By SCOTT FRANK
I recently had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with a local small business owner, whom I shall call Ray. I asked Ray, “Are you, as a business leader, empowered in the digital world? Are you avoiding the risks and embracing the opportunities?”. Ray quickly replied, “I haven’t really thought about it, but we are fine because my company has an IT professional.” How would you answer that question?
The reality is that many small businesses do not have the benefit of a dedicated IT staff and even those that do, may not truly be empowered in this ever-evolving digital world.
The digital world is here to stay and for small business, it can either hurt you, help you, or do a little bit of both. To be an empowered business leader in the digital world, you must strive to minimize the risks and maximize the benefits.
There are four paths to digital empowerment for today’s business leaders.
The first path to digital empowerment is PROTECTION. One of your important responsibilities as a business leader is to protect the data that your clients or customers entrust you to maintain. The statistics are alarming. It is estimated that 50 percent of small businesses are lacking even a basic cybersecurity strategy. Of the businesses that are victimized by a cyberattack, 64 percent of them are out of business in less than six months.
An effective way to start protecting your business is to complete a risk evaluation. Ask a trained IT professional to review your company’s physical network and provide suggestions on how to avoid network penetration and data exposure.
Once a target hardened computer or network system in place, it is important to remember that the actual weak link in your company’s potential for data exposure are your employees. Minimize the amount of data or personal information that your company keeps and limit, as much as possible, the access to that information that you provide to your employees. Review and strengthen your data access policies (i.e Don’t open suspicious emails) and retention processes (i.e. Off-boarding when employees leave your company). Develop and encourage an internal cyber-safety culture as your employees are your best line of defense.
Once you have taken steps to help PROTECT your business, now it is time to PROMOTE it! I am amazed on how many businesses (especially the small businesses) are not taking advantage of the incredible exposure, customer service options and free (or close to free) advertising opportunities that the digital world affords them. Consumers, clients and customers are looking for you online, hoping to communicate with you online and even making purchases from you online. Establish your place in the digital world!
Registering and hosting your own personalized domain is a great place to start, it is very cost affordable, and not as difficult as you may think. Still using yahoo.com or gmail.com as the email that represents your company? Every email you send using a generic service is a missed advertising opportunity.
Every 60 seconds there are approximately 4 billion Google searches. Are potential clients or customers able to find you? Your clients and customers are engaged and using social media to help them find the goods, products and services they are looking for. Do you have a social media presence?
I have had the opportunity to work with several businesses to help them evaluate and increase their PRODUCTIVITY.
As an example, one company posted their employee schedule on a bulletin board in the office. Every morning the employees who were working with clients, in their respective communities, would stop by the office to check their daily assignments. If they were not able to physically check the schedule, then they would be required to phone the administrative staff. It was, quite literally, an hour into the work day before anybody started getting their “work” done. This was an incredibly simple fix. The digital world provides businesses with a myriad of productivity tools. In this case, I helped the business convert their daily task management to Google G-Suite and they began to utilize online scheduling, calendars, task assignment lists and messaging all within a secure and encrypted platform. It was an incredible transformation and for me, fun and rewarding to be a part of.
The final path to digital empowerment is often overlook, not considered or just plain ignored. There are 4 billion global internet consumers. I am online. You are online. Your employees are online. Our children are online. If you truly desire to lead a business or organization that is empowered in the digital world – don’t forget about PEOPLE.
The digital world is challenging for us all, not just when we are leading or contributing to a business or organization. In the digital world, what you do, what your employees do, what our children do can often impact and carry over to what type of leader, employee or parent you are. Are you doing all that you can to ensure that you, your employees and your family are avoiding the risks and embracing the opportunities of the digital world? Learn about the digital world. Talk with your employees. Educate your family.
In its truest sense, the digital world is simply one big network. A network of data, information, ideas, communications and most importantly – PEOPLE. I encourage you as a business leader to be an EMPOWERED leader in the digital world. PROTECTION. PROMOTION. PRODUCTIVITY. PEOPLE.
Scott Frank is the founder of the DIGITAL EMPOWERMENT PROJECT. Retiring in 2017, after 36 years in local law enforcement, Scott utilizes his experience, as a Computer Forensic Specialist and an Internet Crimes Against Children Investigator, to travel the country empowering teens, educating parents and working with business leaders, organizations and places of worship in hopes of encouraging others to INVEST THEIR TIME, INSPIRE OTHERS and IMPACT THEIR FUTURE in the digital world. You can learn more at https://www.digitalempowermentproject.com.