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Category Archives: Business

7 Business Ideas For Pet Lovers

Were you one of those kids who always dreamed of working with animals when you grew up? If you never made it to vet school, you can still make a living working with your favorite four-legged friends. If you love your pet but aren’t sure how to turn that passion into a business, here are eight great business ideas for animal lovers.

Want a ready-made business concept that lets you work with dogs on a daily basis? Consider becoming a franchisee of a top-rated pet care company likeCamp Bow Wow, Dogtopia or K-9 Resorts. These doggy boarding facilities allow you oversee the care of dogs while their humans are at work or on vacation. While boarding and daycare make up the bulk of revenues, some franchises let you offer additional services like pet grooming to generate more income. Professional training is provided for franchisees, so your customers can rest assured that they’re leaving their pooches in good hands.

Don’t want to open a brick-and-mortar location, or spend the money to invest in a franchise? Spread the word to friends and neighbors that you’re available to watch their pets in your own home. People often feel more comfortable leaving their pets in the care of an individual rather than placing pets in a boarding facility, so getting referrals shouldn’t be too difficult. Some states require a pet care certification to board animals in your home, so be sure to check and comply with your local ordinances before officially opening for business. Being certified can also put pet owners’ minds at ease about leaving their animals in your care. Visit the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters for more information on turning pet sitting into a career.

Anyone with a love of dogs and a whole lot of patience can work toward becoming a dog trainer. There are currently no official state requirements to work as a trainer, so a basic education can start with reading books on the subject and getting some hands-on practice at local obedience classes with professionals. It’s also possible to apply to become a puppy trainer at a local pet store chain to help build credibility. According to the Animal Humane Society, the job of most professional trainers to teach dog owners how to train their pets, so great people skills are a must. For more information on becoming a trainer and acquiring the necessary skills to work as a professional, visit the Association of Pet Dog Trainers or the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors websites.

Know of some great pet products that aren’t carried by your local pet supply store? Open up your own retail shop and sell high-quality items made by small-scale manufacturers. Many small business owners would be thrilled to offer you a wholesale discount for carrying their products, and your customers would feel good about supporting local businesses.

In larger cities with a lot of pet owners in apartment buildings, dog-walking is a great part-time business opportunity. City dwellers don’t have yards for their dogs to play in, and if they work long and/or irregular hours, they may not always have time to take their energetic pup for his daily walk. In addition to creating a website with information on your business, put up flyers in your building and see if any of your neighbors would be willing to entrust this task to you for a small fee. It’s important to educate yourself on not only the local dog walking market but also proper animal care and handling. Dogtec offers a four-day training workshop to become a certified professional dog walker.

This business idea requires a working knowledge of animal health and anatomy, as well as training and some patience. Unsure of where to start? Gain experience bathing your own pet, then look into an educational program that properly trains you in the basics of dog grooming. From there, you can get some hands-on experience by working for an independent groomer or national pet store chain, until you feel confident enough to go out on your own. For more information on becoming a professional pet groomer, visitpetMD.

The trend of healthy eating and recognizing the ingredients within food doesn’t stop at humans, people are generally more cognizant of what their pets are eating as well. If you’ve been making your own for a long time, capitalize on your talents, otherwise there are recipes for homemade treats online. They don’t require a lot of time or effort to make, and the ingredients for many of them are probably already in your kitchen. Experiment with different recipes and let your dog be the official taste tester. Once you’ve found a winner or two, you can bake them in bulk, package them and sell them online. List the ingredients on your website and packaging so pet owners can feel confident that your product is right for their dogs.

7 Killer Business Ideas

Whether you’ve lost a loved one, buried a family pet or had a near-death experience, death is simply a fact of life. And, as it turns out, the business of death can be quite lucrative.

From afterlife preparations to unique burial methods and memorials, it turns out that there are more businesses related to death than you might expect. Here are 10 businesses that are cashing in on the dearly departed.

Just because you’re no longer alive doesn’t mean your tattoos can’t live on. The National Association for the Preservation of Skin Art (NAPSA) hosts a website called Save My Ink, which is dedicaed to preserving tattoos of the deceased and leaving them in the care of their next of kin.

The tattoo preservation community isn’t just for the recently deceased; the living are so interested in the process that NAPSA is retooling to offer their services directly through funeral homes. The move comes just in time, as Americans are getting record number of tattoos. Will the future homes of millennials be commonly decorated with the ink once worn by their loved ones?

You’ve heard the expression, “There’s no use crying over spilled milk,” but what’s the consensus on spilled blood? If the idea of mopping up gore makes your eyes water (or worse), don’t worry: There’s a business you can call to tidy up even the bloodiest of messes.

Baxter Restoration, a cleaning and reconstruction company in Orlando, Florida, does something your average maid won’t: It cleans up after the Grim Reaper. Whether it’s a crime scene, the aftermath of a suicide or the remains of an exploded meth lab, Baxter will disinfect, decontaminate and leave things looking less macabre.

Industry insiders refer to such sluicing down of blood and brains as “biohazard” cleanup. And while this unusual service makes some people squirm, it’s reassuring to know that there’s someone you can call to perform this most unpleasant of chores.

Leaving behind a hefty inheritance for family members to squabble over is a nice gesture. But what if you want to bequeath something more meaningful than money? There’s an app for that.

Your Last Will is an iPhone app developed by former video game publisher and entrepreneur Wolfgang Gabler. The app lets users prepare for the afterlife by recording a short video with a final message for those they’ll one day leave behind. Whatever your final words are, the app lets you record them in a 5-minute video, which is then uploaded to the company’s servers.

Your Last Will then generates a QR code for you to share with a trusted confidant who can sign in to your account after your demise and distribute your video to friends, family, archenemies, old flings and whomever else you choose to haunt. You can even make your will public and inspire (or sadden) the entire Internet.

A company that lets you send messages from beyond the grave is one thing, but a business that facilitates the sending of messages directly from your grave is quite another.

Invented and patented by Robert Barrows, president of an advertising and public relations firm in California, the “video-enhanced grave marker” is a tombstone for the modern age. Embedded with a remote-controlled video screen, this high-tech memorial caters to those unwilling to go quietly into the hereafter.

As Barrows explains on his website, the invention allows people to record messages for family, friends and even complete strangers before dying. Once the person is 6 feet under, these messages are broadcast right in the cemetery. Mourners can just sit back, relax and enjoy the show!

Sure, you eat organic apples and have sworn off plastic shopping bags, but will your green lifestyle die when you do? That’s the question this next business wants you to consider before it’s too late.

The Natural Burial Company is an online retail and consulting business that sells biodegradable coffins, caskets, urns and other funeral goodies for eco-conscious mortals. The business aims to facilitate the natural burial process for those who take the whole “dust to dust” thing literally.

To that end, the company sells goods like the “Everybody” Coffin Kit, a biodegradable cork coffin that you can put together in your living room. Talk about a fun do-it-yourself project! The company’s online retail store also features a line of products for pets, including a biodegradable urn in the shape of a yarn ball for the eco-minded (but aging) feline in your life.

If you want to be cremated but aren’t sold on the idea of being hoisted onto a conveyor belt and pushed into a giant oven, then this next business is for you. Anderson McQueen Funeral Home in St. Petersburg, Florida, specializes in a new kind of cremation that utilizes water, not fire, to dispose of human bodies.

The process is known as alkali hydrolysis, or “flameless cremation.” And while it sounds less scary than its fiery cousin, the end result is much the same. In this process, the body is soaked in a tub of water and alkali for a few hours. According to the company, the process results in 75 percent fewer carbon emissions than traditional cremation, and is marketed to those looking for a greener way to go.

The process is still in the early adoption phase and is only legal in a few states. However, legislation is pending in many states that could bring this bizarre alternative into the mainstream.

Lots of people want their ashes scattered across the surface of the sea, but those looking for a unique postmortem experience may want to consider permanently joining the seafloor instead.

Decatur, Georgia-based Eternal Reefs specializes in the construction of “memorial reefs.” The company mixes human remains into concrete, artificial reefs. The reefs are then lowered to the seafloor, where they play host to local sea life and help maintain marine diversity.

The company’s “reef balls” are designed to withstand even the strongest of ocean currents, so mourners don’t have to worry that a loved one’s remains will drift into unchartered waters. Each reef also features a bronze plaque bearing the name of the deceased person it’s made from, making this memorial much like an underwater tombstone.

7 Business Ideas for Couples

It’s not easy to run a business with your spouse or significant other. But for couples who have built up a solid foundation and who know how to handle conflict with each other, small business ownership could be a step toward financial independence and even a stronger relationship.

If you and your partner have made the decision to start a business together, you can choose from plenty of startups that are well suited for a two-person team. As with any partnership, these business ideas work best when you each take on roles that best fit your skills and strengths. An entrepreneurial relationship, like all business ventures, is truly a labor of love.

Some couples constantly fight over who has to cook dinner, but for others, preparing and sharing a meal together is an enjoyable bonding activity. If you and your partner fall into the latter category — and, of course, you’re actually good cooks — you may want to consider starting your own catering business. Let the resident gourmand take care of most of the food prep, while the other serves as customer service rep and sous chef.

For those foodies who also love to travel together, consider opening up shop as a food truck vendor. Whether its music festivals, block parties, or private events, food trucks are a great way to make some extra money while traveling and meeting new, interesting people. For many food truck vendors, the freedom of the open road and the appeal of their favorite activities has led them to strike out on their own; doing exactly that with the person you love might just be the best way to see the world together.

Crafty couples who share a passion for DIY projects can launch a successful e-commerce business on platforms like Etsy or Zibbet. One of you can handle marketing; the other can handle customer service, and both of you can work together to fill your orders. Not only does e-commerce represent a money-making opportunity, it also offers you and your partner a chance to be creative together; what’s better than having fun while turning a profit?

If you’re the type of couple that goes running and hits the gym together, launching a fitness business could be right for you. Whether you’re interested in personal training or class instruction, you can become certified through organizations like the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, and begin taking on clients. If you both specialize in the same area, you can double the number of sessions or classes you book. Alternatively, if one of you is a personal trainer and the other teaches a class, you can expand your client base through your service variety.

For working parents with long hours, cleaning the house can quickly fall to the bottom of the to-do list. Offer your weekends and evenings to these families, for everything from light housework like vacuuming and dusting to heavy-duty chores like cleaning the kitchen and bathroom. With you and your partner working as a team, you’ll be able to get these tasks done twice as quickly.

Do you and your partner love animals? Spread the word to friends and neighbors that you’re available to watch their pets while the owners go on a vacation or weekend trip. Pet owners often feel more comfortable leaving their furry friends in the care of a trusted homeowner rather than placing pets in a boarding facility, so getting referrals shouldn’t be too difficult. Offering two caretakers also means more individualized attention for your clients’ pets, which can be a great selling point.

SAT prep and subject-help tutoring are just as in-demand as ever for students across the country. With strong teaching skills, a wealth of knowledge and great personalities, you and your partner can make extra money educating local students in your home. While self-employed tutors are usually solopreneurs, this business can be even more lucrative for a couple if both of you can tutor. Otherwise, one of you can do the actual tutoring, while the other focuses on marketing and spreading the word.

7 Green Business Ideas for Eco-Minded

Organic catering

A great way for eco-friendly foodies to share their passion for both food and the environment is to start an organic catering company. Cater local events and business luncheons with foods that are made from organic and locally grown ingredients, and offer free-range meats along with vegan, gluten-free and paleo-meal options and you’ll appeal to nature lovers and health and wellness enthusiasts alike. Be sure to keep environmental impact to a minimum by avoiding using plastic and paper goods as much as possible and composting food waste. And if you already own a catering company, switching to organic, eco-friendly foods could be a great way to boost business.

Eco-friendly beauty salon

With more and more consumers becoming aware of the foods they’re eating, the products they put on their bodies and the impact they have on the environment, it’s no surprise that people are looking for natural alternatives to their favorite beauty products. Organic and vegan beauty products — from soaps to shampoos to makeup — are popping up everywhere. A way to make this trend work for you is to open an eco-friendly beauty salon. You can start a hair salon that uses all-natural shampoos and conditioners, or a nail salon that uses environmentally friendly and vegan polishes and spa treatments. If cosmetology is your passion, start a beauty business that’s Mother Nature approved.

rganic or recycled fashion

Organic cotton, reused fabric scraps and evenplastic bottles can all be starting points for a green fashion line. You can create silk screen artwork on eco-friendly T-shirts, or design handbags and accessories made of recycled materials. Many distributors brand themselves as “organic,” “fair trade” and “eco-friendly,” so do your research on their practices to make sure you’re sourcing your fabrics from reputable organizations.

Green app developer

Want to help others help themselves go green? Build an app. From reference guides to activity trackers and games, green-app developers can create apps to help users learn more about going green and guide them toward achieving their sustainable lifestyle goals. Your app can cover green living as a whole or focus on niche areas — such as energy conservation; recycling and upcycling; eco-friendly products, and green living — at home or at work. It can be as simple as an app listing local green businesses, or something complex and interactive that users can enjoy on a day-to-day basis. You can also build educational apps to teach children about going green and help them grow up to be environmentally conscious citizens.

Sustainable event planning

Whether they’re big or small, meetings and events can generate large amounts of waste and consume high levels of energy and water. Greenevent planners can use their green expertise and event-planning skills to find eco-friendly venues, materials, accommodations and other considerations to help curb the effects that meetings and events have on the environment.

Air duct cleaning

Dust, debris and other particulates that collect in ventilation systems can make a home much less energy-efficient. Help homeowners save money, gas and electricity by cleaning out their air ducts. You may need to purchase someequipment to get started if you don’t have a portable vacuum, and a strong working knowledge of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) is a must. Spring is a great time for this business: Seasonal allergy sufferers will be more than happy to pay you to remove allergens from their air ducts.

Eco-consulting

Are you an expert on green living? Help others make their lives more eco-friendly by starting an eco-consulting service. These consultants evaluate homes and offices, and offer solutions to make them more environmentally friendly. This could mean advising people on how to switch to energy-efficient appliances or simply implementing a recycling program.

5 Ways to Turn Your Customer Complaints Into Business Ideas

Do you cringe when a customer complains? If so, it’s time to start thinking of those complaints as possible opportunities instead of problems – opportunities that could lead to new product lines, services or a new venture.  But how do you actually identify new business ideas hiding in your customer complaints?  Here are five tips to get you started.

Be open to closing the gaps

To get useful inspirational tips and leads from your customers, they must know that you’re open to hearing about the gaps in your product lines or services.

“Ask your customers what you could do better,” said Kevin Barnicle, founder and CEO of IT consulting and software firm Controle. “This seems like simple advice but it is very powerful.” Barnicle said that asking one of his customers this simple question uncovered a potentially profitable need that wasn’t being fully met.

While the customer acknowledged that the product Barnicle sold him did what it was supposed to do, the client needed more than the product provided.  As a result, there was a gap in communications between two critical teams in the client’s company – the IT team and the legal team. “If you could offer a service to help me bridge that gap I would buy it,” Barnicle recalled his client saying.

When Barnicle left his old company and started Controle, he offered exactly the service the client had pointed out was missing, and even named it for the complaint. “Our Bridge the Gap service is one of our most profitable and popular services we provide,”  Barnicle said. “It was all created from a customer complaint.” [Looking for a business idea? Visit our business idea section]

‘Simplify’ may signal business opportunity

Is there a demand for a simpler or faster version of your product or service hiding in your customer complaints?  This was the case for the folks at 99designs.com, an online graphics design contest platform.

“Our new products are a direct reflection of the feedback we receive from our customers and designer community,” said Shayne Tilley, general manager of Swiftly. “A great example of this is our newest offering, Swiftly, a service for quick design jobs.”

Tilley said that although customers are happy with the services they receive through 99designs, they often had other smaller or simpler jobs that didn’t fit the service offerings of 99designs. “After our customers had their logo, website, banner ad, business card, etc., created on 99designs, they would ask us, “How do I get this updated or integrated with other existing marketing collateral like brochures, social media creative, et cetera?” Tilley said.

And the 99designs team had the same problem with their own simple jobs – it didn’t make sense to ask the company Web designers to stop working on important projects to complete something like a simple business card update, Tilley said. “Given that our customers were experiencing the same problems as us, we decided to do something about it and thus Swiftly was born,” Tilley said. Swiftly lets customers post small design jobs and have them completed within one hour. “Our average turnaround time is actually 30 minutes,” Tilley said.

Pay special attention to the loudmouths

Do you have a handful of customers that complain frequently? Instead of labeling them troublemakers, start thinking of them as your idea-generators.

“Realize that a customer that complains is sometimes the best customer,” Barnicle said.  Though no one likes to deal with some who’s constantly whining about something, Barnicle said the customers that complain the most usually are the most passionate. “If you can solve their complaint or problem, you will most likely have a customer for life,” he said.

Look to your own complaints

Are you a customer? Take a look at your very own complaints – there could be a new business hiding in your pet peeves. And chances are, if something isn’t working for you, there are others out there with the same problem.

“In 2009, when I was moving, the shipping company broke my TV,” said Girish Mathrubootham, founder and CEO of online customer support and help-desk company Freshdesk.  “I sent multiple emails to the shipping company, but they just asked me to jump through hoops and made no signs of intending to settle my claim.”

Mathrubootham was so frustrated, he finally wrote about his experience in an online forum. Within a day, the shipping company paid him what they owed.

“This experience taught me that customers have social power, and it inspired us to build a customer support solution that leverages social media,” Mathrubootham said. Freshdesk now has 23,000 customers using their customer-support solution worldwide.

Will your customers pay for a solution?

While there may be multiple new business possibilities in your customer’s complaints, how can you find those that will lead to profitable new business?  Evaluate each complaint carefully. If the issue shouldn’t have occurred, or been solved by the service or product they’ve already purchased, simply fix the problem. If not, it could mean there’s a potential new business idea right under your nose – and to find out, ask.

“Simply ask customers,” Barnicle said. “Be up front, and just ask them, ‘If I could solve your problem would you pay for it?’ Doing so you will immediately find out how much of a complaint it really is,” Barnicle said.

When one of Controle’s clients constantly complained about inefficiencies dealing with a software manufacturer’s customer support, Barnicle did exactly this. “We simply asked them, ‘If we offered a service to take that completely off your area of responsibility, would you purchase it?'” The result?  A new service, and a new long-term contract.

7 Business Ideas for Food Lovers

Bakery

If you frequently find yourself whipping up a batch of cookies to stave off boredom, why not get paid for it by opening a bakery? Pull out grandma’s old recipes (or create your own) and find desserts that you can replicate perfectly every time. Of course, retail space and equipment can cost a small fortune, so if you want to launch your bakery sooner rather than later, accept orders online and deliver or ship to local areas. This is a great business to run in your spare time, as you can fill orders during evenings and weekends.

Catering

Have you ever hosted a dinner party or holiday meal and found yourself barely able to enjoy it because of all the preparation? If you’re a skilled home cook that can create delicious meals for a large group of people, you can help alleviate the stress of planning and preparing food for parties as a caterer. While bigger events like weddings and Sweet 16s might be hard to handle without a team, you could likely handle smaller home gatherings by yourself or with a business partner. Make sure you have enough kitchen space to prepare the meals and the means to transport the food to your clients.

Grocery delivery

On-the-go working parents barely have time to cook dinner, let alone shop for groceries. If you have a spacious vehicle and some spare time during evenings and weekends, you can help these busy families by making supermarket runs for them. Clients can send you their grocery lists and pay for the items you pick up. Then you can make a profit by charging for time and delivery. Make an effort to compare prices for the best deals, and shop wholesale for common items to save them money.

Specialty food maker

With an increasing number of Americans living with food allergies and dietary restrictions, the market for vegan and gluten-free specialty items has grown exponentially. In fact, a May 2013 report by Markets and Markets predicts a compound annual growth rate of 10.2 percent for gluten-free products alone. With a little research, you could learn to make these specialty snacks and baked goods to package and sell.

Farmers market vendor

If you’re an avid home gardener and want to make a profit from your produce, sign up to be a vendor at a farmers market. The organic movement is still going strong, so having naturally grown fruits and vegetables will give you an advantage over competing growers that use conventional methods. You may have to go through an application process and/or get certified by your local board of health to begin selling.

estaurant franchise owner

Investing in a franchise is a great way to become a business owner without having to come up with a concept or marketing strategy. With restaurant franchises, the product, brand and audience are already in place. All you need is a good location and some startup money, which is relatively easy to come by: Because a franchise has a proven business model, you’re more likely to get a loan for this low-risk investment.

Nutrition coach

There’s no question that obesity is a growing problem in America, and many people who want to lose weight and eat better simply don’t know where to start. You don’t necessarily need to be a registered dietitian to offer meal plans and diet counseling. Read some nutrition books or take an online course, and use that knowledge to recommend delicious and healthy recipes to your clients that they can easily prepare at home.

5 Smart Ways to Come Up With a Good Business Ideas

Are you thrilled by the idea of starting your own business? You know you have the energy, enthusiasm and commitment of an entrepreneur, but you’re missing one critical element to success: a good business idea. Don’t get frustrated — inspiration is all around you. Here are five tips on where to find good business ideas.

Problems and pet peeves

Good business ideas often solve a problem. Begin your search by listing the problems in your own life.

“Look for problems that no one has addressed yet,” said Boris Wertz, founder of Version One Ventures. “These could be problems that you are having yourself, such as ‘I wish this kind of product or service existed,'” Wertz said. Alternatively, look for problems that other people and/or companies are having.

“This approach tends to work best when you have experience with a certain company or industry, and can understand what their needs are,” Wertz said. “You can build a better idea off of this experience.”

[Looking for a business idea? Visit our business idea page]

A side project or hobby

Sometimes awesome ideas grow from a pet side project or hobby. If you’re having trouble finding your next business idea, start a side project.

“Simply sitting down and trying to brainstorm ideas for a new business doesn’t normally work well for most,” Wertz said.

“Instead, choose an area that interests you for your side project, and look for problems and issues that arise while you are working,” he said.  Wertz said to always keep your eyes open for problems that need solutions, and then to find ways to solve the problems you identify. “Spend time figuring out viable solutions to the issues and problems you have found during work on your side project,” he said. “This is where you’ll find the foundation for a great business idea, the solution to an identified problem.”

Your business network

Remember the phrase “two heads are better than one?” Some of the best business ideas appear when you work with others, instead of on your own.

“I’ve seen great people waste years on terrible business ideas, and if there were one characteristic that separates them from the great ideas it’s this: No ideas in isolation!” said international business coach Jacob Aldridge.

If you don’t know where to find people who may help you come up with a great business idea, Aldridge says to begin by getting in touch with everyone you already know in the business world.

“Ask them all, even your accountant, for an introduction to the most interesting business person they know,” he said.

Another source that may inspire new business ideas is LinkedIn. In addition to your existing network, look for industry-specific LinkedIn groups.  “Familiarize yourself [with the topics] first by reading some of the articles and discussions,” Aldridge said.  Look for recurring questions or problems. The more discussion around a topic, the more likely it is to signal a potential business idea.

Business people you don’t know … yet

If you’re really serious about finding the next great business idea, reach out to individuals beyond your own business network.

“Many innovators, especially young tech startups, are surprised to learn how easy it is to open doors and have conversations in industry,” Aldridge said. “There are very few successful business people who won’t take a meeting when someone asks, ‘Can you spare 30 minutes to help me understand what works well, and what doesn’t, in your industry today?'”

Aldridge said that as your idea develops, feedback from these people helps you determine whether it’s good or not, because you are attempting to solve their real-world problems.

“And if you can solve real-world problems for successful business people, then you have a great business idea,” Aldridge said.

An often-overlooked source of new business connections that could lead to good business ideas is your own local community. Take a look at people who are often quoted in your local media, including business award winners. “I find it most useful to contact them about three weeks afterwards, when the immediate congratulations have quieted down,” Aldridge said.

Outside of work

Getting frustrated because you just can’t find that great business idea? Stop looking for it.

“One cannot find a great business idea, a great business idea finds you,” said Greg Isenberg, a 25-year-old award-winning serial entrepreneur, founder of Wall Street Survivor and CEO of mobile video app 5by.com. He suggested finding a quiet spot outside to get your creative ideas flowing.

How to Building a Relationship

What do we mean by relationship-building?

When we talk about the competency of relationship-building in the world of business, we are referring to building strong relationships with partners and clients – about using interpersonal skills to network in an effective way.

What does a competent relationship-builder do?

Somebody who is competent at relationship-building focuses on understanding the needs of the client and getting the best possible results. This competency promotes an ethic of client service and so an understanding and anticipation of a client’s changing needs is essential. Stress and conflict are other issues that a competent relationship-builder will manage – keeping composed and acting as mediator when conflicts arise.

How can I start to develop the competency of relationship-building?

First identify the business plan goals of your department and decide what your role is going to be in helping to achieve those goals. You will need to study the business plan and learn as much as possible about your clients’ activities, interests and needs. This information might be available in their own annual reports or in client surveys conducted by your company. Talking to your clients about how you can best meet their needs is also a sensible first step to take.

Seven steps to becoming an effective relationship-builder:

  1. Draw up a plan of what you need to do in order to give your clients what they want. Discuss your ideas with your line manager and then do what is necessary to implement the plan.
  2. When the plan has been set in motion, schedule regular meetings with your line manager to review the progress that you are making and make any necessary adjustments.
  3. When you are working as part of a team or group within a department or a company it is important to assess your contribution to the group’s work. Think about how your efforts help or hinder progress.
  4. Make a weekly analysis of your commitments. Set yourself a goal for each week so that you follow them through. Make an effort to do what you say you are going to do – and also, to do it by the time that you say it will be done. If you get into the habit of doing this it will become like second nature.
  5. Build up a file of contacts and classify them in a way that is meaningful for your particular work context. Then you will know exactly who to call with any queries or when you need information.
  6. Don’t just wait for feedback to come to you, request it from a variety of sources – from your line manager but also from colleagues, clients and people who you supervise. Listen to what they have to say and act accordingly.
  7. Build informal relationships with the people who are working around you. Make a point of greeting people who you normally don’t speak to. Ask them about their interests and make it a goal to practise small talk with them. Listen to what they say and remember so that you can ask about a particular interest the next time you meet.

Mobile Device Management

Visions of kicking back and working from the beach with a piña colada in one hand and an iPad in the other are no longer just flights of fancy for many workers. Businesses are finding that it really is possible for employees to work remotely on their own devices without losing any productivity.

As a result, many companies are measuring the benefits of employees working remotely against the logistical issues inherent in developing a mobile device management plan.

There are many tangible benefits of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), including:

  • Reduced equipment costs
  • Increased employee satisfaction and efficiency
  • Decreased IT staff burden (since employees maintain their own equipment)
  • Reduced office space square footage (as workers are mostly off-site)

The risk in BYOD is that these devices can potentially expose security vulnerabilities not directly supervised by IT staff or addressed by corporate antivirus solutions. This is where the need for mobile device management comes in.

A new landscape of threats

Tablets and smartphones are arguably less secure than desktop PCs and laptops because they lack pre-installed malware protection. Most computers include at least a trial version of an antivirus suite, but for the newest mobile gadgets, individual users and IT managers are on their own to search for and install mobile endpoint security management.

This vulnerability has not escaped the attention of hackers, who unleash creative new threats like SMS text messaged-based attacks on a daily basis. The old-school virus, while still annoying, does not hold a candle to the damage caused by these new approaches in cybercrime, which include more sophisticated Trojans, keyloggers, phishing attacks and malicious apps than ever before.

Maintaining security while not breaking the bank

Enforcing a ban on these devices is a near impossibility, but there are options for businesses on a tight budget to maintain security:

  1. The first cost-effective step is to immediately establish protocols regarding these devices in the workplace, including guidelines for acceptable use, forbidden applications and how to avoid dangerous activities, such as browsing certain questionable sites while connected to the company’s Wi-Fi.
  2. Next, evaluate your current solutions to see if they can be modified to protect BYOD devices through password enforcement, remote wiping or other protective measures.
  3. If the quantity of devices or sensitivity of data requires a more robust solution, explore whether the use of Mobile Device Management (MDM) software makes sense. MDM provides a centralized platform to manage all BYOD devices and is recommended if IT personnel are spending an inordinate amount of time securing tablets and smartphones – or if the sheer variety of devices and new threats tests their expertise.

Main components of an effective MDM program

If you determine that an MDM service is appropriate, how do you choose one? Use the following as a mini-checklist to cover the major recommended features:

  • Cloud-based, so updates are automatic and painless
  • Remote configuration and monitoring
  • Passwords, blacklists and other security policies enforcement
  • Backup/restore functionality of corporate data
  • Logging/reporting for compliance purposes
  • Remote disconnection or disabling of unauthorized devices and applications
  • Scalable, so new users and increasingly sophisticated devices can be accommodated easily

Many businesses are only just becoming aware of the burgeoning BYOD trend and the necessity of protecting mobile devices. Small- and medium-sized businesses without large IT staff and corresponding big budgets need a solution that protects them as much as the larger companies. Fortunately, the MDM trend is heading towards more affordable and easier-to-manage solutions, which is great news no matter how big or small your company is.

A Review of Bluetooth Attacks and How to Secure

Bluetooth is best known as the wireless technology that powers hands-free earpieces. Depending on your point of view, people who wear them either:

a) Look ridiculous (especially if shining a bright blue LED from their ear);
b) Appear mad (when apparently talking to themselves); or
c) Are sensible, law-abiding, safety-conscious drivers.

Whichever letter you pick, insidious security issues remain around Bluetooth attacks and mobile devices. While most of the problems identified five to 10 years ago have been straightened out by now, some still remain. And there’s also good reason to be cautious about new, undiscovered problems.

Here are a few examples of the mobile security threats in which Bluetooth makes us vulnerable, along with tips to secure your mobile workforce devices.

General software vulnerabilities

Software in Bluetooth devices – especially those using the newer Bluetooth 4.0 specification – will not be perfect. It’s unheard of to find software that has zero security vulnerabilities.

As Finnish security researchers Tommi Mäkilä, Jukka Taimisto and Miia Vuontisjärvi demonstrated in 2011, it’s easy for attackers to discover new, previously unknown vulnerabilities in Bluetooth devices. Potential impacts could include charges for expensive premium-rate or international calls, theft of sensitive data or drive-by malware downloads.

To combat this threat: Switch off your Bluetooth when you’re not using it.

Eavesdropping

Bluetooth – named after the Viking king, Harald Bluetooth Gormsson, thanks to his abilities to make 10th-century European factions communicate – is all about wireless communication. Just like with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth encryption is supposed to stop criminals listening in to your data or phone calls.

In other words, eavesdropping shouldn’t be a problem. However, older Bluetooth devices use versions of the Bluetooth protocol that have more security holes than a tasty slice of Swiss. Even the latest specification (4.0) has a similar problem with its low-energy (LE) variant.

To combat this threat: Ban devices that use Bluetooth 1.x, 2.0 or 4.0-LE.

Denial of service

Malicious attackers can crash your devices, block them from receiving phone calls and drain your battery.

To combat this threat: Again, switch off your Bluetooth when you’re not using it.

Bluetooth range is greater than you think

Bluetooth is designed to be a “personal area network.” That is to say, devices that are more than a few feet away should not be accessible via Bluetooth.

However, you’re not safe if you simply ensure there’s distance between you and a potential attacker; hackers have been known to use directional, high-gain antennae to successfully communicate over much greater distances. For example, security researcher Joshua Wright demonstrated the use of such an antenna to hack a Bluetooth device in a Starbucks from across the street.

To combat this threat: Once again, switch off your Bluetooth!

Bluetooth headsets

Wright has also demonstrated serious flaws in many popular Bluetooth headsets. By exploiting these vulnerabilities, attackers can eavesdrop on your conversations with the people around you, not just your phone calls. Built-in hands-free car kits can also be vulnerable.

The device becomes, in effect, a mobile bugging device, transmitting everything it hears to an attacker.

To combat this threat: Make sure you change the default PIN code to something hard to guess. And yup… switch off the headset.