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Risk Management

Is Your Business Ready for the Unexpected?

Being prepared for any disaster – natural or otherwise.

David Ribeiro

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It’s unfortunate that the expression “up a creek without a paddle” accurately describes many small and midsize businesses these days when it comes to disaster preparedness. While your first thought around disaster is “hang on…South Africadoesn’t suffer Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Tornados etc.” but what about the disaster when your computer crashes or when you delete that important document or file by mistake?

The shocking fact is that 50% of SMEs don’t have disaster recovery plans in place. Rather than implement automated backup and data recovery solutions, many simply cross their fingers and hope for the best. The reason these companies leave their data protection to chance is simply explained – backup has become too complicated!

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As a small business, your data is your direct connection to your customers, your product and your bottom line. Your data is arguably your most precious resource. Most SMEs know they should back up their information like corporate data, customer records, legal documents etc. but for many businesses it stays on that to-do list until it’s too late. This is a hard and costly way to learn a lesson. It’s worth asking: what is preventing you from implementing a successful backup strategy?

So, don’t get on the information technology river without all your necessary equipment: grab your life jacket, get your paddle and start shooting right through the rapids unscathed. Disaster recovery just became a whole lot easier.

Here are five of the most common SME disaster preparedness mistakes we’ve seen that you can hopefully avoid:

1. Not having a plan at ALL

It’s odd to think that in this day and age businesses would be operating by throwing caution to the wind and avoiding a Disaster Recovery solution altogether. Unfortunately the aforementioned is more common than one would imagine. Common excuses include: “We have paper records,” “Backup is cost prohibitive for as little data as we have,” “Backups are complicated and time consuming,” and “I’m not an IT guy – and don’t understand such things.” Sound familiar?

Given the abundance of relatively cheap technology and a little know-how, even the most basic of environments can be protected in a manner akin to, simply making a copy of a file on one’s desktop. While it’s hard to estimate the costs associated with line of business systems going down and critical documents going missing (as they vary from business to business), not having even the most basic plan in place will, without exception, serve as a recipe for disaster.

2. Lack of proper planning for disaster

While backing up a file system is generally a straight forward process, it stands to reason that many SMEs are dealing with a considerably larger backup burden than just files. Every properly fought battle has always had a comprehensive plan at its roots, which morphed over time to suit the combat theatre.

Make no mistake, Disaster Recovery is a continual fight where the foe appears occasionally, and without ample warning, delivering a swift blow to the heart of your organisation. Things to keep in mind when planning for Disaster Recovery could include: How frequently are you backing up, and will you be able to tolerate a disaster in between backups? Will you have enough space to protect everything needed down the road (be it four months or four years)? When you install new applications, can you ensure they will be properly protected with your current solution? Does your retention policy make sense for what you need to protect? When you need to recover items, will you be able to do so quickly and efficiently? Which brings me to my next point…

3. Unwillingness to test a recovery scenario

While I can appreciate the mindset of letting sleeping dogs lie – practicing recovery for your environment while it is performing optimally is probably more important than taking backups in the first place. Do your backups provide recovery? Are you dealing with databases, and does your backup leave it in a consistent state? What are the steps required to deal with disaster (be it a ‘by mistake’ file deletion or an all-out catastrophe)? Having a tested plan in place prior to an incident occurring can make worlds of difference when the rubber hits the road.

The last thing one needs to be doing is learning recovery “on the fly” when it matters most. Only when a solution is tested and proven can one rest easier knowing that “all things considered, the protection is comprehensive and functional.” While I can appreciate the awkwardness of wrecking a perfectly good server – the initial awkwardness will turn to confidence when the unthinkable occurs, because you’ll know that all your ducks are in a line and that recovery will be a snap.

4. Not storing backups offsite (or storing them on the server that is being protected)

I always get a laugh out of the customer that calls saying their backups have gone down with the ship. Be it via an Act of God, fire, theft, or run-of-the-mill hardware failure – storing business critical backups in proximity to the operation site is a critical misstep. While most SMEs go to backups to get the occasional file that gets moved / deleted, the core ideology of a complete Disaster Recovery solution is to have an “out” when the worst conceivable situation arises. Taking backups offsite typically only requires an additional step or two (with a little human intervention) and will serve to complete the circle of any recovery scenario. It doesn’t matter if you use tape, removable disks, or the cloud, putting some space between your business and your backed up data is a prudent practice.

5. Falling victim to the “set it and forget it” mentality

While most businesses start out with the best of intentions and vow to monitor their backups, it never fails that after a long string of successful executions, business owners are lulled into a false sense that “everything is ok,” allowing them to pay less attention to their scheduled jobs. As a quick fix, most all modern backup packages have the ability to hook into a notification engine to provide status updates. Be it notification via email, SMS, or simply checking the console, it is imperative to keep a finger on the pulse of your Disaster Recovery solution.

Adhering to the aforementioned suggestions can help ensure a stable base to begin building a successful Disaster Recovery solution for your SME. While there are many ways to skin a cat in the way of Disaster Recovery, it is important to note that backup, much like a snowflake, is a unique experience for each and every SME. Above all, choose that which makes you most comfortable and guarantees expedient, complete recovery for your environment to give you the utmost confidence that your organisation’s lifeblood is protected. Better Backups For ALL!

David Ribeiro is a Partner Account Manager at Symantec South Africa. He is responsible for managing the relationship between Symantec South Africa and the managed reseller Channels. During the past years with Symantec, David has been recognized for his dedication and achievements both locally and on a global level. In addition to receiving the Small Business Team of the Year awards for EMEA in 2008, he was also named the Small Business Salesperson of EMEA for FY10.

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Risk Management

How to Take Risks That Win (Almost) Every Time

Knowing which risks to take, and how to take them, can be extremely helpful in stacking the odds in your favour.

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Looking 13,000 feet down out of an airplane, parachute pack secured, your heart beating in your throat, must be one of the most terrifying experiences imaginable. Though not all risks are life-threatening, all risks are frightening. As humans, we’re constantly afraid of failure, of doing something wrong and of having to deal with the consequences. Yet, at the same time, there is nothing more rewarding than reaping the benefits of a risk gone right – of landing safely ground, to build the earlier metaphor.

For entrepreneurs, risk taking is a necessity of the job. After all, we’re never quite positive that things are going to work out the way we envision. We make choices daily which affect our business, and we can never be absolutely sure that we’re making the right ones.

Knowing which risks to take, and how to take them, can be extremely helpful in stacking the odds in your favour. While risks are unavoidable, approaching them strategically can be the best way to decrease your parachute’s chances of failing, so to speak, and to produce measurable results that you would never have achieved had you avoided the risk in the first place.

Related: Dream Big, Plan Well, Minimise Risks Says Braam Malherbe

In order to hone your risk-taking skills, here are some guidelines:

1. Information is your friend

The more knowledge you have about any given topic, the less risky your endeavours will ultimately be. For example, many of the most steadily successful brokers on Wall Street are those who understand the patterns of the market better than anyone else. While there are always going to be those people who make millions off a risky uninformed bet, they are the same people who most likely will lose all their earnings on a single trade. Traders who build a sustainable career for themselves are the ones that have deep knowledge of the industry.

Similarly, you should be an expert in your field. You should know your industry well – your product or service you are providing. You should understand the buying patterns of consumers, their motivation and pain points. What drives them to buy your products? Where and when do they buy? What makes them stop buying?

As an entrepreneur – or in any profession that requires risks, really – you’ll want to have as much information as possible. The more you know, the fewer unknowns there are. The unknowns, ultimately, are what makes an action risky.

2. Assess the risk carefully

While risk is a reality of life, there is also something to be said for strong assessment skills. Being able to look at a risky situation and decide whether or not it’s worth taking is a hallmark of a good businessperson.

Venture capital investors, for example, spend their entire careers deciding which companies are worth risking time and money on. Those who throw their money around recklessly, while admirable for their risk-taking, are not necessarily the most successful investors.

Being a good risk-taker involves using the information you have to assess a situation and decide whether or not the risk is worth it.

Related: 5 Infamous Risks Every Entrepreneur Must Face

3. Learn from failure

Appreciate that all risks are learning experiences. Especially those that don’t pan out.

On some accounts, failure is actually more valuable than success. While failures may not lead to an increase in your bottom line, you can use the opportunity to glean important information about what you’ve done wrong, where you misstepped and how you can move forward in the future.

The biggest mistake many people make is seeing failure as a measure of who they are, rather than a measure of where they can go. We’ve all heard that failure is feedback. Most successful entrepreneurs failed at many ventures before they created that million-dollar offering. Most overnight successes took many years to make. If you take a risk and fail, learn from it. Ask yourself what you can do differently next time, and then move on. The only failure is not learning the lesson that it provides and using it to hone your next endeavour.

According to Mark Zuckerberg, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

Taking risks is the only way to go from here to there. Even failed risks move you closer to your goals if you can turn that failure into valuable learning and a plan for improve your results next time.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Risk Management

Are You Focusing Too Much On The Little Details (And Forgetting The Bigger Picture)?

To what degree do outside influences impact your business’s success? As a business owner, should you be focused on your business, or taking a macro view of the world?

Nicholas Haralambous

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Entrepreneurs live in the daily grind of their businesses. This is unavoidable but can often be fatal. Day to day we think that the little things matter more than the very big things do. A little thing like the floor of your office or store being mopped daily can become a huge issue if not done.

Sure, these things are important because they create a culture of care and pride, but what you might be missing while you watch your team mop the floors is the macro-economic climate shifts that happen more rapidly than you think.

Step back to move forward

Early in the life of a new business the only way to survive is for the founders to do absolutely everything. From designing a logo and launching a strategy all the way through to writing tweets and emailing customers when there are issues.

This makes sense when you’re building a business, your team is small and your cash is tight. However, as you grow, it becomes important to let your people do their best and take on the day to day work.

Related: Expanding At The Speed Of Stress

As an obsessive entrepreneur it’s often hard to let go of these little details. Day to day operations will always be integral to the growth of your business and an important part of someone’s job in your organisation. However, it shouldn’t be yours if you are taking care of the big picture.

As the leader of your business you need to take a step back from the grind and look at the world around you.

To truly understand the positioning of your growing business you need to understand your country, continent and world.

You should understand the economic position you’re in as well as that of your province, country and even the markets that might directly influence your sales. Get a good understanding of the political stability of your country and the world.

Finally, you should figure out if there are any large- scale impending disasters. If disaster is imminent, like Zuma pillaging a nation and tanking an economy, then you have to get your head out of the floor mopping and into the high-level strategy of survival and preparation for disaster.

Move the needle

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Every day there are 24 hours that you can fill. You can choose to work during that time and faff with the things that were once important, or you can figure out what is going to move the needle in your business.

What is going to really help you survive and grow in the years to come? Founders, CEOs and leaders need to be thinking about the next three, five and ten years. Let your team worry about today. Let the smart people you work with make today and tomorrow and next week work.

Chances are, the things you are doing in the hours/minutes aren’t saving your business or moving the needle. It’s the things that you plan for the next six months that affect the next five years.

Related: 8 Rules To Build Wealth When You Weren’t Born Into Money

Don’t live in a bubble

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you live in an isolated country or region that isn’t affected by world events. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you close your eyes and hide your head under the pillow you can’t avoid the fact that your business exists in a globally connected environment.

At Nic Harry we were affected by the Brexit events that unfolded in the UK and Europe. British shoppers were scared and didn’t spend their money when they were on holiday in Cape Town over the peak holiday season. I was so busy preparing for the seasonal uptick that I missed the link between a huge global event and my sales.

You live in a world that is filled with online shoppers and tourists who visit your business whether you know it or not. Prepare for the world to start having an effect on your business more and more.

Broaden your view

I am always fascinated by the narrow view of the world many entrepreneurs display. I may sell men’s socks, accessories and style but that doesn’t mean that the mining sector doesn’t affect my business.

Related: How To Plan, Prioritise And Get It Done Now

Even if you were an entrepreneur building a business in Antarctica I would urge you to read about oil prices, political world events and the intricacies of overfishing in the South American seas. Being well rounded and having a broad view of the world and your business can only make you a more robust thinker who sees more angles to exploit, protect against and thrive on.

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Risk Management

Why Adversity Is Actually The Best Thing For Your Business

There’s been a lot of talk about privilege lately: What is it? Who has it? Who doesn’t have it? I have a slightly different take on privilege and prefer to frame it as the privilege of adversity.

Allon Raiz

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Studies across the globe show that the minorities in all contexts have higher rates of entrepreneurial activity than the incumbent majority. There are a host of reasons for this, but one of them is that adversity creates resilience and self-reliance that are vital for entrepreneurial success.

Every successful and exponentially successful entrepreneur that I have met or read about has transitioned through a baptism of fire. They have overcome insurmountable obstacles and used the lessons gifted through their experiences to rocket their business to the next level.

Related: Approach Adversity Head-On

The Five Gifts Of Adversity

A sense of where your true limits are. These are always far beyond what your belief system believed them to be. The experience of testing your limits breaks the preconceived notion of where your limits are or were.

Confidence. Once you have overcome an issue, the experience of overcoming it builds a high level of confidence that should the issue reoccur, you will have the ability and resources to overcome it. For example, if you lose your biggest client and manage to keep your business afloat, the next time you lose a big client you will not panic or become despondent, but will instead kick into action and claw your way out again.

Insight. Insight as to which of your non-financial resources you can tap into. When the chips are down and money is nowhere to be found, it’s amazing how many resources you will now perceive around you that can potentially help you transition to success. These resources come in the form of advice from friends, access to new markets through networks, credit from suppliers, and free promotion through networks, to name a few.

Your relationship with your own resourcefulness. The experience of not having resources but somehow manufacturing some out of thin air, recalibrates your sense of your own resourcefulness, which in turn builds a level of confidence that should you be dropped off in the middle of the desert with only a matchbox and a magnifying glass, you will survive.

Related: Learn to Adapt In The Face of Adversity

Faith. A level of faith and a belief system that there is always a way to overcome a problem. This is true no matter how overwhelming the problem may be. The more you overcome impossible problems, the less you’ll believe in the existence of impossible problems.

So instead of worrying about who has privilege, who doesn’t, or what privilege actually is, use the lessons gifted to you when overcoming insurmountable obstacles to propel your business forward.

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