Four Risks That Keep Business Owners Up at Night. And Your Defense Against Them.
Here are four common risks to your business. Along with some simple ways to help manage how exposed your business is to each.
Risk: Business Interruption
Would you be able to financially survive the process of rebuilding your business if damage deemed it inoperable for months? Even with insurance coverage to protect against events like floods, fires or earthquakes, FEMA reports that about 40% of businesses disrupted by natural disasters are forced to close permanently.
Your Defense: Business Interruption Insurance
Business interruption coverage replaces business income lost if you’re forced to cease operations. This insurance can be used whether the interruption is due to a natural disaster, cyber attacks, or a massive disruption to your supply chain. Often added as a rider to a commercial insurance policy, the Insurance Information Institute says business interruption coverage may pay for a business’ fixed expenses, financial obligations to creditors, and expenses associated with establishing a temporary business location.
While access to such funds could be the difference between rebuilding your business post-disaster or closing it permanently, the Insurance Journal reports 66% of small businesses do not have business interruption coverage.
Risk: Loss of Intellectual Property
Your business’ intellectual property (IP) includes your business’ name, logo, products and services, taglines and any inventions you’ve created. Experts at Deloitte estimate intellectual property accounts for more than 80% of a business’ value.
If you have not formally claimed ownership of your intellectual property with patents and/or trademarks, do it ASAP. Or, a competitor might (legally) steal your business name, inventions, likeness and ideas.
Your Defense: Secure Legal Ownership of IP
Make a list of all the elements that make up your business’ goods, services and brand identity and formally claim ownership of them with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. For a few a hundred dollars, you can file an online trademark application to secure ownership of brand assets. Securing a patent for an invention is a more intensive (and expensive) process. But it’s critical if your business is based on a unique product, technology or solution that you’ve created.
If you hire freelancers or contractors to produce marketing materials, designs, or code for your business products, secure a signed work-made-for-hire agreement before projects begin. Unlike a full-time employee, you do not own contractor creations. A work-made-for-hire agreement should detail the scope of work and deliverables. It should also state that you own the finished product a contractor creates.
Cyber criminals have their sights set on a target: 58% of breach victims in the past year were small businesses, according to the Verizon 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report.
Your Defense: An Internal Cybersecurity Action Plan
Protecting your business begins with identifying your business’ most important assets and systems. Because these “digital crown jewels” are most likely to be the target of any cyber attack on your business, the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) says they should be the focus of your security efforts. Once you’ve identified them, the NCSA suggests creating a list of all the hardware and software your business uses. This list should include the makes, models, serial numbers, and versions of software you are running. You should also include on this list where you store your data. Use the latest version of security software, web browsers and operating systems. Using the most updated versions will help protect against viruses, malware, and similar threats. They can also activate automatic update features to keep you secure.
Perhaps most importantly, educate employees. Train them on best practices for handling sensitive data. And set clear parameters for how they are to use mobile devices and computers to do their jobs. Many cyber attacks originate from basic human error. Clicking on an email attachment or downloading an app on an unsecured mobile device can make you vulnerable. Using weak passwords also provides an easy in for hackers. Because they have dictionary-based systems that make it easy to crack passwords that include a word or name, cyber security company Symantec suggestspasswords be misspelled, “As much as possible, or insert numbers for letters. For example, if you want to use the phrase ‘I love chocolate’ you can change it to @1L0v3CH0c0L4t3!”
Risk: Cash Flow Problems
You can’t control your sales or the competitive environment. But, you can manage their impact on your cash flow by ensuring you have access to cash before you need it.
Your Defense: Plan for Cash Flow Shortages Before They Happen
Retained earnings are like a business emergency savings fund, and they empower you to prepare for cash flow challenges. When these funds are readily available, you aren’t forced to borrow money, or default on your own business obligations. In addition to building your retained earnings, establish relationships with a few reputable funding partners so you know you have the financial support you need to maintain cash flow if sales decline unexpectedly. Risk is an inherent aspect of owning a business. But, that doesn’t mean you have to be vulnerable to uncontrollable circumstances. Use these tips to help ensure your business is equipped to survive, despite any disaster that may strike