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Small Business

 

New Regulations for Small Business Owners

Important information about new business regulations that all small business owners need to know.

incorporation, small business

Time was, you could just hang up a shingle and call yourself a business. As long as you didn't shoot anyone, you were pretty much left alone. Not so any more. A glut of federal and state regulations have come into being, many just over the past few years, and many apply to small businesses. These regulations are meant to accomplish any one of several social goods, such as protecting an individual's privacy and preventing identity theft, preventing corporate financial scandals, or lastly, or so it would seem, just to annoy small businesspeople by increasing their paperwork burden. Fortunately, if you understand these regulations, complying doesn't have to be too difficult or expensive.

If you have a publicly-held company, you'll have to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which sets technological standards and reporting requirements for how companies handle their financial reporting. Passed in response to the recent wave of corporate scandals, fiscal mismanagement and outright theft, Sarbanes-Oxley puts in place a set of requirements for establishing internal controls that ensure the integrity of a company's financial data. Although the requirements are generally the same for companies of all sizes, smaller companies have been granted some flexibility in terms of longer timeframes to become compliant. This Act calls for, among other things, security-related solutions to be put into place to regulate access to financial data, provide an audit trail, and generate detailed reports for the government. The good news is, if you already follow best practices in security, you're already more than halfway there.

If you are in the healthcare industry, whether you are a healthcare provider, pharmacy, or a data processing agency serving the healthcare industry, you'll have to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA calls for any company that handles private patient data to guarantee that it is secure and protected against unauthorized access. If your company handles healthcare information of any sort, for any reason, you will have to take technological steps to ensure that it is secure through measures such as encryption, strong two-factor authentication, and adequate firewalling.

And if you're in California, or if any of your customers are in California, you'll have to comply with SB 1386 (the California Information Practice Act). This law requires that your company provide notice to customers whenever any technological hack, or other attack has occurred and caused personal information to be exposed and vulnerable to theft. Meant to safeguard against identity theft, this state law also applies to any subcontractors of companies that maintain information about California residents. This particular law is ground-breaking, since although it is on paper just a California law, it has, in reality, become a federal law. California is the largest state, population-wise, in the U.S., and any mid-size company and many smaller ones have at least a few customers in California, regardless of where the company is actually located. If, for example, your company is in Maine, but your mail order division sold some products to someone in California, you must comply. Compliance simply means that if your network is attacked, you must notify your customers. Although this can be done individually, most companies actually make notification on their Web sites, or through issuing a public press release.

The Visa Cardholder Information Security Program (CISP) isn't a state or federal law, but a mandate from VISA USA created to protect cardholder data. It calls on all vendors who accept credit card payments to adhere to a higher standard of information security for the purpose of guarding against identity theft. CISP calls on vendors to implement standard security measures such as firewalls, anti-virus software, and strong authentication to regulate who has access to customer credit card data. Visa also has set forth a set of best practices. Compliance is easy, and involves adhering to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard which includes a call for implementing standard security technology, restricting access, and encrypting the transmission of any cardholder data.

 

New Regulations for Small Business Owners

Important information about new business regulations that all small business owners need to know.

incorporation, small business

Time was, you could just hang up a shingle and call yourself a business. As long as you didn't shoot anyone, you were pretty much left alone. Not so any more. A glut of federal and state regulations have come into being, many just over the past few years, and many apply to small businesses. These regulations are meant to accomplish any one of several social goods, such as protecting an individual's privacy and preventing identity theft, preventing corporate financial scandals, or lastly, or so it would seem, just to annoy small businesspeople by increasing their paperwork burden. Fortunately, if you understand these regulations, complying doesn't have to be too difficult or expensive.

If you have a publicly-held company, you'll have to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which sets technological standards and reporting requirements for how companies handle their financial reporting. Passed in response to the recent wave of corporate scandals, fiscal mismanagement and outright theft, Sarbanes-Oxley puts in place a set of requirements for establishing internal controls that ensure the integrity of a company's financial data. Although the requirements are generally the same for companies of all sizes, smaller companies have been granted some flexibility in terms of longer timeframes to become compliant. This Act calls for, among other things, security-related solutions to be put into place to regulate access to financial data, provide an audit trail, and generate detailed reports for the government. The good news is, if you already follow best practices in security, you're already more than halfway there.

If you are in the healthcare industry, whether you are a healthcare provider, pharmacy, or a data processing agency serving the healthcare industry, you'll have to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA calls for any company that handles private patient data to guarantee that it is secure and protected against unauthorized access. If your company handles healthcare information of any sort, for any reason, you will have to take technological steps to ensure that it is secure through measures such as encryption, strong two-factor authentication, and adequate firewalling.

And if you're in California, or if any of your customers are in California, you'll have to comply with SB 1386 (the California Information Practice Act). This law requires that your company provide notice to customers whenever any technological hack, or other attack has occurred and caused personal information to be exposed and vulnerable to theft. Meant to safeguard against identity theft, this state law also applies to any subcontractors of companies that maintain information about California residents. This particular law is ground-breaking, since although it is on paper just a California law, it has, in reality, become a federal law. California is the largest state, population-wise, in the U.S., and any mid-size company and many smaller ones have at least a few customers in California, regardless of where the company is actually located. If, for example, your company is in Maine, but your mail order division sold some products to someone in California, you must comply. Compliance simply means that if your network is attacked, you must notify your customers. Although this can be done individually, most companies actually make notification on their Web sites, or through issuing a public press release.

The Visa Cardholder Information Security Program (CISP) isn't a state or federal law, but a mandate from VISA USA created to protect cardholder data. It calls on all vendors who accept credit card payments to adhere to a higher standard of information security for the purpose of guarding against identity theft. CISP calls on vendors to implement standard security measures such as firewalls, anti-virus software, and strong authentication to regulate who has access to customer credit card data. Visa also has set forth a set of best practices. Compliance is easy, and involves adhering to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard which includes a call for implementing standard security technology, restricting access, and encrypting the transmission of any cardholder data.

 

My 5 Second Rule for Small Business Owners

Advice for introducing your product or service in person or online

business advice, introductions, marketing image

Opening a new business in the real world or online in cyberspace requires thinking beyond all the money you will make. Most small business owners are clear on their ultimate goal, yet often many fail to spend time planning their marketing image. To succeed, first impressions are critical, or you may violate what I call My 5 Second Rule:

When a new prospect finds your web site, you have 5 seconds to convince them to stay.

The rule applies in the physical world, also. Your printed materials may be dumped in the trash just as quickly, or a visitor to your company may browse briefly while in fact the no sale decision was made in those critical first few seconds.

Regardless of your business, your image as a professional and credible source for a product or service depends on making a positive first impression. While most people don't realize the subconscious dynamics that occur during an introduction, how you are perceived is clouded with prejudice.

In a face to face meeting, subconsciously your prospect will categorize you immediately by sex, age, and race. This fact may be hard to believe, however, individual life experiences connect your combination of these 3 characteristics into a fixed profile based on past encounters. Overcoming any negatives begins when you speak. A warm and friendly approach while being prepared to offer the benefits of doing business will help you succeed.

In print, your business card, ad, or brochure tells a similar story without the subconscious human preconceptions. The message will still elicit a reaction, good or bad, so how you present your company in print needs to get past My 5 Second Rule. This is equally true for the home page of your web site. Here's some advice.

Customers have a need (problem), and you provide a product or service (solution). Matching these 2 for a successful sale is easier than most people realize. Front door selling, printed ads, or online web offers should all address the benefits (solution, again) and not the features (it's about the customer, not about you).

Your marketing materials need to project a mental image in the mind of the viewer. Stimulate their imagination so they picture themselves enjoying the benefits of your offer, and you can overcome My 5 Second Rule. Here's an example that was created for a used car dealer. How do you glamorize a business that is the subject of so many disparaging jokes?

This client had a featured monthly special vehicle that they wanted to promote on their web site. The photos taken in a chain link enclosed parking lot didn't convey the excitement or mental picture necessary to stimulate the viewer. The chosen vehicle was an upscale Jeep, and the client specialized in exports to Puerto Rico. To add pizzazz, I did an edit of the photo to remove the background, and placed 2 views of the monthly special on a bluff overlooking a gorgeous beach in Puerto Rico. If my descriptions succeeded creating your mental image referring to the chain link and gorgeous beach, the subtle difference in presentation should be apparent.

Bonus Tip: What to Say When a Customer is Wrong
As a small business owner, you know your business and as an expert, reacting to an email or face to face comment that you know is absolutely wrong will work wonders if you answer with two magic words: "You're right!". This works for several reasons. Most importantly, your customer may be expecting an argument, so they will only hear half of what you have to say if you reply saying they are wrong. The listener will be busy mentally sorting comebacks and supporting evidence, and may not hear any of your expert advice.

Telling someone "You're right" will have them on the edge of their chair waiting for your next comment. Shifting your argument to what you know to be the truth is easy. With a brief pause after your magic two words, continue with "...and there are many people who feel the same way. From years of experience, I've found that in fact (insert the truth based on your expertise here)... etc." and you give them the opportunity to accept your slant on the subject without having their opinion challenged. It works. For those concerned about ethics, the phrase "You're right!" is simply an acknowledgement that they have one view, and it is valid because that's how they feel.

In summary, a professional image includes a wide range of materials for making a positive first impression. Consider the feelings of your prospect and how your product or service will benefit them, and you'll do well in converting first introductions into sales.




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