The Australian Small Business Blog

Friday, July 28, 2006

Backup – Is your data really safe?


Will you ever experience a major computer crash which causes you to lose all your data? Whilst it is not a common event, computer crashes do occur; and there are 5 standard causes of data loss to look out for.

The most frequent cause of data loss is hard drive failure. Hard drives are the equivalent of a filing cabinet. What most people do not know is that 5% of new hard drives fail every year and the probability of failure increases as drives age. Let me put that statistic a different way. Imagine if 5 out of every 100 new filing cabinets purchased mysteriously imploded, resulting in complete the loss of their contents. Would you insure your business against it? I am guessing you would! Which is why you should insure yourself against computer data loss by having a thorough backup system.

The four other causes of data loss are:

1. Accidental deletion of files
2. Malicious software such as viruses, worms, trojans and spyware
3. Theft of computer equipment
4. Fire

To be properly prepared for data loss, a backup should meet 5 important criteria, it should be:

1. Automatic: The backup should occur automatically without any human intervention.

2. Duplicated: It is vital that you have complete redundancy in your backup strategy to protect against your backup media failing you;

3. Off-site: It is important to store the backup offsite to protect against either theft and disasters such as a fire or flood;

4. Tested: Test your backup regularly to ensure that it is actually working;

5. Monitored: There should be a log to track the backup; this can prove invaluable when trouble shooting failures.

When considering a backup system you should consider the following:

• Media: What are you going to backup to? We recommend external backup drives as they are cost effective and scalable allowing enormous amounts of data to be stored at a low cost. Alternatively you can use a remote backup service maintained by a company.

• Which data: Ensure that your backup system includes all your important data.

• Centralised: Having all your data centralised in a single location such as a file server will make data backup a lot easier

When considering your backup system ask yourself the following questions:

1. Could I recover from a major system crash which resulted in complete data loss? Think carefully about what you do during the day on your computer such as using emails and database programs.

2. Do I feel secure about my data? If you cannot answer Yes then you should have your system checked out by a computer technician.

3. Does your backup system meet the 5 criteria listed above?

Whatever you do for backup, ensure that you are properly covered. Remember that your backup strategy is protecting your data, your business, and your livelihood. Just as with car insurance, it seems unnecessary until you have an accident. Then you are glad you spent the time and money having it.

Damien Battersby is the Director of PC Diagnostics

Friday, July 21, 2006

Staffing Turnover and Retention (Part 1)


Introduction
There have been a number of factors that appear to be consistently linked to turnover. Age, tenure, overall satisfaction, job content, intentions to remain on the job, and commitment were all negatively related to turnover (i.e. the higher the variable, the lower the turnover). Causes of turnover include: job satisfaction, organisational commitment, comparison of alternatives and intention to quit.

Organisational commitment
There is a significant association between organisational commitment and turnover. Employees with strong affective commitment stay with an organisation because they want to, those with strong continuance commitment stay because they need to, and those with strong normative commitment stay because they feel they ought to. All three components of commitment were a negative indicator of turnover.

Job satisfaction
The main reason by far for people leaving their employer was for more interesting work elsewhere. It is generally accepted that the effect of job satisfaction on turnover is less than that of organisational commitment.

The link between satisfaction and commitment
There are strong causal links between stress and satisfaction (higher stress leads to lower satisfaction) and between satisfaction and commitment (lower satisfaction leads to lower commitment). There is also a reciprocal relationship between commitment and turnover intentions (lower commitment leads to greater intentions to quit, which in turn further lowers commitment). In summary, only commitment directly affected turnover intentions.

Wages and conditions
Past research conducted on the link between dissatisfaction with pay and voluntary turnover appears to be inconclusive. Results from studies on the role of pay in turnover were mixed but that often there was no relationship between pay and turnover. Other studies found no significant relationship.

On the other hand the most important reason for voluntary turnover is higher wages/career opportunity, however there is an inverse relationship between relative wages and turnover (i.e. establishments with higher relative pay had lower turnover).

Pay and performance
Analysis shows a relationship between pay, a person’s performance, and turnover. When high performers are insufficiently rewarded, they leave. Where collective reward programs replace individual incentives, their introduction may lead to higher turnover among high performers.

Training and career development
Establishments that enhance the skills of existing workers have lower turnover rates. However, turnover is higher when workers are trained to be multi-skilled, which may imply that this type of training enhances the prospects of workers to find work elsewhere. The literature on the link between lower turnover and training has found that off-the-job training is associated with higher turnover presumably because this type of training imparts more general skills.

Career commitment
When individuals are committed to the organisation, they are less willing to leave the company. This was found to be stronger for those highly committed to their careers. Employees with low career and organisational commitment had the highest turnover intentions because they did not care either about the company nor career.

Individuals with high career commitment and low organisational commitment also tend to leave because they do not believe that the organisation can satisfy their career needs or goals. This is consistent with previous research that high career committers consider leaving the company if development opportunities are not provided by the organisation.

In Part 2 of this article we will review recruitment and retention strategies that reduce turnover.

Craig Missell is the director of Match 2 Personnel. Match2 is about measurable results & cultural fit, not just solutions & job descriptions.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Red tape a major concern for small business


As a small business owner myself, I can whole-heartedly relate to the pressures and burdens of running a small Australian enterprise. As a business journalist I speak with small business proprietors and managers on a daily basis.

There is clearly a consistent theme of concern vibrating across the country. Not only are we juggling our business commitments as the marketer, bookkeeper, administrator and customer service officer (this list could go on forever), but we’re also dealing with endless rolls of red tape - and we’re sick of it.

Fran Bailey, Minister for Small Business & Tourism, recently said, “The red tape anchor drags many small businesses down. What we want to do is slash that anchor and free up small businesses from the day-to-day drudgery of government forms and red tape.”

It appears the Federal Government is certainly listening and red tape is finally on Bailey’s priority list.

However it seems small business owners don’t necessarily agree, according to the June Poll conducted by ImBoss.tv.

We asked the question: “is the Federal Government doing enough to reduce the red tape for small business?”

At final count 14% agreed Howard’s Government was successfully slashing the red tape anchor, 12% weren’t sure and a staggering 74% of voters from across the nation believe there is a lot more that could be done.

One area of serious frustration is reporting to the ATO. Since GST came into effect we’re not only playing the added role of collection agency for the Government, but we’re doing all their paperwork as well.

In my opinion, GST has had a positive impact on our economy, but it has most definitely increased red tap – ten fold.

Following Costello’s announcement of the 2006 budget, you’ll note some much welcomed changes by the small business community.

When it comes to incorporating a company, the cost has been halved to $400 from $800. The minor fringe benefits exemption threshold has been increased from $100 to $300, taking effect from 1st April 2007.

A further $29.6 million is being invested into business.gov.au to enable Government forms to be electronically lodged and verified - although it could be 2009 before we see the fruits of this labour.

Jake Challenor is the Managing Editor of I’m Boss TV, Australia’s first online television channel and magazine all about small business.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Going into Business


So you’ve decided to go into business but don’t know where to start and are unsure what needs to be done.

The following is designed to be a simple and brief checklist of some of things you will need to consider.

1. Purchase or Set Up

Before going into business an important consideration will be do I purchase an existing business or start my own. The advantage of purchasing an existing business is that much of the hard work has been done. The clients are already there, the systems in place and the revenue is quicker to start coming in. The downside is that you pay a price for it. The advantage of starting your own business is that it is a lot cheaper, however all the hard works needs to be done in generating revenue and a client base.

When purchasing a business you may consider some of the following issues:
- What is the value of the business?
- Are there any major clients contributing to a large portion of revenue?
- What will be done by the current owner to ensure a smooth client transition?
- Am I buying the Goodwill or the Structure as well?
- Will key staff remain under the new ownership?
- Is there a claw back provision if clients leave?
- Are there any pending legal issues?

2. Plans, Analysis & Processes

Before commencing business it is a good idea to consider where you want your business to end up and how you will get it there. Some of the following are useful plans to put into effect and can be used to keep you on track and may be modified from time to time.

a) Business Plan – Your business plan is your guide to the future, it details how you will get from point a to point b. A business plan keeps you on track and may also assist you in obtaining finance.

b) Marketing Plan – A marketing plan may form part of your business plan and will help you understand your industry, your target market and your competition.

c) SWOT Analysis – Identifies your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats.

d) Budget – It is a good idea to have a budget. This is something that can be used to keep your spending on track and is a useful tool to look back on to see how your actual results compare to your budgeted results.

e) Break Even Analysis – A break even analysis is more important for a business who is selling a product as opposed to a business selling time. A break even analysis shows you the point at which you sell enough of your product to cover your expenses.

f) Cash Flow Statement – This gives you a plan as to how you can manage your cash flow and plan for expenses. This is also a document that may assist in obtaining finance.

Please look out for Part 2 of this article shortly where we will discuss your business structure, registration, record keeping and insurance.

Paul Jenkin is a partner of the accounting firm Andresen McCarthy which specialises in providing support to small to medium sized businesses.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

What is Most Important?


Recently, the US ambassador to the UN commented that the Secretary General had 9000 mandates. He then noted, when you have 9000 priorities, you have none.

This happens in business too. Owners do not prioritise their resources. None of us have infinite resources- not even the UN. We therefore must say, what are our key priorities? They are ones that are the most urgent. The ones that will create the most value or prevent large loss if implemented first. The ones that give you the biggest bang for your buck. Often called the low hanging fruit.

These priorities could be to increase sales or reduce costs so that you can be more competitive. They could also be externally driven- due to regulation or some external event which creates an opportunity for your business. Priorities are either operational, or strategic. Examples of operational priorities may be a deadline for a delivery or a tender, whereas examples of the strategic may be the creation of a new product range or the formation of an alliance. The key difference is that the former is business-as-usual and the later will result in a business transformation.

Firstly, create a list of all your current priorities. For each, determine a value (or loss of value) and a probability of occurrence. Then identify which of these have an external driver. For example- the deadline for your tax return or the closing date to participate in a Trade Show. Split the priorities between operational & strategic.

Some priorities may be long term. You should create a deadline for these as they will otherwise never be completed. An example may be to create a business management system. This is a goal whose value is difficult to quantify, but can increase productivity significantly. It is also a goal which might take some time to implement, particularly for a larger company. So the objective might be to have the systems fully operational over a 12 month period. You would also have milestone objectives each quarter, so that it is not all left to the last minute.

Once we know our priorities, we still need to balance the strategic against the day-to-day priorities of our business. The strategic priorities always seem to be the ones we leave to last, yet they are the ones will have the greatest impact. The squeaky wheel (operational priorities) always seems to get the oil. To prevent this, we must create time in our schedule that we use only for the strategic priorities.

Most business owners spend all their time fighting fires and working in their business rather than looking at ways to prevent fires from starting. While they are doing this, their business will never improve. Setting priorities means leaving some things for later. When you try doing everything at once, you achieve nothing. Ask Kofi Annan.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and is a Business Coach based in Melbourne Australia and provides advice on Marketing Strategy and Business Planning and Systems.

The Australian Small Business Blog

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Why writing a press release is important to your marketing

When most small business think Public Relations (PR), they think expense and that media coverage is somewhat easily achieved. Whilst most media coverage takes a lot of work behind the scenes, especially developing relationships with journalists, no-one can expect media coverage without doing a little bit of hard work.

The benefit of using the media as a marketing tool is that it is often seen as an endorsement by the newspaper or publication - and that far outweighs the benefit of advertising. By identifying stories and making regular press announcements about news within your industry or your company, you can raise the profile of your business and create a unique point of difference from your direct competition.

Most PR companies can help you get announcements to the press. After all, when you work with a PR firm you are paying for their skill in communicating your message and also their existing media relationships.

If you choose to go it alone, you can increase your chances of getting press coverage by following these simple guidelines.

It’s important that you:

-Always write your press releases on headed paper, with your logo at the top, the current date and the words Media Release (or similar) listed near your logo.

-Ensure that a contact name is put at the end of the media release, just in case a journalist wants to get hold of you for more information.

-Include a succinct explanation about your company and its activities. Limit the propaganda and stick to the facts.

-Keep the release short and punchy. Keep promotional content and jargon to a minimum. If possible, keep the release to a page in length.

-Send the release to the right journalist. You are selling your company and your brand, so don’t waste their time and yours by sending press releases to the wrong people.

-After you’ve written the media release, check, check and check again. Try to get someone different to look at it. Ask yourself Who, What, Why, When, How and check to see that nothing has been omitted.

-Don’t send attachments. Journalists are busy people, they are on deadline constantly and receiving large files which take a while to download is likely to get you in the bad books.

Sending out meaningless releases that are not considered newsworthy will waste time, likewise is calling a journalist to see if they are running your story. And remember, never talk ‘off the record’ – the phrase simply doesn’t exist.

Stuart Evans is a professional copywriter, PR practitioner and freelance journalist. He runs Vibe Communications, a communication consultancy specialising in helping small to medium sized business.

The Australian Small Business Blog

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Dr. Greg Chapman is also the author of
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