions right now, that doesn’t mean to say you can’t tap into the wealth of content that’s out there. Films, virtual gallery tours and books all exist waiting to be discovered. Just like a footballer is required to train to stay on top of their game, you are required to do the same within a creative sense too.
Sometimes no matter how much you try; the ideas just don’t flow. Anything you do come up with lacks gravitas or has been done before by someone bigger and better. The irony in this situation is that the more you try and force the idea, the worse the mental block becomes. In such a case the only thing you can do is stop. Even though it’s the very opposite of what your inclination tells you to do.
Creativity in itself is a free-flowing entity. Once you try to constrict it to some kind of production line most of us inevitably find ourselves a part of, the wheels are going to stop turning. The problem isn’t helped by the fact most of us are constantly wired to emails, notifications and bad news popping up on our phones. These in themselves can all create the mental block to begin with. That’s why restoring the balance is key and this starts by going back to the drawing board. You need to find exactly what it is that makes you tick to get the power switched back on.
Your Inability To Say No
No is such a finite word and one that Jim Carrey went to great lengths to tell us to avoid in Yes Man. Though in the end, his character realised that you just can’t say yes to everything and retain your sanity at the same time. Rather, it’s about learning to embrace when not to turn great opportunities down. Many people could do with channelling this ethos, especially as if you try and please everyone all of the time this ultimately comes at a cost to you.
How can your creativity thrive when you are constantly feeling stifled? Whether you picture a work or personal scenario here, you can’t be all things to all people all of the time. The more you continue to take from yourself the less you have to give. If anything, your creativity switches itself off as a warning sign in response to being overloaded. No is a powerful word though is one you shouldn’t be afraid to use when warranted.
The Bottom Line
Creativity has never been about following the rules or sticking to the same patterns. Yet that’s often what those who struggle with generating new or brilliant ideas often find themselves doing. The only way you can truly break out of a creative rut is to challenge yourself. It might seem like an impossible task in the current climate, but it’s one that is essential to be able to give yourself and your clients the best version of what you can do.
Seven easy ways to maximise online sales by expanding your marketplaces
By Nate Burke, CEO and Founder of Diginius, a UK provider of proprietary software for digital marketing and ecommerce solutions, shares seven ways ecommerce businesses can leverage tools and platforms to quickly expand their marketplaces to maximise sales opportunities.
By now, the rise of ecommerce due to shifting consumer habits in recent months is no secret to anyone. But as an increasing number of businesses experience rapid growth and traffic on the digital channel, scaling-up practices to keep up with demand is key.
- Raise awareness
With an increasing number of retailers joining or expanding into online marketplaces, businesses can expect to face greater competition. With this in mind, online advertising should form part of any brand’s digital marketing strategy.
Pay per click (PPC) advertising in particular is a useful way to raise brand awareness and drive traffic, conversions and sales regardless of whether the brand has a new or an established online presence.
But the advertising mediums you choose to use must align with the business’s commercial objectives and operational capabilities in order to generate a return on investment. For instance, ads should be placed in channels that will reach the target audience, whether that be Google search results or in the display network, for example, as well as in languages the website supports and the company couriers can fulfil to.
And with an effective management and monitoring tool, you will be able to maximise the performance of your digital advertising activity to drive the best sales results.
Volume management is essential to any business looking to expand its marketplace operations, but it can be difficult to identify early on when ecommerce integration is needed. However, issues such as keeping up with sales levels, inventory counts or even hours upon hours spent on manual data shifting should start ringing alarm bells for any business owner.
And by integrating your website to your other online sales channels and back-end systems, you will start to gain a number of noticeable benefits. Reduction in human errors, accurate inventory management and increased sales channels, without losing operational efficiency are just some of the topline benefits business owners will begin to experience.
In fact, without integrating stock and price data, you will not be able to expand to multiple marketplaces, as those such as Amazon require very high levels of accuracy which without, your account will be suspended. With orders coming in from multiple sales channels, it is generally not feasible to keep accurate counts in the different channels without automation.
As your ecommerce grows, there will no doubt become a time when current systems and processes become highly inefficient to your operations. Manual, repetitive tasks become laborious and can lead to disaster with overworked and unenthused employees tapping away at keys when they’d rather be strategising or working new leads.
Automation can churn things like inventory management, lead generation and strategy and decision making into self-fulfilling automated tasks. As you automate basic items like price updates, order inputting, returns and stock updates, you can then move into the second phase – automation of updated advertising algorithms based on margins, stock levels, competitor pricing and related factors, all of which drive efficiency and a competitive edge. Invoicing and financial data can be moved paperless and customer service processes can be automated or streamlined in a variety of ways.
The key in the automation process, is to start with a solid foundation of your website and finance system to fully automate order flows and marketing information. Following this, you can then continue a relentless cycle of manual testing, which will determine what works and what is truly repetitive on a daily or hourly basis, rather than trying to automate tasks that you may only perform from time to time.
- Own website/marketplaces?
While some businesses only focus on their website and others sell solely on Amazon/Ebay, a robust approach across the major channels that customers use tends to drive more value and be a more sustainable approach for any business.
For example, if a company only sells in the marketplaces, it is common for Amazon to suspend an account for not hitting performance metrics, which causes a major disruption in cash flow and sales. Additionally, the marketplaces tend to restrict access to the customer, so it is not possible to market directly to your customers.
Consumers that come and purchase from your website develop a relationship with your brand, are easier to communicate with in the sales and delivery process, and you can continue to market with email and other methods for a higher lifetime value per customer. Additionally, the larger buyers will tend to prefer to deal with you directly rather than through a marketplace.
However, particularly as you expand out of your home country, digital marketing can be costly to run and cultural differences, languages and currencies difficult to manage at small scales.
Therefore a blended approach of digital marketing to your website and marketplace expansion tends to reach more customers efficiently and faster, which you can adjust as you grow and master different areas of digital sales.
- Multi-channel approach
One of the best ways to scale-up a retail business is to adopt a multi-channel approach. This may include a mix of various ecommerce sales channels as well as a physical in-store offering, for example.
However, the channels you choose to use must align with the business’s ethos and goals in order for them to be effective in maximising sales. If not, they could end up creating a greater cost than return.
For instance, a downloadable software provider may see more value in investing in online routes than in a bricks and mortar store offering. In this case, the multi-channel mix may include different marketplaces or use of various marketing and communications methods instead.
But either way, a multi-channel approach maximises the amount of touchpoints between a brand and customer and in doing so, the likelihood of the brand sticking in the mind of the consumer is increased.
- Streamlined management processes
When expanding into different marketplaces, a common problem businesses encounter is effectively managing the ramped-up level of activity. But with an insights platform, businesses can manage and monitor their digital activity across various channels on a single centralised dashboard, as well as automatically update prices, stock levels and order management.
This provides a more transparent and holistic view of performance, with data and insights that can be used for reporting and informing future decisions.
Not only does this create greater efficiency, but it also reduces a lot of the admin burden placed on employees, allowing them to focus on other business-critical tasks.
- Customer service
Due to the distance and physical detachment between customers and brands in the online realm, customer service is often overlooked. But, providing high quality customer support should in fact, be a core business activity, especially as the brand and consequently, the customer base, grow.
In doing this, you will keep both new and existing customers satisfied. This can encourage loyalty, repeat purchases and positive word of mouth, which can then be spread through customers’ personal social media networks to generate greater traffic and sales for the business.
So, remote customer service providers must be responsive, helpful and well-informed in order to have the desired effect. And to make their jobs that much easier, CRM tools can equip providers with the data and insights required to offer an efficient and effective service every time.
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