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How You Can Improve Cybersecurity for Your Business

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By Nick Porter – Guest Blogger

 

Whatever industry you’re in, having a strong online presence is vital to any business hoping to grow to its fullest potential, and in many cases, it’s necessary to operate. To that end, much like you need to protect physical business assets, you need to protect your online presence as well. People care and will check if your website is safe. Cybercriminals are constantly operating, and they are usually organized.

While cybersecurity is a complex topic, here is some of the basic information you can use to get started protecting your online presence:

The Human Factor

When running a business, the absolute most important thing to remember about cybersecurity is that human error is responsible for the vast majority of successful cyberattacks. Whether it’s lax security, mixing personal and business accounts, or other common lapses in judgment, hackers use social engineering techniques far more often than the type of brute force hacking you might first think of.

You need to make sure your staff is trained and remember that the weakest link in the chain is going to be the one that causes issues. As easy as it might seem to let things go at some point, it won’t be easy to deal with the fallout of a data breach.

 

Lock Down Your Website

Depending on your business and website, it could have valuable information attached to it or have accounts related. Many websites are different, and so specific recommendations here as to how to best secure your site wouldn’t be effective. However, you should invest in an SSL certificate, use tools or plugins to secure your website (and update them), and check for potential exploits.

 

Implement Strict and Formal Policies

Related to the importance of reducing human error is the fact that businesses that have a formal cybersecurity plan (for both prevention and response) will be less susceptible and less damaged by cybersecurity threats. Take some time to develop it with whoever is on your IT team, and make sure everyone is on the same page once it is complete.

 

Common Threats

Here are some of the most common threats and issues you or your team may encounter:

  • Phishing Scams: Either through email or phone (or on occasion other methods), a scammer will attempt to get login or other information out of you or one of your team members, and then either use it against your system or for profit. This is where having strict cybersecurity pol
  • Malware: If you don’t have proper firewalls and cybersecurity suites installed on office computers, malware can cause a wide range of malicious effects, ranging from stealing data to slowing down (or even ruining) your computers. Instruct employees to stay off of suspicious sites and be careful of unknown files.
  • Ransomware: A specific type of malware that will hold a device or data hostage until you send money. Never pay those responsible what they want under any circumstances.
  • DDoS Attacks: Effectively, hackers, through various means, can try to overload requests to your server. It’s unlikely for a business to be a victim but know that data is relatively safe (even if your business is disrupted).
  • SQL Injection Attacks: An injection of code into your website that exploits a vulnerability on your website. These types of attacks can affect your site, allow hackers to access data, and more.

 

Update and Adapt Regularly

Cybercriminals and cybercriminal organizations are regularly going to use new social engineering tactics and tools, and as such you need to adapt regularly and keep abreast of what you should look out for. Learn about recent common scams, update your applications and security programs, and review your business cybersecurity strategy at least every six months.

 

Conclusion

In some ways, this article is only breaching the surface when it comes to cybersecurity for your business, but you must start with the basics and the important tasks listed above. The sooner you get these items taken care of, the sooner you can settle into a routine for it and otherwise focus on growth and the other things that matter. We hope that this information proved useful and wish you success in your future endeavors.

 

An additional source for your online security:

https://www.broadbandsearch.net/blog/how-to-tell-website-safe-legitimate

 

Nick Porter is a writer and blogger who is especially interested in Cyber Security and Digital Marketing.  Sharing his knowledge to help his readers be more productive with social media and SEO brings him great joy! He also enjoys educating readers on more effective online security controls.

By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Every small business wants to minimize their taxes and maximize their deductions. However, many small business owners miss out on a tax code that can benefit them, U.S. Tax Code Section 179.

 

According to a recent survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), Section 179 has helped small business growth and prosper:

  • 35% of current small business owners are unaware that they could be eligible for a deduction under Section 179.
  • 78% of small businesses used Section 179 to offset their tax expenses last year.
  • 82% of small businesses purchased equipment or software last year (cars, trucks, office furniture, machinery, etc.).
  • The top three purchases made were computers (51%), vehicles (44%) and office furniture (31%).
  • 75% made qualifying purchases of less than $50,000.

 

What is Section 179?

Section 179 refers to property depreciation deductions a business can claim. It does not increase your overall deduction but it can give you the option to take the deduction more quickly. In other words, you can declare the entire deduction in a single year instead of spreading it over many years.

 

An asset’s useful life depreciation deduction can be stretched out to a maximum of 39 years but most are taken over a 5 year period. Under Section 179, you can deduct the entire expense in the first year.

 

This can be especially helpful if the company needs the asset to grow and the item purchased was quite expensive up front. The tax impact can help ease the burden and help the company grow. Currently, the deduction is limited to $1 million and a total investment limit of $2.5 million.

 

How Can This Help Your Business?

Section 179 can be used for most tangible assets purchased to run your business. This tax break is intended to make it more affordable for small businesses to buy expensive equipment including:

  • Machinery
  • Computers
  • Computer software
  • Other business equipment
  • Company vehicles
  • Office furniture
  • Capital investments
  • Property
  • And more

While a business has always been able to deduct expenses of this nature, they could only deduct a portion of the asset’s value every year. With Section 179 the full value can be deducted in the same year that the purchase was made.

 

Where Can I Obtain More Information About Section 179?

If you have any questions about Section 179, visit the official Section 179 informational website at http://www.section179.org/. If you are looking to learn about other potential tax breaks for you or your business, you can always visit the IRS’ website at https://www.irs.gov/ to learn more.

 

Our Advice

The US tax rules are constantly changing, it is always best to pay attention to taxes all year long and not only at tax time.  Keep alert for changes in tax laws and always consult a professional for help.

 

Disclaimer

We are not tax professionals and we strongly recommend that before you take any actions, that you consult your own licensed tax professional. It is always best to seek professional assistance if you have questions about taxes or their s on your specific business. Working with a professional also provides you better opportunities to find and take advantage of legitimate tax breaks and opportunities to lower the amount of taxes that you pay.

Mistakes and Solutions for Veteran Business Owners

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Military veterans have an entrepreneur spirit and tend to start a lot of businesses.  They have years of military service and experiences to draw upon and are highly disciplined.  Like any other group of business entrepreneurs, veterans also make mistakes. Fortunately, many of these mistakes can be avoided.

 

Below are five of the most common mistakes that most veterans make when starting or running a small business with ways to overcome them:

 

  1. Trying to do it all alone

There are only so many hours in a day and there is a limit to how much one person can know and do alone. You simply can’t spread yourself too thin and micromanage every aspect of your business and still be successful.

 

Choosing not to work with other people significantly reduces your ability to serve your customers. When you miss opportunities due to lack of knowledge or experience; keep in mind that you are also missing sales due to lack of time.

 

The solution

You need to hire the best talent you can possibly find and then empower them to make decisions on their own. As your business grows, you will need to focus more on higher level concerns to keep the business running smoothly. A good leader knows when and how to delegate.  They know that they need to trust their employees to make the right decisions on behalf of the business.

 

  1. Hiring the wrong people

This is another huge problem since the wrong employees will drain your business of resources, time, and energy.   This can both damage the productivity of the entire team and your business reputation in the market.

 

The solution

The old ways of hiring people based on one quick interview and maybe calling references are obsolete in today’s market. You need to expand your hiring process, get a little creative so that you can better identify the right candidates for your business. You Might consider adding a relevant task to complete or doing the interviews in group setting to see how the candidates respond and performs.

 

  1. Ignoring smaller-dollar sales

The number one reason for business failure is that the business didn’t have enough cash to cover regular expenses such as payroll, rent, and utilities. If you are strapped for cash, it may look like a good idea to turn away small-dollar deals.  You should keep in mind that these smaller sales generate cash flow and should not be overlooked.

 

The solution

Make sure that your business model supports a product or service pricing structure that provides your customers options. Consider a three-tiered approach that has low, medium and high price points. This will help your business capture all of the possible sales opportunities that it can.

 

  1. Not having the right processes and systems in place

Every single business, large or small, is dependent upon the systems and processes they have in place. Unfortunately, many businesses do not have the right processes and systems in place nor the formal structures to guide them.

 

The solution

Much like in the military, every single business needs to have a clear set of documented standard operating procedures or SOPs. These work well with a formal business plan to help identify and define how you will setup and run your entire business.

 

Some items to include in your SOP:

  • How to handle customer complaints
  • How to handle interviews
  • Onboarding new employees
  • Purchase order requests
  • Moving cash to the bank
  • Financial record keeping

 

  1. Not having a clear marketing message

Your business must have a clear marketing message that is relevant, compelling, and interesting to your prospective customers. If your business is lacking a clear marketing message, potential customers may people assume you do not understand or care about their needs and only want to make money from them. They will go elsewhere.

 

The solution

The best way to improve your overall marketing efforts is to create a dynamic message that solves a problem, meets a need, or fulfills a desire for your target customer. Our world today doesn’t appreciate the one-size-fits-all model of the past. Customers demand that a company caters to their specific needs. They also do not want to feel pushed into buying anything. As a small business, you need to figure out exactly what your target customers’ need and spend your marketing dollars educating or entertaining them with your offerings.

Strategies for After Holidays Business Lulls

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Once the holidays have officially ended, most small businesses face a significant drop in business. Generally, people are on vacation or saving to recover from their holiday gift spending from the middle of December through January.

 

Preparing for this lull in business can be challenging.   There are a few strategies that can help minimize the negative impact of the drop in sales and revenues. Below are a few ideas to help you save some money and possibly minimize the negative impacts of a slow business season:

 

Increase Social Media Posting:

Increasing your social media presence is always a great place to start when your business needs a boost. Social media is incredibly effective for reaching potential customers in your local area as well as helping you build overall brand recognition and trust.

 

Implement New Marketing Strategies:

If you are experience a slowdown in business, this might be an excellent time to re-evaluate your current marketing strategies to determine what has been and what has not been effective. Cut out any ineffective strategies and move forward with new ideas.

A few ideas to consider:

  • Improve or update your company website’s overall SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  • Start new pay-per-click campaigns on social platforms or search engines
  • Start attending in-person marketing events
  • Sponsor relevant local events

 

Eliminate Any Unnecessary Expenses:

The start of the year is also a great time to review where your money goes and cut out any unnecessary expenses. This includes cutting out ineffective marketing programs that was addressed previously as well as reducing spending on office items that aren’t necessary as well as holding off hiring. Saving money is one of the best ways to help you bounce back from a lull in sales.

 

Revamp Your Pricing:

If you lowered your prices to be competitive and attract more customers before the holidays, this is the time to consider what your pricing strategies going forward now that the holidays are over.  Most small businesses simply go right back to their standard pricing but this might not be the best option if you still have a lot of holiday inventory on your hands. Consider staggering your price increases to sell off your surplus inventory.

 

If You Took Out a Loan Now is the Time for a Reasonable Repayment Plan:

If your business was one of the many that needed to take out a loan to have adequate cash flow through the holidays, now is a great time to establish a reasonable and affordable repayment plan with your loan provider.

 

The holiday season is always challenging before, during and after for a variety of reasons and this is especially true for small businesses. If you find that you are struggling to recover from the holidays you should seriously consider one or more of the above strategies to help you get back in your groove and recover.

 

By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

VAMBOA and our team hopes that you have enjoyed Part 1 and Part 2 of this three-part series on Business Grants for Veterans and found it to be valuable.   Please let us know what you think because we value your input.  You can email us at info@vamboa.org.

 

Once you have your funding secured, either by grant or loan, you may still need some other business assistance. Below you can find some excellent resources for your Small Veteran Owned Business to utilize to start, learn, nurture, and grow your small business:

  • Boots to Business is a two-step program offered by the Small Business Administration (the SBA) offered on military installations around the world to introduce service members to entrepreneurship and the foundations needed to begin a business when they return home.
  • Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV)is a free program for post-9/11 vets and their spouses.
  • Patriot Boot Camp is a branch of the startup incubator: TechStars and is specifically for active duty military members and their spouses who want to gain entrepreneurial skills.
  • Service-Disabled Entrepreneurship Development Training Program offers between $50,000 and $150,000 as a grant to support organizations that deliver entrepreneurship training program(s) to service-disabled veteran entrepreneurs who want to become small business owners or who currently own a small business.
  • Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several veteran entrepreneurship training programs.
  • Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) is an SBA-funded program that offers online training, a conference and mentorship specifically to female veterans.
  • Veterans Business Services helps veterans acquire or start small business. Veteran Business Services offers assistance with franchising, marketing and with connecting you with financial services.
  • Veterans Business Resource Center offers business training for Veterans including help with understanding business plans, financials, marketing, sales, human resource management, and more. They also offer webinars and professional counseling.
  • Veterans Institute for Procurement (VIP)is an accelerator program with three specific offerings specifically designed for owners, principals, and C‐level executives of Veteran Owned Small Businesses and Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses SDVOSB).  Veterans Institute for Procurement (VIP) Grow helps companies develop overall strategies to operate and expand within the federal marketplace. VIP Start helps companies that want to get into the federal market and become procurement-ready. VIP International is for companies that want to enter or expand their federal and commercial contracting opportunities overseas.
  • VetsInTechis a private sector training program that offers tech related education opportunities, connections with tech jobs and workshops and bootcamps to help veteran startup founders boost and grow their businesses.

 

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