5 Elements of a Cyber-Secure BYOD Policy [Infographic]

January 2, 2019 by Comerica Bank

Between 80 and 90 percent of the U.S. workforce prefers to work from home at least some of the time, according to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com. The modern workforce craves flexibility, and the technology needed to provide it is more readily available than ever before.

However, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can't necessarily afford to give their entire workforce laptops, tablets and smartphones to facilitate working remotely or while on the go. Instead, many SMBs have implemented bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies that let employees get work done on their personal devices. Offering this option can actually be a competitive advantage, and not just for the work-from-home benefits. Employees can bring a laptop into the office, for example, that they feel more comfortable working on.

For a BYOD policy to be successful, it must make small business cybersecurity a priority. This means that employers need to establish security measures that protect corporate data. If, for example, a lost or stolen tablet or smartphone ends up in the wrong hands, the result could be a damaging data breach. How will your organization respond to this incident? Will it implement mobile device management (MDM) systems so that smartphones can be remotely wiped? These are the types of questions a small business must address as part of implementing a BYOD policy.

From keeping personal data and company data separate, to establishing an acceptable-use policy, to requiring user authentication and more, SMBs need to create a cyber-secure BYOD policy. This is key to protecting digital assets while empowering employees.

We discuss the fundamental components of a BYOD policy in more depth in the following "5 Elements of a Cyber-Secure BYOD Policy" infographic.

 

BYOD Infographic

This information is provided for general awareness purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as legal or compliance advice for your business.

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Advice From Successful Businesswomen

December 11, 2018 by Comerica Bank

The small business world is full of profitable people, and many of those success stories involve businesswomen. Let’s take a look at some of the tactics and traits they have, along with some of the key advice they can offer prospective entrepreneurs.

Business traits of successful businesswomen

What are the secrets of successful women in business? What tactics do they use to get ahead and become sustainable entrepreneurs?

There are a number of common traits amongst successful businesswomen that you may also have, such as:

  • Making a challenge out of your business venture, and using ambition as a major motivating factor.
  • Staying persistent and having self-belief that what you’re trying to do is achievable.
  • Executing time management skills.
  • Having willingness to learn and grow along with the confidence to gain customers or clients, and to build up a promising business.
  • Honing a sense of purpose and believing that your business is making a difference.

“Find what lights you up”

It’s important to learn to trust your intuition. Good intuition can help you follow what you enjoy, according to businesswoman Melissa Galt.

“My advice is to find what lights you up, and do whatever it takes to make it happen,” she said.
“You will meet with unexpected success."

However, the road to entrepreneurial success isn’t always easy, as Galt explains.

“I was unemployed, in debt and six months premature to my planned launch,” she said. “I launched immediately while taking up side jobs. I worked 15 hour days, six days a week because I wanted to. I couldn’t wait to get up and hated to go to bed at night.”

Melissa quit her career in hospitality purchasing to form a new creative path in interior design.

“Life is too short to do something you don’t love,” she said.

“Do the work”

Create a plan of action for a blueprint to success, and be prepared to do the hard work to make your business dreams become reality, as entrepreneur Amy Schmittauer explains.

"Everyone wants the decision to be easy or great timing, but it never will be,” she said. “Do the work. Prove you're going to keep doing the work when you're the only one in your corner. And then make it happen. When I realized at my nine to five that I wanted to work for myself, it was a year and a half before I actually left to make it happen. During that time, I was getting any and all experience I could in my field.”

Be your authentic self

Danae Ringelmann, co-founder of Indiegogo®, grew up noticing that her parents struggled to get small business loans. Then, while she was helping set up crowdfunding website, Indiegogo®, she was ironically rejected 90 times by venture capitalists before raising her first dollar.

Ringelmann has three tips for fellow entrepreneurs to stay focused when faced with challenges:

  • Whatever you're planning to do, ask yourself why.
  • Expect resistance.
  • Don't wait for perfection.

"Don’t be afraid to be you and own it,” she said. “That’s why people follow you."

“All you need is an idea and serious drive”

It’s essential not to let inexperience stop you from following through with your small business plan.

Melissa Kieling, owner of freezable lunchbox maker PACKiT®, shared some useful advice for turning your entrepreneurial idea into a business:

“Admit you don’t know something and asking for help is a strength, not a weakness,” she said. “Understand your cash flow – you really have to know your general expenses and your cost of goods.”

Melissa sums up the idea of starting a business by encouraging aspiring businesswomen to look for inspiration everywhere. Imagination, ideas and an internet connection can help you create a world changing product.

Aim to be values-based

Some of the most successful women business owners know their own values and act upon them. As Francine Manilow (founder and CEO of Manilow Suites™) reveals the importance of values.

“Values are your core – everything else around you may be in flux and changing, but your values remain rock solid,” she said. “If you’re a true blue entrepreneur, nothing stops you. You just press on with vigor and optimism. Ever so slowly doors begin to open.”

Next steps

  • Find out how to identify your key success factors.
  • Get in contact with us at Comerica Bank.

This information is provided for general awareness purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as legal or compliance advice for your business.

This article is provided for informational purposes only. While the information contained within has been compiled from source[s] which are believed to be reliable and accurate, Comerica Bank does not guarantee its accuracy. Consequently, it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter nor be relied upon as such.

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Managing Change in Your Business

November 12, 2018 by Comerica Bank

Planning for change and managing it carefully is a necessary investment of your time, helping your business to run efficiently and stay competitive for the long-term. The key to managing change is to be proactive – plan ahead to stay in control of the process.

Careful planning and coordination will help you set the timing, pace and scale of changes so you can embrace them on your own terms, instead of feeling they’ve been forced on you or rushed. Without planning ahead for change, there is a danger of falling behind in your business goals. You may also find yourself trailing behind competitors who have stayed more responsive to the market.

Identifying necessary change

Research market trends and any developments in your industry sector that might warrant a shift in your approach. Analyze your competitors, taking note of any changes in strategy that might have implications for your business. For instance, if your competitors are shifting the bulk of their trading online, this could signal an important next step for you too.

Many business developments result from responding to these external factors, but you can find beneficial change closer to home too. Identifying areas for improvement in internal processes and structures will save time and money in the future, which ultimately means staying competitive. As the experts on the detail of day-to-day operations, your staff will be invaluable in highlighting where processes can be streamlined.

Most importantly, use the specific goals you have identified in your business plan to drive your timetable of change. Where have you planned to be in a year’s time? Three years’ time? Or five? What changes are needed to make that happen?

Time to prioritize

You may identify a few potential changes to implement but, as always in business, you need to be realistic – what is achievable with your current capacity? There’s a fine balance to strike between investing in progress and maintaining your current output in the meantime. Some management consultants specialize in change management, so access additional expertise, or the advice of business associates with experience in this area, if you feel you need more advice.

Prioritize change on the basis of greatest potential benefit to your business goals. Avoid the temptation to just opt for those that are easiest to implement. If it makes sense to hold off, until a healthier cash flow month for instance, that’s fine too – change for change’s sake will do more harm than good. All change has implications for your business, so consider it carefully. Make sure you’re convinced it’s genuinely necessary and the timing is right before moving ahead.

Is your business ready?

Foster an environment where change is welcomed as a positive part of working life. It’s human nature to be apprehensive about the unfamiliar, but the right approach can ensure change isn’t seen as a worry, but instead as an opportunity for improving things.

Be transparent with your staff and discuss the rationale behind your choices. Explaining the possible benefits – and any risks of not taking the leap – will win the confidence and support of your team. Your staff will appreciate the idea being discussed openly rather than just having it imposed on them.

Avoid overselling when discussing your plans – being honest and upfront will ensure your credibility isn’t undermined and your employees continue to trust your judgment.

Creating a change timetable

Think through the specific operational details of your planned changes and examine all the implications for your business. This will involve thinking from every angle – your staff, your customers and your suppliers. Try to break any large changes down into smaller increments if possible. This will make the process less daunting and much more achievable.

In the excitement of a new development, the finer details can sometimes be overlooked. It’s important not to rush ahead without careful thought, potentially exposing your business to costly mistakes that could have been avoided. Put together a detailed timetable for the changes you plan to implement, tying it in specifically to your business goals. Include the specifics of what you’ll need in terms of staffing levels, skills, experience, new technology or premises, to achieve the necessary change successfully.

You may be concerned that day-to-day business will be affected so consider this carefully when planning and ensure you’re not overstretching your team. A key benefit of planning ahead is keeping control over the pace of change, which will help to ensure day-to-day operations are protected during the transition.

Limiting risk to your business is always crucial. If you have identified an upcoming change as risky, see if you can pilot it on a smaller scale before rolling it out completely. This will limit the fallout from large, untested changes and provide invaluable information for predicting how the larger scale shift will go. It may well help you avoid some costly mistakes with the real thing.

Keeping staff positive about change

Plan your timetable of changes to limit disruption as much as possible. The scenario to avoid at all costs is a rushed half-baked idea, poorly explained to staff and forever being updated on the go. This is damaging to staff morale – and your credibility as a boss – but it’s easily avoided.

Set aside sufficient time to ensure you’re not only communicating your plans clearly enough, but early enough. Give your staff the chance to understand exactly what they’re now doing and why. Invite feedback and comments, implement any good ideas and make sure to reward employees for them. It’s crucial they know their input is valued. This is a key stage, not only for morale, but the feedback gathered may well help you avoid pitfalls you hadn’t considered.

You can avoid creating an environment of uncertainty in the workplace by only communicating your plans once you’ve given them careful thought. Hinting at upcoming developments that aren’t yet fully formed can create worry. For instance, if there are concerns over a possible restructure, you may lose good staff seeking more job security if you aren’t quick to reassure them.

Assign key responsibilities for keeping changes on track, making sure it truly is a team effort. Recognize your employees’ contributions to positive change as part of your appraisals. This will help your staff feel appreciated and invested in the progress of your business, together with having a real sense of achievement at having contributed to its success.

Next steps

  • Meet with your staff to identify any areas for improvement internally.
  • Review your business plan and identify the changes needed to make your specific business goals happen.
  • Seek advice from experienced associates and skilled professionals.

This information is provided for general awareness purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as legal or compliance advice for your business.

This article is provided for informational purposes only. While the information contained within has been compiled from source[s] which are believed to be reliable and accurate, Comerica Bank does not guarantee its accuracy. Consequently, it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter nor be relied upon as such. 

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Automation 101: Technology is Expanding Financial and Banking Services

October 31, 2018 by Comerica Bank

Automated financial services have revolutionized the business and banking management experience. Convenience and speed are what people want most, and the ever-improving capacity of technology delivers on what individuals have come to expect, particularly from financial institutions, to accomplish their everyday tasks quickly and efficiently.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is fueling these advanced capabilities. It’s easy to consider AI as the wave of the future, but in reality, it’s the here and now. According to Gallup polling, 85 percent of Americans regularly use products or services that contain AI capabilities, a proportion of the public that's only expected to grow as the digital train gains momentum. With more service channels readily available, online banking is now the preferred method consumers use to take care of their account management errands, based on survey data from Accenture Research.

Business owners especially want these expeditious capabilities to keep pace with their competition and make the most of their human capital to help improve the customer experience. Legacy systems once had their utility, but with back-office operations more voluminous and time-consuming than ever - such as payables and receivables - they're no longer efficient, especially when advanced technologies are available to streamline payment processes.

Accounts payable automation solutions enable business owners to improve productivity by taking care of tasks that are important to handle without sacrificing human capital, which is better used in other more personalized capacities - the kind AI can't handle. Companies that invest in AI and human-machine collaboration have the potential to increase their earning power by 38 percent, according to calculations from Accenture Research. Boosts in revenue stand to be even greater among specific industries - as much as 28 percent growth in automotive, 34 percent in professional services, 41 percent in retail and 49 percent in health care.

Automated financial services come in many forms, but here are a few of the ways they can benefit your company from a perspective of payment processing:

Enhances speed

Manually processing paper-based invoices takes excessive amounts of time and energy, just to process one, never mind several as is usually the case for business owners, particularly in health care. Automation speeds up the process and saves time through paperless payments, which more companies are assiduously pursuing. According to the Association for Intelligent Information Management, companies that reported "actively seeking" ways to eliminate paper went from 9 percent in 2014 to 16 percent a year later.

Improves accuracy

As fastidious as your staff may be, they're bound to make mistakes or miscalculations when transcribing or using manual key entry. Robotic process automation and intelligent machines help to reduce the potential for error by rendering manual entry unnecessary.

Reduces clutter, disorganization

Work processes get bogged down when papers and invoices get misplaced. According to the ILM Corporation, when documents get misfiled, tracking them down averages an hour, and three hours if someone has to recreate it. Paperless invoices filed and logged electronically makes for easier access by reducing clutter and the potential for productivity delays caused by mishandling.

Strengthens compliance capabilities

Every industry is affected by compliance protocols, which can change at any given time. Accounts payable automation can give you and your staff the extra time needed to make the appropriate modifications when and if compliance regulations change, freed from the constraints and monotony of manual processing that automated financial services are capable of handling.

Whatever industry you happen to be in, from health care to dealer services, Comerica Bank has a complete offering of payable solutions that can help your business thrive. An experienced Comerica Bank Treasury Management Officer will evaluate your payables and receivables so that your method is customized to your preferred format. Using your company's own data helps to make customization possible. The all-in-one payment processing services available through Comerica Bank allow for a more in-depth, immersed degree of automation.

Comerica ranks first nationally among the top 25 U.S. financial holding companies, based on commercial and industrial loans outstanding as a percentage of assets, as of June 30, 2018. Data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

This information is provided for general awareness purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as legal or compliance advice for your business.

 

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Mitigating Risks in Exporting

October 19, 2018 by Comerica Bank

Across the globe, countries that dot the map are united in their desire for growth and development. Imports and exports help make this possible, with companies accessing trade opportunities in a variety of industries.
Between 2006 and 2016, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO), agricultural-related exports rose by an average of 15 percent each year. Exports of commercial services reached $5 trillion from $2.9 trillion over the same span, and among WTO members, the overall value of merchandise trade reached $15.4 trillion from $11.7 trillion.

With figures like these, it's little wonder why the United States, the largest economy in the world, is also the largest trading nation.

As opportunity-rich as imports and exports may be for the businesses and consumers that exchange and use them, engaging in trade isn't without its risks, be they financial, political or contractual in nature. Taking a risk management approach in the goods and services you export to trade partners can help you and your company avoid running into issues that could derail your long-term goals. Here are some of the potential obstacles to be aware of when engaging in foreign trade, and what can help you mitigate risk.

An overvalued currency

The United Nations recognizes approximately 180 different currencies, and their relative values are rarely in alignment with one another. Nowhere is this more evident than when exchange rates become overvalued. When this occurs, the purchasing power of the money used in transactions weakens, making exporting a costlier option because it doesn't buy as much as it used to. This incentivizes the purchasing of domestic goods - or those from a country where there's greater currency parity - because exports become more expensive.

While overvalued currency can't be avoided - often influenced by market dynamics and political upheaval, among other contributors - you can mitigate the effects by doing your homework on the exchange rate and taking a preemptive, precautionary approach to international trade transactions. These steps may include obtaining letters of credit that are structured for various business applications. How they're composed depends on the risk factor(s) in question. Financial institutions, where these letters are traditionally available, also frequently work in consultation with the federal government to assist with risk mitigation depending on the risk factor. These government exports programs and affiliations can be found at the International Trade Administration's website devoted to export education and global trade information.

You may also want to consult with a financial manager who specializes in foreign exchange and international business transactions. A professional can give you a rundown of the current and historic political environment and the economic system of governance.

Different legal structures

From banking regulations to determining what constitutes the proper transferal of funds, you can easily run into legal complications with international trade because laws aren't universal. How are contracts handled in China? What compliance protocols must be adhered to in Mexico, and how do they compare and contrast with those in the U.S.? Wading into foreign exchange transactions, without having an understanding of the laws that exist, can be a recipe for disaster, leading to reputational consequences that harm your bottom line and your future trade opportunities, whether with a specific company or country overall. That's why it's important to choose a global transactions partner whose expertise and familiarity with the processes involved can serve as your guide.

From the analysis of currency risk exposure to financing solutions in foreign currencies, Comerica Bank offers business solutions, not just banking products. Our dedicated team of advisors will help you navigate international business practice waters.

Comerica Bank is the Leading Bank for Business1, and our global solutions savvy can take you places that you never thought possible. Find out first hand by requesting a free consultation with us today.

1Comerica ranks first nationally among the top 25 U.S. financial holding companies, based on commercial and industrial loans outstanding as a percentage of assets, as of June 30, 2018. Data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.
This information is provided for general awareness purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as legal or compliance advice for your business.

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