Make Your Meetings Better

Make Your Meetings More Meaningful

Pointless, endless meetings are the bane of the workweek. But meetings don’t have to be a boring waste of time. Use the following tips to make your meetings more productive.

Start with proper preparation. Before calling a meeting, have a clear purpose, a well-defined agenda, and specified outcomes that you want to achieve. Limit the scope of the meeting to two or three topics or objectives.

Make sure everyone has all the information they need prior to the meeting, and set an expectation that attendees will have read, reviewed, or prepared necessary materials in advance.

Schedule the meeting for no longer than it needs to be, and don’t feel compelled to use all the time allotted.

Bring the right people together. Make sure those who need to be in attendance are present. If certain details concern only a subset of the group, hold those discussions in another meeting.

Begin on time and be disciplined about maintaining focus. Take it upon yourself to set appropriate amounts of time for each topic and to keep the discussion on track. If necessary, use phrases such as “We need to move on,” or “We’ll address that at a later time,” to steer people back on topic.

Make sure everyone leaves the meeting with a clear sense of what was accomplished or decided and what needs follow-up.

Finally, consider holding stand-up meetings. These meetings tend to be shorter because people are less likely to pontificate when they can’t sit down.

Boost Your Cybersecurity with Password Best Practices

Passwords may be annoying, but they are key to protecting personal information and private documents. In a business context, passwords guard financial data, intellectual property, trade secrets, customer lists, and more.

Passwords are cheaper and more convenient than other forms of authentication, but they can be cracked in a number of ways. User devices may be compromised with malware or a keylogger. Passwords can be ascertained using a word list or dictionary program that breaks the password by brute force. They can be deduced through sniffers, which look at raw data transmitted across the net and decipher its contents.

Knowing that passwords are vulnerable to cracking, it’s important to practice good password hygiene. Use these best practices for your own passwords, and instruct employees to do the same:

Don’t use common words, proper nouns, words with numbers tacked on, foreign words, or words that are written backwards. Password-cracking programs are adept at processing letter and number combinations until a match is found.

A password should not include anything related to your name, nickname, name of a family member, favorite team, or pet. It should not contain any recognizable numbers like phone numbers or addresses.

Increasing the number of characters in a password significantly enhances security. Each additional character multiplies the possible combinations, making the password far more difficult to break.

Choose passwords that are not easily guessable. Think in terms of passphrases rather than passwords. Choose a phrase that is easy to recollect, then convert some of the letters into other characters (e.g., substitute the number “3” for the letter “e”).

Avoid using the same password on multiple accounts, and never disclose a password to others unless they are authorized to have it.

Is Your Business Fraud-Proof?
Falling victim to fraud can prove costly. Lost revenue and fines can reduce your bottom line and hinder future business. Small businesses are particularly susceptible to these effects. They are even more likely to experience business fraud than are larger organizations. Common small-business fraud includes cash larceny, skimming, payroll larceny, and check tampering.

The good news: you can stop fraudulent activity before it results in financial or reputational harm to your business. Use the following strategies to protect your company from fraud:

Trust…with accountability – Many small businesses involve personal relationships. Employees may be close friends whom the business owner trusts implicitly. While trust is good, trust accompanied by accountability is better. Put policies and controls in place that demonstrate trust but don’t allow room for temptation.

Spotlight on the bottom line – Keep a close eye on your accounts. Complete regular account reconciliations, examine documentation, and perform reviews of financial information. Watch your bottom line to detect skimming or other suspicious financial activity right away.

Consistent fraud controls – Too often, small businesses skip fraud-control measures due to the investment they require. Whether time or money, the effort is not considered worth the return. The truth is, companies with fraud safeguards in place report fewer losses and detect fraud more quickly than do those that fail to enact these policies. The most effective anti-fraud controls include business fraud training, employee support programs, employee codes of conduct, internal and external audits, countersignature controls, management review of financial statements, fraud hotlines, and formal fraud risk assessments.

Red flag alert – While hindsight is 20/20, most businesses can look back and realize several red flags were looming before fraudulent activities came to light. In most cases, clear warning signs are present. Business owners simply have to watch for them. Keep in mind that most business fraud turns out to be an inside job. In most of these cases, the employee is a first-time offender. This means you can’t rely solely on background checks and established reputation to prevent fraud. Watch for the following employee red flags that can lead to fraudulent activity:

Personal financial difficulties, living beyond their means, family issues, recent divorce, control issues, and an attitude of “wheeling and dealing.”

Of course, these situations don’t always lead to fraud. They simply create scenarios that make fraud more tempting. Struggling employees are more likely to rationalize their fraudulent behavior. They consider their theft a “loan” they will repay when they get back on their feet, or they tell themselves they are underpaid and deserve the “bonus.” If their actions go unnoticed, they become bolder, and their fraud becomes more frequent or greater in scope. This is why it is important to notice red flags early on and keep fraud controls consistently in place.

Insurance coverage – Even the best strategies cannot guarantee a business will never suffer from fraud. That’s why insurance coverage is important. To further protect your company from potential damages, speak with your agent about commercial crime insurance.