Attention small businesses…you’re not that small! Working with many small businesses, I am reminded of the song “She Don't Know She's Beautiful.” In the Song, the lyrics “she just can't see what the fuss is all about” applies to many of the businesses I see on a regular basis. Many small businesses underestimate the resources they have built around them, they don’t comprehend the value that they have created and it is frequently someone from the outside that recognizes it before they do. The problem that small businesses have is that individuals that see the value in small businesses are frequently not looking out for their best interest.
The strength of small businesses is that they are not restrained by policies and procedures, so they can be more responsive and reactive to changes in an industry and meeting their customer’s needs. Most small businesses started with a few individuals with a trust relationship. If the business continues to grow, the processes that were used at the creation of the organization frequently remain unchanged.
Business workflow modification is more often related to business growth rather than business maturity. The first time a business owner meets an employee they didn’t hire directly or don’t recognize is usually when they start to consider alternatives to how they manage information in their business. Small businesses with minimal (employee) growth often have not had a need to redefine their business processes…and as a result may not have considered the value and exposure or their information.
Small businesses have several things working against them in terms of protecting their information and their organization. Most will tell you they don’t have the financial resources or the time to automate or digitize a process. What they are not saying is, “my business is going well and they don’t see a need or benefit to making changes.” In other words, if it’s not broke, don’t try to fix it.
The first step small businesses need to take, is to recognize the value of your information and then to look at the very basic threats of loss and theft. Loss can come as a simple lost document or be catastrophic such as a fire or flood. Losing client and billing information can shut a business down almost immediately. If you can’t invoice a client, there is no revenue and business stops. Small businesses will frequently tell me they back up their accounting information to prevent a loss; however the backups are often flawed, incomplete and untested.
Any business with customers and clients has a list somewhere of all of their customer’s information. In the old days, it was called a rolodex, today we call it CRM. Whatever you call it, it is the backbone of your business. Competitors or opportunists find a tremendous value using your contact information for target marketing campaigns (legit or SPAM); sometimes the results are more malicious and destructive for you and your clients. Either way, it’s bad for your business.
The same individuals looking to capture your contact information will also be interested in your intellectual property. A process or design that you have been using, left unprotected could be exploited by others to sell, start a new business or compete directly against you.
This article is an excerpt from the course
“Optimizing Business Document Processes”offered at
Cleveland State University
Monte Ahuja College of Business - Professional Development Center