Incidents of cybercrime have been problematic for a long time, but since the onset of the pandemic, we’ve seen these incidents increase not only in frequency but in elaboration, too. Unfortunately, phishers and hackers have become more adept at successfully targeting small and midsize businesses with their efforts. 

Previously, we’ve addressed how you can improve the security of your online accounts. However, if your organization’s reputation depends on maintaining the security and privacy of customer records, then this insurance is a must. In today’s climate, it’s no longer a matter of “if” but “when” your private business information could be breached, and to what extent. However, with the right precautions in place, you could reduce–and possibly even eliminate–such risk.

Finding the Right Insurance

The best place to start is your current insurance agent or a general insurance broker that you trust. Cybercrime policies are separate policies that cover specific acts, and you will need to read the policy carefully to determine exactly what you are protected from. You should also distinguish between personal and business policies; you may want both.

In a business policy, some of the items you’ll want to consider protection against include:

  • Data breach
  • Ransomware attack
  • Spoofing and identity theft
  • Wire fraud
  • Civil fines
  • Lawsuits
  • Costs of notification, reputation repair, forensics and data restoration, credit monitoring, and other potential damages

A good policy will cover some or all of these costs:

  • Business interruption costs
  • Data breach costs
  • Extortion costs
  • Crisis management and public relations costs
  • Data recovery costs
  • Computer replacement costs
  • The cost of reputational harm

Like any other insurance, you will need to complete an application to obtain a quote. Some of the standard questions you’ll be required to answer include:

  • Type of products and services sold in the business
  • Type of electronic data stored on your computer systems
  • Whether laptops are password-protected
  • Whether you have written network security and privacy policies in place
  • Whether you have physical security procedures in place
  • Whether you have the most current software and processes to keep it upgraded
  • Whether you have backups
  • Whether you monitor unauthorized attempts to access systems
  • Whether you are in compliance with PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act), and GLBA (Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act)
  • Whether you have a written document retention and destruction plan in place
  • Whether you have encryption enabled
  • Whether third parties are involved in data handling
  • Whether you have a process to check copyrights of materials you use
  • Whether you have a risk management education program for employees
  • Your current insurance policies
  • Whether you’ve had a breach in recent years
  • Whether you’ve had any lawsuits or claims in this area
  • Whether you use a firewall
  • Whether you use anti-virus protection
  • Whether you have an employee/third party off-boarding process that terminates access to computers and data

As you can see, the application process itself is an excellent way to “cross your Ts and dot your Is” when it comes to putting safeguards in place for your business. And, of course, your premium will likely be less expensive when you have these precautions and systems in place. It goes without saying that your premium will be less expensive if you get insurance before you are attacked so that you have a clean application.

A key aspect of owning a business is managing enterprise risk effectively. A cybercrime policy will go a long way toward protecting your hard-earned investment and offer you peace of mind, knowing that your business is protected.

There’s more to being financially resilient than simply saving enough money for a rainy day. One aspect of being financially responsible is maintaining good financial records – and making sure the people who will need access to your records, like family members or key business partners, know where to find them if something happens to you. Here are some ideas for your consideration.

Systems and lists

You’re probably managing your accounting through a digital platform like QuickBooks, but what about other tools that supplement your needs? Do you have a chart of your accounting tech stack and ecosystem? What about Excel worksheets that supplement your use of QuickBooks? Is it clear where these can all be accessed? Do your loved ones know how to find these items if something happens to you?

Now that so many things are digitized, it’s not as easy for others to access the intel required to run your business in your absence. Digitization is a critical advancement in business management, but it does make things a bit trickier for your representatives to step in. For example, your financial records might be in a dozen different places on your computer or the cloud. Being organized and planning for a smooth financial future for your loved ones means making a list of instructions on how to access all of your financially-related digital assets. Keep in mind, this information is highly sensitive and should not be shared until it’s absolutely necessary.

Your list might include:

  1. Contact information for your accountant, who will likely have access to your cloud-based accounting software.
  2. A list of banks you do business with.
  3. A list of credit cards that need to be paid monthly.
  4. List of government-related accounts, such as social security and IRS.gov.
  5. List of regular monthly bills, such as utility, credit cards, and rent, plus their associated email accounts.
  6. Details of regular monthly income received.
  7. Where to find financial files on your computer or cloud, such as tax returns, bank statements, and real estate closing documents.

A password management system like LastPass can help you share sensitive and critical data securely and even at a moment’s notice. We can’t stress enough how important it is to keep this information private and secure, and under no circumstance do we recommend sharing this information before it’s necessary.

Backups

If your computer crashes, will you be able to recover your financial files? Taking periodic backups will prevent a loss of records. In the IT world, there’s a common saying that “two is one and one is none.” This means that if you only have one backup file and it fails, you’re left with nothing. Having two backup systems ensures that the data is still preserved even in the event of one failure.

What to keep in case of an audit

You hope it will never happen, but if it does, are you prepared for an audit with the IRS or a state agency? Do you know what records to keep and for how many years?

Financial confidence

Having good documentation, sharing financial knowledge and goals with the right people, and making a backup plan will boost your financial confidence. You will be more prepared than most households when it comes to financial safety.

How financially resilient do you feel? Take into consideration the above ideas to help you stay one step ahead.

The past few years have seen significant kinks in the supply chain due to several reasons: inconsistent buyer behavior, source material scarcity, government shutdowns, and worker shortages, to name a few. What can a business owner do to protect their businesses from shortages that result in revenue loss? Let’s take a look at a few ideas.

Source New Suppliers

Being dependent upon only one supplier for a critical item is risky. Increase your options by finding new suppliers to use as backups or alternates whenever you can. While it’s admirable to buy local, it’s not always possible. Expanding your network will provide you with a lot more flexibility, even if you have to pay a bit extra at times.

Understand Your Timeline

How accurate is your prediction of lead time? Are you providing enough time for ordering and delivery before you need the part in-house? Timelines have changed a lot in the last year. Spend some time reviewing and recalculating lead time if you need to.

Fine-Tune Forecasting

Get skilled at forecasting so that you can anticipate and prevent inventory shortages before they occur. We can help you set up spreadsheets and generate dashboard reports so you’ll have better information for decision-making in this area of your business.

Develop Relationships

The more dependent your business is on a particular supplier, the more you want to develop that relationship. Adding that personal touch might not help you get your orders faster, but when troubleshooting is needed, you’ll enjoy the extra help that a personal relationship can provide.

Increase Communication and Collaboration

Increase communication with your suppliers so they can manage their own timelines and supply chains. Provide them with accurate forecasts and let them know how they can better meet your present and future needs. Remember, it’s within their best interests to serve you as best they can, too.

Audit Inventory Records Frequently

If your inventory balances are only adjusted once a year, inaccurate inventory numbers will likely cause problems. Instead, find ways to take inventory more often or, at the very least, increase the accuracy of inventory balances. The savings will be worth it; you’ll have fewer unexpected out-of-stock or back-order situations that could cost not only a loss in sales but customer loyalty.

Proactively Manage Shipping 

There may be times when paying rush charges on shipping is justified. Actively managing shipping and in-transit items will help you keep a handle on this. When possible, line up alternate shipping methods in the event that one method becomes unreliable. Alternate shipping methods are especially advised with overseas shipments where more can go wrong.

Create a Supply Chain Task Force

If supply chain issues are critical in your business and have cost you profits in the past, it might be time to create a dedicated team to manage and prevent crises. Consider putting together a group of employees who can be responsible for strengthening your supply chain.

Try these ideas to smooth out supply chain woes in your business.

Most large businesses have developed mission, vision, and values statements to help guide them and inform stakeholders about the company’s strategic direction. Going through this strategic exercise is a wonderful idea for even the smallest business as well.

A company’s mission statement lists its core purpose and desired impact for employees, customers, owners, and other stakeholders. A vision statement defines what the company wants to be. A values statement describes what the company stands for.

It’s a perfect activity for business owners to answer and remember why they built the business in the first place. It also serves to correct and re-align the trajectory of the business.

Mission Statement

Start by asking what impact you want your business to have on the outside world. Here are some mission statement examples that are frequently quoted:

  • Harley-Davidson: More than building machines, we stand for the timeless pursuit of adventure. Freedom for the soul.
  • Disney: The mission of The Walt Disney Company is to entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, reflecting the iconic brands, creative minds and innovative technologies that make ours the world’s premier entertainment company.
  • Nike: Nike exists to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. Our purpose is to move the world forward through the power of sport – breaking barriers and building community to change the game for all. *If you have a body, you are an athlete.

Notice how each one is short and simple to understand. They focus more on the big-picture benefits they bring to customers and less on how they will get there.

To write your own mission statement, ask yourself what your business’s purpose is and how you will impact your customers’ lives with your products and services.

Vision Statement

A vision statement is big, bold, and futuristic. What do you want your company to be?

Here are a few examples:

  • Harley-Davidson: Building our legend and leading our industry through innovation, evolution, and emotion
  • Deloitte: We aspire to be the Standard of Excellence, the first choice of the most sought-after clients and talent.
  • Amazon: Amazon strives to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, Earth’s best employer, and Earth’s safest place to work.

What do you want your company to become?  That’s your vision statement.

Values Statements

Values statements are typically a set of adjectives or statements that answer what the company stands for. They can be in the form of leadership principles, core values, or a similar format. These days, they often include values on environmental, social, climate, global, human rights, diversity and inclusion, sustainability, and many other current issues. They can take the form of additional strategic statements on each one of these issues.

Sample values statements can be found in the company’s annual report as well as the About or Company section of their website.

Here are some examples:

  • Harley-Davidson Principles:
    • Communication – Communicate with purpose, structure, facts and inspiration
    • Agility – Accelerate, innovate and thrive in a rapidly changing environment
    • Impact – Focus on impact, not process, and be outcome driven
    • Simplicity – Pursue the simplest path to achieve each outcome
    • Speed – Don’t let perfection get in the way of process and pace
    • Culture – Be fair, honest, positive and creative. Strive to win and have fun.
    • Courage -Take risks and go against the norm
    • Judgment -Think strategically and make informed decisions
    • Focus – Focus on a short list of meaningful opportunities that build desirability
    • Lean – Maximize impact with limited resources
  • Coca-Cola Behaviors We Focus on:
    • Curious
    • Empowered
    • Inclusive
    • Agile
  • Merck Values:
    • Patients first
    • Respect for people
    • Ethics and integrity
    • Innovation and scientific excellence

Your mission, vision, and values statements will help you communicate the qualities of your business. It can help in hiring to see if a candidate’s individual values align with the core corporate values, and with customer acquisition when prospects see what your company is about. It can also help you remember your roots and why you work so hard every day.

We’d love to hear from you when you write up your mission, vision, and values statements.

When growing a business, it’s essential to consider every available opportunity to increase automation. Doing so frees up valuable time and, as a result, can increase profitability. One key area to increase profitability is accounts receivable. Collecting money from customers is a key function in any business, and the more automated this process is, the better. When collecting payments online, options are becoming increasingly available. Here are a few examples of what these methods might look like.

Your Website

You might initially assume that your website is the perfect place to collect payments from customers, but there’s one reason this might not always be the case: security. A typical website is not as secure as it needs to be to collect credit card information from customers. Almost always, you’ll need an additional application to obtain that security. Many web-building platforms allow you to connect to these apps seamlessly, but you can also implement a workaround if necessary. For example, you can direct customers to your website for payment and provide a link to a secure site (a shopping cart with a payment gateway) via a hyperlinked button. In both cases, you’re utilizing the necessary security protocols to protect you and your customers.

A Payment App

A payment system needs to handle three functions:

  1. A shopping cart feature, in which an item is priced and can be added to a basket
  2. A checkout page, where billing information and credit card information can be collected
  3. A behind-the-scenes settlement function, where the money is taken from the customer, held in a merchant account, and then sent to your business

You need shopping cart software to handle the function in the first step. Standard retail solutions include Shopify, WooCommerce, and Magento, to name a few. But these won’t, by themselves, get you paid; they simply process the transaction in a secure environment.

The second step requires a payment gateway application. The most common stand-alone gateway is Authorize.net, and you would typically connect this to your shopping cart.

Your merchant account handles the third step, and sometimes, a separate processor is involved, too. From your merchant account, which is connected to your gateway, you typically get a reconciliation of the daily settlements that hit your bank account. You would also handle customer complaints and disputes with them.

Luckily, credit card companies like Stripe and Square have combined the second and third steps into their platforms in recent years. These platforms act as the gateway, the processor, and the merchant account for a streamlined process. Some vendors go a step further and combine all three functions into one vendor. PayPal is the quintessential example. Additionally, by using WooCommerce and WooCommerce Payments together, you can accomplish the goal of achieving an all-in-one solution.

Getting Paid in Service Businesses

A shopping cart is standard for online retail businesses, but what about service-based businesses? Service businesses that charge in advance can use a shopping cart just like retail.

If a service business bills its customers after the fact, the payment setup is connected to invoice distribution instead of a shopping cart. In this case, you would need to determine which solutions work with your specific billing system and if you’ll need an add-on application to extend your billing system’s capabilities. For example, QuickBooks users can sign up for QuickBooks payments which links your invoice to the customer payment to the bank deposit.

When the invoice is sent to the customer, it will include a payment link the customer can use to pay. These service business payment solutions are fairly industry-specific; for example, you might have noticed that medical offices often use different solutions than beauty care businesses.

Different Choices

When selecting a payment system for your business, you might think that credit card fees are the most important factor to consider. While that’s important, there are some additional considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Strive to understand exactly what each apps’ capabilities are.
  2. Applying for a merchant account is just like applying for a loan. In the past decade, this process has become highly streamlined.
  3. Make sure the system allows you to pull the reports you need, like settlement details, refunds (full and partial) and void processing, failed payments and retries, and dispute resolution.
  4. Establish processes to handle all of the items mentioned above.
  5. Make sure the app you’re choosing can handle the type of billing you need it to, including cart items, recurring payments, after-the-fact invoicing, sales tax, and shipping parameters.
  6. Find out how long it takes for payments to move from collection to bank deposit; this can range from 1-6 days, depending on the provider.
  7. Watch for a high failure rate on customer transactions. If this is the case, it could be that the gateway and merchant account are rejecting perfectly good business because the merchant account’s acceptance rules are stringent. This can happen with merchant accounts tied directly to banks, and the best thing to do is avoid them and look for a different option.
  8. Expect any new provider to hold the first few days of transactions for longer than usual. This is a temporary safety measure and should clear up quickly without action required on your part.

Adding an online payment system is a smart business decision and can save accounting time once you choose the best payment system for your specific needs.