10 Tips Small Businesses Can Use to Avoid Viruses, Spam and Spyware

Viruses, spam, spyware and other malware cost small businesses billions of dollars each year in lost productivity, stolen identities and IT support costs.

What small businesses need to understand is that these gremlins are easy to avoid when common sense and some simple precautions are applied. And ‘avoid’ is the key word; your strategy should be to stay as far away from these things in the first place so that you don’t have to experience the lost time and cost associated with cleaning up the mess they leave.

So how can a small business avoid viruses, spam, and spyware?

The following is a list of 10 best practices for small businesses:
1. Use antivirus software that is automatically updated on all machines
2. Use a hosted spam filtering service that filters the spam before it ever makes it to your local network
3. Make sure employees know that you have a policy that work computers are only to be used for work purposes.
4. Don’t give your business email address to a non-business source
5. Don’t forward jokes, chain mail, etc. to other employees
6. Never open an attachment from an unknown source
7. Never open an attachment with an unknown file extension
8. Don’t download free toolbars, shopping assistants, weather bug, etc. on your work computer
9. Never give your information or download information from an unknown site
10. Never update banking or other sensitive personal information using a link sent to you via email – always navigate directly to the site and log in there.

As you can see, most of these tips don’t require you to buy anything or use any special technology. Viruses, spam and spyware prey on human nature – curiosity, laziness, etc. – to get past technology-based defences, so you must educate yourself and your employees to know what to avoid.

One last tip: if you do feel like you have a virus or something else attacking your computer, unplug it from your network immediately. The last thing you want to do is give it to everyone else in your office – that’s when things get really expensive.

Business Brokers – How to Choose the Right One

The vast majority of small businesses are sold without the assistance of business brokers.

But if you do decide the hire a broker, here are some suggestions on how to pick the right one and how to structure the agreement in your favor.

What Business Is The Broker Actually In?

In many states there is no training or certification needed to become a business broker. In other states, brokers are required to hold a real estate license.

In these states it’s common to find real estate agents that do business brokering as a side business. If you deal with a broker who is also a real estate agent, make sure that being a business broker is more than just his hobby.

You will pay a pretty penny for the broker’s expertise and experience – you should make sure they have that experience when it comes to selling businesses and not just experience selling houses.

Questions To Ask

If you hire a broker you will be working with them closely for months to come; they will have access to your most confidential business records; the amount of money you put in your pocket at closing will be influenced heavily by the quality of work they do.

Therefore, you absolutely must check them out.

Here are some questions you should ask any prospective broker before hiring him:

1. How long have you been a broker?
2. Have you ever owned a business?
3. How many businesses similar to mine have you helped sell?
4. Can I see a blank version of your Listing Agreement?
5. What percentage of you income comes from brokering and how much from real estate (If applicable)

Ask them to provide you with references from previous clients. Then, I suggest you do something very unusual: Actually call the broker’s references!
I know a lot of people ask for references just to see how the person will react when asked (and to see if they actuality have any). But you can learn a lot about the broker’s reliability and professionalism by talking to people who dealt with that broker when they were in the exact same spot you are in.

Business Broker Fees

There are two benefits a broker can provide the business seller. First, he can locate potential buyers while maintaining the seller’s confidentiality. And second, a broker will qualify these potential business buyers so the seller saves time by not having to deal with weak prospects.

The big negative of dealing with a business broker is his fee, which averages 10-12% of the sale price. This fee is charged to the seller.

There is also a minimum fee. A very small business will pay a flat amount, typically $8-$10,000, instead of the commission. For a business worth $50,000 this minimum fee actually works out to be a higher percentage than the 10-12% industry average. But as a matter of practice, brokers usually won’t be interested in your business unless the asking price is above $100,000.

These fees are the reason most business owners choose to sell their business themselves and rely on their lawyers and accountants for the professional assistance they need.

The Broker Agreement

If you decide to use a broker you’ll be asked to sign a broker agreement which will detail the his fees. If possible, have your agreement include the following clauses:

Timing of Payments – Have it written into the agreement that the broker’s fee will be paid at the time you receive the purchase price – not at the time the sale is closed. This way, if you finance part of the sale price over a number of years, you pay the business broker as you get the money, not all up front.

Length Of Agreement – Your listing agreement should be for a limited time. If the broker locates the buyer within that time he gets paid. Be careful of lengthy agreements that lock you in with one business broker for more than 6 months. If he doesn’t produce, you want to be able to try other options. A 6 month business broker agreement is the longest you should allow. However, because selling a business can be a lengthy process, 3 months is usually too little time for the broker to find the right buyer. Try to settle on something between 3 and 6 months. If after six months, you haven’t closed the deal but you think the broker has done a good job, you’re always free to extend the agreement. But you want to be free to decide on an extension 6 months from now, not today.

Broker’s Guarantee – Include a paragraph stating that if you find the buyer, you don’t have to pay the commission. Without this clause, the broker is usually paid no matter who locates the buyer. Before signing any listing agreement, it is best to have your attorney review it to make sure your interests are protected.

How to Get the Best Small Business Bank Account for Your Company

There are several factors to consider before choosing a business bank account. Company size, location, and business plan are all important elements that affect the type of business account an owner should choose; these factors should be taken under serious advisement while making such an important business decision. There are several things that a business account should entail and the best business bank accounts encompass all of the following attributes.

Define and Explore Your Needs

Before choosing a financial institution, consider the reasons you need a business bank account in the first place. If you are interested in specialized services, research banks in your region that offers these services. Be prepared to perform online and in-person investigations; often times, online information only covers surface information and cannot answer pertinent questions you may have. Never assume something that isn’t clearly stated; don’t be afraid to ask for concrete answers to your business banking questions. Credible financial institutions won’t have any problems calming your nerves and satisfying your financial inquiries.

If you hadn’t considered this before, search for a bank with a financial adviser. Many financial institutions offer these services as an added perk; benefits can include aide and guidance in future investments and professional help to manage cash flow.

Compare Features to Find the Best Small Business Bank Account

Once you have firmly established what you are searching for in a bank, comparing and contrasting the financial institutions in your area is a relatively simple task. Don’t forget that once you’ve narrowed down your options, you can always call to request more specific information or to schedule a meeting to review information and address particular concerns you may still have.

Keep in mind the importance of availability and account services. A bank that offers great incentives but lacks a local branch doesn’t do much good if you prefer a face-to-face interaction. On the other hand, nationwide banks that offer online banking but lack your required account services will likewise do you no good. Determine the type of banking system you will prefer and find one that suits your small business account needs.

As you draw closer to choosing a financial institution, remember to focus on fees and service charges. In most banks, fees for business accounts are significantly higher than those for private accounts, even going so far as to charge businesses for online banking services but not charging individuals. Beware that universal truths pertaining to personal bank accounts do not hold true in the business account realm.

Bank Size Does Matter

At some point in the life of a small business, it is highly probable that the company will need to borrow money. Since the decline in the market, many banks are making it more and more difficult to get credit. Surprisingly, many small business owners have turned to community and small banks to get the loans they require. Small banks are more likely than world institutions to issue loans to indigenous businesses because it strengthens the local economy and supports the community. These minor institutions tend to meet a small business’s financial needs on a more personal field and provide a level of support that “outside” banks cannot.

Once you have evaluated each of these steps and determined what services and values best fit your financial needs, it is as simple as a visit or the click of a mouse to get the best small business bank account for your company.

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