Going it Alone: The Challenges for Entrepreneurial Architects

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Most architects follow a similar route. They spend years learning their craft, get a nice job with a good firm, and live a comfortable life thereafter. But what happens when that isn’t quite enough? What if you are just as entrepreneurial as you are great with AutoCAD and creating blueprints? While starting your own architecture is a big gamble, it can be hugely rewarding. And in today’s guide, I’m going to reveal some hints and tips on how to tackle the challenges of making your dreams a reality.

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Do you have the experience?

While working for a firm, the chances are you have designed all kinds of buildings, features, and environments. That’s all well and good, of course. But how much experience have you had with running a business? There is a big leap to make from architect to CEO – and it will take time to develop those skills. While you are working for an architectural firm, it is essential that you show an interest in the business side of things. Put yourself out there, make yourself available, and learn the ins and outs of how to run a successful firm.

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Can you handle the paperwork?

When you start out on your own, you will find you have to spend a long time doing tasks that were not your responsibility at your previous firm. And that means you will be losing money. How? Well, things like invoicing, marketing, tax returns were all below your pay grade in your previous role. But now, you will have to take them all on, meaning you spend less time on the money making side of your business. There are solutions, of course. Services such as My Build Estimate can help with your costings and estimates, for example. A virtual assistant can help you with the everyday tasks that stop you from earning decent money. And outsourcing to a marketing firm will give you the vital marketing knowledge you need to survive.

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Can you handle the responsibility?

Are you prepared to stand up and be counted? Any mistake you make is all on you. You’ll need to find the perfect construction partners to work with, or your reputation could take a hit. There is no sharing of liability. If something goes wrong, you won’t have the spending power on top class legal firms that your old company enjoyed. And, the challenge of always being ‘on’ and ‘available’ is something you might have difficulty in managing. The first few years of going it alone can be tough for anyone in business for these reasons. And, it’s also important to understand that there is no one else to turn to.

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Are you aware of the big picture?

The challenges of going solo as an architect are numerous. It can be expensive, and an incredibly big gamble. That said, I don’t want to put you off pursuing your dreams. If you can handle the challenges for a few years, until you become profitable, there is no reason why you can’t succeed. And who knows, maybe one day you will be as big – or bigger – than the company you initially left?

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Pssst! These 3 Business Website Secrets Can Push You To The Top

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Is your business website lacking? I bet it is and you don’t even know it yet! Here are some secrets that will help you improve your site:

Implement A Night Mode

Regular users of the Twitter mobile app will see that a recent update included a night mode. This changes the colour scheme of the app, making it easier to read during the night. For me, this is something every business should implement on its site. At the very least, it shows you’re a forward thinking online business. Consumers will be very impressed by something like this. It will make your site easier and more pleasurable to read during the night. So, people can lay in bed and read your blog/browse your products comfortably. Plus, this is also something that very few business sites are doing. So, it will only serve to push your site above the rest and make you stand out from the crowd.

Copyright Your Content

I’m amazed at how many companies forget to copyright their website content. You copyright a lot of stuff in your business, so, why do you forget this? For most people, it’s because they don’t know it’s necessary. Well, let me break it down for you right here. No doubt you’ve created and posted original images and videos to your website before. (If you haven’t, then you should’ve, so get cracking!) When these have no copyright licenses, anyone can take and use them. What’s more, people could make money from them too. They’re using your original image as a clickbait thumbnail to get people to read a blog post that they get ad revenue from. But, by copyrighting your content, you get to decide how it’s used. You can let it be reused, and just demand some credit every time it’s used. Or, you can demand payment every time someone wants to use your content. For more info click here, and you can learn more about copyrighting. At the end of the day, you should copyright your content as it prevents people stealing and misusing your work.

Don’t Make Your Site Feel Intrusive

One of the most annoying things on the internet is pop-ups. About a decade ago, everywhere you clicked would spring up hundreds of pop-up adverts. Luckily, nowadays, this is under control. However, pop-ups are still a problem on some business websites, in a different form. Often, you’ll get a form pop-up for you to fill in and you have to spend ages looking for the X to get it away. Or, you have something that asks you to put your email address in and sign up for a newsletter. In some ways, this is a good thing. I actually think your business should have at least one pop-up for new site visitors. But, the key is ensuring it doesn’t become intrusive. Don’t bombard visitors with pop-ups and make it easy for them to dismiss. Also, have an option for them to select that they never see this again. So, when they visit your site next time, the popup doesn’t appear.

Use these secrets to make your website even better than it was before. Trust me, you’ll leave your competition in the dirt!

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Business Glam: How To Create An Immediate Impact On Your Customers

The biggest priority of any entrepreneur is to win over as many customers as possible. After all, more customers will lead to increased revenue and bigger profits. But before closing the deal, the first challenge is to create that initial spark of interest.

In truth, you might only get a split second to plant that seed of customer curiosity. This is why you must do everything in your power to ensure that those first interactions are of a positive nature. Even the seemingly small gestures can have a telling impact on the way your business is perceived. And that could make all the difference between success and failure.

Follow these three simple ideas, and you’ll be amazed at the impact they bring.

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Gain Online Exposure

The growth of internet activities has completely changed the landscape of modern business. Nowadays, most consumers interact with online browsers and social media platforms on a daily basis. This creates a fantastic opportunity for SMEs to increase brand awareness.

If your company is yet to capitalise on those capabilities, turning your venture into an online hit should be a priority. When you perfect your web facilities, you won’t only reach larger audiences. More importantly, you’ll set a more professional vibe to encourage even greater conversion rates.

Whether you complete sales online or simply use those facilities to generate added interest doesn’t matter. A strong web presence will boost your profile. After all, most customers will research the brand before completing a purchase.

Invest In People

The list of upgrades that can be made to enhance the initial impact that your business surroundings create is nearly endless. However, one thing that you cannot afford to forget is the fact that people buy from people. Those interactions are just as important as any snazzy marketing campaign.

With this in mind, it’s imperative that your team of employees set a positive tone. Imagin products provide a range of premium name badges that will maintain a professional appearance. This can be particularly important for first-time visitors.

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Meanwhile, you should focus on communications. When staff members offer a better level of customer care, those clients will instantly feel happier. And when they’re in a better mood, they’ll be far more likely to buy. Even if they don’t, setting a positive impression from the off can only be good news for your business.

Create Excitement

I’m not going to lecture you about marketing products and designs. After all, you know your brand better than anybody and will have a far better idea of how to use logos and other features. However, one thing I can tell you is that customers need to be wowed. The best way to achieve this is by offering a great deal.

Nothing catches a customer’s eye quite like value for money. Introductory offers like Buy One Get One Free can be a great way to recruit new clients. Just remember to follow this with great products and a winning service. That way, they’ll have no reason to take their customer elsewhere ever again.

Retain your current customers while winning new ones, and success will be assured.

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Avoiding A Titanic Disaster By Keeping Your Business In Ship-Shape

When you think of threats to the business, you might think of those huge issues that can pop up. A PR disaster, a disagreement with a big client or those kinds of things. It’s more likely that a business is going to suffer a longer, harder fall, however. It’s the little leaks that add up that can sink the whole boat. So you need to get your magnifying glass out and make sure you’re taking care of the following.

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Everything in its place

Loss of physical materials and assets is a big problem in a lot of businesses. From construction to production, these problems cost you money. So you should be actively making sure that it isn’t happening. A proper inventory system can help you do just that. From managing asset locations to logging equipment, track as much as your physical inventory as you can. Services like NFC Direct can help you fit the system to the specific model of your business. That way, you’re not missing out on anything important.

Avoiding tech disasters

The hardware you use is just as important for keeping work flowing smoothly. There are a lot of ways you should be ensuring they’re not proving a liability. Regular maintenance and repair checks should be done to stop them from degrading all too quickly. Then you need to consider the security threats present in digital equipment. Most businesses that suffer a data breach close in under two years after it happens. Make sure any devices used in your workplace are fully protected with antiviruses and firewalls. Don’t let people bring in foreign devices like USB Drives which could harbour malware.

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Tackling work interruption

Having faulty equipment is going to interrupt work, but most of those work interruptions are actually going to come from your staff. There are two kinds to tackle. Internal interruption is caused by things like distractions. Engaging employees in their tasks and making sure they can’t access distracting websites can help you tackle that. External interruption is caused by other people. Fixing that is about fixing the culture of the workplace. Teach people to prioritise and keep checklists of tasks that come their way. Teach them to send their requests for co-workers in emails marked with codes based on how high a priority is. If someone needs help that will free up their otherwise obstructed workflow, that needs to be a code red. Whereas tasks that aren’t as important can be marked so and thus prove less of a distraction.

Track absolutely everything

Just like tracking the physical assets in the business, you should be tracking the workflow of the office as well. Get an objective overview of how employees are doing by developing key performance indicators. Set measurable goals. Make sure they’re crafted with them to help, so you measure them by the roles they’re supposed to be doing, not some arbitrary numbers.

Your employees, your equipment and your time all need to be used to the fullest of their abilities. Don’t find yourself sinking because of a pile of little problems rolled into one.

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Goodbye Boring Office! Create A Stylish Workspace In 3 Simple Steps

If you’re a business owner, then I urge you to pay attention to your office. Don’t settle for a boring one with a boring atmosphere. Not only will this be hell for your employees to work in, but it will also make your company look boring and dull. No, what you need is a stylish office, and these three steps will help you:

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Install Glass Office Rooms

Naturally, an office is often made up of multiple rooms. You may have your main office space where a lot of workers do their jobs. Then, you have a conference room, and some separate office rooms for people higher up. These are usually saved for the manager and assistant manager. As the owner of your business, it’s fair to assume you want the coolest office around. The best idea is to have a glass office room. Why? Well, for one, it’s incredibly modern and stylish. It will make your office look incredible. Secondly, it allows you to work without the distractions you’d have in an open office. Finally, the fact people can see in and you can see out is a big deal. It means they know you’ll see if they don’t do any work. And, it means they’ll see you working hard and get extra motivated.

Hang A Main Sign On The Wall

Generally speaking, the walls in your office should be quite plain. You don’t want to distract anyone with crazy colours or weird wallpaper. Instead, you just need a white backdrop and very little else. But one thing you do need is the main office sign stuck on one the main walls in your office. This sign should display your brand logo, as well as a motto if you have one. It should also have a brief description of your company and what you do. I like to think of it as the equivalent to a website home page. It lets everyone know who you are and what you do when they first enter. Your best bet is probably to get a sign like this designed and printed. Companies like GH Cityprint offer printing services that may be of use to you. Once your sign is printed, it needs to be framed and hung on the wall. Make it stand out and catch everyone’s eye when they walk in.

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Create A Swanky Break Room

For me, break rooms are very important. It’s crucial that you allow your employees some time to rest and relax during the working day. These little periods are great for recharging their batteries, and getting more out of them. With a good break room, you can keep your employees around the office too. Instead of having them go out for lunch and leave for an hour. It keeps everyone together, strengthening that comradery. You can get a cool ping pong table and some bean bag chairs, make it really chic and stylish. The cooler it is, the more likely they’ll stay in the office for their break.

Create a stylish workspace and it can benefit your business. You will see an increase in employee productivity and a positive impact on your brand too.

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Which Homecoming Fashion Mistakes Should You Avoid?

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High school and college homecoming dances are upon us.  Do you know the distinct fashion differences between homecoming dresses and prom dresses? Since homecoming occurs in early fall, most dresses are shorter and somewhat more casual.  Homecoming is often seen as more of a semi-formal event instead of an all out formal one. However, that doesn’t mean you can show up wearing anything you want. Use these tips to avoid common fashion faux pas so you don’t end up on a Homecoming fashion don’t list.

 

  • Don’t buy your homecoming dress before checking your school’s dress code for the dance. Some schools have guidelines stating formal dresses must be just above the knee, where others allow dresses to be mid-thigh, or around 17 inches long. Pay attention to your school’s theme and colours, so you don’t select a colour combination that will totally clash.

 

  • Don’t buy a dress purely on style. Remember to consider your body type and never buy a dress that you need to lose a few pounds to even squeeze into. There are so many elegant dress options that hug your curves beautifully, such as chiffon fit-and-flare dresses.

 

  • Avoid buying neon and bright colours as they come across as tacky and cheap. Neon colours can be really hard to pull off, especially with complimenting your skin tone.  If you like bright colours, try rich reds or royal blues or even gold or silver, instead of neon green or the like.

 

  • Don’t look like a dressed up princess and look like you belong on the Toddlers and Tiaras television show. A little bling on your dress is classy, but when’s totally covered with sequins or includes a poufy ball gown skirt, it’s becoming tacky. The ball gown skirt may look more like a decorated upside down wedding cupcake and even if you choose a flowing skirt, endless sequins and sparkles are too much for homecoming.  Try looking at sexy yet classy homecoming dresses.

 

  • Avoid wearing long white or other pastel dresses to homecoming. These floor-length dresses are more appropriate for prom as are pastel hues. Keep your dress casual and fun, with a bandage hugging silhouette, two-piece dresses, or trendy chiffon options.

 

  • Don’t overdo it on your accessories. Know the rules for pantyhose and appropriate footwear; such as if you choose to wear pantyhose, make sure it’s in a shade close to your skin tone. Generally, you wear heels to formal dances, but if you plan to dance most of the night and your heels are not comfortable, consider wearing or bringing some ballet flats or decorative sandals.

 

  • Don’t spend too much money on a dress. Figure out if you have other semi-formal events that you may wear the dress too, and then set a realistic budget, remembering you don’t need to buy an expensive homecoming dress. You can find some lovely dresses that are under $200.

 

Now that you know what not to wear to Homecoming, do you know what you’re going to wear to this year’s dance?  In addition to the always popular fit and flare dresses, this year you’ll find floral two pieces, hip-hugging bandage dresses, and some softer pinks are popular this fall.

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What Can Entrepreneurs Do To Combat The Scourge Of Absenteeism?

Most businesses build the reality of employee absences into their business plan. Employees aren’t going to be there, day in, day out, performing their function for the company. They’re going to need holidays, long weekend breaks and perhaps, afternoons off work to look after their kids. Not being at work is a normal part of working life.

But there’s a fine line between an employee who takes time off, and one that is absent. Absenteeism has been a problem in the modern workplace for as long as most business leaders can remember. It’s something that afflicts small and big businesses alike. Often it’s caused by unhappy, dissatisfied employees who would rather do anything than show up to work. The results can be disastrous. You can end up with missed deadlines, poor customer service, and lost profits.

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Recently, PWC did some research looking into how many days a year the average employee is absent. It turned out to be 4.9, which equates to almost one working week. It might not sound like a big number, but remember that number is across all industries. In businesses where absenteeism is high, that number is far work.

The question, therefore, is: what can employers do to combat absenteeism in the workplace?

Have A Disciplinary Procedure

One of the things that entrepreneurs frequently struggle with is stamping their authority on the workplace. Entrepreneurs like to think that everybody in their business is as passionate about it as they are. But the truth is that employees rarely are. That’s why it’s worth putting a clear, disciplinary procedure in place, just in case. If you’ve had disciplinary problems in the past, firms like AFG Law can help. When it comes to disciplining staff, it’s essential that entrepreneurs remain on the right side of the law. Once you’ve got an attendance policy in place, it’s clear to everybody the standards that must be met. This can serve as a motivation in itself for continued good work.

Integrate Work And Life

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Most entrepreneurs start their businesses because they want to integrate work and life better. They start up companies because they want to make a difference in the world. They don’t just want to be another cog in the wheel. If entrepreneurs want to get rid of absenteeism, they have to realise that the same desires exist in their employees. That’s why great companies try to implement a great work-life balance. Mike Kappel is the CEO of an accounting firm. He’s found that his employees work best when they have flexible working hours. He also stresses the importance of allowing employees to work from home and giving them generous PTO. This, he says, allows employees to strike a better balance between their home and work lives, meaning they stick around for longer.

Look For Patterns

Kappel doesn’t just offer flexible working. He also looks for patterns in his employee absences. If an employee is absent every third Friday of the month, he asks why. It’s usually because they’ve got some kind of commitment. But often it’s for more sinister reasons.

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Getting Business Renovations Right: Essential Things to Consider

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Sometimes a business needs to be renovated. Perhaps everything is starting to look old-fashioned, or you want to reconfigure a space. Maybe things are starting to fall apart a little, and it all needs an update. Whatever the reason for the renovation, it can take a long time to organise and carry out. Getting everything right can be complicated. There are a number of issues to consider. You have to think about whether you can stay open during renovations and how else it might affect your business. There’s your budget to take into account, and finding the right people to do the work.

Getting the Timing Right

Working out the timing on a business renovation can be difficult. It’s usually made harder if you’re a customer-facing business. For example, a store or a hotel could have problems if they have ongoing renovations disrupting business. Even if you don’t deal with customers face-to-face, it could mean disrupting work for your employees. Deciding on the timeline of your renovations is a vital part of planning it. You might choose to do it all quickly or to complete it in stages. Work out what will happen when different areas are inoperable due to the renovations. Will work be moved elsewhere or will part of your business shut down for a while?

Keeping Things Clean and Safe

Health and safety is essential to consider when you renovate your business. It’s especially important if you will still have staff or customers on site. You need to ensure that they are safe and won’t be affected by the activity, noise, and dust. You’ll need to think about issues such as skip hire so that the site can be kept as clean as possible. It’s a good idea to consider signs and perhaps surrounding the renovation site with wooden boards. They can both improve safety and let people know that business is continuing.

Hiring the Right Contractors

Finding the best contractors for the job can take longer than you might plan for. You need to weigh your options carefully instead of picking the first available one. There are also more professionals than you might think you need at first. For example, you could be speaking to architects, engineers, interior designers, and building planners. Make sure there’s plenty of time to find the right people and to put a plan into place.

Sticking to a Budget

You need to ensure your business has a set budget before you begin. Deciding what this budget might be can be tricky. You’ll have to look at what the renovation is likely to cost alongside what you can afford. It’s possible you could take out a loan to help pay for the renovation. There are many costs you’ll need to take into account. They range from designing your renovation to getting the work done. Don’t get caught out by anything unexpected.

Renovating all or part of your business premises could give them new life. However, it could be an exhausting project. Don’t take it on without considering all it requires.

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4 Biggest Threats to UK Entrepreneurs for 2017

It’s an unpredictable time to be an entrepreneur at the moment. The economic climate is fluctuating wildly, and no one seems to have a definitive answer to how everything might pan out. It is all shaping up to be an interesting 2017. But there are some areas of business that, no matter what will pose a threat to many people’s business plans. I thought I would go through a few of them today – so read on to find out what you can expect from next year.

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Cyber Security

While we all hear about attacks on the major corporations on the news, when it comes to smaller businesses, they never seem to hit the headlines. But make no mistake about it, cyber attacks are on the increase, and there are now more small businesses reporting big issues. In fact, around 60 percent of smaller firms have experienced a cyber attack. It’s also worth pointing out that only a third of SMEs feel they have a helpful disaster recovery plan to deal with these threats. Clearly, there is going to start causing a lot more problems in the foreseeable future. It is critical that you have some protection against these online threats. Install security software on all devices and ensure strong passwords are used across your entire company.

Brexit

With recent news suggesting Article 50 will be triggered in the next six months, we are likely to see the impact of Brexit sooner rather than later. It’s going to be good for some, of course – exporters might find their sales skyrocket. But for the vast majority, the future is a lot more uncertain. Make sure you are aware of the implications of Brexit and start planning for any eventuality now. Failing to do so will mean you aren’t ready, and the prospect could be a disaster.

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The Global Economy

The UK isn’t helped by the state of the global economy either. China is almost at a standstill right now in comparison to where it was 18 months ago. And there are concerns we are only a short time away from another severe economic disaster. UK entrepreneurs should seek to keep their options open regarding new markets in other areas. They should also start making plans to deal with the potential of another global crisis.

The Big Talent Drain

Finally, to be a successful business, you have to hire the right talent. The trouble is, talent seems to be flocking elsewhere – the UK reported a loss of professionals during 2015. A lot of young professionals are being tempted by the bright lights and no-tax alternatives in the United Arab Emirates. It’s a big pull for many, and it means UK employers are going to have to up their game. While you might not be able to compete financially, there are a few things you can do to make sure you are attracting talent. Make sure you are renowned for having an excellent company culture, for a start. Flexible working and pension pots are a great way to attract people, as is private healthcare. It does all come at a cost, of course. But without the talent, your business won’t go far.

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The IT Security Threats That Could Take Down Your Business

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If you do any business at all online – and most of us do – then I hope you are looking into the right protection. There are hundreds – if not thousands – of genuine threats out there that could result in your business going under. And, even if you manage to stay afloat, losing customer data can be incredibly embarrassing. It’s a PR disaster that you might never recover from. Today, I wanted to highlight some of the most dangerous issues you need to make yourself aware of. Let’s get started right away.

Theft of devices

The increase in remote working for businesses has been a fantastic boost for businesses of all kinds. But it isn’t without its threats. A stolen or lost laptop can easily end up in the wrong hands – and the consequences for companies can be enormous. Customer data, employee records, sensitive information – the list is endless. If you are enjoying the benefits of remote working in your business, ensure you are also taking security seriously. Any data that you allow off-site should be encrypted, so it is unreadable to anyone without a password. It might not be enough to stop the best hackers out there, but it should give you enough protection for most incidents of theft.

Malware and viruses

Malware and viruses have been around for a long time, but they are still a major threat. They get ever more sophisticated by the year, it seems. If you want to protect your business against malicious code, make sure you take cyber security seriously. Robust systems in place will help, of course, but you also need to train and educate your staff. If everyone is aware of recent examples of malicious codes, Trojan horses, and viruses, they will be able to deal with any suspicious threats.

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Angry employees

Your employees are likely to have access to many of your IT systems, from your databases through to your social network accounts. It’s an issue for many reasons. What happens if the employee is disgruntled about the way they are treated? Or what happens if a third party gets them to act as an insider? Your employee might even be approached by blackmailers who want access to your data. As you can imagine, one individual could be responsible for a lot of damage. Make sure that you divide up critical tasks and functions so no one has access to everything. You should also make sure that most employees only get access to your social media accounts, rather than full admin rights.

Easy wireless network access

How secure is your wireless network? If you are a small business, the chances are that you setup the wireless as per your service providers instruction. But you are also more likely to keep your default password. The trouble is, lists of these default passwords are available to anyone in the world who wants them. It means that hackers can often access WiFi whenever and wherever they like. The results can have a serious impact on your business, as once a hacker gets into your online system they can wreak havoc. Change those passwords often, And ensure you are encrypting your network with Wi-Fi Protected Access.

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Spam & Phishing

Finally, spam and phishing emails are responsible for so many IT security issues that you will experience them on a daily basis. Some you can spot a mile off. But others are far more hard to see through. In recent years, I have received phishing emails that look like they have come from Barclays, Natwest, and even HMRC. And they can be incredibly convincing. It is essential that every person in your business understands the basics about phishing email. And, why it is so important to be alert when opening emails. While mail providers do a fine job in finding spammy messages, they don’t catch them all. All it takes s for a single click or the entry of a password and it can prove catastrophic to your business.

Don’t underestimate the threat of poor IT security. You might think you are a small business who isn’t of interest to a hacker or criminal. But the truth is that this is how they make their money – and you are every bit a target as the major global corporations. The scary thing is that hackers can gain access to your system, steal data, access money, without you even realising. And before you know it, you could be in serious financial strife and have a PR disaster on your plate.

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