As usual, Warren Buffet's 2019 shareholder letter has drawn attention for what some may consider to be a surprising risk to his insurance portfolio -- a cyber security disaster comparable to a catastrophic earthquake. He's talking about an event or string of events that disrupts society and shuts down businesses with a significant impact on the economy.
First, the author argues complacency is affecting CEOs. There are so many reported breaches and attacks, that it's beginning to be viewed as just a routine part of running a business. But others – probably small business owners -- negligently ignore the threats, feeling resigned to their inability to effectively deal with events that seems common but unpredictable like a tornado or other extreme weather disaster.
The second piece of advice is to accept the reality that the enemy has any individual company out-matched and that outsourcing to specialists is the only sensible place to begin (once your head is out of the sand). Here's where small businesses with limited resources, again, face special risk because they give up the fight. It’s like saying you aren’t going to sweep the sawdust and crumpled paper off of your shop floor just because you don't have an elaborate sprinkler system.
Finally, the author points out that the government may be warning business owners, but it's not going to help. Don't expect the FBI to roll back a ransomware attack or remediate your data breach. In fact, the regulatory arms of the government will hold you accountable for negligence (which includes inaction) as a lesson to others.
One of beloved baseball legend Yogi Berra's famous malapropisms was "You can observe a lot just by watching." Many of his supposed quotes are inventions -- although Yogi is documented to have spoken "I really didn’t say everything I said" -- but even those do have a grain of truth beyond the chuckle.
I like to think Yogi meant that you can learn a lot just by watching. And what I mean is small business owners must develop a keen habit of observing what makes up successful competitors, ventures or techniques and learn how to implement the essential elements. Typically, this observation is a self-taught skill. Few owners have been through a formal course of study, for instance, in how to sell. But they find themselves in desperate need of becoming expert in sales and marketing with limited resources to hire an ad agency or a team of sales professionals to boost the results of their catering, landscaping or industrial product companies. The only solution is self-education and imitation.
I love this article because it provides such a clear example of the many elementary lessons waiting to be gleaned, as Yogi would say, just by watching. The article is about e-commerce but one doesn't need to be selling online in order to apply the examples. They can just as easily be employed in a menu presentation, a package of lawn services, or the way a B2B sell sheet is organized.
And while the article deals with the visual, the underlying impact can include everything from pricing to buyer psychology. But analyze carefully to be sure you are incorporating the correct lessons. As Yogi might have said, "If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him."
Business is often depicted as a struggle, a battle, a war. It's an apt description, if only because so many business owners spend their energy flailing against insurmountable forces that they can never reverse or defeat. But it doesn't make the outcomes for business ownership hopeless or even inordinately difficult.
How many business owners do you know who focusing on beating their customers instead of improving their offering? Or when failures occur, they look for who to blame instead of seeking root causes for future prevention? Were you taught that business is about prioritizing increasing sales or delivering more value? And in a world where your enterprise is just a cork in the ocean, are you fighting against the flow or moving with the market?
The narratives surrounding business owners encourage the idea of fighting to their last breath or drop of blood to achieve results instead of simply doing what they know to be required and being detached from the outcome. Are you reacting to the demands of your market or creating them? And do you put your thinking into developing strategy or instead developing the guiding vision?
Richard Portelance, CEO of CareerPath Mobile, developed a great solution that users loved, but the paying customers weren't ready to adopt it. What he did next explains how to move your business into the right place at the right time for the right customer.
Thanks to Nelson Merchan of the CT SBDC for introducing his client.
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