06 Jul 2017
Decades ago, the idea of a cyber attack was unheard of. Today, cyber attacks are incredibly common, with the biggest of them affecting billions of people and costing billions of dollars. CNBC reported that cyber crimes cost the global economy more than $450 billion last year and resulted in the theft of more than two billion personal records.
It can be easy to assume that hackers would be interested in going after the big, multi-national companies and happy to leave small or mid-sized businesses alone. But, that’s not the case. Nearly half of all cyber attacks are targeted at small businesses. Since smaller companies don’t necessarily have the resources or finances to withstand or respond to the attacks, the effects are often devastating. For example, about 60 percent of smaller companies go out of business within a year of the attack.
While you can’t prevent hackers from trying to break in, you can take steps to protect your business’ information and to protect your computers and software from an attack.
Keep Everything Up-to-Date
As newer versions of software and operating systems get introduced, companies often stop offering support and updates for older versions. The problem is that plenty of customers, including business customers, don’t necessarily update their OS or software to the newest models. For example, many companies that were affected by the WannaCry/WannaCrypt attacks in May of 2017 were running Windows XP, which Microsoft had long since stopped supporting. In response, Microsoft had to issue an emergency patch and recently issued a new update to the system, which users need to manually download.
If your business is using any sort of OS or software that’s out-of-date, it’s best to save yourself the headache and upgrade to a newer model. That way, you’ll get timely patches and updates, lowering your computer’s risk of being attacked.
Know Where the Threat Lies
The best way to protect your company from the threat of cyber attacks is to know where the threat could come from. There’s hacking, which is in someone actually breaks their way into your company’s systems and can get access to private information. Then there’s phishing attacks, which is when someone sends a legitimate looking email, pretending to be a bank, the government or another business. The goal of phishing emails is to get you to give up personal and private information, like your passwords.
Another type of attack involves installing “malware,” or “malicious software” on your computer. The WannaCry attacks were an example of malware. The computers affected ended up with a type of software known as ransomware. The hackers threatened to delete information or publish private information, unless the owners of the computer complied with demands.
Protect Company Hardware
Hackers don’t always need to use the internet to get to your business’ private information. In some cases, all they need to do is get their hands on a company laptop or smartphone to get all the details they need. A considerable number of cyber attacks actually occur after a piece of hardware, like a laptop, is stolen.
There are several ways you can protect your company’s hardware. One option is to use good old-fashioned locks. Many laptops feature a small port on the side, designed to be connected to Kensington locks. These locks feature a cord that will tether the computer to a desk. Another way to keep hardware locked is to put locks on the doors of any storage areas for computers and on the doors of your business’ server rooms.
Have a Security Policy
Cyber security begins with your employees. It’s important to have a company-wide security policy in place to let employees know what they are allowed to use company equipment for and what is off-limits. For example, your business’ security policy can state that employees are only able to log into the company’s intranet from a company-owned device. It can also require that employees change their passwords frequently and that they use password protected smartphones and laptops for any company-related work.
Educating your employees about the risk of cyber attacks and giving them tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of a hacker, and potentially making your entire company a victim, is also crucial for your business’ overall security.
Want to learn more about how to protect your business from the threat of a cyber attack or how your business can recuperate financially after an attack? Contact the team at New Direction Capital today.
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23 Jun 2017
Everyone has that nightmare during which they have to give a big presentation. In the nightmare, the person is either wearing pajamas or has completely forgotten to prepare for the speech. Luckily, for most people, that dream remains just that: a dream. But if you’re preparing to pitch to investors, there are some other ways things can go wrong. Here’s what to avoid doing to help ensure that your pitch and presentation goes smoothly.
Pitching Every Investor
Making a pitch to investors isn’t the same thing as buying lottery tickets. Making more pitches doesn’t necessarily increase your chance of getting funding. In fact, pitching to the wrong investor can actually waste your time and the time of the person you’re pitching to.
Some investors are interested in giving money to certain companies, but not to others. It’s up to you to do your research in advance so that you know whether or not the company you’re pitching is one that would actually be willing to fund a business like yours.
Advance preparation can be the difference between getting a funding offer and not getting one. It’s not just a matter of preparing a decent looking presentation and knowing what you’re going to say. You also want to know the financial details of your company, what your market competition is like and who you’re targeting with your service or product. Hiring a virtual CFO can help if you aren’t sure how to analyze your finances or aren’t sure what sort of financial information investors would like to see.
Having a Boring Presentation
Investors don’t want to listen to you drone on and on for five to 10 minutes. A pitch that includes visual aids and that has some pep and pizzazz to it will stand out. Even if your business is going to do something ground-breaking, if you don’t wrap the pitch in something attention-grabbing, few are going to respond to your idea in a positive way.
Making Things Too Complicated
While you do want to avoid having a boring pitch, it’s also important to avoid going too far in the other direction. If you’re using PowerPoint, don’t cram the slides full of information or use lots of animations or sound effects on them. Limit the amount of text on each slide and make sure the text is large enough for everyone to see clearly.
If you’re using graphs or tables on your slides, label the axes of the graphs and limit the amount of information in the tables. A 20 row by 20 column table full of numbers can be pretty overwhelming to look at.
To make sure your pitch doesn’t get derailed by technical difficulties, limit your dependence on technology. The simpler your PowerPoint is, the less likely it will be that something will go wrong. Although using a video can seem like a great way to grab people’s attention, there’s a chance that it won’t play. Plus, the video takes up valuable time, which you could be using to make the pitch.
Taking Things Personally
It’s likely that investors will ask you some questions during your pitch or at the end of it. While some of the questions might seem as if they are attacking you personally or might make you feel upset, it’s important to keep your cool and not take the questioning personally. Remind yourself that it’s just part of doing business and that having investors ask questions means that they are at least somewhat interested in your idea.
Refusing to Negotiate
It would be amazing if you went into a pitch, asked for a certain amount of funding in exchange for a certain amount of equity, and got it. But that is unlikely to happen. If investors are interested in funding your business, they are most likely going to want to negotiate with you. If you refuse to negotiate, you risk walking away from a great funding opportunity. Listen to what the investors are offering and make a counter-offer if you want.
New Direction Capital is here to help you grow your business. If you are preparing to pitch to investors or need assistance deciding which investors are a good match for your company, we can help. Contact us today to learn more.
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What’s the difference between getting the funding you need from an investor or group of investors and not getting the funding? Often times, it’s the pitch. How you present yourself, your company and your product to investors matters. It can be what makes them eager to contribute to your business or what makes them decide to take a hard pass. When preparing your pitch, here’s what you can do to help it go as smoothly as possible and to help it be as successful as possible.
Research the Investors
You want to know who you’re pitching before you start putting together the details of your pitch. That means more than knowing the name of the person or persons you’ll be addressing and the name of the firm. It means having an idea of what types of projects or businesses they’ve funded in the past and what they look for in a company or product.
Finding out small details about the investors, such as where they went to school, what professional groups they work with, and so on, can help you build a rapport with them at the start of the pitch. If a member of your company went to the same college as an investor, it can be helpful to bring that person into the pitch. If you have the same favorite sports team as an investor, bringing that up at some point can help build camaraderie.
Memorize Specific Details About Your Company
Before pitching, you need to have the details about your company completely memorized. Stumbling over questions about your audience or customer base, about financial details or about other funding your business has received won’t go over well.
Make a list of all the details of your company and memorize it before you pitch. It’s also a good idea to keep a copy of the list in your back pocket, so that you can reference it if you completely draw a blank during your pitch.
Create a Story
One generic piece of advice business owners get before pitching is to “stand out” or “grab the investor’s attention.” Great, but how exactly do you do that? One way to set yourself apart from the crowd and to sear your product or brand into an investor’s memory is to create a story to tell during your pitch. The human brain not only follows stories better than lists of information, it also releases certain hormones while hearing stories. Those hormones can influence whether or not an investor decides to fund a company.
Don’t just tell investors about your product, show it to them. If possible, have a sample of what you’re selling on hand for the investors to examine and play with. If you haven’t produced a prototype yet, have images and other visuals available, to give investors a clear idea of what it is you’re hoping to sell.
Keep it Short
The shorter your pitch, the better. Investors are busy people, and they might not have time in their schedules to listen to a 15 or 20 minute pitch. Try to make your pitch shorter than the maximum time allowed. If they give you 10 minutes, take five, for example. A short pitch will only contain the most pertinent information and will let investors know exactly what they want or need to know, without wasting any time.
Take Care of Yourself
Remember to take care of yourself before and during the pitch. It can be tempting to stay up all night the day before your pitch, preparing and fine tuning. But you’ll be more on the ball if you go to bed at a decent hour and get enough sleep the night before.
How you present yourself to investors reflects on your company. Don’t be the person who shows up in a hoodie and jeans. Wear a suit or other business formal clothing, make sure your hair is neatly styled, and try to avoid any accessories that could be construed as distracting or unusual.
You don’t have to prepare to pitch investors alone. With New Direction Capital, you get a virtual chief financial officer who can help you figure out who to pitch, what those investors want to hear and how to get ready for pitching. Contact us today to learn more.
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No business is an island. In order for your company to thrive and grow, it likely relies on the services, products and support of a team of vendors. Without those vendors, you wouldn’t be able to produce the products you sell or keep your office running smoothly. Just as you should focus on building strong and lasting relationships with customers, it’s important to focus on building strong and lasting relationships with your team of vendors. Having an established relationship with vendors can mean a number of benefits for your company, including the possibility of future discounts or business referrals.
1. Get All Your Paperwork Completed Upfront
There’s often a lot of paperwork involved when you work with a vendor. You might have a contract between your business and the vendor’s business. You’ll likely want the vendor to submit a W-9 so that you can issue a 1099 at tax time. To make sure your relationship is off to a good start and to avoid any last-minute, tax-time scrambling, it’s a good idea to get any paperwork out of the way when you begin your relationship. That way, you are both clear about the terms of the agreement from the start. Having your vendors fill in a W-9 or other forms at the beginning lets your accounting and legal teams stay organized.
2. Get on the Same Page With Your Vendors
Relationships are about give and take. You want to share your company’s story and mission with your vendors, so that they can see what you’re about and help you reach your goals. It’s also important to pay attention to your vendor’s wants and needs and to get to know its mission or goals.
For example, if you have a good understanding of how the vendor’s company operates, you can make sure that your team is doing what it can to streamline orders or requests. When your company and the vendor are on the same page, it makes it easier to work together and develop a strategy for your mutual success.
3. Stick to a Schedule
It’s very likely that you feel put out when customers pay late or that your company has to hustle when customers call in last-minute orders or requests. The golden rule really applies when it comes to interacting with your vendors. You want your customers to pay on time, so make sure you pay your vendors on time. If you do have to pay late, call the vendor and someone at the company know. Try to maintain a regular schedule for ordering and requests. If you need to change your schedule or add or reduce the services or products you get from the vendor, give the company plenty of advance notice if you can.
4. Have One Person on Your Team Be the Point of Contact
Things can get confusing quickly and mistakes can happen if more than one person is the contact person for a vendor. Naming one person from your company as the contact for a vendor or having one manager handle all vendor communications will reduce the likelihood of there being any miscommunications or “he said, she said” incidents.
Naming one person as the contact also lets the vendor know who to reach out to with any questions and who to send the invoice to. If your vendors know who to contact, it will be much easier for them to get an answer to a question should any come up.
5. Think of Your Relationship as a Partnership
To return to the idea of a relationship involving a bit of give and take, the success of your business depends in part on how well you work with vendors. The success of those vendors depends in very large part on how well they work with you and their other clients. In that way, your relationship is a bit of a partnership. Some level of loyalty is involved if both your company and your vendor companies want to be able to do their best work.
New Direction Capital is committed to forming strong, long-lasting relationships with the companies it works with. To learn more about how our virtual CFO services can help your business grow, contact us today.
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Whether you are working with a potential employee to determine a salary and benefits package or speaking with a competitor about selling your company or buying a different one, negotiating is a key part of owning a successful business. When you negotiate, you are working with another party to put together an agreement that somehow benefits all parties involved. You might not get everything you want out of the deal, but in some cases, that’s better than no deal at all. Here’s what you can do to improve your negotiating skills and increase the likelihood of reaching an agreement that suits everyone.
Make a Plan
Before you walk into any negotiation, you need to have a plan. Write out the things you want to discuss during the meeting and what your ideal goals for the negotiation are. Ideally, you’ll draw up a few plans before you start the negotiating process.
Plan A can be your ideal plan or the outcome that you’d like to have come about in a perfect world. Plan B can be an acceptable plan but not your preferred outcome. Try to think about how the person you are negotiating with will react and what you can do to steer the negotiation in the direct you want it to go. Making plans and lists beforehand prepares you for a variety of possible situations and helps you avoid losing your cool at the table.
Don’t Be Afraid to Go First
One common piece of negotiating advice is to always let the other party make the first move or offer. But it might actually be in your best interest to go first. A study from Harvard Business School found that people who make the first offer typically come out ahead in a negotiation. That’s because that first offer acts as a sort of anchoring point for the negotiation. The first figure you offer can sway the other party to adjust their offer either higher or lower. For example, if you are negotiating salary with someone and you offer $100,000 off of the bat, the potential employee might lower their counteroffer to be more in line with your initial offer.
Additionally, if you are selling something and you start the negotiation with a price of $5,000, the buyer might adjust their asking price upward, even if the item you’re selling isn’t really worth $5,000. The Harvard study points out that high anchor prices make people focus on the good features of the item on offer and help them ignore the not-so-great features.
Flexibility is a key part of a negotiation. After all, a successful negotiation usually involves a fair amount of give and take from both parties. When you’re making your plan, include a few things that you can give up or that wouldn’t be the end of the world if they weren’t included in the final deal. When you prepare for the negotiation in advance, it’s a lot easier to be flexible with the person you’re working with.
Another way to improve your flexibility during a negotiation is to try to see things from the other party’s perspective. You might not want to match 10 percent of contributions to an employee’s retirement plan. Ask yourself why the potential employee wants that and what you can offer as a suitable alternative.
Walk Away If Necessary
It’s important to remember that being flexible during a negotiation doesn’t mean completely giving up everything you want to get out of it. It’s not really a negotiation if the other party gets everything they want and you get nothing.
When you’re making your list of goals and plans for the negotiation, include numbers or terms that are your absolute deal breakers. For example, if a potential employee won’t budge from a $150,000 salary, but you can only afford $125,000, it’s OK to move on. If a buyer won’t pay more than $3,500 for your product, but you know it’s worth $4,000 and that you can get $4,000 from someone else, walk away.
Don’t necessarily slam the door shut when you walk away, though. The other party might change their minds after having some time to reflect on the situation. Or, they might realize that $4,000 isn’t too much to pay for a product they need.
There will come a time when you need to negotiate. If you’re nervous about heading to the negotiating table or aren’t sure where to start the planning process, the team at New Direction Capital can help. Our virtual CFO can help your team develop the negotiation techniques and skills it needs to grow your company and take your business to the next level.
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