Small Business Can http://www.smallbusinesscan.com Share ideas, get advice and promote your business today. Tue, 30 Sep 2014 10:10:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Startup Tools for Success http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/startup-tools-for-success/ http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/startup-tools-for-success/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 08:00:37 +0000 http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/?p=27348 Job designation such as a “Startup Owner” may sound fantastic to many but actually it’s a 24/7 job that comes with  hectic situations and frustrations being caused by various reasons, which multiplies by 2x if you have an application as a product that helps users in some way. In this post we look at some startup tools that can help you on your way to success. One of the main […]

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Job designation such as a “Startup Owner” may sound fantastic to many but actually it’s a 24/7 job that comes with  hectic situations and frustrations being caused by various reasons, which multiplies by 2x if you have an application as a product that helps users in some way. In this post we look at some startup tools that can help you on your way to success.

One of the main reasons why a startup owner may face tough situations could be due to the problems that may arise during the development phase of the application. Besides, there are financiers’ expectations and once the application is launched, you have to get your hands dirty with user experience, satisfaction and their expectations’ fulfillment.

In this tough and constantly challenging situation, it’s impossible for them to keep a track of everything unless they have some tools and apps that may assist them in managing and speeding up their work.

In the following article, I am going to list down the tools and apps that startup owners must have in order to keep track of everything and run the errands efficiently.

Pre-development Phase

Below is a list of applications that start up owners should have in order to stay ahead of everything in terms of managing a team, keeping oneself updated with industry news and more.

Not necessarily for the startup owners only, but feedly is a kind of tool that is helpful for anyone who frequently reads internet blogs, magazines and newspapers and wants to stay updated with  every news pertaining to  the industry.

For startup owners, it is important to stay up-to-date with all the new happenings in the app world as well as the niche that they are targeting and Feedly can help them do the same in minutes.

Before the application development phase, there is a complete round of crazy sessions including the idea development, brainstorming of ideas and more. In case you need to share these product development ideas as files over the Internet, it might turn out to be a little difficult sharing them on emails. This dropbox (alternate options could be box and Google Drive) utility can be very effective as this allows people to share one file with multiple users without sending emails, etc.

This is an amazing tool that cannot only be used in the pre-development phase but it can help one throughout the entire project. This tool helps you communicate with the team members who are either in-house or virtually working for you.

Under-Development Phase

In the following paragraphs, I am going to discuss the tools that you need when you are developing your application, a website for it and more.

This is a very important tool that almost every startup owner should use so that they can create multiple landing pages of their website and see which version is working well and which does not interact better with the audience.

Startup owners should have this tool so that they can gauge the performance of their marketing website in terms of how it is going to interact with the target audience and how they will respond to it.

Another tool that should be owned by the startup owners is Trello. This helps them divide the work amongst different departments and keep a track of it on real time basis.

This is actually an ideal tool for developers; however, if the startup owner is technically sound, s/he can double check if there are any security issues within the application.

Most of the applications are usually being launched without a proper check, and therefore, a number of security and code issues are detected in the later stage. This tool helps you get rid of all the problems before the actual application is being launched.

Beta Testing Phase

Google Analytics allows you to track the visitors of your website and learn more details about the web traffic that is visiting the website and the application itself.

This is an important tool for startup owners as this helps them understand the audience of the website, on the basis of which, they can perform tweaks and make other business decisions.

Cyfe is a marketing and CRM dashboard that allows startup owners to keep a track of the whole project under one roof.

Tout App is another important tool that not only helps you in the beta testing phase but it would also help the business once the application is being launched.

Tout App tells you what happens after you send the email to your preferred beta testing list. ToutApp also keeps you posted about details as in when people open your emails and click on the links. It helps you provide customized follow-up, either through another email or a phone call.

After the Final Launch

This is an email marketing tool that allows you to send customize email to your email list and see how they are interacting with the website and the application.

This tool is great not only to see how your list is reacting to your emails but it also helps you interact with your team more efficiently.

This app   helps you schedule your social media messages and sends them at a time when your target audience is found to be active. Buffer also keeps a track of how your audience is interacting with your social messages.

Mention is another important tool for the startup owners once they launch the app. Mention keeps a check on the web and sends you an email if someone mentions your application with the name somewhere, so that you can respond to it accordingly.

There are several apps being available in the industry but the above-mentioned ones are a few that can help startup owners keep track of the whole project and allow them to stay up to date with everything during the entire development process.

Are you a startup owner? Are you using any other applications and tools that help you work more efficiently? Please share with us in the comments section.

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Fraud Awareness: Cyber Security http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/fraud-awareness-cyber-security/ http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/fraud-awareness-cyber-security/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 07:00:45 +0000 http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/?p=27432 Fraud techniques continue to evolve as criminals look for new ways to defraud their victims. Everyone is a potential target. Ulster Bank is committed to helping you safeguard your money and uses a wide range of fraud prevention and detection processes in the fight against financial crime. We also help our customers remain vigilant and to follow best practice in order to help safeguard their business. Cyber security Over the […]

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Fraud techniques continue to evolve as criminals look for new ways to defraud their victims. Everyone is a potential target. Ulster Bank is committed to helping you safeguard your money and uses a wide range of fraud prevention and detection processes in the fight against financial crime. We also help our customers remain vigilant and to follow best practice in order to help safeguard their business.

Cyber security

Over the next month we will share some interesting videos and articles about cyber security.

Here is our first one, which is about how easy it is to get information about you online (you’ll be amazed).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7pYHN9iC9I

Tips to help beat the fraudsters

There is an increasing trend in fraudulent attacks on eBankingPlatforms. Here are some tips to help beat the fraudsters, which we would ask you to share with others in your organization, who have access or details of your Business’ Bank details.

  • We will never ask for your full PIN & password online: only 3 random digits from each are needed to log in.
  • We will never ask for your PIN & password or any smartcard codes over the telephone: beware of imposters.
  • We will never ask for smartcard codes to log in: these codes are used to authorise payments.
  • We recommend you download Trusteer Rapport – FREE security software.

Northern Ireland http://www.ulsterbank.co.uk/ni/personal/safe-secure/rapport.ashx

Republic of Ireland http://www.ulsterbank.ie/roi/personal/safe-secure/rapport.ashx?DCMP=ILC-NiPCTrust

If you are not an Ulster Bank customer, contact your own bank and ask about the type of security software which your bank recommends. You should also take time to understand what your bank will ask for when logging into their genuine online payment application or attempting to verify your identity.

If you have any questions about this, you can contact our experts directly UlsterBankFraudAwarenessSessions@ulsterbankcm.com

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Start-up Story: QRVO http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/start-up-story-qrvo/ http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/start-up-story-qrvo/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 07:00:02 +0000 http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/?p=27563 QRVO, Quick Response Voice Over, is a simple, innovative and effective Information Channel. Customers simple scan a QRVO code, using Smart Phone or Mobile device. There is no URL, no password and no delay. The content is provided nearly immediately. The content is introduced by a short voice introduction that enables a wide choice of information. The content can be a web link, a special offer, token directions, product, service […]

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QRVO, Quick Response Voice Over, is a simple, innovative and effective Information Channel.

Customers simple scan a QRVO code, using Smart Phone or Mobile device. There is no URL, no password and no delay. The content is provided nearly immediately. The content is introduced by a short voice introduction that enables a wide choice of information. The content can be a web link, a special offer, token directions, product, service or event information, a call to action, and be presented in text, graphic or video.

Most mobile devices now have inbuilt scanners for instant activation.

The original QR code was originally designed, as an industrial tool by Toyota subsidiary, for use in car assemble operations.

QRVO is re-engineered with a 30 second voice over and can be combined with Analytics, to monitor use, and an optional link with Social Network campaigns.

The code is Alpha Numeric barcode, with high digital capacity and high speed overlaid with voice introduction.

The QRVO business is to provide a simple, effective, customer engagement, in either a B to B or B to C environment and to do so in a variety of applications.

The Client controls the content and the deployment. The Analytics allows for evaluation for a specific campaign. Content, but not the graphic, can be changed to match changing market condition. QRVO codes can include Calls to Action, Special offers, directions and can be deployed on outgoing emails, conventional signage and publications, packaging, beer mats and receipts. QRVO codes can be included in Social Network campaigns. An entire e-zine can be presented on a Key Ring?

The QRVO is intended to be simple, customer friendly, innovative and transparent.

Why we started

Communications most be the most engaging global activity. Yet there are emerging challenges. There is a growing concern about personal data, there are privacy issues. Some suggest that it is the means and delivery of content, rather than the content that is the priority.

QRVO was originally designed to be non-invasive, simple to use, and to provide a multi functional, multi purpose information gateway. The operational objective is fundamental, deliver image, impact and information. The original QR is a proven technology, Analytics is an established monitoring tool, the professionally recorded voice over is consumer friendly.

There is potential to exploit a niche in Advertising , Branding and Promotion sectors. The Product line up envisages a Standard QRVO code for long term application.

Where do we see it going

The QRVO code has an application in nearly every business section. The content and deployment is determined by the client. The client can respond quickly to changes in the marketplace. This can drive the demand for further opportunities. The logical development is to build a robust business model to embrace and deliver a wide range of applications. This will also include an up skilling in Digital Marketing.

Future regulatory requirements in the food sector may prompt a need for additional promotional information in a smaller space. (QRVO can provide good food video information on packaging). There is a need for integration in the current media landscape.

What is happening or needs to happen for it to grow

We need education and awareness to drive use. We need user champions to support and use QRVO. The hard slog of acceptance and evaluation is underway. We need comment , criticism and advice from all and sundry. This process will allow us to fine-tune a battle ready business model.

What we have learned

Deafness, dedication determination and advice. Look to the stupidly simple, not super sophisticated.

Tips for other businesspeople starting out

Ask, ask, ask anyone for comment and advice. Research. Seek out Open Coffee mornings, Innovation Hubs, Tea Drinking Forums or Market reports.

Written by John Moran. For more information visit http://www.qrvo.ie. 

You can share your story too!
Submit Your Start-up Story

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Survey Finds Female Entrepreneurs Increasingly Refer Other Women-Led Business http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/survey-finds-female-entrepreneurs-increasingly-refer-women-led-business/ http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/survey-finds-female-entrepreneurs-increasingly-refer-women-led-business/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 15:18:05 +0000 http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/?p=27561 Ulster Bank survey finds female entrepreneurs increasingly refer business to other women-led business. 25 September 2014 – A new survey has found that 76% of Irish female entrepreneurs would be more willing to refer business to other female-led businesses. The survey, conducted by Ulster Bank as part of its Business Women Can network, also found that 61% of respondents would be willing to mentor other female business owners. The findings […]

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Ulster Bank survey finds female entrepreneurs increasingly refer business to other women-led business.

25 September 2014 – A new survey has found that 76% of Irish female entrepreneurs would be more willing to refer business to other female-led businesses. The survey, conducted by Ulster Bank as part of its Business Women Can network, also found that 61% of respondents would be willing to mentor other female business owners. The findings are based on 250 respondents, two thirds of these were owners or CEOs and 18% were in senior managerial roles.

Great Support

“There is a great sense of support by women for women when it comes to starting and growing a business”, said Fiona Kingston, Business Women Can Project Director at Ulster Bank. “We all know that women in business face some barriers to success whether that is a lack of confidence in our own abilities, a fear of failure or prioritising family but it’s encouraging that there is acknowledgement of working together being a key factor to drive success.”

Networking was also highlighted as a valuable business skill with 67% of respondents stating that they were members of at least one business network and 84% would strongly encourage other female business leaders to be part of a formal business network.

“We know from meeting business women at our events that networking is important to them. Women naturally support each other in their personal and professional lives. Business Women Can aims to harness that support in a tangible way,” continued Kingston.

Social Media

A third (33%) of female entrepreneurs use their network to generate new business with 53% indicating that they have successfully secured business in this way. There is also a high level of social media usage amongst female entrepreneurs, reflecting general trends in social media usage across Ireland with;

  • 75% of respondents using Facebook to promote their business
  • 71% of respondents using LinkedIn for business engagement
  • 65% of respondents active on Twitter

Meanwhile, 63% of respondents feel there are specific barriers female professionals have to overcome. 39% of respondents mentioned childcare or work life balance. 16% felt that women in business were not taken seriously either within their own company or customers / suppliers did not see them as decision makers. 12% felt that women’s own lack of confidence or self belief held them back and a further 12% felt that a male dominated environment or an ‘old boys network’ was a barrier.

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Can you really afford not to tender? http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/can-really-afford-tender/ http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/can-really-afford-tender/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:21:01 +0000 http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/?p=27545 With the market worth more than €12 billion on the island of Ireland, it makes good business sense to tender for public contracts. Despite this, only 14% of firms surveyed in the most recent InterTradeIreland Business Monitor had ever bid on a public tender. So what can you as a SME do to try and secure a share of this lucrative market and what changes do you need to know […]

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With the market worth more than €12 billion on the island of Ireland, it makes good business sense to tender for public contracts. Despite this, only 14% of firms surveyed in the most recent InterTradeIreland Business Monitor had ever bid on a public tender. So what can you as a SME do to try and secure a share of this lucrative market and what changes do you need to know about?

Changes to public tendering

A big reform in public sector tendering is underway across the island but particularly in the south. These changes will represent new challenges for SMEs and it will be essential to develop new approaches to stay in the market.  For example with the centralisation of more procurement expertise, it is likely that the value of contracts will increase and it may therefore be necessary for SMEs to form consortia and enter a joint bid.

Meet the key buyers

InterTradeIreland runs extremely popular FREE Meet the Buyer events every year. As well as giving businesses the opportunity to have individual face to face meetings with a range of public sector buyers from across the island at the ‘Buyer Stands’, there is also a host of useful workshops. These can help SMEs gain a better understanding of the workings of the all-island public procurement market, the opportunities it provides along with trends, tips and techniques to take away.

Representatives from the key business agencies across the island will also be there and can advise you on current funding opportunities and business supports available. These events will take place on:

Wednesday 22nd October – Ramada Hotel in Belfast

Wednesday 12th November – Citywest Hotel in Dublin
Pre-briefing sessions available

The meet the Buyer event can be a busy day with so many people and workshops to get around. To help you make the most of the ‘Meet the Buyer’ experience InterTradeIreland also runs FREE pre event briefing sessions which will take place on:

Wednesday 8th October – Ramada Hotel, Belfast – 8:30am – 11:30am

Wednesday 29th October – Citywest Hotel, Dublin – 8:30am – 11:30am
Register for the events
Places for these events can be reserved at the time of registering for the main events on www.intertradeireland.com/meet-the-buyer

 

What other tendering services do InterTradeIreland offer?

Go-2-Tender Workshops are held over 2 days and provide SMEs, whether new to tendering or wanting to enhance their knowledge, with tender skills and insights.

A consortia facilitator service provides advice and facilitation to companies looking to form joint bids.

Tender Apps and Alerts give automatic updates on the latest tenders direct to your mobile phone.

Our information and guides give you valuable information to help you tender more successfully.

 

Click here for more information on the Tendering Support available from InterTradeIreland.

 

Other useful websites

You should also register on tender websites particularly eSourcing NI and eTenders for opportunities in Ireland.

 

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Start-up Story: TheTaste.ie http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/start-story-thetaste-ie/ http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/start-story-thetaste-ie/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 11:00:43 +0000 http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/?p=27489 TheTaste.ie is a new online magazine dedicated to Ireland’s growing foodie culture. Our mission is find all of Ireland’s top foodie hotspots and share our journey with you. We will bring the latest news, reviews, offers & competitions to you on a daily basis. “If you love good food experiences, then TheTaste.ie is the place for you!” – Keith Mahon, TheTaste CEO. Where do we see it going Our mission […]

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TheTaste.ie is a new online magazine dedicated to Ireland’s growing foodie culture. Our mission is find all of Ireland’s top foodie hotspots and share our journey with you. We will bring the latest news, reviews, offers & competitions to you on a daily basis.

“If you love good food experiences, then TheTaste.ie is the place for you!” – Keith Mahon, TheTaste CEO.

Where do we see it going

Our mission is to make it the first online only food&drink magazine with a reach of 500,000 readers in the first 2 years.

What is happening or needs to happen for it to grow

In the first week of the site going live we have had over 22,000 readers, 2,000 followers on Twitter, 1000 fans on Facebook and over 5000 entries into our foodie competitions. We need to make sure we keep the content to a high standard and hope the Irish Internet users are generous telling all their friends about us.

What we have learned

Running your own business means there is no 9 to 5, in fact I am regularly answering email and supporting the site up to midnight every day. Hopefully in the end it will all be worth it. It is very rewarding to hear people are enjoying the content.

Tips for other businesspeople starting out

You get one chance to launch, be passionate, make sure you reply to everyone and leave no stone unturned in terms of asking for help.

Written by Keith Mahon. For more information visit http://thetaste.ie.

You can share your story too!
Submit Your Start-up Story

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How Your Start-up Should and Can Create a Distinctive Brand http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/start-can-create-distinctive-brand/ http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/start-can-create-distinctive-brand/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 10:01:12 +0000 http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/?p=27324 So, you’re a start-up and green around the ears. But, what differentiates you from other start-ups? To the idle observer, it’s probably, very little at this stage. Branding can change that. Start-ups and small businesses often ignore branding, understanding it as something that should be left until later when the money starts rolling in. However, what happens if the money never rolls in? What happens if nobody cares enough about […]

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So, you’re a start-up and green around the ears. But, what differentiates you from other start-ups? To the idle observer, it’s probably, very little at this stage. Branding can change that.

Start-ups and small businesses often ignore branding, understanding it as something that should be left until later when the money starts rolling in. However, what happens if the money never rolls in? What happens if nobody cares enough about your brand to consider it any more than just another start-up?

Simply put, if you don’t want your business to be be an afterthought, your branding should not be an afterthought.  Even if your cash strapped, we’ve a number of tips to help you ensure your start-up creates a distinctive brand.

Plan

Planning and evaluating where you are, who you want to target and how you are going to do this is the first step in branding. You need to evaluate whether there is room for others in the market and what line of approach you need to take before you even begin. Remember, you can’t be all things to all men, so choose a focus.

Competition

The competition will have some established strategies in your market and so piggybacking on these by performing some research is a great idea. By doing your research you can then decide things such as pricing, your place in the market and how you intend on approaching branding matters.

Get the Professionals in

Unless you’re a marketer, leave the branding to the professionals for best results. You don’t try and perform complex plumbing tasks; you hire a plumber, so why should branding be any different.

Dethatch yourself

So many mistakes in branding and business in general are caused by emotion. Try and dethatch yourself at all times and always think of your target audience when branding. Would you customers like a certain logo? Would a particular product appeal to them? Ask yourself in an unattached manner as possible whether something would work or not.

Portray an Image

Your multimillion pound business may be based around you working in your pyjamas in your bedroom. However, you don’t want people to know this – perception is everything. First impressions count and you need to consider how you want your brand to appear.

Message

You need a message to differentiate you from the other competitors. Perhaps you’re a café with the best flat white in town, or maybe you’re a petrol station with a high quality service and employ people to fill motorist’s cars. Find out your difference or niche and then create an identity around it.

Simplicity works

Keep your message simple and offer something that’s easy to understand, but impresses. Avoid strange logos and web layouts, or confusing online checkout areas. Familiarity works in branding terms, so eliminate anything that could put potential customers off.

Consistency

What’s the best way to create familiarity? Consistency is the answer. Being consistent with your brand by setting guidelines ensures people become familiar and begin to trust your business. Consistency is pivotal in growing a brand. Look at franchises such as McDonalds or Starbucks – you get the same tried and tested thing the world over. This familiarity is one reason why franchises work time and time again and have far lower failure rates than other forms of business. On the other hand this consistency is something smaller franchises win with too. Tubzvendingfranchise.co.uk are one UK based company that franchises, using the consistent  rules, guides, courses and hardware for all franchisees and see significant success from doing so.

Review

Brands alter, change and evolve and you need to review your branding strategy to ensure that it’s at its very best. As a brand evolves from start-up to established business, things change and the way your brand is communicated is among this. Reviewing your brand regularly allows you to stay consistent and ensure everything is working well.

Be Authentic

Wibe, a company with plenty of experience would suggest that one of the golden rules of branding is to never pretend you’re something you’re not. If you try and imply you offer high quality customer service, but deliver lacklustre offerings then that’s a falsehood and you will be found out. If you believe in what you do, then this will shine through in your branding.

New ventures need to understand that a brand begins when a business begins and you need to plan, order and portray what your business is about from the off for the very best long term impact.

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Essentials Of Small Business Confidence http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/essentials-small-business-confidence/ http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/essentials-small-business-confidence/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 10:00:29 +0000 http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/?p=27304 How confident are you about your business right now? In this post we’ll be looking at the essentials of small business confidence. If you’re feeling optimistic, then you’re not alone. In fact according to a recent survey (1) , a whopping 80 per cent of SMEs in the UK have overall confidence in the way business is going right now. This good news was underlined last week with the equally […]

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How confident are you about your business right now? In this post we’ll be looking at the essentials of small business confidence.

If you’re feeling optimistic, then you’re not alone. In fact according to a recent survey (1) , a whopping 80 per cent of SMEs in the UK have overall confidence in the way business is going right now. This good news was underlined last week with the equally buoyant results of a new survey into SME confidence by the Federation of Small Businesses (2) which indicates that SMEs have been reporting a positive outlook for the seventh quarter in a row.

Of course business, like life itself has its ups and downs. So where do you look for inspiration when optimism seems to be a little thin on the ground? I’ve produced this short 5 point list in order to highlight some of the essentials of business confidence.

Resilience

Why do economies bounce back after a downturn? The answer is in the resilience of businesspeople. Look at the world-beating success of the Moshi Monsters franchise. From the outside it may look like life has been an uninterrupted trajectory of success for its CEO, Michael Acton Smith. But in reality, it was nothing less than pure resilience that got Smith’s company to where it is today. Their previous venture, Perplex City, was placed on ‘indefinite hold’ after it stalled, having had millions invested in it.

See confidence as a work in progress

Nobody – not even Donald Trump – emerged into the world with infinite confidence. And confidence is something that you can build on within yourself and among your staff. Think for instance about the world’s most customer-centric companies. They listen to all the feedback they get and act on it. If you fail at something, it’s doesn’t make you a failure – it provides a solid set of learnings to build on when – using your resilience, you get right back into the ring, ready once again to punch above your weight.

Remember small business is big business

Did you know that, according to the FSB, SMEs “accounted for 99.9 per cent of all private sector businesses in the UK, 59.3 per cent of private sector employment and 48.1 per cent of private sector turnover” by the start of last year? This means that no matter what your area of business you’re in, the chances are that there’s likely to be a wealth of information and support out there.

Break down the barriers

In his autobiography, entrepreneur Richard Branson talks engagingly about how while many of his friends were into music, the thing that gave him the greatest pleasure was to set himself big objectives, and then go all out to achieve them. big challenges don’t need to be barriers – and when they’ve been met, confidence is guaranteed to rush in.

Find a little time for yourself

Many of us feel a real drive within ourselves, but none of us is a dynamo. Or as the great Peter Jones puts it: “commit to a goal and make it happen, but commit to yourself and your health too”. And if someone as busy as Peter Jones can find time for a little work-life balance, it’s a string signal that the rest of us should, too.

Sources:

(1)  SME survey by AXA Business Insurance 2014. Full story here.

(2) FSB survey 2014. Full story here.

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How to Prevent Corporate Espionage http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/how-to-prevent-corporate-espionage/ http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/how-to-prevent-corporate-espionage/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 08:00:40 +0000 http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/?p=27116 For a lot of organizations, intellectual property, trade secrets, and proprietary technology are the factors that provide them with their biggest competitive advantage. Regrettably, these factors are becoming increasingly vulnerable to misuse, which is why it is crucial that companies take adequate and appropriate measures to protect their vital information. In this post we look at how to prevent corporate espionage. What is Corporate Espionage? Corporate or industrial espionage is […]

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For a lot of organizations, intellectual property, trade secrets, and proprietary technology are the factors that provide them with their biggest competitive advantage. Regrettably, these factors are becoming increasingly vulnerable to misuse, which is why it is crucial that companies take adequate and appropriate measures to protect their vital information. In this post we look at how to prevent corporate espionage.

What is Corporate Espionage?

Corporate or industrial espionage is the practice of illegally obtaining critical and confidential information about an organization, without its permission or knowledge.

Corporations lose billions of dollars each year due to this practice. Many businesses stand to become victims and lose their data and revenue to it, if they do not proactively safeguard themselves from becoming easy targets to their competitors.

Industrial espionage involves gaining access to the location where crucial information is stored. It could be accessing the target company’s mainframe and seeking out data related to their technology, research, designs, agreements, client database, business tactics, finances, and future plans.

This data may then be misappropriated or sabotaged. External vested interests steal information to extort the company for money.

Apart from attacking the company’s computer, it also entails contacting people who hold crucial information, or are aware about its details, and trying to get them to gradually reveal it.

Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to prosecute the culprits of corporate espionage because most of them remain anonymous, or are associated with foreign governments.

Mentioned ahead are a few tips that organizations can follow to ensure that they keep their competitive edge and negate the risk of espionage.

Identify Critical Information

You cannot set out to protect something without knowing what exactly it is that needs special protection. The first step, therefore, would be to identify your company’s confidential and sensitive information, or other data that has the potential to damage the company, if lost to the competitor.

Such data can exist in any form – paper, visual, electronic, and/or oral. A robust security program should be devised for protection from all these mediums.

Internal and external risk assessment should be carried out. This assessment should comprise a detailed plan for the protection of all the intellectual property affecting the company’s revenue and reputation.

Identify Potential Threats

Understanding which external and internal factors pose the biggest threat to your organization, prior to developing strategies to prevent industrial espionage is vital.

While your competitors are the most obvious threats, you also need to consider the possibility of your customers, ‘visitors,’ hackers, activist groups, business partners, and even foreign governments being potential threats.

All these elements must be taken into account when formulating a prevention plan.

Safeguard Your Information

All necessary compliances with respect to customer information and privacy must be in tandem with all applicable legal statutes and bodies. Your risk mitigation plan should cover regular security testing and audits, evaluation of technological threats, and provision of training for security awareness.

Ensure Physical Security

Firms should ensure that they adequately secure their office(s), equipment, and infrastructure. This entails appointing special security personnel, securing and monitoring entry points, and installing surveillance systems.

Surveillance systems can be especially helpful. All modern organizations invest in surveillance technology to keep track of suspicious movements and behavior. A simple video monitoring plan can produce complete information about the goings-on within the organization’s premises. It can be viewed any time, and any number of times.

Revamp Certain Office Practices

Making certain preventive practices a part of the company’s policies will go a long way in helping you avoid espionage. These include –

  • Shredding documents before discarding them
  • Using copy-proofing technology like Adobe Acrobat and PageMaker
  • Not printing proprietary information, unless absolutely necessary
  • Installation of computer programs that stop viruses, malware, spyware, and detect phishing
  • Set authorizations through enterprise rights management
  • Using passwords and encryptions

Regularly Update Your Cyber Security

The cyber space offers tremendous scope for perpetrators of industrial espionage to carry out their nefarious activities. It, therefore, becomes important for organizations to maintain strong cyber security structures.

While these frameworks are designed to look outward for external threats, they should also be made to look inwards by monitoring internal networks for suspicious activity.

Installing special software designed to protect critical data, record activity, and deter data loss should be considered.

Train Your Staff

Do not miss out on taking into account your most vulnerable resource when planning counterespionage activities – the people, i.e. your staff. Industrial spies are adept at social engineering methods to sway people and get information out of them.

You need to carry out social engineering assessments to figure out the possibilities of an information leak should a corporate spy try to use ploys to deceive employees into spilling out sensitive information.

Training programs that are especially designed on the basis of the inferences of social engineering assessments would create awareness among employees, as well as educate them about the threat of social engineering.

Develop Stringent Employee Exit Procedures

Your business’ exit procedures should be such that they give the employee a clear understanding of the company’s policies on information security.

It is important to make his last few days in the company (as well as the exit procedure) as smooth and professional as possible. Many a time, theft of intellectual property by an employee takes place during their last month of work.

Make sure that your employees are reminded about the non-disclosure agreement of your company which they signed when they joined. Apart from that, you might also want to limit the access of employees who are expected to leave the organization to only a few areas.

Test Your Security

Frequently testing your security procedures is important to pinpoint the loopholes and vulnerabilities of the organization as well as the staff. Once they are identified, you can work on fortifying them and minimizing the chances of espionage.

Conclusion

It sounds like something out of a James Bond movie, but espionage is very much a reality. In fact, it is a growing problem among organizations, which are increasingly succumbing to unethical tactics to stay ahead in the competition. The above tips should help your company steer clear of corporate espionage.

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Why Learning Outcomes Need More Focus http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/learning-outcomes-need-focus/ http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/learning-outcomes-need-focus/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 07:00:57 +0000 http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/?p=26935 Now that the focus has shifted from technique to outcome in the learning industry, it is time to put even more focus on the outcomes in order to affect a better result. The shift from technique to outcome was a long time coming and it places more emphasis on the ends rather than the means. If you’re unfamiliar with the functioning of an outcome-based learning program, here are the main […]

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Now that the focus has shifted from technique to outcome in the learning industry, it is time to put even more focus on the outcomes in order to affect a better result. The shift from technique to outcome was a long time coming and it places more emphasis on the ends rather than the means. If you’re unfamiliar with the functioning of an outcome-based learning program, here are the main factors involved:

  • The outcome is what you wish to achieve in the end; the change that is affected, the lesson that is learned.
  • The output is what you do to bring about the outcome.
  • Targets indicate the speed the outcome will be reached.
  • Indicators allow you to monitor the change that is happening and eventually prove that the outcome was achieved.
  • Inputs are the resources available to you in order to enable the outcome.

So in this outcome-based system, a good example would be obtaining a university degree. Most targets for college graduates are two to four years. Inputs (as in the input of the teacher) would be the courses that you take and indicators would be your finals, tests and grades. The output would be attending the classes (as in the output of the learner). The eventual outcome would be your reward for having obtained the predefined learning goals, in this case the diploma.

But here’s where we lose a bit of focus.

Are Colleges Really the Prime Indicator of Outcomes?

The problem starts to arise when we take a closer look at what a diploma means. Does it simply mean that you attended college, showed up at enough classes and were sufficient enough to pass? Actually, yes. If we are just looking at diplomas alone, the graduation rate shows nothing more than the bare minimum outcome, or in this case, having shown up and passed at least enough classes.

But does that really indicate that the student who graduated actually learned anything? Actually, no, it doesn’t. It simply means they found some way to get by at the least. This isn’t to say that nobody is learning in college nor is it to imply that any portion of college students aren’t doing the most that they can with their education, it’s simply to point out the lack of focus on learning outcomes.

A better outcome that is based more on learning and the ability to achieve desired standards is the typical GPA system we give. Cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude all denote that not only was the student able to graduate, but they were able to do so with consistently good or excellent grades (depending on their title) over an extended target period (four years).

Putting Focus on the Outcomes in Learning

As you can see, this is a far better representation of what a student is capable of in terms of learning, application and execution. Of course, it’s by no means 100% correct, but it does illustrate the point that the more focused learning outcomes are, the better we are able to determine whether or not the inputs, targets and indicators are effective.

What this means for the education industry as a whole is potentially ground breaking. By simply putting more emphasis and focus on the outcomes, we can understand how effective our inputs are. This allows us to retool classes to affect better learning outcomes, effectively increasing the knowledge of the learners. This also gives teachers the tools they need to monitor their own indicators (i.e. how effective their teaching style is).

And while the whole system can’t be revamped and fixed with just this one simple suggestion, it certainly is a step in the right direction. Bringing about more focus on learning outcomes vastly improves every aspect of the learning process. We are talking, of course, about a broken learning process that is widely misrepresented as one of the best.

Kids aren’t Failing School—Colleges and Schools are Failing the Kids

Of course, the faulty thought that our education system is somehow superior to everyone else’s is being brought to light by new testing that shows America and most of the big superpowers and European countries lagging far behind in school testing. The solution to this may not be simple, but there needs to be a solution for one to take place.

Learning outcomes provides a quick way to effectively screen what is going wrong with the education process. Once identified, these problems can be fixed.

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