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Small Business Owners: How to Avoid Being a Victim of Identity Theft

Small Business Owners: How to Avoid Being a Victim of Identity Theft

Identity thieves seem to be working overtime these days at the expense of both consumers and businesses.

In 2017, there were 16.7 million victims of identity fraud amounting to $16.8 billion stolen from the wallets of consumers. AV-TEST, an independent research institute for IT security, registers 350,000 new malware programs every day. The number of data breaches in 2018 alone is staggering with major companies like Facebook, Google, Saks, Lord & Taylor, Panera and Orbitz reporting stolen data.

While much attention is paid to consumer identity theft, the danger to small business owners can be even more perilous as both their personal and business identity could be at risk.

Small Business Owners Face Multiple Threats When it Comes to Identify Theft

As individuals, small business owners are just as susceptible to having their personal identity stolen as anyone else.

According to Experian, identity theft can have the following devastating effects on victims:

Monetary: 40% of identity theft victims incur an average $600 out of pocket expenses (even after banks and credit cards absorbed ID theft losses). Losses from debit cards may include the entire amount stolen by criminals.

Time: It could take an average six months to recover your identity—time spent from your job or business.

Lower Credit Scores: ID theft criminals opening new credit accounts in your name can negatively impact your credit. It’s also time-consuming for you to dispute charges made on a fraudulent credit account.

Emotional: 75% of ID theft victims reported being severely distressed over the misuse of their personal information. Feelings include fear, embarrassment, powerlessness & helplessness. In some cases, victims had suicidal thoughts.

Arrest:  ID theft criminals could conduct illegal acts under your identity, leading to police knocking on your door. An unjustified arrest record could take months to resolve.

As a small business owner, you’re especially enticing to business identity theft criminals. Businesses generally have:

  • Larger bank accounts
  • High credit limits
  • Business information readily available online
  • Multiple vendor accounts
  • Employees with access to all of the above information

Basically, identity thieves don’t have to work as hard to steal valuable and vital business identity information for the amount of wealth they can access. Plus, they are less likely to be noticed before they can do substantial financial damage to your business.

Beyond business identity theft, small business owners could be more susceptible to the data breach threats larger corporations face. According to Verizon, 58% of malware attack victims are categorized as small businesses.

Most small businesses do not have the same resources and larger corporations to prevent data breaches—a fact criminals frequently exploit. The sensitive information they can obtain can impact the small business’ customers and employees alike.

Data breaches can leave small businesses open to:

  • Costly legal issues
  • Time-consuming efforts to resolve customer credit issues
  • Damage to their reputation and lost business

How Small Businesses Can Avoid Being an Identity Theft Victim

Unfortunately, if any part of your small business is online or you conduct business electronically, you’re open to identity theft.

However, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk of identity theft.

Use Security Software: Make sure your business uses the latest security software, firewall, and anti-virus protections.

Update Operating Systems and Software: Make sure your computer is using the latest operating system and software patches. Hackers are busy looking for vulnerable systems to attack and outdated operating systems and software can be their ticket into your business.

Update Business Registration Information: Your registration information is online. Keep your registration information up-to-date. Identity thieves are constantly looking for suspended or inactive companies for their illicit activities.

Encrypt: Be sure to encrypt all of your sensitive information such as tax records, client and vendor information.

Monitor: Check your bank and credit card accounts regularly for fraudulent transactions. Also, don’t forget to check your vendor accounts.

Avoid: Clicking on phishing emails or responding to unexpected phone calls from “officials.” Verify the authenticity of phone calls, standard mail, faxes or emails of questionable origin before responding.

Train: Take time for you and your employees to get educated on how identity thieves operate. A trained employee could stop an identity thief from damaging your business.

Too Busy? Delegate Your Tasks

We understand that small business owners have a lot on their plates already—especially if they have to keep looking over their shoulders for potential identity theft risks.

A virtual assistance firm like Business Solutions Unlimited can help take some of those tasks off your plate.

Feel free to give us a call at (904) 429-4588 and let’s see how we can help you with your business.

Does Your Website Promote Your Unique Selling Proposition?

Does Your Website Promote Your Unique Selling Proposition?

When potential customers visit your website, can they quickly understand what you do best?

Google would be interested to know that as well. After all, it’s their business model to help online searchers find the best answers to their queries. If your website has the answer for what that user is looking for, then it should be easily accessible to both the search engine and the searcher.

If your business has…

  • The best service in your industry
  • Effective solutions to a problem
  • Most experience
  • A convenient location
  • Most accessible hours

…then your website and online presence should communicate that fact.

We’re Talking About Promoting Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Every business is unique. Most businesses don’t promote their uniqueness.

If your website and online presence say you do the same thing that your competitors do then you’re not really giving potential customers a valid reason to choose you. You’re also giving Google an opportunity to choose a competitor over you in their search engine results.

By promoting your USP consistently throughout your website and online presence, you’ll reinforce to potential customers and search engines what you do best.

Your reward? Top of mind presence with prospects. Top of rankings for search engines when people search for services or products you provide.

How Do You Find Your USP?

Ask the experts who know the most about your business. Those experts are your current customers. They’ve already made the decision to use your services or product. Your job is to find out why they chose you over the competitors.

Ask them personally about why they like doing business with you.

Find common themes among different customers. Listen to their language as they describe your business.

Do they use the same lingo you use to promote your business? If not, then you need to start talking their language—those are the words customers like and will be searching for.

What you’ll discover in these conversations are the key differentiators that make up your USP. And that’s valuable information you can use on your website and online presence.

Maximize Your USP on Your Website

Every page on your website should tout your USP.

  • Copy should say it
  • Photos should reinforce it
  • Testimonials should prove it
  • Calls-to-Action should say how prospects can get it

Online presence should follow suit in your:

  • Business listing copy
  • Social media posts

When you hone the skill of communicating your USP to let people know you have the solutions they’re looking for—you’ll stand out from your completion.

When your website delivers real and authoritative value, customers will notice. So will the search engines.

Reach Out for Help

We understand that many businesses owners and managers are too busy to tackle marketing challenges like:

  • Uncovering your USP
  • Communicating your key differentiators
  • Creating quality content that communicates your key differentiators

If that describes you, then consider delegating those vital tasks.

Give Business Solutions Unlimited a call at (904) 429-4588 and let us take that off your plate today.

How Achieving Work-Life Balance is Virtually Possible

How Achieving Work-Life Balance is Virtually Possible

Most small business owners work at least 16 hours more per week than the national average according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Now consider that 11 percent of U.S. employees work 50+ hours and that 33 percent work on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays (according to a Family Living Today study on Work-Life Balance).

All those statistics combine to paint a depressing picture. Basically, most Americans don’t believe they have a work-life balance.

The impact of an imbalanced work-life situation can be profound according to that study by Family Living Today.

On the home front:

  • 38% of the respondents reported a lack of focus and engagement at home
  • 51% felt they missed important life events
  • 40% felt their time with family and friends were ruined by work-related activities

In the workplace:

  • 36% of businesses saw poor productivity
  • 68% reported poor morale
  • 41% experienced high turnover
  • 41% of small business owners and employees reported feeling burnt out and fatigued

Health matters concerning those working over 55 hours per week:

  • Increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
  • Higher risk of depression and anxiety
  • Higher stress and cortisol levels

Apparently, all work and no play is not conducive to a healthy workforce or business.

Solutions to Implementing Work-Life Balance

Many businesses owners and employees report a fear of loss of control or high financial impact when implementing a work-life balance in their lives.

However, in this day and age, doing so is a surprisingly simple process with high rewards in employee and owner satisfaction and increased productivity.

Virtual Assistant Firms, like Business Solutions Unlimited (BSU), can provide invaluable services to small business owners looking to delegate distracting and time-consuming tasks. Our virtual world can help create that work-life balance. Cloud-based services make telecommuting a viable option for many.

Employers could consider offering employees the following:

  • Flexible schedules
  • Remote working
  • Unlimited time off
  • Email responses restricted to a schedule time period (8 to 5)
  • Meeting free blocks of time during the day

Small business owners could gain valuable time in their lives if they delegate many of their tasks:

  • Bookkeeping
  • Website maintenance and social media postings
  • Developing promotional materials, direct mail pieces
  • Data entry
  • Invoicing
  • Digital filing
  • Paying bills
  • Booking flights, hotels, and rental vehicles
  • Prepping for conferences
  • Record keeping
  • Inventory
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Even answering phones (which can be done remotely)

How BSU Improved its Work-Life Environment 

Over the last couple of years, BSU has made an effort to implement a work-life balance. Life events triggered many of the changes:

  • Birth of children and grandchildren
  • Coaching children sport teams
  • Travel to visit loved ones

BSU is fortunate to have a highly skilled staff, specialists within their own industries. Keeping this core group together was imperative to us. That led to the decision to allow flexible schedules and telecommuting as part of the work environment.

The results have been impressive. The staff never missed a beat in performing their duties, meeting deadlines and taking care of our client’s needs. They did all this while enjoying their family life on their terms.

We Want to Help Businesses Enjoy a Work-Life Balance

The move toward a BSU work-life balance inspired our journey toward being a Virtual Assistant Firm. It’s our goal to help small business owners, managers and entrepreneurs gain a work-life balance.

Small business owners struggling for a work-life balance should consider delegating to a Virtual Assistance Firm like Business Solutions Unlimited. We can help you gain that balance and start living the life you deserve.

Feel free to give us a call at (904) 429-4588 and let’s see how we can help your business.

Want To Improve Your Website Google Ranking? You Might Want to E.A.T. (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) It.

Want To Improve Your Website Google Ranking? You Might Want to E.A.T. (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) It.

On August 1, 2018, many websites took a tumble in their Google rankings.

On that date, the most popular search engine in the world announced a “broad core algorithm update.”

Who benefited from this update? According to Google, “pages that were previously under-rewarded” saw a benefit in their rankings.

For sites that dropped in rankings, Google offered some advice back in March when the search engine giant released a similar update:

“There’s no “fix” for pages that may perform less well, other than to remain focused on building great content. Over time, it may be that your content may rise relative to other pages.”

“Great content” is a huge clue to what Google is searching for. Search engine optimization (SEO) experts suggested that Google is rewarding websites that follow their E.A.T guidelines: Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness.

In An E.A.T. Online World, Reputation and Credibility Might Matter More Than Ever

Google recently updated their Search Quality Rater Guidelines to include the phrase “reputation of the creator of the content” as a guiding metric for its human “Quality Raters” who comb the internet rating websites.

It follows that Google would start including those signals into its algorithm updates.

That brings us to Google’s preference for Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (E.A.T.) when assessing a site.

During this latest update, SEO experts noted that websites from health and finance were particularly impacted (both positively and negatively).

For example, medical organization sites with diet articles are now outranking general diet sites. It appears Google is rewarding content created by—what it deems—more credible sources.

Another Factor in Search Quality: Your Money or Your Life (YMYL)

Health and finance websites fall into what Google calls “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) category. Google considers these sites to have the potential to significantly affect someone’s life and wants to ensure that search engine result reflects that importance.

According to the Search Quality Rater Guidelines, YMYL Categories include:

Shopping or financial transaction pages: web pages that allow users to make purchases, transfer money, pay bills, etc. online (such as online stores and online banking pages).

Financial information pages: web pages that provide advice or information about investments, taxes, retirement planning, home purchase, paying for college, buying insurance, etc.

Medical information pages: web pages that provide advice or information about health, drugs, specific diseases or conditions, mental health, nutrition, etc.

Legal information pages: web pages that provide legal advice or information on topics such as divorce, child custody, creating a will, becoming a citizen, etc.

News articles or public/official information pages important for having an informed citizenry: web pages that include information about local/state/national government processes, policies, people, and laws; disaster response services; government programs and social services; news about important topics such as international events, business, politics, science, and technology; etc.

Other: such as “hobby” topics, child adoption, car safety information, etc.

As you can see, many sites—and businesses—would fall under YMYL categories.
Even if you don’t fall under the above categories, it’s important to realize that Google is strategically looking to rank high-quality pages higher than low-quality ones.

What’s a Small Business To Do To Improve Their Website Ranking?

The Search Quality Rater Guidelines provide ways a small business website can master E.A.T. and give Google (and their quality raters) signals.

Below are suggestions for your Website and your reputation:

Provide Quality Content

Webpages on your site should present enough main content on a topic to satisfy a visitor’s needs and purpose.

Google says to create great content and pay attention to the reputation of the content creator.

If your website features authoritative content, be sure it comes from a credible source.

If you’re creating your own content, get known for providing expert advice in your field by working on your E.A.T. factors.

Be Thorough and Accessible

Your website should feature an About Us, Contact or Customer Service page.

Establish Your Credibility

Here are ways you can build your authority and reputation:

  • Post a bio on your website and link to it from every article you write
  • Be active—and responsible—on social media
  • Work on putting out authoritative PR
  • Be available to be interviewed and quoted by media outlets
  • Continue to create quality content that makes a positive difference in your target market’s life

Reach Out for Help

We understand that many businesses owners and managers are too busy to create quality content. If that describes you, then consider delegating.

Give Business Solutions Unlimited a call at (904) 429-4588 and let us get to work on your E.A.T. content today.

Internet Tax Ruling Could Level Playing Field Between Brick & Mortar and Online Stores

Internet Tax Ruling Could Level Playing Field Between Brick & Mortar and Online Stores

States now have the ability to apply sales tax to online purchases even if the online retailer doesn’t have a physical presence in the state.

The U.S. Supreme Court case of South Dakota v. Wayfair changes a previous court decision which established a physical retail presence was necessary to collect sales tax.

With this 5 to 4 decision in June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court allows states to level the playing field between online purchases and local retailers. The burden of collecting sales tax may now be shared across all retailers if a state decides to take advantage of the decision.

How Online Sales Tax Works Today

If an online retailer has a physical presence in the state, they must collect sales tax from purchases made by residents of that state.

Amazon has distribution centers in Florida and collects sales taxes from state resident purchases. Other online retailers, like Wayfair, do not have a physical state presence and are not obligated to collect sales tax.

Floridians, like residents in most states, were technically supposed to voluntarily pay sales tax for their online purchases. However, in many cases, consumers don’t.

Research from the Federal Government Accountability Office estimated that states lost between $8.5 billion and $13.4 billion in sales taxes in 2017.

Sales tax funds government functions ranging from infrastructure maintenance to public education.

Basically, state residents who made local retail purchases were carrying more of a tax burden to fund government services than residents who made online purchases even though those government services are shared by all residents.

What Changes with this Court Decision?

States now have the ability to collect sales tax from online purchases. However, it’s up to the states’ Legislature and Department of Revenue to implement the sales tax.

For local retailers with only a brick & mortar presence, they will continue to collect sales tax as before. Retailers with an online presence are currently under no obligation to collect sale tax from out of state purchases.

Once a state implements an online sales tax policy, all retailers will be obligated to collect sales tax.

Staying Current with Business Changes

The sales tax decision demonstrates that the environment that small businesses operate in can change quickly and dramatically. How do busy business owners and managers keep up? Delegate.

A virtual assistance firm like Business Solutions Unlimited could help you stay one step ahead of changes that could impact your business. Feel free to give us a call at (904) 429-4588 and let’s see how we can help your business.