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Five simple resets to improve your business

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FSB is supporting the government’s Cyber Aware campaign, which aims to help small businesses protect themselves from cyber crime with a few simple steps.

Together FSB and Cyber Aware are encouraging people to look at simple resets they can do to improve their business’s finances, and at the same time, reset their email password to protect themselves from the majority of cyber threats. 



Small business owners tend to have something in common: they’re busy people. But it’s important to make time to look at whether you’re making the most of your finances. Dave Stallon, a small business owner and board member at the Federation of Small Businesses, looks at five financial re-sets you could consider:

1. Don’t pay too much to access finance: the big, traditional banks still dominate when it comes to lending to small businesses. But there are more ways than ever to find business finance, so it’s worth having a look at smaller lenders and alternative funding platforms. Independent websites like the British Banking Insight can be a good place to start.

2. Do your best to avoid being paid late: When agreeing contracts, always make sure your payment terms are clear. If selling to another business, it’s reasonable for you to expect that client to pay you for what you’ve provided within 30 days. Where payments are late, act promptly to recover the debt. If reminders aren’t being responded to, you may need to send a solicitor’s letter. Usually that is enough to make the customer settle the debt. 


3. Don’t pay too much tax to your council: If your business is in England and you suffered a big jump in your Business Rates bill last year, you might not have to pay as much as you think for 2017/18. The government set up a £300m relief fund for the worst affected small businesses, to be distributed by local authorities. Yet a big chunk of that relief still hasn’t been allocated to businesses. If you think you might be entitled to help, contact your local council and ask if you’re eligible. 

4. Shop around for insurance and utilities: While switching supplier can be a chore, it will pay off if it saves you hundreds of pounds a year. There are lots of newer, smaller insurance or energy providers as well as the better-known ones, so it’s worth checking whether there’s a better deal out there. 

5. Re-assess your business plan: While most small businesses think a lot about their business plan at the outset, it is healthy to assess and refresh it along the way to make sure the direction of travel for your business is still clear. Look again at your Key Performance Indicators, especially your financial ones, and also think about mapping your digital business profile. Where things aren’t working well, don’t ignore it.  

While re-setting your finances like this might seem time consuming and even daunting, there is help out there. There are established, reputable business organisations, including the Federation of Small Businesses (www.fsb.org.uk), which provide business support, advice and resources to their members. And don’t underestimate the usefulness of peer-to-peer advice if you can seek thoughts from a small business owner who’s perhaps been doing it longer than you.

To help you reset to a strong and separate email password, Cyber Aware recommends the following do’s and don’t’ s…  

Do:
• Ensure you create a strong and separate password for your email account, so that if hackers crack your password for one of your other accounts, they aren’t also able to compromise your most important account.
• Use three random words to create a strong password. It could be the opening lines to your favourite novel, or the opening line of a good joke. Also bear in mind that numbers and symbols can still be used if needed, for example 3redhousemonkeys27!
• Use words which are memorable to you, but not easy for other people to guess. 
• If you are worried about the strength of your password or that it's been compromised...you can always request to reset it via email. It’s better to create a more secure password than leave yourself vulnerable to hackers. Taking five minutes to reset a password, for #onereset, is far less taxing than the potential cost to you and your business in time and money if you’re the victim of cyber crime. 


Don’t:
• Use words like your favourite sports team or your pet’s name, which are relatively easy for strangers to guess by looking at your social media accounts.  
• Think you are out-smarting hackers by using simple substitutions for letters, such as ‘Pa55word!’. Although this follows the rules of using letters and symbols, it is easy for hackers to guess. 
• Store your passwords on your computer or in plain sight.
• Tell anyone your password. Besides the obvious reasons, there’s also the risk you could be overheard by the wrong person – so make sure you keep this information to yourself!

For further information about how you can stay secure online, visit www.cyberaware.gov.uk