Do small businesses need to get real about cyber security?

Katie Holland, Barclays Business Manager, examines the issue.

The prominence of the internet has changed the way companies of all sizes conduct their business. It has opened the doors for many SMEs to streamline their processes and generate additional opportunities in areas which previously might have appeared out of reach. However, it is not without some downsides, a major one being the growth in prominence of cyber crime.

 

Last summer a Government Security Breaches Survey found that nearly three quarters [74 per cent] of small organisations reported a security breach in the last year. This is a real concern, as is the variety and scale of the scams which are currently in the offing.

 

One example in early 2016 reports some cases of conveyancing fraud. In these instances criminals were said to have hacked into emails sent between solicitors and clients. The fraudsters, posing as the solicitor, then sent emails with instructions to transfer money from property transactions to a rogue account. The funds then disappeared.

 

As a lender it’s absolutely vital for Barclays to have a fraud prevention strategy in place. Plus a substantial, and active, fraud team alongside a raft of resources for individual and business borrowers. But, as a SME what more should you be doing?

 

The first prudent step is to ensure your business is fully protected, including the data in your possession. The lengths at which cyber criminals go to shouldn’t be underestimated.

 

SMEs could also be made aware that changes to any payment details attached to a transaction should be treated with suspicion. For example, if they are sent an encrypted email or asked for personal data by email, or anything that feels even remotely dubious, then they should pick up the phone and verify it directly with the party in question. The inclusion of cyber security and anti-malware protection will not only safeguard your business, but also provide an additional layer of protection for you, your customers and subsequently cement your long-term relationship with them.

 

Some of you may have seen Barclays latest advert which sees a seemingly trustworthy advisor asking for personal banking details whilst a voice in the background explains that his intentions are not genuine. The advert goes on to reveal a member of Barclays branch staff, who is a Premier Banking Manager, standing behind the fraudster and offering advice on how consumers can protect themselves.

 

This type of fraud is known as social engineering and it is the manipulation of situations and people that result in the targeted individuals divulging confidential information. It is one of the most prolific and effective means of gaining access to secure systems and obtaining sensitive information, yet requires minimal technical knowledge.

 

The advert is one way in which Barclays is raising awareness about these issues and we regularly host cyber crime events for SMEs locally most recently in Weston-Super-Mare.

 

From April 2016 Barclays will host a series of events specifically for businesses providing guidance on how they can protect themselves from cyber crime. For further information please speak to your Barclays Business Manager and more details about how to be cyber smart can be found here.

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5 Ways Business Continuity Plans Improve Profitability

As the manager of a business, no one understands or cares more about the success of your company. That’s why having business continuity in place should be a priority, not just because it’s best practice but because it’s good for your bottom line as well.

Last week was Business Continuity Awareness Week (16th and 20th May) and aimed to help businesses identify the potential returns on investment achievable from business continuity planning. As Information Technology (IT) is a key resource for many businesses this is a good time to review the IT Continuity element of your plans. The benefits of such a review is related to disaster recovery planning and future survival of the business; however it also includes potential increases in profitability through the identification of cost savings, efficiency gains and increased sales opportunities.

What is Business Continuity?

“..loosely defined as the capability of the organisation to continue delivery of products or services at acceptable predefined levels following a disruptive incident.”

(Source: ISO 22301:2012)


What are Disruptive Incidents?

  • Loss of Buildings or Utilities
  • Loss of access to Facilities, Equipment & Consumables
  • Loss of access to Information Communication Technology (ICT) Systems (Voice & Data)
  • Loss of access to Information and Data
  • Inability to source or access Emergency Finance
  • Loss of Partners, Suppliers and Supplies

This year alone, businesses have experienced disruption due to flooding, storms, fires, power cuts and cyber crime. Would your business be able to continue delivery of products or services at acceptable predefined levels following a disruptive incident? If you don’t yet have a plan to cover all eventualities your business is at risk and could benefit from a Business Continuity Plan.

Business Continuity

 

 

 

 

Here are 5 ways that Business Continuity Plans Reduce Risk and Improve Profitability

1.Improve efficiency, develop systems for growth and use resources to increase revenue

Considering the effects of all potentially disruptive incidents relevant to your business and the risk they present involves reviewing business processes. This often reveals opportunities for cost savings and greater efficiencies.

A key area is in the use of new IT platforms and applications. Greater IT efficiencies means lower labour costs and better time management. Wouldn’t you prefer to spend more time with your clients and less time managing IT?

2. Become a more competitive supplier

Prepared businesses are more competitive to win contract awards and grow revenues.

If your business is part of a supply chain, or customers can choose between you and your competitors, you need to have a plan; one that will help you even if you don’t experience a disaster.

Government regulations or contractual obligations mean that to trade with certain time-critical Government functions, as well as supply chain driven industries such as the oil and gas sector and the manufacturing industry, having a tried and tested BCP is a must if you do not want to risk losing your customers and/or your license to operate.

Many organisations now require critical suppliers down the supply chain to have a BCP. So even if you’re a catering supplier, a construction company, a transport supplier or a cleaning company, you can be critical to your customers.

And BCPs are not just valuable to businesses whose customers are other businesses (B2B). Even consumers can be interested in your ability to continue providing products and services no matter what happens. Why not use the existence of your BCP to convince your customers that they are in good hands? This strategy can be applied to numerous sectors, in particular those where health and well-being are at stake, such as hospitality and catering, food suppliers, security providers and utilities.

3. Enhance your reputation and increase resilience

Having detailed plans in place for “the big bang” can also make a business stronger against the far more regular, minor mishaps of everyday life. Responsiveness to small incidents will improve exponentially, considering staff will have a stronger “what if” mind-set, making themselves and the company more resilient and enhancing your reputation.

4. Secure Investment or Funding

Those with a financial interest in a business such as investors and banks are also concerned about a business being sustainable and its ability to continue to operate should adverse events occur. A business continuity plan can help prove the resilience of your company.

5. Lower Your Insurance Premiums

In a recent survey amongst brokers and insurers by the British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA), 83.3% of the respondents said they would either offer a discount or improvement of the terms of business interruption policies, if companies had a plan.

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How best to gather your customers feedback

“Please take a moment to give us your feedback”; it’s the question that will make most people groan with annoyance. It’s everywhere, right? Hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, online retailers; everyone’s asking the question, but does it actually mean anything?

To a business owner, feedback is invaluable. It can tell them what they are doing right, or perhaps what areas require some immediate attention. If done properly it can be a powerful business development tool that increases client retention and sales. The tricky part is finding a sensible system that efficiently gathers feedback, without unintentionally winding up customers. Before jumping in and asking the question, think about these points:

  1. What was good AND bad?

It’s great to hear how happy customers are and how pleased they are with a business, but there’s not much that can be learnt from these positive comments. By asking a customer what wasn’t so good will prompt them to reveal areas of potential improvements and allow a business owner to make important decisions which ultimately, could improve customer retention and increase sales.

  1. Don’t forget your manners

If a customer takes the time to provide you with their feedback, then at the very least a business should respond to thank them for their comments and let them know that their feedback is appreciated. However this is done, the customer will appreciate knowing that their feedback has been acknowledged and that their concerns will be addressed.

  1. Sometimes it’s OK to talk to strangers

Customers may be more inclined to open up to an anonymous person, than to someone that works within the business. The feedback will be more genuine as a customer won’t feel pressured or worried about being honest. This also enables the business to concentrate on running daily operations and time to follow up on the feedback.

 

Then decide how to ask:

There’s a number of different ways to ask for feedback and the key is really knowing your customers and what may be of a hindrance to them. The most successful way of asking for feedback, is a good old-fashioned telephone call and a chat. In our experience, this has the highest response rate and the customer can simply say “no thanks” if they don’t want to talk. Other options include sending an email or creating an online form on your website to direct customers to, then they can fill this in at their own leisure and at a time that suits them if they so wish to.

Alternatively, if you want to make the investment, post them a printed feedback card. Ask them to fill in the card (ideally which has been postage pre-paid) and then pop it in the post back to you.

And finally, review and promote!

Don’t let the process be wasted, use your feedback to enhance your marketing efforts. Publish the comments on your website and via social media or include them in your email campaigns. Offer to include a link back to the customers website (if they have one), as a thank you – this will be beneficial to them, plus it may encourage more customers to provide their feedback.

Set aside time to go through the feedback and evaluate it to pinpoint any issues or concerns and make decisions as to how these could be addressed. It’s not the nicest thing to read your criticisms, but ultimately, it’s how a business learns to adapt and grow.

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Be The Boss You’d Want To Work For

Being a good boss matters

We know that most people working in the UK (at least 60% of employees) aren’t engaged with their work. That means they’re less productive and more likely to leave their job. It’s an expensive situation for employers, but being a good boss can be a good way to start fixing it. So how do you become the boss that you’d want to work for?

Research by Gallup has shown that 81% of people would work better without a manager and that managers are preventing people performing to their full potential. This has led some to say that we should just get rid of all bosses. Perhaps that’s not right for your company, but it does seem that managers are often only needed for small proportion of the time and the rest of the time they’re simply getting in the way.

So how can you be the boss that you’d want to work for? A boss that would provide you with what you need when you needed it and not get in your way.

What does a great boss do?

Whether you run the company or are in your first management role, you can be a great boss. In fact, why wait to get promoted? There are lots of opportunities in organisations to take the lead without having to wait until you’re in a role where you officially manage people.

We’re all individuals and we’ll all be different bosses. That’s OK, it’s the outcomes that matter and it’s important that you manage in a style that’s true to you. So think about it: who’s the best boss you’ve ever had, and why were they so great?

For most people a good boss does some (and ideally all) of the following:

  • Helps them achieve their goals
  • Gives them the freedom to work in a way that works for them
  • Gives them responsibility and supports them to take it
  • Is clear about what the company is trying to achieve
  • Is open and honest
  • Listens to them
  • Gives them credit when it goes right and helps them learn from their mistakes when it doesn’t
  • Tells them when they’re doing a great job (and also when they’re not)

It all sounds quite simple doesn’t it. But my experience is that many bosses become very different people in the workplace to the humans that they are outside. Something weird often happens to us when we take responsibility for managing other people. Now’s the time to bring you “the boss” and “the real you” closer together.

Make the change

I’m not suggesting it’s easy to change your behaviour, especially when you may have been doing the same things for some time. But you’re more likely to change what you do if you can see someone else demonstrating the behaviour that you want to copy. Seek them out. Watch what they do and how they do it. Then practice doing things differently and see what different results you get.

And whilst it can often be embarrassing to admit to our team that we don’t know everything and aren’t as great as we’d like to be at something (especially when that something is being a boss), by showing that you’re aware of your weaknesses and by asking for their feedback and support for your efforts to change, you’ll build a very different kind of relationship with the team which will start you on the way to being the boss that you’d want to work for.

Some say the way you tend to manage people reflects the way you were treated by your very first manager? What was your first boss like? And have you copied them?

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‘VICTORY IN EUROPE’ FUNDRAISING PARTY

I work as a graphic designer at Local Pages and I have channelled my creativeness into fundraising for a few charities during my spare time. One of these charities is called Holly Hedge Animal Sanctuary, based in Barrow Gurney, near Bristol. They rescue abandoned, abused and unwanted cats and dogs and re-home them to local, loving families. Animals have always been a BIG passion of mine, along with an insatiable appetite for finding out all I can about World War 2. I have a profound compassion for ALL animals as well as for the men and women who beat the threat of Nazi Germany. These two interests have combined to help me create a fundraising event which has become hugely popular.

My annual “Victory in Europe” fundraising party is held in May or June each year. This year, we have hired a band called the Kookie Ukes, and also a 15 piece orchestra called the Thornbury Swing Band who play all the traditional numbers from the big band era of music – think Glenn Miller and the like. The event is well attended by swing dancers too. It’s a very energetic form of dance, so plenty of room is needed on the dance floor where you can see some ladies being thrown up in the air! We have a “spiv” character – “Lucky Uncle George” – who is going to do a basic and fun dance lesson at the beginning so everyone can join in.

We also have our very own Normandy Veteran coming along called Reg Charles, who will give a 10 minute talk on his experiences in the infamous 1944 “Battle of the Bulge” in Normandy. He has also agreed to play the piano for us during the interval so that we can have a wartime sing-a-long; tunes like “Hang out your Washing on the Siegfried Line”. It truly is an evening for young and old. Some people come dressed in the fashions of the 40s – as pilots or soldiers, or in everyday attire. We have a NAAFI-style van parked up next to the venue selling teas and coffees as well as delicious homemade cakes, all served up by a couple who dress up in authentic civilian clothing from the era.

We also run a silent auction on the night where lots can range from a 3-day holiday in Normandy, to beautiful 40s-style posters signed by Normandy Veterans. Last year, I managed to obtain a poster signed by the last surviving Dambuster, a local man, and this fetched a massive £156.

Each ticket holder also gets a “ration bag” when they come into the bunting-festooned hall. The ration bags are yet to be decided but will most probably contain a ploughman’s or a pie along with “salt n shake” crisps which were true to the era. I have bought a Kit Kat for each ration bag, taken off the modern day wrapper and recreated the wartime wrapper. I have also made caramelised apple jam for each bag as the wonderful ladies of the WI used to do. Detail is of the utmost importance to create the right atmosphere. I deck the hall with moral-boosting posters from the war too. As a graphic designer, I find it a handy skill to have when organising something like this. We have an actor do the announcing between the bands and the various activities, reading out the cues in his very best ‘Received Pronunciation’ voice.

I was born decades after the war, but you can’t beat the music of Glenn Miller, and the incomparable Frank Sinatra – the big band sound transports you back to a bygone era where local communities pulled together in everyday life as well as business, fashions were fabulous and the spirit of the nation was strong in spite of the hardships. Long may we remember the people who gave up so much for our freedom!

The fundraising event will take place on Friday 27th May 2016 from 7.30pm-11.30pm at the Long Ashton Community Centre.

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Choosing The Right Social Media Platforms

Image Credit: https://edubirdie.com/

 

With so many social media networks available and different people getting excited about different ones, the choice of which social media platforms to choose can be quite overwhelming for busy business owners.

Having been on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook for around 7 years – and Google+ and other networks more recently – here’s how I position the main social networks to people who ask.

LinkedIn for substance – this is a social media platform where we can position ourselves and our businesses, describing who we are, what we do, and why people should care, in the many 2,000 character sections in the profile. Then we can add multi-media, status updates and much more to build a rich picture, to attract, engage and nurture business relationships. As the leading business to business network, with over 400m personal profiles and 8.5m company profiles, being on LinkedIn is a logical choice for B2B professionals and businesses. If you and your business have knowledge and expertise then showcase it on LinkedIn using an educational marketing strategy. If you want business customers or business partners look on LinkedIn.

Twitter for Soundbites – 140 characters creates brevity that makes reading and creating Tweets an art form. It’s a quick way to share a thought, a resource, a moment or an emotion. It’s also an incredibly useful source of information. Want to know how a football or rugby game is going? Look on Twitter. What to know who’s influential about a topic? Check the #hashtags on Twitter. Does your business create, or can you curate lots of quick, short messages? If that suits your business schedule and customer relationship style then get active on Twitter.

Facebook for Family and Friends – and it’s also great for businesses and brands who sell to consumers. It’s also good for local businesses, especially ones where casual, friendly, person to person relationships are a big part of the business essence. If you and your business offer products or services aimed at consumers then you should definitely be present and active on Facebook. If you can create a community feel and involve people in your Facebook activity then you’re onto a winner.

Google+ for SEO – although the Google+ community is not as far reaching as Facebook or Twitter, or as business oriented as LinkedIn, I’ve still found it’s very good for getting status updates indexed because it’s a Google network. So, if you want to appear in search results pages then put status updates including keywords into Google+ with links to your website landing pages or blog articles, and build a power group who will share them on a reciprocal basis.

Many other social media networks exist, such as Instagram and Pinterest, and content network such as YouTube, Slideshare and Periscope. It’s worth having a presence on all networks, even if most are passive place-holders and sign-posts to your primary network.

And I’d say there are three factors to bear in mind when choosing which network(s) to use.

  1. Where are your ideal customers or your target audience if you want referrals or partners?
    Go where your current customers are, because the likelihood is that there will be similar people who are not yet customers on that network. And consider specific audiences such as partners, suppliers, introducers, media, investors etc. as they may be on a different network to your customers.
  2. What type of content do you want to share? If your content is visual then you have a more difficult choice. If it is primarily written then LinkedIn is best.
    If you can make your content visual as pictures and images then check Instagram and Pinterest, if infographics and presentations then look at Slideshare and LinkedIn, or if video then it’s YouTube and Periscope. Having said that, all networks have become much more visual. When a picture says more than a thousand words it’s worth finding a theme about your business that you can show visually. Then choose a network that allows you to really showcase that content, and encourage people to share and distribute it for you.
  3. What type of conversation do you want to have? Chatty and informal or considered and professional?
    If you want to be chatty then Twitter and Facebook are good. If you want to have a more serious business discussion then LinkedIn is better. Each network has an etiquette, and we risk looking out of place if our behaviour is inappropriate.
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Get Found at Local Pages

May is Get Found-Month at Local Pages and we’re aiming to get as many local businesses as possible found online! Add your details to our search site for FREE now by clicking here. If you also like and share our pinned Facebook status you’re in the running of winning a Premium advert on localpages.co.uk, allowing you to include your logo, photos and up to 8 categories (normally £200). Click here to go to our Facebook page.

Don’t own a business? You can still help support your local community by making sure all your favourite local businesses are listed on our search site and if they’re not, why not give them a nudge and encourage them to GET FOUND now? #GetFound

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. #GetFound

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