Three Key Factors That Small Business Owners Must Consider To Enhance Their Cybersecurity

Awareness

Awareness (Photo credit: Emilie Ogez)

By now most small business owners are aware that Cybersecurity is an issue. But, how much time and capital should be spent on cybersecurity protection? This article discusses three key factors that should play into that decision.

Factor #1 Awareness.

According to some experts, the biggest problem that small business owners face is simply awareness of the risk. This includes awareness by employees as well.

Most data leaks and other security incidents are caused by employees who are either unaware of security protocols or indifferent to them. Regardless of the level of security in your data center  or the strength of encrypted communications, the weakest link will almost always be the human beings interacting with the network.

To address this risk, small business owners need to focus on training and awareness for employees. However, company management is usually focused on sales and customer service. Further, owners often lack the time and expertise needed to properly assess security risks. Companies in any industry should look to partner with a third-party security firm to asses risks and develop appropriate training.

Factor #2 Employee Training.

Training is the first line of defense against cyber threats. This training needs to include the entire company, and should cover three key areas: (a) proper password management on all company services and devices, including clear procedures for new and departing employees, as well as day-to-day usage; (b) clear guidelines for the sharing of information with remote employees, partners and third parties; and (c) a plan for monitoring usage and privileges to the company’s digital assets.

Employee training needs to account for how the public will access your company’s products or services. For example, what if a hacker got into a system by pretending to be another user? By rolling out new features slowly, its easier to identify and fix security loopholes.

All stakeholders need awareness of: (a) the type of information you’re transmitting (e.g. payment information), (b) the visibility of information you’re transmitting (e.g. highly-publicized public launch vs. a quiet rollout of some new software), and (c) the level of security inherent in the transmission (e.g. encrypted emails and documents shared via a secure server or data shared publicly through public networks and via social media sites.

Factor #3 Vigilance (Monitoring).

For some companies everything is available and accessed online. Since online relationships are built upon trust, it is critical that the company actively monitor the security and transparency of this relationship. Many tools are available to measure and respond to risk factors and gauge likelihood of an impact to help determine the level of investment required. Resources can be assigned to anything with high likelihood and high impact.

For example, monitoring potentially fraudulent user accounts has an immediate commercial benefit as well as reducing risk.

Unfortunately, a common misconception is that putting up basic defenses like firewalls will protect security vulnerabilities. However, after reinforcing your Cybersecurity defense, the focus should shift to monitoring and alerting. In many cases, this may require up-front investments to enable tracking and alerting to irregularities in network and data activity. Fortunately, in the event of a breach or a loss of data, this monitoring information will be the key factor in addressing the problem and pinpointing the issue. Managers, employees and business partners need to understand that Cybersecurity is an ongoing process. Awareness, training and monitoring will go a long way toward enhancing a small business’ Cybersecurity preparedness.

About the Author:

David M. Adler, Esq. is a partner in the Chicago office of Leavens, Strand, Glover & Adler, LLC, a boutique intellectual property and entertainment law firm in Chicago, Illinois whose mission is providing businesses with a competitive advantage by enabling them to leverage their intangible assets and creative content in order to drive innovation and increase overall business value. The practice is organized around five major substantive areas of law: Intellectual Property Law, Commercial & Finance Law, Entertainment & Media Law, Corporate Law and Contract Law.

Contact us for a free consultation today. Dadler @ lsglegal (dot) com or (866) 734 2568

Perfect Pitch: Who Am I? What Am I? Why Am I? A Strategy for Investment Seekers

Perfect Pitch™ ©2009 David M. Adler, All Rights Reserved

A Strategy For Concise And Effective Communication Of The Idea Behind Your Business And Why You Merit Investment

My recent attendance at TechWeek Chicago 2012 reminded me of advice that I used to provide to start-up and technology entrepreneurs. I have spent the last 15 years of my law practice advising entrepreneurs and businesses in varying stages of development. At some point, all growing businesses will need an infusion of capital. Sometimes this comes from “friends, family and fools.” Just as often it comes from professional investors such as Angels or Venture Capitalists. If you or your business needs additional capital to get to the “next level” whether that be development of a “proof of concept,” execution of the go-to-market strategy or strategic investment in new people or technology, you will need to convince the investor that your idea or business is relevant to the target market, achievable by the people and intellectual capital behind it, and likely to result in a substantial increase in value.

It has been my experience that many entrepreneurs or CEO pitch-men lose sight of the forest for the tress. All too often, the “pitch” or presentation only focuses on one thing. Usually, it focuses too heavily on the idea or the market and not enough on the people and strategy. On the other hand successful presentations seem to incorporate three basic, yet distinct concepts, what I call the tri-partite “Perfect Pitch.” In a nutshell the Perfect Pitch answers three questions: Who Am I? What Am I? Why Am I?

Who Am I? 

Answering this question tells investors about the people behind the idea. Every presentation should begin with a short, pithy and relevant description of the people and company, their history together and their qualifications for successfully commercializing this idea. For example: “John Doe, Jane Smith and Mary Jones each graduated in 2006 with a MBA from the Whoopity School Of Business. John has 5 years experience managing operations for a national retail chain. Jane has a 4 years experience as an assistant human resources manager for a Fortune 500 Company. Mary operated a small consulting business for 3 years before shutting down operations to pursue her MBA. Last year, they formed National Widget Sales Consultants (NWSC) as a Delaware LLC to capitalize on the emerging/growing/widening need for retailers to leverage the growing list of retail sales technologies.”

What Am I?

Answering this question tells the investor about the specific product or service offered and the revenue model. Put another way, answering this question tells investors what you do, how you do it and how you plan to make money. It never ceases to amaze me how many entrepreneurs forget the making-money part. They simply assume that advisors, investors and strategic partners will intuitively “get it.”

We won’t unless you tell us in plain and simple terms. If it is a product, does it stand alone or will it be incorporated into an end-product? Will it be sold wholesale, at retail, through VARs, through an inside sales team, or through an outside sales team, e.g. commissioned sales reps? How will the product be distributed? Will you have your own distribution? Will you piggy-back on another’s? Will you use a traditional courier, e.g., UPS or FedEx?

If it is a service, how will you market it? How will customers acquire it? Will it be licensed? How do you plan to keep customers coming back?

Continuing our previous example, “NWSC has created a proprietary and highly-customizable system that will be marketed and sold by an inside sales force. We will place consultants within our clients’ businesses to dissect their retail operations, identify operational and sales goals and evaluate which of the many technologies in the marketplace are the best fit for achieving those goals. NWSC generates revenue through consulting fees, commissions on technology sales and licensing the system to third-party business consultants.”

This is also the part of the presentation where you want to highlight the existence and commercial viability of any Intellectual Property including, Patents, Trademarks, Copyrighted content and Trade Secrets as well as proprietary technology or systems and methods.

Why Am I?

Now that you have convinced us that you are qualified to run this business and that you know how it will make money, you need to convince us how or why your idea meets existing or potential needs in the marketplace. Another common mistake I see is a focus on market size, penetration and growth. Yes, it’s true that VCs want to see Billion Dollar markets. But, more importantly, they want to know why your idea is going to penetrate that market and capture sales.

For example, is the market fragmented with no dominant provider? Are there segments of the market that are underserved by existing products/services? Put another way, what is your value proposition? Why will customers choose your product or service over their existing, entrenched ways of doing business? Again, don’t assume your audience will instinctively understand this. The more sophisticated the product or service, the more you will have to flesh out this value proposition.

The Bottom Line. 

While following the method outlined above is not guaranteed to land you that round of financing that you are after, it will no doubt help. Paying attention to answering these three simple questions will help keep you focused, keep you on message and provide a framework for answering the types of questions that your advisors, investors and strategic partners will be asking themselves. Good Luck!

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When Hiring a Lawyer For Small Business Legal Needs What Questions Should I Ask?

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Hiring a lawyer

While small businesses often need some legal advice, they can’t always find a professional with the right expertise at a budget the small business can afford.  Since small businesses usually don’t need lawyers that often, when it comes time to review a contract, buy out a partner or protect their brand and trademark, they often don’t know where to start.  The purpose of this article is to give executives a business owners a guide on how to ask a prospective lawyer the right questions to get the service one needs at a price that one can afford.

To get answers to questions about hiring a lawyer, please select one of the links below.


How do I hire a lawyer?

Lawyers are highly-trained professionals who counsel individuals and businesses in a full range of personal and corporate legal matters. Many business transactions have legal implications, so you should try to find a lawyer whom you can treat as a trusted advisor. These questions are designed to help you choose the right lawyer for your situation.


What can a lawyer do for me?

Lawyers provide legal guidance. This doesn’t mean that they can make your business decisions for you. A lawyer should identify legal issues of concern to you or your small business, tell you what the law says about these issues, and advise you on how to address them.


How can a lawyer help me in setting up a business?

A lawyer can:

  • Explain the advantages and disadvantages of a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation;
  • draft a partnership agreement or incorporate your company;
  • review financial documents for your business such as a loan;
  • review leases of premises or equipment;
  • act for you in the purchase of property;
  • review franchise agreements;
  • draft standard form contracts for use in your business;
  • advise you how to best protect your ideas, trademarks, designs and know-how.

How can a lawyer help when my business is up and running?

A lawyer can:

  • help you negotiate contracts and put them in writing;
  • advise you on hiring and firing employees;
  • advise you about doing business in other provinces and countries;
  • help you collect unpaid bills;
  • defend any lawsuits against you;
  • advise you about taxes.

If I decide to get out of business, how can a lawyer help me?

A lawyer can:

  • help you sell your business;
  • help you sell you ownership interest if you are one of several owners;
  • arrange for the transfer of the business to your children;
  • dissolve a corporation or LLC.

When do you need a lawyer?

The recommended approach is to seek the advice of a lawyer whenever a legal issue arises that involves your business. Since it is not always clear when that happens, many problems are solved without resorting to lawyers. When an issue arises, you must first decide whether you need a lawyer at all. In order to know if you should solve your problem on your own, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What are the consequences if you are unsuccessful?
  2. How complex is the law in your situation?
  3. Do you have the time and energy?

If you are still unsure, some outside professionals, advisors or para-professionals may be useful:

Check with your Board of Directors or Board of Advisors; they can provide information about the steps they went through and the resources they used in solving their problems. Contact government and non-profit organizations for income tax, legal aid, consumer protection, employment standards, etc.

Check with other professionals: accountants, bank officers, insurance agents. For some routine matters, legal assistants, para-legals and notaries public are useful. While not allowed to give legal advice, they can provide added value in familiarity with standard corporate forms and filing requirements.

Also, don’t forget public libraries, legal aid services, student legal services, small claims courts, reading self-help books and other resources such as books, pamphlets and videos.


How do I contact a lawyer?

Give him a call. Most lawyers are happy to steer people in the right direction and calm fears about the legal process. There are several advantages to this approach. The main one is that a lawyer can quickly cut to the heart of your problem, distinguish between legal and non-legal problems. Another advantage is that you usually will not be charged for this phone call. Finally, a lawyer will not only keep your problem confidential, but has the ability to assess it from a less emotional perspective.

Please feel free to call us at (866) 734-2568 should you have any questions.


How do I find a lawyer?

First, try to identify the areas of law in which your problems fall so that you can find a lawyer capable with dealing with all these areas. Some of the main areas of legal practice linked to business are:

  • Corporate/commercial/securities law (incorporation, buying/selling a business, drafting shareholders/partnership agreement)
  • Labor/employment law (negotiating and interpreting collective agreements, resolving disputes, explaining obligations, advising about restrictive covenants, dismissals)
  • Civil litigation law (suing, being sued, collecting debts, negotiating and settling)
  • Real Estate law (buying or selling land or property, negotiating a lease, solving landlord/tenant disputes, mortgaging property)
  • Wills and estates (drafting or challenging a will, probate)

What should I ask a prospective lawyer?

Some questions you should ask a prospective lawyer are:

  • How many years are you in practice?
  • How long have you been with your current firm?
  • What areas of law do you practice?
  • Are you a partner or an associate?
  • Time and accessibility
  • How quickly can I expect a resolution?
  • When can we meet?
  • How much can I expect top pay?
  • How do you charge for your services?
  • Do you provide your clients with a detailed written statement of fees?
  • Do you charge anything for the first meeting?
  • Do you communicate via telephone, cell phone, fax or email?

How can I help my lawyer?

Ways you can help your lawyer include:

  • Be honesty and open
  • Tell the lawyer all the facts, even the ones that you think are “bad”.
  • Keep your lawyer up to date on any events or any changes relating to your file.
  • Ask for advice in plain language and summarize how you understand it.
  • Ask to be directed to any reading that you could do to better understand.
  • Ask for a description of the steps your lawyer plans to take and think about the way you could help at each step.
  • Stay informed and keep track of what transpires on your file.
  • Take notes at all meetings and list tasks to be completed.
  • Ask for copies of all correspondence on file.
  • Have confidence in your lawyer’s advice and follow his/her instructions.
  • Do not harass your lawyer. If you need more attention, discuss way in which he/she can keep you informed.
  • Be prepared to accept both positive and negative advice.
  • Never do anything concerning your case without consulting your lawyer.
  • Provide information to your lawyer as soon as possible after he/she requests it.
  • Pay your bills on time and be available if your lawyer needs you.

How do lawyers calculate their fees?

Depending on the complexity of the issues, the services required, and the degree of experience of the lawyer, fees can be charged in different ways:

  • Billed hourly: charged a rate for the time they spend working for you (e.g. the time spent reading a letter or talking on the phone).
  • Flat Fee: charge a flat rate for a particular matter, usually when they can predict how long the work will take: incorporations, trademarks.
  • Contingency Fee: in some matters, the lawyer’s fee will be a stated percentage of the amount of money collected from the lawsuit.
  • Retainer: provide a range of specified services for a fixed monthly or annual fee.

In addition, lawyers will also bill for disbursements such as long distance phone calls, photocopies, document filling fees, experts’ reports and travel expenses.


Safeguarding Ideas, Relationships & Talent®

Executives face an often confusing and changing set of challenges trying to ensure that their business remains legally compliant. Yet few can afford the highly-qualified and versatile legal staff needed to deal with today’s complex and inconstant legal and regulatory environment. Adler & Franczyk is a boutique law firm created with a specific mission in mind: to provide businesses with a competitive advantage by enabling them to leverage their intangible assets and creative content in a way that drives innovation and increases the overall value of the business.

We approach our relationship with each client as a true partnership and we view our firm as an extension of their capabilities. Our primary value is our specialization on relevant and complex issues that maintain the leading edge for our clients. We invite you to learn more about the services we offer and how we differ.

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We look forward to the opportunity to discuss any questions you may have regarding the range of business, technology and intellectual property services we offer. Please feel free to call us at (866) 734-2568 should you have any questions.