How To Increase Profits And Have More Success In Your Business

Do you have a tendency to hold on to things in your business too long? Maybe it’s your team, staff or employees, maybe its programs that are no longer profitable. Holding on to things because they’re familiar or because it’s comfortable can get in the way of moving your business to the next level.

You have to resist the urge to hold on to things longer than you should. It’s easy to get into a routine and to start to just do things the way you’re used to doing them, because it’s the way you’ve always done it… not because you’re being conscious and aware and making the right decisions for your business or your life, or even because you’re looking at your business numbers, your return on investment or other numbers to see what they’re telling you.

A very wise mentor once said, “If you hire slowly, and fire quickly that’s a good thing.”

In some ways this is true, and if you apply that principle to the bigger picture of your business, it really makes a lot of sense. Make decisions in your business smartly and quickly, and then execute them. Then evaluate those decisions to determine if they worked or if they didn’t.

If they didn’t work, then tweak them and test again. Your business success is really about testing and measuring, and determining which things are working. If you’re doing something that’s working, do more of it, not less of it.

A lot of business owners have a tendency to stop doing the things that are working, and hold on to the things they’ve always done, instead of letting go of the things that aren’t profitable anymore. You can easily get stuck in the rut of what’s comfortable in your business (and in your life too).

Change can sometimes be uncomfortable, but you should be moving your business forward with profitable programs and services, even if it isn’t what you’ve always done. Stick with the things that are putting you in the forefront of your industry, things that other people aren’t even doing or haven’t caught up with yet.

Analyze what’s happening in your business, and make sure you’re on the cutting edge of things. Don’t hold on to the old stuff simply because it’s familiar and comfortable.

Cut the things out of your business that need to be cut out, and move on to the things that are working.

Branch out, try new things in your business, and keep doing them when they work and are profitable.

Running a Small Business: The Top 5 Things Every Business Owner NEEDS to Know

The Top 5 Things Every Small and Medium Sized Business Owners Should Know!

Running your own small or medium sized business can be an extremely satisfying and valuable experience; there’s something very empowering about knowing you have control over your own destiny and using your talents to build something that you are proud of. However (and that’s a big however), the journey can be long and tough and beset with pitfalls. In reality, most people don’t take the plunge and set up by themselves, and out of the ones that do, a great many of them end up failing. If you’re reading this, you probably have your own business or are thinking about setting one up. Use this guide to help you recognise and overcome some of the most common dangers, steer your boat to safe water, and then start focusing on building your cruise ship!

1) Your team
You’re only as good as the people around you; an old adage that remains true, so choose wisely. Irrespective of the size business you are, you need to understand how you go about recruiting successfully, and it isn’t as simple as just getting a good vibe from a person. You need to identify up front, what you want them to do and identify the skills that they will need to do it. That’s pretty much all that counts; they can be the nicest person in the world but if they cannot do what you want them to do, there’s no fit. Seek advice or get trained on the keys to recruiting. It’s a short term investment which will pay off many, many times over.

Once you know have found the right people and detailed their roles then, most importantly, you should let them get on and do it! Take time to invest in your staff and develop their skills so that you reap the benefits. This can be challenging when you are tight for time and the temptation is very often to do the work yourself but this is a dangerous habit that you need to break. Coach your staff to be the best they can be; encourage them to think for themselves, encourage them to be creative, measure and feedback on their performance, support them, let them make mistakes. This is one of the most important ways you can spend your time and you will create a motivated, productive and efficient workforce which as a result performs at its peak.

2) Work ON the business not IN the business
If you find yourself spending all your time doing the work and not designing, steering and sailing the business, something has gone wrong. Again, you took the brave decision to set up on your own so remember why you did it? Presumably not so that you can work 15 hour days performing tasks that you really don’t enjoy? A wise man once told me that the smartest people set up businesses in areas in which they have absolutely no knowledge or interest; that way they cannot get involved in the daily grind and can spend their time on the more important business goals. Think carefully about this. Even if your team is small at the moment, there are an amazing amount of resources available to you if you take the time to look for them; think virtual assistants, think cost effective outsourcing such as http://www.elance.com, http://www.freelancer.com. You don’t need to invest a lot to get credible support in the areas that you need them freeing you up to focus on the bigger picture.

3) Set goals
Hopefully you have a business plan; if not, then you should definitely make time to develop one. It doesn’t need to be an all singing manual, a one page document will do. The important thing here is to think about what you want to do and achieve and get that down in writing. Evidence shows that those people who crystallise their plans and write them down are significantly more likely to succeed than those who don’t. Once you have your plan, make sure you use it. Review regularly to ensure that you are on the right path and focusing your energies where they need to be. In the words of the great Stephen Covey “If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.”
Use your plan to set yourself and your team goals. Effectively setting goals is a sure fire way to success and, as such, they should become a part of your daily, or at least weekly routine. What do you want to achieve today, tomorrow, this week? Write it down and make it happen. It’s a great way to motivate yourself and others when you can all sit down on a Friday and look at what you’ve actually done this week.

4) Sales and Marketing
Whatever business you are in, if you don’t master sales and marketing, you’re not going to be successful in the long term. It’s important and as a business leader, you need to spend time thinking about it. If the area isn’t your forte, then seek advice externally but make sure you prioritise this activity. There are so many ways that you can market your company today so think creatively and realise that it isn’t necessarily a costly and time consuming activity; on the contrary you can achieve amazing things with limited resource if you take the time to sit and think and plan what you are doing. Don’t be tempted to simply invest money in high cost activities that are difficult to track such as advertising or fancy branding. Keep it simple – how can you get your message out there? How can you differentiate and add value? Keep this in mind and look outside of traditional solutions.

5) Cash is still king!
Remember businesses don’t simply fail because they are unprofitable; those that do hit the skids generally have no cash! Getting money from banks has never been easy and is probably harder than it’s ever been so work out how to stay solvent. Be careful whom you deal with and stay sharp on collecting what is owed – is your ‘best’ customer the one who takes the longest to settle? Just as with the business plan outlined above, make sure you have a cash flow forecast and question what’s going on if it doesn’t work out as you expected. If needs be take advice but don’t let matters drift or it will catch up with you!

The Business Case for Information Security: Getting Your Security Budget Approved

Information systems security is very vital in enterprises today, in order to curb the numerous cyber threats against information assets. Despite the good arguments that are put up by Information security managers, the Board and Senior Management in Organizations, might still drag their feet, to approve information security budgets, visa vi other items, like marketing and promotion, which they believe have greater Return on Investment (ROI). How do you then, as a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)/IT /Information Systems manager, convince Management or the Board of the need to invest in Information security?

I once had a conversation with an IT Manager for one of the big regional financial institutions, who shared his experience on getting an information security budget approved. The IT department was tussling it out with Marketing for some funds that had been made available from savings on the annual budget. ” You see, if we invest in this marketing campaign, not only shall the targeted market segment help us make and surpass the numbers, but also estimates show that we could more than double our loan portfolio.” argued the marketing people. On the other hand, IT’s argument was that “By being proactive in procuring a more robust Intrusion prevention System (IPS), they will be reduction in security incidents”. Management decided to allocate the extra funds to Marketing. The IT people wondered then, what they had done wrong, that the marketing people got right! So how do you ensure that you get that budget approval for your Information security project?

It’s vital for management to appreciate the consequences of inaction as far as securing the Enterprise is concerned, if a breach occurred not only will the organization suffer from loss of reputation and customers, due to reduced confidence in the brand, but also a breach could lead to loss of revenue and even legal action being taken against the organization, situations in which good marketing campaigns might fail to redeem your organization.

We try to address the major points management could raise against investing in information security.

1. Information security solutions tend to be costly, where are the tangible returns?

The overall goal of any organization is to create / add value for the shareholders or stakeholders. Can you quantify the benefits of the countermeasure you want to procure? What indicators are you employing to justify that investment in information security? Does your argument for a countermeasure align with the overall objectives of the Organization, how do you justify that your action will help the organization achieve its goals and increase shareholders/stake holder’s value. For example, if the organization has prioritized customer acquisition and customer retention, how does procurement of the information security solution you propose, help achieve that goal?

2. Isn’t the countermeasure a panic / isolated reaction to a regulatory requirement or recent audit query?

The vast majority of Information security projects could be driven by external regulations or compliance requirements, or could be as a reaction to a recent query by the external auditors or even as a result of a recent systems breach. For example, a financial regulator could require that all financial institutions implement an IT Vulnerability assessment tool. Thus, the organization is required to comply at any cost or face penalties. While response to these regulatory requirements is necessary, just plugging the holes and “fighting the fires” approach are not sustainable. The implementation of process change in isolation could result into an environment of working in silos, conflicting information and terminology, disparate technology, and a lack of connection to business strategy. [1]
Uncoordinated reactions to specific regulatory requirements, may lead to implementing solutions that are not aligned with the business strategy of the organization. Therefore to overcome this problem and get funding approval and management support, your argument and business case should show how the solutions you intend to procure fit into the bigger picture, and how this aligns with the overall objective of securing assets in the organization.

What are the costs, implications, and the impact of doing nothing?

You will need to communicate to management, the basic business value of the solution you want to procure. You will start by showing/ calculating the current cost, implications, and the impact of doing nothing; if the countermeasure you want to procure is not in place. You could classify these as:

Direct cost - the cost that the organization incurs for not having the solution in place.
Indirect cost - the amount of time, effort and other organizational resources that could be wasted.
Opportunity cost – the cost resulting from lost business opportunities, if the security solution or service you propose was not in place and how that could impact the organization’s reputation and goodwill.

You could use the following pointers and expound on these further:

• What regulatory fines due to non-compliance, does the organization face?
• What is the impact of business interruption and productivity losses?
• How will the organization be impacted, her brand or reputation that could result in huge financial losses?
• What losses are incurred due to poor management of business risk?
• What losses do we face attributed to fraud: external or internal?
• What are the costs spent on people involved in mitigating risks that would otherwise be reduced by deploying the countermeasure?
• How will loss of Data, which is a great business asset, impact our operations and what is the actual cost of recovering from such a disaster?.
• What is the legal implication of any breach as a result of our non-action?

How does the proposed solution reduce cost and increase business value.

You will then need to show how the countermeasure you propose is going to reduce cost and increase business value. Again you could expound more on the following areas:

• Show how increased efficiencies and productivity, of deploying the countermeasure will benefit the organization.
• Quantify how reduced downtime will increase business productivity.
• Show how being proactive could reduce on IT Audit & Assessment costs.
• Quantify the cost reduction that would otherwise be associated with internal audits, third-party audits, and technology.

According to a 2011 research conducted by the Ponemon Institute and Tripwire, Inc., it was found that Business disruption and productivity losses are the most expensive consequences of non-compliance. On average, non-compliance cost is 2.65 times the cost of compliance for the 46 organizations that were sampled. With the exception of two cases, non-compliance cost exceeded compliance cost.[2]. Meaning that, investing is information security in order to protect information assets and comply with regulatory requirements, is actually cheaper and reduces costs, as compared to not putting any countermeasures in place.

Get support from the various business units in the organization

A good budget proposal should have support of the other business units in the organization. For example, I did suggest to the IT manager mentioned before, that probably he should have discussed with Marketing and explained to them on how a reliable and secure network, would make it easier for them to market with confidence, probably IT would have had no competition for the budget. I don’t believe the marketing people would like to go face customers, when there are possible questions of unreliable service, system breaches and downtime. Therefore you should ensure that you have support of all the other business units, and explain to them how the proposed solution could make life easier for them.

Create a rapport with Management / Board, for even future budget approvals, you will need to publish and give reports to management on the number of network anomalies the intrusion-detection system you recently procured for example, found in a week, the current patch cycle time and how much time the system has been up with no interruptions. Reduced downtime will mean you have done your job. This approach will show management that there is for example an indirect reduction of insurance cost based on value of policies needed to protect business continuity and information assets.

Getting your information security project budget approval, should not be so much of a challenge, if one was to cater for the main issue of value addition. The main question you need to ask yourself is how does your proposed solution improve the bottom line? What the Management / Board require is an assurance that the solution you propose will produce real long term business value and that is aligned with the overall objectives of the organization.

References:

1. Thomson Reuters Accelus, BUILDING A BUSINESS CASE FOR GOVERNANCE, RISK AND COMPLIANCE, 2010.

2. Ponemon Institute, The true cost of compliance, 2011.