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Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Update by Robert Beagle,
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Managing The 4 Pillars For A Healthy Small Business

As a small business owner, it is easy to get so wrapped up in the web of daily operations that you may never notice inefficiencies in the system until it is too late. A study conducted by the Siemens Enterprise Communications group found that inefficient communications alone cost SMBs $5000 per employee every year. Add to this the inefficiencies in manufacturing, distribution, technology, etc. and you can see the costs add up pretty quickly.

 

As an operations consultant, I work with companies to weed out these inefficiencies. Over time, I have realized that the best way to approach the problem is by identifying the four pillars that contribute to the health of an SMB. By independently tackling the challenges in these four pillars, it is possible to handle growth regardless of how quickly it happens.

 

Organization Standards: Many times, small businesses dismiss the standards and processes that are followed in larger corporations as a symptom of bureaucracy and red-tape. There is no doubt that a number of large companies do suffer from red tape arising from unnecessary processes. But that does not make the concept of following due processes redundant. According to Aaron Chatham, tech architect and blogger, one of the optimal ways to bring this about is through establishing an organizational structure. By deploying governance toolsand process consultants, your business can ensure that the team structure is agile and ready to handle any scale of business.

 

Security: Security is often an overlooked aspect of small business management. The underlying assumption is that only large businesses are targeted by hackers and malware distributors. But according to a report published by Kaspersky labs, over 60% of small and medium-sized businesses are victims of malware-based data attacks every year. It is important for small business owners to realize that keeping the security infrastructure of your organization is like buying yourself (delete an) insurance – the investment often seems like wasted expenditure. But when you do need it, you will need it quite badly. By constantly upgrading your security and backing up your data, you can avoid the one inefficiency that can potentially put you out of business.

 

Growth Management: When a company grows, it is not just the revenues that multiply. The churn, expenses, inefficiencies, red tape – they all multiply too. It is important that the business owner always has a plan in place for the next phase of growth. So how do you do it? The first step is to make every staff and tool in your company replaceable. That is, there should not be an employee in your company that is the sole authority on any particular process. This way, when any employee leaves the company, you can be rest assured that your business will move along fine without any hitch. Also, when your company grows, you can always ensure that you have people to multi-task and take care of the main points without delays due to recruiting additional staff.

 

Life-Cycle Management: The fourth and final pillar of a healthy SMB is proper management of your product life-cycle. As your business grows, there is an inevitable rise in the number of SKUs handled, the time to market and wastage. Through an optimized product life-cycle management process, you can efficiently handle the wastage and optimize the time to market. While the processes to optimize life-cycle management can be learned, it is always advisable to hire a PLM consultant to help you with establishing a process.

 

Author Bio: Ian McGrath is a lean manufacturing consultant who works with businesses on identifying operational inefficiencies and helps them optimize their work processes.


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Monday, July 21, 2014
Update by Brawlin Melgar, Lead Publisher
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3 Things SMBs should do about Tech Security Threats

by Aakash Patel

 

Over the past few months, technology companies around the world have been tackling one of the largest security threats. According to cyber security columnist Joseph Steinberg, today [security threats] are the  “worst” since “commercial traffic began to flow on the Internet.”

 

One big threat to SMBs is called “Heartbleed”. this is a serious vulnerability on OpenSSL, which is one of the widely used security protocols. SMBs have to deal with confidential customer data. Many SMBs have  opted for OpenSSL because it is inexpensive to implement and manage.

 

Here are three things that SMBs should consider in order to minimize tech security threats from smartphones.

 

1. Migrate To The Cloud :There are a number of  software tools that SMBs use that are vulnerable because of the deployment of outdated technologies. Migrating to high quality cloud-based services could help. Cloud-based applications are continually maintained for quality and security purposes. For Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), you can choose Epicor,a NetSuite partneror many others. These consulting companies handle the implementation and managing of cloud ERP in your business as a managed service.

 

2. Have a BYOD Policy : The use of smartphones has become predominant. Today, most employees make use of their smartphones to do work-related things such as checking emails, transferring documents and making work related calls. This is a vulnerability because third party devices could be the source of malware attacks.

 

Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) is here to stay. One really cannot prevent the use of employee's personal devices at work. The optimal solution is to have an elaborate BYOD policy that permits smartphones and personal laptops only after they have been reviewed and authorized by your network security person or department.

 

3. Hire A Consultant : Hiring a consultant will provide you with a go-to person who will advise you on all things relating to IT security such as upgrading software or changing your communication systems. A security consultant will help you with the process better than just doing it yourself.

 

What other policies and pointers do you think would help your business against cyber security? Write to us in the comments below.

 

Author Bio :Aakash Patel is an IT consultant with 8 years of experience in cloud and IT security. He works predominantly with SMB clients in India, Canada and the United States. 


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Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Update by Robert Beagle,
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Frontier Communications Partners with Zipwhip

Frontier Texting offers additional capabilities to traditional phone lines by enabling business customers to send and receive texts using their existing phone numbers

Text or call, one number does it all

STAMFORD, Conn., July 1, 2014 - Frontier Communications Corporation (NASDAQ: FTR) today announced a partnership with Zipwhip, Inc. that allows its business landline numbers to become text messaging channels to advance business communications. Frontier Texting powered by Zipwhip gives businesses the ability to connect with customers who choose the convenience of text messaging as their preferred means of communication.

With Frontier Texting, Frontier customers can text, or receive a text from, a business’ existing landline or toll free number. The message is then pushed at the same time to the business’ Internet-connected devices, such as a laptop, desktop, smartphone, or tablet. A business user can then reply back from whatever device they’re on using a Frontier Texting app powered by Zipwhip.

“Adding text messaging to a voice-only line helps businesses handle orders, remind customers of appointments, and answer customer inquiries through a medium that is both familiar to and popular with their customers,” said Ann Burr, President, New Product Trials and Integration for Frontier. “Best of all, the messages go straight to the customer’s texting app on their mobile phone—eliminating the need to download and manage a new app.

“It’s a competitive advantage for businesses that maximize the technology they already have in place, combining the reliability of a landline, and the ‘reach me anywhere’ nature of a mobile device,” Burr added. “Frontier Communications recognized the need for an industry shift to support texting, and we're committed to driving that innovation with Zipwhip while expanding the value of reliable landlines.” Zipwhip data shows that customer engagement rates spike while at the same time business efficiency increases when adding text capability to your main business phone line.

“Zipwhip’s vision has always been that every phone number should be textable,” said John Lauer, CEO of Zipwhip. “While 330 million U.S. mobile numbers are text enabled, 200 million fixed line numbers are not. This is a huge opportunity for businesses and their customers to deliver texts from mobile subscribers to existing business landline and toll free numbers. Frontier’s partnership with Zipwhip to add texting to their full base of business phone lines represents the first significant shift in what we believe will become the new norm for consumer-to-business communication--text or call, one number does it all."

About Frontier Communicatons

Frontier Communications Corporation (NASDAQ: FTR) offers broadband, voice, satellite video, wireless Internet data access, data security solutions, bundled offerings, specialized bundles for residential customers, small businesses and home offices and advanced communications for medium and large businesses in 27 states. Frontier's approximately 13,700 employees are based entirely in the United States. More information is available at www.frontier.com.

About Zipwhip

Zipwhip, Inc., a Seattle based technology provider, pioneered the concept of utilizing the cloud to enable existing mobile, landline and toll free numbers to send and receive text messages from virtually any connected desktop, tablet or smartphone. Additionally, Zipwhip offers a carrier-grade texting platform to help mobile and landline operators modernize the text messaging medium. Its technology introduces trailblazing functionality while holding true to the distinct culture of texting that consumers have grown to love. More information is available at zipwhip.com.


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Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Update by Andy Wendt, Editor
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6 Ways You Might Be Destroying Your SMB's Credibility

As an entrepreneur or the owner of a business organisation, your business credibility determines how successful you are, as it tells people – your current and future client base, business peers and potential alliances, your employees and even your competitors – what to expect of you and your business.

This is your business reputation and without a good reputation, i.e. one that tells others they can trust you and that you’re someone they want to do business with, what exactly do you have?

This reputation springs not only from your personal actions, the way you interact with others and the way you present yourself, as it also springs from, amongst other things, the way your office and website are presented as they too are indicators that help others to form an opinion about you and the business organisation you represent.

Alt text: Types of source credibility

Image Credit: OUCOMM5453, license Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f2/Dynamics_of_Source_Credibility.jpg

Here are six ways in which you may be destroying your business credibility:

Failing to deliver what you have promised

Never make promises you can’t deliver as this is a sure-fire way to destroy your business credibility and undo all the hard work you’ve put in – bear in mind that business credibility can be difficult to build but it’s very easy to destroy.

We’ve all found ourselves in situations in which there’s a sense of urgency to deliver, and often to deliver right now, but you’ll find that only by making promises you can deliver will your business credibility remain intact and strengthen over time.

Misusing social media

Social media has emerged as one of the most important tools business entrepreneurs and business organisations can employ, but to use it incorrectly opens the door onto a world of possibilities that could destroy your credibility for somewhere between the foreseeable future and forever.

Social media posts won’t go away, so never post anything you may regret

Avoid political issues, particularly divisive political issues, like the plague

·         Never mix your business and personal lives

·         Don’t make the mistake of creating fake accounts to increase your ‘likes’

·         Keep everything you post transparent and politically correct

Social media has the potential to make or break your business credibility – make it, don’t break it.

Telling people what they want to hear

People love to be flattered but it’s a mistake to tell people what they want to hear if they’re going to be let down – nothing destroys credibility in business or any other area than hurt feelings.

Instead of telling people what they want to hear, look for ways to soften the blow the truth is often capable of delivering – they mightn’t like to hear it but it’s less dangerous for you and often for them as well.

Not delivering excellent website experiences          

Your website is often the first contact that potential clients will have with your business organisation and if you’re not delivering outstanding user experiences the credibility of your business organisation is going to take a dive.

·         Make the content on your website interesting and useful to your audience

·         Ensure webpages load quickly

·         Optimise webpages and content for readability

·         Understand the importance of good website design

·         Use data analytics to understand your website and the experiences it delivers

·         Showcase customer testimonials and organisation logos

·         Put pictures of yourself and your staff on your website

The more professional your website, the better the impression it will make and the more credible your business organisation come across as.

Trying to be something you’re not

Credibility is based on honesty, transparency, truth and trust, none of which you’re conveying when you try to be someone you’re not, plus it’s a difficult façade to maintain and when you’re exposed your credibility will quickly crumble.

Everybody has weaknesses and flaws and whilst it won’t do you any favours to tell the world what they are, trying to cover them up by pretending to be something you’re not shows you’re not only disingenuous and untruthful, but that you also lack self-confidence which is just as bad for your credibility.

Working from an unprofessional workspace

As with your business website, the workspace you operate from says a lot about your business organisation and how credible it is, and like your website, your business’s office space is often the first contact potential clients will have with your business organisation.

Businesses and entrepreneurs operating from home should consider options like virtual offices so as to put their best foot forward and make favourable impressions.

Credibility is incredibly important in business because it tells others what to expect from you and your business organisation. Moreover, an excellent way to view credibility in business is that it’s difficult and often time consuming to build but easy to destroy, in fact; you can destroy your credibility in an instant. 


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