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Your Company is a Castle. Are You Prepared to Protect It From Invaders?

Paranoia is a good thing, especially in the realm of cybersecurity.

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Paranoia is a good thing, especially in the realm of cybersecurity.

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April 21, 2021 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As the CEO of a national information technology consulting firm, I have asked hundreds of clients, “What keeps you up at night?” While I get a lot of answers, most of these answers can be summed up in four words: fear of the unknown. I often joke to my staff that I get paid to be paranoid, whether it’s losing a sales deal, anticipating competitor movements or even dealing with politics within my clients. In business, I see paranoia as a strength, allowing me to acknowledge that there are many unknowns that can affect a situation and force me into thinking through multiple scenarios for planning. Much like chess, thinking many steps ahead helps my team anticipate and plan for clients shifting priorities, competitor moves or staff changes.

One area in particular that I continue to be very paranoid in is cybersecurity. My business works with many Fortune 500 companies and Department of Defense agencies that take cybersecurity very seriously, and this seriousness flows down to us. With almost every client, we have contracts and agreements to adhere to our clients’ cybersecurity policies. As the CEO, it’s my responsibility to ensure we meet these standards and agreements to protect my clients’ information. In addition, it’s my responsibility to protect the personal data of the employees that they have entrusted to us.

A security breach can have devastating effects on our business and the trust we hold with our clients and employees. Perhaps a company like Equifax can survive getting 148 million client records hacked, but losing the trust of my clients and employees could put us out of business.

Protecting the data of our clients and employees can be a daunting task, especially with 150 employees and contractors interacting with our clients on a daily basis. On a day-to-day basis, I am responsible for protecting all this data. However, I have no idea what information is being accessed, downloaded or emailed in and out of our company.

Related: 3 Cybersecurity Measures to Ensure Safety in 2021

Who has the keys to the castle?

When talking to my staff about cybersecurity, I compare the company to a castle with lots of doors and entry points. Our job is to ensure that all the entry points are protected to keep unwanted intruders out. But it’s equally as important to ensure no information gets out, either accidentally or maliciously. This includes information in the digital and physical space.

Once an army crosses the moat, all bets are off. And, as Game of Thrones has taught us, an insider letting in an invader through some secret entrance subverts all the precautions. Never underestimate the threat humans have in your cybersecurity strategy. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and people are the weakest link.

As you think about your strategy for cybersecurity, focus on the three Fs: find, fund and fix. And this is where paranoia comes in handy. Think of all the scenarios that can come about. Be prepared, because this can be a dark exercise. Some basic scenarios to think about are:

  • What if someone loses their laptop or phone?

  • What if someone compromises their password?

  • What if an employee downloads unauthorized data?

  • What if an employee intentionally tries to forward data to a third party?

Once you pull the thread on these questions, there are all kinds of bad scenarios that surface. And, you’ll probably start realizing there are way too many open doors to your castle.

Another key strategy to find your cybersecurity gaps is to compare your security tools, also known as your security stack, to standards published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology or the International Organization for Standardization. This process can be laborious, but if you Google “tools rationalization,” you can find some companies that can automate this for you.

Related: 6 Cybersecurity Must-Haves for Your Business

Ignorance is a liability

As a CEO, you don’t have to be an expert in cybersecurity, but the risks and impact of breaches are too great to not become educated. Start understanding the terms like social engineering, phishing, ransomware, and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS). You need to understand the risks of the third-party applications you rely on and your new cloud computing initiatives. You also need to know solutions that you may be asked to fund, such as Single Sign-On (SSO), Multi-factor Authentication (MFA), Mobile Device Management (MDM), and Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB).

Ultimately, the decisions on these investments fall on the company leadership, many of whom will never understand the technical details of cybersecurity technology, risks, frameworks, etc. The key is to relate the cybersecurity risks to business objectives, like customer experience, financial management, supply chain, reputation and brand protection so they can understand where to make the best investments based on their business objectives.

When it comes to cybersecurity, paranoia is a good thing. It keeps you on your toes and you can use it to find your risk blind spots. Once you uncover your vulnerabilities, you can take action on them.

Related: A Business Leader’s Beginner Guide to Cybersecurity

Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/entrepreneur/latest/~3/6OVrXUZo7IQ/368453

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The Unbearably High Price of ‘Free’

Using the word ‘free’ in your marketing is a quick way to get attention, but it’s also a double-edged sword that has tripped up a lot of businesses.

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Using the word ‘free’ in your marketing is a quick way to get attention, but it’s also a double-edged sword that has tripped up a lot of businesses.

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June 13, 2021 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

One of the most powerful words in the English language is the term “free.” Do any of these phrases sound familiar?

  • “Buy one get one free.”
  • “Get a free gift with purchase, valued at $499.”
  • “Get a free eye examination.”
  • “Try our membership for FREE.”
  • “Get FREE delivery”

It seems like just about every company uses some kind of “free offer” in their marketing. So why is the term “free” used so liberally?

Because, frankly, it works — by appealing to our basic human emotion of greed.

The word “free” has appeared in more advertisements than there are grains of sand on a beach. And it goes way back to the genesis of advertising when giving free samples was the best (and only) new way to get customers. So what makes “free” work so well?”

Free gets attention. It makes people feel like they are getting a great deal. On a subconscious level, it works in reverse, too — you feel like you’re missing out if you don’t take advantage of something for free.

But using the word “free” in your marketing can be a double-edged sword, especially if you don’t use it correctly.

Related content: The 5 Triggers of Psychological Pricing

Is there a wrong way to use the term “free” in your marketing?

Absolutely. There are thousands of ways that using the term “free” in your marketing can trip you up, reduce your product or service value, and do irreparable damage to your brand.

Let me give you a real example. One of our clients was in the business of producing extremely high-end Italian-made leather shoes and bags for men. Their most famous pair of boots retailed for $3,500. Their most popular bag, a messenger-style laptop bag, retailed for $950. The company’s previous marketing agency advised them that the best way to double their boot sales would be to offer the messenger bag for free.

As far as irresistible offers go, that’s a pretty good one, and it did in fact, increase sales of the boots — in the short term. But it was a strategic disaster in the long term because now they had conditioned their clients to expect the messenger bag for free.

In other words, by offering it for free, they had completely devalued that product (remember it was the company’s top-selling bag.) Even worse, by offering something of high perceived value for free, they had also damaged their own luxury brand. Why would people ever pay full price again?

The good news is that people have a short attention span, and with the right strategic pivot and messaging, you can erase the damage of using “free.” But it takes time.

The same dangers apply when you start using discounts in your business. If you discount your products, why would people ever pay full price? They just wait for them to go on sale. When our Italian client came to us, they had a branding and sales disaster on their hands through no fault of their own. Fortunately, we were able to get them out of their pickle by repositioning their products and reinventing their brand — a move that resulted in them being purchased eighteen months later by a competitor.

Moral of the story: Using a free offer can be a slippery slope and must be used sparingly and carefully.

Related: The Price Is Right: How to Price Your Product for Long-Term Success

Before using “free” in your business, ask yourself:

  • Does this have a real value that we depend on for revenue?
  • By offering this item or service for free, will this adversely impact another related service or product (for example, if you offer the first consult for free, and expect to be paid for all future consults)?
  • Why are we considering offering something for free? What else could we offer that would help us achieve the same result?
  • What if it’s not your business using “free”, but your competitors?

    Now, if you’re on the other side of the fence and your competitor is offering something for free that you are charging for, it’s time to put your marketing into high gear.

    Just because there is no money exchanged doesn’t mean that it’s not paid for in other ways — for example, in lost time, huge frustration or poor quality.

    Think of the experience and quality of “free” healthcare versus a private plan. Draw these analogies in your marketing to establish your value in the minds of your clients.

    “Free” is still a mighty word used to grab attention in marketing. But handle with extreme caution, and don’t be lured into using it to stimulate short-term sales at the expense of long-term growth.

    Related: 3 Lessons About Setting Your Price Learned From a Vegas Prostitute

    It seems like just about every company uses some kind of “free offer” in their marketing. So why is the term “free” used so liberally?

    Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/entrepreneur/latest/~3/-ft2fOOD5wI/372155

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    Entrepreneur

    Have You Stashed Too Much Money in Your Emergency Fund?

    Think you’re totally set with a full year of expenses set aside in an emergency fund? Hold up. You might have too much socked into liquid assets. Read on to learn more about how much is too much for your emergency fund.

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    Think you’re totally set with a full year of expenses set aside in an emergency fund? Hold up. You might have too much socked into liquid assets. Read on to learn more about how much is too much for your emergency fund.

    Free Book Preview Money-Smart Solopreneur

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    June 10, 2021 6 min read

    This story originally appeared on MarketBeat

    Last year heralded the case for a robust emergency fund. As people lost jobs left and right due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you probably checked and double-checked your emergency fund (I know I did).

    However, have you ever thought about how so much of a good thing can be just that — too much? Your emergency fund could end up way too plump.

    Where People Usually Put Their Emergency Funds

    Where do most people stash money in order for it to remain truly accessible? Most people put their funds in one of the following categories:

    • High-yield savings accounts: You usually find high-yield savings accounts at online banks, not at brick-and-mortar banking institutions. (They don’t have much overhead due to their status as online banks, so they can offer higher returns.) High-yield savings accounts usually earn around 0.50% annual percentage yield (APY).
    • Money market accounts: A money market account, also called a money market deposit account, offers a deposit account that pays you interest based on current interest rates in the money markets. You can find money market accounts at local banks. Money market accounts often come with a debit card and check-writing capabilities.
    • Checking or savings accounts: You won’t earn much interest with checking or savings accounts at a brick-and-mortar bank. Earnings for both of these types of accounts can range from 0.03% to 0.04%. However, you can access your money at any time, which means that these accounts offer major liquidity.

    Any of these options make sense because you can easily get your money out when you need it. However, if you put too much money into any one of these, you could risk a lack of growth and put yourself at a disadvantage, tax-wise.

    Before you choose the right vehicle for you, check rates, fees and withdrawal rules.

    Too Much of a Good Thing Can Be Too Much

    Emergency savings offers so many great things — to a point. Let’s take a look at the downsides to putting an overly large amount in your emergency fund.

    Downside 1: Your money may not grow.

    Where do people usually park an emergency fund?

    Somewhere liquid and highly accessible, like a money market account or a high-yield savings account, right? You want to have access to that money the second your boss says, “Sorry, but I have some bad news…”

    Here’s the deal. Let’s say you save $1,000 at 0.01% APY. After a year, you’ll end up with just $1,000.10. If you put the same $1,000 in a retirement account that earns 6%, you would earn $1,062 after a year. See how you could lose out?

    Most accounts that offer a safe haven for your money often don’t offer ample returns.

    The average stock market return hovers around 7%, three times higher than any high-yield savings account rate offered anywhere today.

    Downside 2: You could lose out on the tax front.

    When you focus on saving in your emergency fund too much, you may neglect your tax-advantaged retirement accounts, which could include 401(k) plans, IRAs, 457 plans or 403(b) accounts.

    Let’s say you have the opportunity to contribute $6,000 into a traditional IRA. Your contributions get deducted from your taxable income. You would only pay taxes on the remaining balance.

    Let’s say you make $60,000 per year. Your taxable income automatically gets reduced $6,000 to $54,000 from your traditional IRA tax deduction.

    What happens when you save your money in a high-yield savings account instead of a tax-advantaged account? You miss out on that reduced taxed income.

    Downside 3: You may not clear out your debt.

    You may hear so much about the importance of emergency funds that you ignore the fact that you still need to pay off debt. That begs the question: What kind of debt do you have? Credit card debt? Student loan debt? You may want to pay down those debts first and then tackle your emergency fund. Or you can save $1,000 for emergencies to start out and then tackle any outstanding debt.

    Downside 4: You may sacrifice other goals.

    When you don’t contribute to your kids’ savings accounts, to your own retirement or maybe even save for a down payment on a house, stop and ask yourself why.

    A gargantuan emergency savings might not mean much when you’re stuck putting a vacation on a credit card or forgoing a child’s college savings account altogether.

    So… How Much Should Go in Your Emergency Fund?

    Obviously, this answer depends on a few factors, including your current income amount. Many financial experts advise saving three to six months’ worth of living expenses.

    For example, let’s say you generally spend about $4,000 per month on general expenditures, such as your mortgage payment, utilities, food, health care premiums and other items. You should save between $12,000 and $24,000.

    However, you may want to adopt the 3/6/9 rule instead, depending on your job situation. In other words, you may want to:

    • Save three months of expenses if you have a steady paycheck, have no mortgage or dependents.
    • Save six months of expenses if you have a steady paycheck, have a mortgage or dependents.
    • Save nine months of expenses if you have irregular income or if you are the only one in your family who earns money.

    How Much Equals Too Much in Your Emergency Fund?

    As you can see, it’s easy to have too much in your emergency fund. If you find that you’ve stashed more than six months’ worth of emergency money in your account and have a steady paycheck, no mortgage or dependents, ease up.

    Carefully consider whether you have too much in your account based on the stability of your income and the number of people depending on you. You may also consider the level of support you receive from others. (Your parents might love it if your family moved in if it came down to it!)

    When you do decide on the right amount, automate transfers so they occur each and every week or month. That way, you don’t have to think about saving — it just happens.

    Featured Article: What is an overbought condition?

    Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/entrepreneur/latest/~3/YHuKBmQ-q-o/374198

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    How to give good feedback to your collaborators?

    The feedback process must be close and continuous.

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    The feedback process must be close and continuous.

    Free Book Preview: Unstoppable

    Get a glimpse of how to overcome the mental and physical fatigue that is standing between you and your full potential.

    June 8, 2021 1 min read

    This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

    This story originally appeared on Querido Dinero

    Feedback is the analysis of a person from different perspectives to show what they do very well and accelerate their professional career, but also what they need to improve because it slows their growth.

    The difference with the evaluation of results is that the feedback process must be close and continuous, and when implemented correctly it generates relationships of trust .

    We tell you how to make it a natural practice in your company:

    The difference with the evaluation of results is that the feedback process must be close and continuous, and when implemented correctly it generates relationships of trust .

    Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/entrepreneur/latest/~3/ZMAaeXpe1Pg/373943

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