Last-minute Emergency Tips for Small Businesses

Here are a few last-minute emergency reminders:

  • Take seriously the evacuation orders issued by local officials.  If they say evacuate, please follow and leave immediately.
  • Extensive power outages are predicted.  There’s still time to assemble an emergency supply kit, which includes items like non-perishable food, water, cash, a battery-powered radio, flashlights and batteries. 
  • Visit www.ready.gov for tips on creating a plan to protect your family before the storm hits.
  • Business owners can visit www.readybusiness.gov for useful tips on how to reopen quickly and lessen the economic blow of the disaster. The Department of Labor has information on how to take care of your employees when an emergency strikes. Visit www.osha.gov/hurricane
  • After the storm passes and if you’re in need of shelter or other resources, visit the Red Cross atwww.redcross.org.   You can also donate to the recovery efforts at the Red Cross site.
  • For information on SBA’s disaster assistance programs, visit www.sba.gov/disaster, or call the Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955.

Importance of Budgeting and Financial Management for Small Business

In this time of economic hardship, small businesses and micro-businesses are among those being hardest hit – particularly with their inability to access lines of credit to help maintain effective cash-flow.  Therefore, it is imperative that these business owners take the steps necessary to budget and effectively manage the funds they do have available.

However, it is a common occurrence that small businesses, particularly micro-businesses having 10 employees or less, tend to shy away from developing an operating budget.  Frequently the businesses are so small or so new that the owners are convinced they have no way of projecting their revenue and therefore have nothing to budget.  This is a serious mistake! 

Budget graphicIn spite of a ‘supposed’ inability to project revenue, the business is still incurring expenses, therefore it needs to develop a basis from which it can discern business trends and identify opportunities which will enable you to make decisions about how you are running the company.  A budget is one of the most important tools to help you do this.

To help you understand the value of developing a budget – and managing that budget – for your small business we offer the article below which recently appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

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Even startups need to forecast and plan–especially now.

By Asheesh Advani   |   Entrepreneur Magazine – July 2009

Most entrepreneurs detest budgeting. Working on something as old-fashioned as an annual budget confines the imagination and limits flexibility. Still, budgets are more important than ever in today’s market environment.

I’ve heard all the excuses for avoiding budgeting. “Startup cash flow is too unpredictable.” “One big customer order could change the course of the business, so what’s the point in setting a budget?” “I can’t predict the capital market, so how can I forecast how much cash I’ll raise and be able to spend this year?”

In my experience, these excuses mask the fact that right-brain creative entrepreneurs just don’t like left-brain financial planning. So, if you’re running your startup solo, you should force yourself to develop a budget to hold yourself accountable. Here are three reasons why:

  1. It will help you to become a better manager. When done properly, budgets can be extraordinarily useful in testing and refining your ability to forecast and manage. While boards like to use budgets to hold managers accountable, the startup CEO can use budgeting to test whether the drivers of his business hold true. One straightforward way to do this is to set an annual budget with a set of key assumptions (e.g., number of new clients; product price), then reforecast the year every quarter by updating those assumptions with the latest results.
  2. It will help you raise money. When I raised money from angel investors or institutional investors, I learned firsthand the importance of budgeting. Investment terms often specify that management must provide the investors or the board with an annual budget. Developing a company culture that tracks results to budget will help you meet and exceed the expectations of your investors.
  3.  It will help you avoid running out of money. The No. 1 risk to any startup is running out of money. If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you’ll fluctuate between a conservative reality and an aggressive dream state, which keeps you motivated and helps you inspire others. When you build your budget, start with expenses, not revenue; they’re much easier to forecast. This will keep you grounded and reduce your risk of running out of money.

Asheesh Advani is president of Virgin Money USA, author of Investors in Your Backyard and founder of CircleLending, which pioneered the business of managing person-to-person loans and mortgages and was acquired by the Virgin Group.

Worried About Wednesday’s Conficker Update? Here’s Help!

Small business owner’s don’t always take the time to keep their computers as updated as they should and if you’ve ever lost data, you know the trauma it can cause in your business.  Here’s information from a LinkedIN friend, James O’Connor to help keep your computer system safe:

Unless you’re living in a cave, by now you’ve heard that a worm known as Conficker (or Downadup, or Kido) has infested computer systems around the world, and that it will do something April 1st, though nobody knows exactly what. How can you be sure your computer doesn’t become a casualty? Here are eight action items—things you can do yourself to weather the potential storm.

Double-check Windows Update
The worm weasels into computer systems through a Windows vulnerability that was patched last October, and once in place it interferes with the Windows Update system, to protect itself. So, verify that your system is up to date. XP users should launch Internet Explorer (no other browser will do), visit http://www.windowsupdate.com, and click the “Review your update history” link. Vista users should launch Windows Update from the Start menu and click the “View update history” link. In particular, you want to see KB958644 in the list—that’s Conficker’s entry point. If your latest update is any older than March 2009, that’s not good. Go back to the main Windows Update page and install all critical and security updates.

Turn Off AutoRun
Sure, it’s convenient that CDs and DVDs automatically launch their programs when you put them in. You may even be happy to see the window that asks what you want to do when you insert a USB key. But Conficker and other worms subvert this handy feature to spread their infestation. Use a Conficker-tainted USB key to share pictures or music with a friend, and you’re sharing the malware, too. The feature’s convenience just isn’t worth that risk. Here are instructions to turn off AutoRun.

Update Your Protection
It goes without saying that you should always keep your security software and malware definitions up to date. Don’t just rely on automatic updates, as the worm has been known to interfere with these. Dig into your security software and manually launch an update, then watch to make sure it completes the process successfully. Now launch a full system scan.

Get a Second Opinion
Your security software can probably handle the Conficker worm, but why take a risk? Visit the Conficker Working Group’s Repair Tools page to find the latest collection of threat-specific cleanup tools. At present, this page links to tools from AhnLab, ESET, Kaspersky, F-Secure Malware Removal Tool, McAfee, Microsoft, Sophos, Symantec, and TrendMicro. Run one or more of these to verify that your system is clean.

Check Your Servers
Conficker also attacks network shares using what’s called a dictionary attack. It tries to gain Administrator access using a bunch of common passwords and often lucks out. If you’re responsible for a network, whether it’s an office or home network, check all of the network shares and make sure they’re protected with a strong password. While you’re at it, check the root folder of each drive for the presence of an AUTORUN.INF file or any unrecognized software—these are clues that Conficker is already in residence.

Back Up, Back Up, Back Up
Conficker isn’t the only possible threat to your important data: Your computer could fail; thugs could steal it; a car might drive through your office wall and flatten it. If you have a backup system in place, make sure that it’s operational and that you have a recent full backup. If not, get yourself a high-capacity USB drive and copy all your most essential files onto it. (After making sure you’ve disabled AutoRun as described above, of course.)

James O’Connor
Managed Services
Phone 800-474-7397 ext 159
Local: 760-827-5100
Fax:760-603-0148
joconnor@abtechsystems.com
http://www.abtechsupport.com/managed-services

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2344170,00.asp