Protecting your business from hackers

Business owners must take steps to protect their businesses from cyber-attacks. These attacks can cause proprietary information to be leaked and businesses to close. Here’s how to approach cybersecurity for your business and protect your information.


Every year, businesses become more sophisticated in their efforts to stop hackers from stealing proprietary information. The problem is that hackers become more sophisticated every year, too. 

Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet for eliminating the threat of a cyber-attack on your business, but there are a number of ways to protect your data and reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim.

The Question is Not If Your Business Will be Hacked, But When

Unfortunately, just about every small business will eventually experience an attempted cyber-attack. According to Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report, small businesses make up 28% – nearly one third – of all data breaches. 

The report points out that cloud-based tools can actually make small businesses even more vulnerable to having their data and personal information compromised. This risk was heightened even further in early 2020 by the sudden increase in employees working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic – a trend that will no doubt continue. Just by looking at the sharp uptick in remote work and the resulting reliance on web-based tools, it’s easy to see that cybersecurity risks to small businesses will continue to grow. 

The true cost to a small business facing a hacker is more than the valuable data that’s stolen. The cost of resolving a cyber-attack is often too high for most small businesses to weather. According to a 2018 column on small business cyber-attacks, 60% of small and mid-sized businesses that are hacked go out of business within six months. 

There Are Basic Steps Your Small Business Needs to Take to Fend Off Potential Hackers

Your business should be doing everything it can to prevent a damaging cyber-attack. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Cybersecurity Guide is a great resource as you build your security plan. Here’s a breakdown of some of the best practices it recommends every small business do to keep their data safe. 

Install & Update Antivirus Software

Installing antivirus software on your network of computers is, at a minimum, a cybersecurity step that your company needs to take. There are several software providers with solutions that offer regular security updates so your devices are always secure. A few of the most widely-used cybersecurity software solutions include: Norton, McAfee, and Kaspersky.

There are many more antivirus protection options out there as well. Check out this PCMag article covering the Best Antivirus Protection for 2020 for even more solutions.

Use Internet Safeguards

Firewalls and encryptions will safeguard your company’s internet connection, including any Wi-Fi networks. The SBA recommends setting up your router so it doesn’t broadcast the network name or the Service Set Identifier (SSID). Also, use a strong router password to further protect your internet.

Back Up Everything

This may go without saying, but your company should regularly back up all information on computers and any other devices. Duplication can save your business time and money and reduce liability should your data become compromised. If you can set up your devices to back up automatically or perform scheduled backups, then you’ll better protect your sensitive information and save yourself valuable time as well.

Secure Payment Processing

No matter what type of business you own, your money runs through a digital system when it’s handled by your bank. If you’re a retail shop, restaurant or other transactional business that accepts credit card payments, you’re utilizing a third-party vendor to process payments and creating an even bigger digital footprint. Talk with your bank and card processors to make sure they have secure, trustworthy antivirus protection measures in place so you don’t put your business and your customers at risk.

Train Your Employees

According to the SBA, employees and your email server are two of the biggest causes of data breaches for small businesses. It recommends training employees on the basics of cybersecurity including how to detect a breach and how to minimize the likelihood of getting hit with one in the first place. You can hire a cybersecurity expert to teach your employees what to do to better prevent a virus. There are also resources in the SBA’s Cybersecurity Guide to get you started, including events and training if your business needs even more support.

This list of best practices merely scratches the surface of what the SBA recommends small businesses do to prevent an attack. Read the full guide for even more information. The Federal Communications Commission also provides valuable information for security with tips for small businesses. 

Securing Your Business Takes Time, But It’s Time Well Spent

Protecting your business from cybersecurity threats can feel overwhelming to a business owner, especially one setting up safeguards for the first time. As you set out to protect your business, consult professionals with experience in security planning, like a SCORE mentor. A SCORE mentor can help you get your security plan started and connect you to cybersecurity professionals who will set up your system and protect your data. Contact Cleveland SCORE today.

Since 1964, Cleveland SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” has helped thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners in Northeast Ohio through free mentoring and business workshops. For more information about starting or operating a small business, visit  Cleveland SCORE at

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  • Next up: Do I Need a Strategic Plan? Who Cares?
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  • Do I Need a Strategic Plan? Who Cares?

    A strategic plan doesn't need to be overwhelming or scary. Read on as we review basic terminology and components of a plan and how it can help your business—and you.


    The answer to these questions depends on how you define a strategic plan and how you will use it.

    As owners and leaders of smaller enterprises, time and money are at a premium—there is never enough to do everything we believe we should be doing. Too many priorities create too much stress. We want more time for ourselves and our families. 

    Is creating and documenting a strategic plan just another task, or a way to help reduce stress, free up time, focus on what we do best, align employees and stakeholders, and help our businesses run more smoothly?

    You deserve all of this. A well-documented, communicated, and managed strategic plan can help you get there.

    Before we explore the question of “Do you need a strategic plan,” full disclaimer: I love strategic planning. I find it exciting. The only thing more fun than creating and documenting a strategic plan is gaining alignment around expectations, executing it, and communicating progress.

    I am a fan because I have seen strategic plans in action—helping leaders align teams, communicate to boards of directors, and feel the satisfaction of laying out and meeting measurable goals. I have seen chaotic change turn into manageable change.

    Strategic plans provide business leaders with the structure to execute in a well-thought-out and disciplined way. But they don't do that by sitting on the shelf.

    Strategic Plan Definition: Our Common Language

    Strategic planning can mean something different to everyone. Let’s set a common definition of what we are talking about.

    There are many popular frameworks and definitions that accompany strategic plans, including EOS Vision/Traction Organizer, The One-Page Business Plan, The One-Page Plan, etc. The frameworks are similar but differ in terminology. I will do my best to describe the components in a way to cover the various terminologies, so we are speaking the same language.

    Strategic Plan Components:

    Core Values: How we should/shouldn’t behave; our beliefs
    Purpose: Why we are in business, our work each day, our picture of the future, our core focus
    Targets/3-Year Picture: Where we want to be in 3-5 years, a picture of our business, target market, planned financials and other accomplishments, our customers’ view of our uniqueness, the promises and guarantees we will fulfill  
    Goals/1-Year Plan: What we plan to do this year, annual priorities, critical numbers we will track 
    Actions/Rocks: How we do it, planned and tracked in chunks (typically quarterly) to meet annual goals
    Schedules: Who will do what by when—setting the stage for accountability management

    RELATED: 3 Simple Brain Hacks for Goal Setting and Achieving

    So, Who Really Cares About All of This?

    First, let’s consider typical stakeholders and how the strategic plan can best help them help your business. Let’s explore stakeholder groups and ideas on how the strategic plan can influence their impact. You might think of others.

    Current Employees: Our core values set expectations for how we treat each other and our customers. The 3-Year Plan and 1-Year Plan create excitement about the company’s future and help employees see why their work is so critical. Schedules directly communicate the significance of each person and the criticality of achieving commitments. The strategic plan is a critical component in new employee orientation, indicating what we expect from employees and what they can expect from others. It provides the foundation for holding people accountable and is most effective when linked directly to performance and compensation management.

    Recruits: Our core values and purpose describe our culture and the work we do. Sharing this helps potential employees better understand the organization and decide if it is a good fit for them. It helps us make the same assessment, especially when linked directly to behavioral interviewing.   

    RELATED: Employee Retention Challenges and Solutions

    Customers: When we share our core values, purpose, long-term vision of who we are, and customer promise, we set the bar for what our customers can expect from us—and what we expect from them. This helps them decide if they want to do business with us. It helps our customer service team know how to interact with customers. To better understand this impact, think of some companies you love to work with and look for strategic planning components on their websites. (You might start with Southwest Airlines and Nordstrom, then check out COSE members’ websites.)

    Advisors/Board of Directors: How do you get the most from expert advisors positioned to help with your business? You must provide the information they need to help you. Starting with your strategic plan. Get their expert input. Gain their alignment and, if needed, their approval. This will provide the foundation for what you communicate to them regarding the accomplishments and status of the business. It answers the question board members often have of, “So what?” when they hear your reports on accomplishments. It helps them evaluate business performance and provide valuable feedback.

    Those with a Financial Interest: The strategic plan helps build trust with stakeholders, including those providing financial investment and support. It is the foundation for the details we provide, from what our business does and why, to target customers, financial projections, and employee plans. It’s the glue that ties the whole business story together.

    Third Parties (Vendors, Consultants, etc.): As with our customers, our core values, purpose, long-term vision help us articulate the softer side of what we need from the third parties. It helps them understand what we expect and it also helps us decide who to work with. Not only do we want to encourage and support other businesses sharing our values, but it makes working together easier and more enjoyable.

    You – the Business Owner/Leader: You have a burning vision for what you want your company to be. You know what it looks like and you believe you and your team can make it happen. The strategic plan is how you share what’s in your heart and mind. It’s the necessary tool for everyone to see what you see and feel what you feel. It paints the picture of your future and guides the initial steps to take you on your journey.

    What’s the Answer? Do I Need It?

    Consider the answers to these questions:

    Do I need to better align my team around common culture and goals vs. individuals working on their own priorities?
    Do I need a structure to communicate with my board, gain their input, and communicate progress on agreed upon goals vs. reacting to questions and changes in direction?
    Do I need common messages to consistently communicate with customers, vendors, financial supporters vs. scrambling to effectively describe who I am and who I do business with?
    Do I want to know when I have achieved measurable goals vs. chasing moving targets?
    Do I want to manage change vs. letting chaos manage me?

    If you answered yes to any of the above, you would benefit from a documented and managed strategic plan. Other side effects typically include improved business outcomes, reduced stress, freed up time, better focus on what we do best, employee alignment, and—yes—more fun running your business!

    Watch for related upcoming articles on:

    Strategic Planning: How Do I Get Started?
    Putting the Strategic Plan to Work
    Communication Planning
    Accountability Management
    Fractional Leadership: Can a Part-Time Leader Help Your Business?

    Janet Gosche helps business leaders struggling with too many priorities by providing systems and tools to clearly define their business strategies and lead their teams to execute. Previously, Janet was a senior executive at Accenture, global practice lead at Avasant, and COO/CSO at cybersecurity firm JurInnov, where she focused on strategy, complex program management, vendor relationships, and organizational change. 216-496-6658.

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  • The Civic Sector Role in an Inclusive Economy

    Watch a recent GCP webinar about the importance of fostering equitable and inclusive economic growth throughout Greater Cleveland

    Fostering equitable and inclusive economic growth throughout Greater Cleveland is a foundational component of the work of numerous public and civic sector organizations. 

    In a recent webinar, we explored the efforts of three such agencies – the City of Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA), and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD). Our panel discussed how each agency is actively integrating equity and inclusion into their missions, recent successes and challenges, and what opportunities lie ahead as our region prepares to emerge from the global pandemic. 

    Watch the recorded webinar below:


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  • Next up: The impact of company culture and tips for improving it
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  • The impact of company culture and tips for improving it

    Having a good company culture can help attract and retain good talent, and can have a positive impact on your bottom line. Find out how to improve the culture at your small business.


    Even a small business establishes a company culture. Having a positive company culture is important whether you have many employees or only a few employees. With the pandemic “great resignation” going on, a positive company culture can help you to retain your employees. It boosts employee morale and leads to increased productivity and efficiency in your workplace, as well as motivates employees to do better and makes them want to come to work. This helps your bottom line in many ways including being able to attract and keep the best employees, which in turn, helps you to reduce costs as training new hires can be expensive. It also helps cut down on absenteeism, workplace accidents and more.

    There are many reasons a company culture can be negative including lack of growth opportunities, lack of clarity and expectations for job responsibilities and performance, problems with leadership or problems with your company’s morale. These are all things that you should take a hard, honest look at. If you find you have a morale problem, you should take action as soon as possible to correct the problem. 

    There are many things you can do to boost company morale, whether your employees work in-person or remotely. Check out the following ideas.

    Recognize good employees for their efforts. This can be thru recognition in various ways such as a bonus, an award, a mention to other employees when there is a successful outcome, etc.

    RELATED: Why employee motivation matters more in a small business

    Listen to your employees. They can offer many excellent ideas whether at meetings, thru a suggestion box or by any other means of communication. They are often on the front lines and hear things that you may not be aware of.

    Offer your employees growth opportunities. No one wants to be in a dead-end job with no way to grow or improve. This also helps when recruiting new employees. 

    Offer your employees training opportunities. This can include in school or in company training programs.

    Offer other benefits. Consider offering your employees assistance with higher education, or personal assistance for health or personal issues. This will help them feel valued and important to your company.

    Organize team building activities. These can be beneficial to both in-person employees, as well as to employees who work remotely. These can foster communication, increase productivity and creativity.

    RELATED: Read more from Tim Dimoff

    Encourage frequent breaks. A coffee break can do wonders to re-incentivize employees. Discourage employees from working thru lunch or eating at their desks. If you can, have a breakroom that is nice and comfortable so they can unwind for a few minutes. This also fosters communication between employees.

    Encourage diversity. Bring in different talents, experiences and various skill sets. This can bring your employees together as a team and promote fresh ideas.

    Let go of any bullies or negative employees. This type of employee can completely hinder a positive company culture, as well as open you up to potential lawsuits.

    The best thing you can do for your company and your team is to embrace changes that positively benefit all before low morale takes hold. And if you already have good morale and a positive company culture, these steps will help you to keep good talent. 

    Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at

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  • Next up: The Power of 5G and the Fourth Industrial Revolution
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  • The Power of 5G and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

    Watch our recent webinar exploring the power of 5G.

    Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband is in the process of being deployed globally, and it's already here in Cleveland, but what exactly is it? Why is it so important?

    In a recent webinar, experts from Verizon discussed everything from the differences between 4G and 5G, as well as some use cases that show the power of 5G for manufacturing, healthcare, and more. We'll also touch on Verizon's local footprint, our corporate social responsibility approach and our investment in Northeast Ohio.

    Watch the recording below:

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