RISK: Pain and Glory For Small Business Owners

Being your own boss. Owning your own business. Such initiative is part of the American Dream, but you must be daring and be able to take risks. And risk is both pain and glory for small business owners. The reality is that business ownership is not necessarily for everyone. Every town in America has seen storefronts go dark, restaurants shuttered, service companies shut down the phones. There are places where even Walmart has closed its doors. In most cases, these endings were all brought about by some element of risk that was not adequately addressed.

A Short List Of Typical Small Business Owner Risk

Although the words change in some descriptions, below are some of the common risks of owning a small business:

  • Damage to your reputation/uncovered liability/surprise business interruptions
  • Lawsuits
  • Security breaches
  • Acts of God/random and completely unforeseeable events
  • Illness, disability, or death

I sort of knew about lists like this when I started my own small business, but when I revisited these five possibilities recently, I had a little epiphany. In today’s business world, 4 of the 5 risks listed above can be related to a company’s Information Technology system.

Major banks and credit card companies can address the damage to their reputations when their databases get raided and client identity theft follows. Transit systems can address what happens when their electronic operations get hacked and go dark. Lawsuits can follow security breaches. Catastrophic weather can destroy communications. Terrorist activities can bring whole cities to a standstill.

Your IT Is More Than Just Office Equipment

Typewriters were never much of a maintenance issue. Word processors could fail but they could also be repaired pretty quickly. These examples of “office equipment” are so far removed from the machines used in business today that the comparison cannot even be called apples and oranges. The capabilities of our modern networks are far beyond the tools used in offices for even the last 30 years, yet there are business owners who still think of their computers as just office equipment. It’s a comfortable thought, but it’s also precarious. I know that we all have too many balls in the air. We are too busy. It’s hard to carve out the time to learn more about certain things. I’ve seen that trying to learn about IT is one of the more intimidating chores for owners, especially when their business is growing and they need to expand their network. I hope there is hope for a re-prioritization. If your computer network is directly tied to 4 out of 5 of the big risks for your company, I think understanding your IT needs should be your #1 priority. Take it in baby steps and learn this with someone you’re comfortable with, someone you can come to trust. At least that part doesn’t have to be scary.

Jason Newburg, 260.243.5100, ext 2101, is the founder and owner of Aptica LLC. This IT management and support company has been serving small to medium-sized businesses for 19 years in the region that includes Angola, South Bend, and Fort Wayne, IN, Battle Creek, MI, and Toledo OH.

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