No business owner worth their salt would intentionally hurt their business. As a matter of fact, they’d do everything in their power to keep it in smooth, working order. Demanding the same from other people, however, may prove to be a stretch.
No matter how positively you view the world or how ardently you believe in the goodness of humankind, there exist situations that businesses are better off treading carefully.
Below are three examples, along with what you can do to combat them.
Cyber Security: Malicious Attacks
Data security threats take various shapes and forms. And as the number of cyber security breaches increases, so has the average cost almost double, according to a 2015 cyber security survey done by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the UK Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills.
Even worse, one in 10 respondents, 11 percent, reported changing the nature of their business due to the gravity of their breach.
Malicious attacks are no longer focused on big businesses. Gone are the days when small businesses were relatively immune to breaches because of scarce financial resources and a lesser known brand. Today’s hackers are increasingly targeting small businesses because of their weaker online security. Any small business thinking otherwise is in for a rude awakening.
So what are you supposed to do?
Related Article: Internet of Things: Security, Compliance, Risks and Opportunities
The first step is to treat cyber security as an absolute necessity. This includes procuring the necessary security products to adequately safeguard your systems. Choose from legitimate antivirus software companies with excellent after-sales support, and update your software regularly. As digital business expert and Salford Business School lecturer Alex Fenton says:
“Burying your head in the sand may save money in the short term, but the cost of hacking could range from minor inconvenience, reputation damage, loss of customer data, fines and ultimately company closure.” The second step is to invest in proper cyber security training for your people. According to Chris Hadnagy of security training firm Social-Engineer, your employees are your biggest vulnerability.
Security breaches are usually the result of human error, such as when employees click links or download attachments from sketchy email addresses, or when employees use weak passwords such as birthdays.
Some cyber security measures to consider adopting in your company:
- Put in place a protocol for handling emails from people not in your safe list, such as to report to an IT security personnel first before taking any action.
- Require your employees to change their passwords regularly.
- Educate your employees about the different types of cyber fraud schemes and online threats. Teach them the best practices to deal with each type of threat and update them as new threats come along.
Branding: Trademark Infringement
In 2015 when domains ending in .adult, .porn, .sucks, and many others became available to the market in addition to the more popular .com, .net, .org, and .info variety, Taylor Swift reportedly purchased the domains TaylorSwift.porn and TaylorSwift.adult.
Not because she was planning on shifting careers, but because the trolls would undoubtedly snatch them up if she hadn’t done so first and very possibly ruin the name she carefully built for many years. A savvy business move on Swift’s part to protect her brand.
To stand out in a crowded marketplace, businesses work hard to create a unique brand identity for their organizations. Some even hire top-notch designers to craft their logo and pick their company’s colors, and creative teams to come up with a catchy tagline. Protecting these assets through trademark registration, therefore, becomes the logical next step.
While not a requirement, business law practitioners insist that registering your trademark comes with distinct advantages. A trademark registration service cautions: “If you don’t register your trademark, then someone else can.” Aside from ownership and exclusivity, a trademark prohibits others from using confusingly similar marks and grants you the right to automatically sue infringers and counterfeiters.
Online Reputation: Negative Reviews
Responsible drivers would do anything to prevent road mishaps from happening. But the same way you can’t predict how other drivers behave or how the weather can adversely affect road and driving conditions, you can’t stop trolls, dissatisfied customers, and even disgruntled former employees from posting bad reviews about your business online.
Research shows that a whopping 86 percent of people will think twice about purchasing from a business with negative online reviews. In the case of restaurants, a study by Harvard Business School professor Michael Luca confirms that ratings can impact revenue by as much as nine percent for every star added on a Yelp review.
What then can a business do?
First off, be proactive. Monitor not just online reviews but other conversations around your brand whether positive or negative. Respond to bad reviews professionally and immediately. Temper the urge to lash back at the reviewer by being aggressive or sarcastic. As SiteJabber’s CEO Jeremy Gin writes, “A public response that is courteous, personal, and helpful can quickly turn an angry one-star review into an appreciative five-star review and win you a loyal repeat customer.”
What about reviews with no factual basis?
A Kissmetrics article on online reputation management asserts that while everyone has the right to freely express their opinions, some negative reviews posted online can be illegal, particularly when:
- The language used is defamatory.
- Reported information is false.
- They’re malicious and aimed to damage your reputation.
Because your online reputation can either make or break you, the same article suggests three ways to handle reviews that specifically attack and defame your business:
- Employment of aggressive SEO to ensure that positive content about your company ranks better than negative ones
- Removal of negative reviews through legal means
- In-depth cyber investigations for the most difficult cases, which involves hiring highly skilled analysts to probe untraceable attackers or threats
Even despite your best efforts, your business may lock horns with outside forces that can severely damage its overall health. The best course of action is to come prepared for the worst. This way, you deter negative situations from escalating further and, in some cases, turn them around in your favor.