Business owners devote a vast amount of time, effort and money into launching a venture, getting it off the ground and keeping it afloat. There are always risks involved in managing a company, but some obstacles and hazards can be more dangerous than others.
In this guide, we’ll explore some common threats businesses face and discuss proactive steps you can take to protect your company.
Reducing the risk of cyberattacks and data breaches
Cybercrime is one of the most significant dangers for businesses operating in the 21st century. It’s understandable to assume that hackers only target multinationals with millions of customers and thousands of employees, but in reality, every company is vulnerable.
More than 60% of small businesses reported cyberattacks in 2018. Cyberattacks can be costly in terms of losing sales and downtime, but they can also impact your reputation. Customers want to buy from brands that they can trust and breaches can make consumers think twice.
There are several steps you can take to lower the risk of falling foul to cybercriminals and hackers. One of the most important factors to consider is human error. Nobody is perfect, and statistics suggest that the majority of breaches occur as a result of mistakes or a lack of due care and attention.
Providing cyber security awareness training, implementing robust cyber security policies and talking to employees about the importance of maintaining strong defenses can play a huge part in protecting networks and systems and shielding sensitive data.
Encourage your employees to use secure networks, introduce measures like multi-factor authentication and ensure that employees change their passwords on a regular basis. Offer training to spot spam and suspicious emails and enforce extra measures if you have a BYOD (bring your own device) policy.
If you don’t have an in-house IT department or IT experts on your team, it’s wise to consider working with an external agency to provide cyber security and IT support. Experts can analyze your systems and check devices to determine how robust your defenses are and identify improvements and plug gaps.
Protecting physical premises
If you own or rent a store, a warehouse, a restaurant or any other form of physical premises, it’s beneficial to invest in security to reduce the risk of theft and damage. Commercial premises can be attractive to thieves because they often contain valuable stock. Use alarm systems, cameras and deterrents like security lighting, fences and window and door shutters and guards to lower the risk of burglaries.
Avoid keeping large sums of cash on-site and if you do have items that are worth a lot of money, consider keeping them in a locked room or employing security services to patrol the site. CCTV is beneficial because it not only acts as a deterrent, but it also provides footage, which could be useful in the event of a break-in.
Shielding and enhancing your reputation
Brand reputation is key in a world where most consumers now read reviews before making a purchase or choosing a business or retailer. A positive review can make the difference between completing a deal or losing out to a rival. With social media and 24-hour news, there is also a risk of bad press or negative stories going viral in a matter of seconds.
For business owners, it is always a good idea to try and protect and enhance your reputation. Ensure that you make promises that you are able to deliver on, be honest and open with customers and offer a solution or an explanation as quickly as possible if you do encounter any issues, for example, customer complaints or delayed deliveries.
Put customers first, provide customer service training for your employees and make every client feel valued. Implement a social media policy for employees and use your company’s social media feeds and profiles to showcase your brand ethos and personality. Respond to customer comments and questions promptly and try to deal with negative feedback constructively.
Many businesses are enhancing their brand image and attracting customers by supporting good causes or joining initiatives or partnerships that benefit charities, communities or projects. If you are passionate about the environment or conservation, helping those in need or creating opportunities, have you thought about teaming up with an organization or donating to nonprofits?
From planting trees to donating a portion of your profits to an animal shelter or a children’s charity, there are many ways to do good. By lending your support, you can enhance your reputation and show customers the human side of your brand.
Making your customers feel safe
Protecting your business is not just about reducing the risk of damage to stores or making sure your networks are secure. It also means ensuring that your customers are safe. If your clients don’t feel safe, they may consider shopping or spending their money elsewhere. Whether you have physical stores, cafes or hotels, or you run an online business, your customers should feel safe.
Ensure your premises are fully compliant with health and safety guidelines and legislation, introduce extra measures to make consumers feel confident during the pandemic and make sure that your website is secure.
If customers are making payments via an app or a website, you want to encourage them to complete the process and place an order without having any worries about what happens to their data and personal information. It’s important to carry out regular risk assessments and audits to ensure that every box is crossed.
Protecting against natural disasters
Natural disasters may not be a major threat to every business, but there are risks associated with unpredictable weather conditions in many parts of the world. From flooding and fires to storm and hurricane damage, it’s essential to consider the risks of natural disasters to your business.
If you live in an area that is prone to flooding, you have a store that is located close to a zone that is known for forest or bush fires, or there is a risk of hurricanes hitting, invest in insurance and look into measures you can introduce to lower the risk of damage. Using specific materials, for example, can reduce the risk of water damage.
Evaluating your insurance cover
Businesses require a diverse range of insurance policies. Insurance for companies is designed to protect against an array of threats and hazards, including natural disasters, theft and physical damage, public liability claims and breaches that impact data and intellectual property.
Evaluate your existing insurance cover and make sure there are no holes that could leave you exposed or vulnerable. If you don’t know whether your insurance cover is sufficiently robust, it can be beneficial to seek expert advice.
Typically, the more you pay for your premium, the more comprehensive your cover. It’s usually best to opt for the highest level of cover you can afford. Insurance can provide a safety net if you lose stock, your business premises are damaged or a customer makes a complaint on the back of an employee making a mistake or falling on your premises, for example.
If you have the relevant insurance, it can make the difference between keeping your head above water and going under.
If you are looking for new insurance policies, or you’re thinking of upgrading your cover, it’s beneficial to explore your options and compare quotes from different providers. Insurance is a hugely competitive industry and many companies will save their best offers for new customers. This means that you can often take advantage of lower premiums and incentives by switching.
Bolstering your finances
Cash flow issues are one of the most common causes of business failure. If you’re looking to try and prevent problems and keep your business safe, it’s important to keep a close eye on your finances. Look at your books and implement rigorous policies from the outset. It can be tempting to be lenient with new clients to make a good impression, for example, but many businesses struggle to balance the books because they are owed money in unpaid invoices.
Be clear about deadlines and keep up to date with payments and invoices. If you don’t have experience in accounting and you don’t have an accounts department, this is an area that you may wish to outsource.
Hiring an accountant can help to free up time to enable you and your team to focus solely on the fundamental aspects of running the business, minimize stress related to bookkeeping and filling in tax returns and save you money through managing costs and ensuring you claim tax relief on qualifying expenses.
If you run a business, it’s natural to want to protect your assets, your finances and your reputation. There are several steps you can take to try and prevent issues, nullify threats and reduce risks.
From implementing robust cyber security and health and safety guidelines and securing physical premises to prioritizing customer service, investing in comprehensive insurance and keeping a close eye on your finances, it’s beneficial to be proactive. Analyze risks, seek expert advice, plan ahead and try to minimize risks.