Seven Years and Going Strong

A few days ago, I suddenly realized that it’s been seven years since I quit my corporate J.O.B. and started my business. Wow, seven years and going strong! With diligence and good luck, I’ve achieved my business and personal goals. Plus, I’ve had some fun along the way. The fun is probably why the time has flown by so quickly.

Milestones are worth celebrating – albeit briefly – and are the perfect time for reflection. It’s also important to periodically step back to assess your progress, identify areas of potential improvement, and update your goals. Businesses that survive long enough to celebrate many milestones are the same ones that invest some time and effort in these four activities:

  • Plan to Meet Defined Objectives

A business plan is a road map to get where you want to go and help to keep your “Eye on The Prize”. Unless you know what you’re reaching for, you can’t grab it. Set your overall objectives and describe the detailed steps to achieve them. Set interim milestones along the way to help measure your progress and keep you motivated.

  • Execute Your Plan

Actively work through the detailed steps in your plan. It’s exhilarating to achieve goals and move forward. Executing your plan also gives you opportunities to get more information. Use new information to adapt your plan and make course corrections. Also listen to how your network receives your message and adjust the wording to get your message across better.

  • Outsource Needs You Can’t (or Shouldn’t) Meet

Be realistic about aspects of your business where you do not have the necessary expertise or can’t take the time away from your core business to do yourself. Legal, accounting, and social media are some areas where engaging an expert can accomplish specialized tasks, free up your time, and prevent you from making costly mistakes.

  • Give Back

Answering general questions in your area of expertise and presenting at workshops are ways that you can share knowledge with your network and establish your credibility. Sharing tips and perspective helps to create your brand and draw people to you and your business. Being generous is often its own reward, over the long run.

The last seven years of having my own business have been hard work, fun, and rewarding – all at the same time. It takes a lot more than investing in the four activities described above to be successful. But businesses that invest in planning, executing, outsourcing, and giving back have an opportunity to achieve seven years in business and keep going strong.

Low-Cost Cybersecurity Tips

Hacks and ransomware crimes are all over the news headlines. Seems like there’s a new one reported every day. Victims include federal government agencies, insurance companies, energy infrastructure, and computer system vendors. Those are some highly sophisticated players that have invested tons of money in cybersecurity. So, what chance does a small business have defending itself against all those sophisticated cybercriminals? 

Bottom line, the tons of money that organizations invest in cybersecurity can go right out the window if the users – ordinary and fallible people – don’t follow safe system security practices. Systems are only as safe as the security knowledge and practices of the least knowledgeable system user. All it takes to open the door to a cybercriminal is one person clicking on the wrong link from an unknown source, or from a hacker masquerading as a trusted sender.

Believe it or not, periodic reminders of these low-cost cybersecurity tips will help organizations of all sizes and types to follow safe cybersecurity practices:

  1. Keep software systems up to date and use a good anti-virus program.
  1. Examine the email address and URLs in all correspondence to detect a scammer mimicking a legitimate site or email address.
  1. Ignore text messages, emails, or phone calls asking you to update or verify your account information and go to the company’s website to see if something needs your attention.
  1. Never open unexpected attachments until verifying the sender’s email address and use virus scan before opening any document.
  1. Scrutinize all electronic requests for a payment or fund transfers.
  1. Be extra suspicious of any message that urges immediate action.

Human action is a risk that can throw an organization’s cybersecurity investment right out the window. People who click before thinking can allow hackers in to do all sorts of expensive and embarrassing damage. By promoting a few low-cost cybersecurity tips, business or all sizes and types can avoid becoming a victim of sophisticated hackers and other cybercriminals. 

Is Your Computer Secure?

We use our computers and other devices every day. Cyber thieves know that, so they work every day to break into computer systems to steal valuable financial and personal data. We are all vulnerable and we all need to protect ourselves. Security advice to protect your data is everywhere. But how can you sift through all of it? 

That red screen can’t be good!

Here are five tips compiled from different reliable sources to help you create a secure computer environment and protect your private information:

  • Anti-virus Software

Anti-virus software scans computer files or memory for certain patterns that may indicate the presence of malicious software and looks for patterns based on the signatures or definitions of known malware from cyber criminals. Anti-virus vendors find new issues and update malware daily, so it is important that you have the latest updates installed on your computer. Keep security software set to automatically receive the latest updates so that it is always current.

  • Firewalls

Firewalls provide protection against outside attackers by shielding your computer or network and preventing malicious software from accessing your systems. Firewalls can be configured to block data from certain suspicious locations or applications while allowing relevant and necessary data through. But remember, firewalls do not prevent attacks; they protect against malicious traffic (unless the user accidentally installs malware – see “phishing” below).

  • Two-Factor Authentication

Many email providers now offer two-factor authentication protections to add an extra layer of protection. Often, two-factor authentication means the returning user must enter username and password plus another step, such as entering a security code sent via text to a mobile phone. A thief may be able to steal the username and password but it’s highly unlikely they also would have the mobile phone to receive the code and complete the process.

  • Backup software/services

Critical files on computers should routinely be backed-up to external sources, such as a copy of the file is made and stored either online as part of a cloud storage service or saved to an external hard drive. Periodically verify that the files are backed up and can be retrieved.

  • Phishing emails

Never open an email from a suspicious source, click on a link in a suspicious email or open an attachment without scanning it first. Otherwise, you could be a victim of a phishing attack and your data could be compromised. Never click links within pop-up windows, download “free” software from a pop-up, or follow email links that offer anti-spyware software. The links and pop-ups could be installing the spyware that they claim to be eliminating. 

You may assume that the information you have on your computer is not valuable to a cyber thief. But think about it; access to your personal information, bank accounts and credit cards are all that cyber criminals need to steal your identity and create havoc in your personal life. Following these five cyber security tips will help you create a secure computer environment and protect your financial and other personal information.