4 Practical Tips to Managing a Remote Workforce

As we all come to grips with the impact and reality of our current situation, we first want to say that our hearts go out to small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19. With the recent two-week home order in Atlanta, and other mandates across the country, our businesses are forced to operate remotely.

At SBS Accounting & Advisors, we have been managing a remote workforce for more than five years and wanted to share some of the insights we’ve learned over that time. It’s critical to get your virtual strategy right the first time – doing well can have great benefits and long-term business growth, while a poor job can lead to lack of productivity and employees becoming islands.

As you face this potential new challenge, here are four practical tips to managing a remote workforce, and, of course, SBS is here every step of the way to answer any questions or discuss solutions for your business.

  1. Set a schedule. Some may disagree with me, but if there is not some expectation set for when your staff should work, things can go south. This doesn’t mean that you can’t make exceptions or put together custom schedules for those that have special needs, such as children being in the home. But, the key is that there should be a clear expectation as to when your staff should be working. This will encourage a clean break between work and personal life, which will foster work/life harmony and keep staff from getting burned out.
  2. Meet regularly. I cannot emphasize this enough. In order to keep a strong and connected culture, you must have regular team meetings. Thankfully, there are some wonderful tools out there for virtual meetings, such as GoToMeeting and Zoom. Make it a requirement to turn cameras on, interact, and make meetings fun and informative. All this will help keep your team together and provide a personal touch that is often lost when working remotely.
  3. Overcommunicate. Because the primary way of communicating with a remote workforce is through writing (at least in our case), it’s vital that you overcommunicate when sending texts, emails or other written communication. Read and reread your messages BEFORE you send them to ensure they contain all the pertinent details. Teach your team to do so as well. Also, clearly document your policies and procedures so there is no doubt what guidelines your staff needs to follow.
  4. Trust but verify. There is an old myth that says, “If I can’t see my staff, I can’t manage them.” This simply is not true. People want to be trusted. One of the most freeing things you could potentially do for your staff is letting them know that you are proud of them and that you trust that even though you cannot see them, they will act in the best interest of the company.Be sure to also communicate that this goes both ways – you also expect for them to trust that you have their best interests in mind. This being said, blind faith is never wise. Periodically pull time reports and regularly check in on the status of your projects as a way of holding your staff accountable to your trust agreement. If there seems to be a violation, investigate to see if there were factors outside of the employees’ control that made it seem as if they were not operating with your company’s best interests in mind. If there was a violation of trust, remind the employee of your agreement with them. If the employee continues to break trust, you must let them go.

Moving Forward to Meet the Challenges

These are certainly difficult times, but as business owners, we know that we have to constantly adapt in order to grow. While this new challenge may be our toughest yet, we feel that following these remote workforce tips will set you on a path to survive and grow. And, hopefully when all this passes by and we return to our normal routines, you’ll be in a position to capitalize off your remote workforce strategies.

If you have any questions, or are ready to tackle managing remote staff, don’t hesitate to contact us today. We pray that you all stay safe and healthy.

6 Small Business Cybersecurity Tips to Halt the Hackers

Securing our businesses from malicious hackers should always be top of mind, and although you may think you’re less likely to get hit by a cybersecurity attack because you’re not a multi-million dollar company, the reality is that you’re actually more likely to suffer an attack.

According to the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 43 percent of data breaches involved small business victims. I find small businesses often have lax security policies in place, making them easier targets and low-hanging fruit for talented hackers.

Before you panic, I’ve come up with six basic security measures you can take to halt the hackers and keep them from wreaking havoc on your business.

#1: Implement Cloud Security

Let’s start with the foundation. A cybersecurity plan is very important; you need a system and expert personnel, or outsourced tech help, to secure and protect your data, 24/7. That’s the exact duty of a cloud service provider.

By tapping into cloud security, you have full control of your data on a local server. Find a reputable company to protect this data, using their expertise of the latest cybersecurity tactics to keep you safe. At SBS Accounting & Advisors, we use Aventis Systems.

#2: Train and Motivate Your Staff to Avoid Phishing Emails 

You may think an overseas hacker is going to extraordinary lengths to break down your walls and infect your small business network. However, they’re often simply leveraging a basic phishing email, hoping a staff member opens a door to your systems by clicking on the email.

This simple, yet effective hacking technique illustrates how important it is to train your staff to protect against common cybersecurity threats. You can start with basic practice: look out for phishing emails, employ smart browsing strategies, and avoid downloading any suspicious files or clicking any harmful links.

Then, you can get into the weeds a bit more. Go over password strength and strategy. Adding multifactor authentication is a must. This added layer of security goes beyond the basic username and password, typically forcing the user to enter a code sent to their mobile device to get in the system.

Another reason these security tactics are so key is because many small business enable employees to work remotely. A simple click of the wrong link or file – not under your supervision – can trigger a lingering cyberattack. And, since they’re often using their own devices, they’re much easier to be breached if the devices are unsecured. As a business owner, you can put policies in place for these personal devices.

Getting your staff up to speed on best security practices is only half the battle. They must also be motivated and willing to not only retain the information, but also be proactive and go to bat for you in executing what they learn. The best way to do that is to empower them with more responsibility by task delegation, for example, as well as a bonus or just genuine praise when they perform admirably. When your employees feel good about the work and the impact they’re making, they’re much more likely to represent the business in the way you envision.

#4: Protect Your Paper

At SBS, we are big proponents of going paperless. However, many small businesses still have paper of some kind, and if that paper contains sensitive information, it must be kept out of the hands of hackers.

Despite being so digital today, paper is still one of the easiest ways for hackers to exploit your business. Make sure you have established procedures for protecting your paper. For example, have employees shred sensitive documents in a micro crosscut shredder, or keep them locked up if you must hold on to them.

#5: Hire a Hacker

Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi once said, “The best defense is a good offense.” That kind of approach also applies to cybersecurity. In order to keep the hackers away, you have to think like a hacker – and the best way to do that is to hire one!

Of course, the person must be ethical, and as strange as it sounds, many of today’s security experts were former hackers. The bottom line is to stay one step ahead of the cybercriminal, as well as repair any vulnerabilities. And, if a breach does happen, you have a person in place to fix it sooner rather than later.

#6: Can’t Afford a Hacker? Hire a Cybersecurity Consultant

As a small business, you might not be able to afford a part-time hacker, and that’s okay. Instead, employ a cybersecurity consultant.

This consultant – known as a managed IT services provider – can be called upon, as needed, to protect you and your business from malicious hackers. Beyond that, they can keep your systems running smoothly and quickly, protect your data to remain operable, put in a disaster recovery plan, and more.

Ready to Get Started? We’re Here to Help

As you can see, cybersecurity is one of the most important and challenging burdens for small business owners. However, with some strategic planning and proactive tactics, you can put yourself in a much better position to keep your company safe.

Contact us today if you’re ready to implement these best security practices, or if you have any questions. You never know when these criminals might come your way; you must have an actionable plan and defense team in place for when they do.