All children know that if they’re not good right through from January to December, that jolly old bearded fellow won’t give them what they want at Christmas time. And it’s the same story for businesses.
Good businesses are those that are prepared for every eventuality. They plan ahead. Look to the future. Create an exemplary company culture. Deliver outstanding customer service. Document their business strategy. Have a tight financial roadmap. Streamline business processes. Deploy the right technology. Have tight sales and marketing alignment. Are well-protected against cybersecurity threats.
Failure to focus on any of these things right around the calendar does not a good business make, and can lead to disastrous consequences that may strike before the year is out. So, as you write your letter to CFO Santa and hang up your stocking in preparation for what you hope will be a great 2019, you’ll soon know if that’s Saint Nick clambering down the chimbley, or the grisly Grinch come to steel your who-pudding.
So – have you been a good business this year? Let’s take a look at three things companies DON’T want in their Christmas stocking.
- A Data Breach
If you’ve been a bad business and have had bad security in place this year, the Grinch could quite literally sneak into your system and steal your data – and your whole company’s Christmas along with it. And not just your company’s Christmas, of course, but your clients’, investors’ and business partners’ Christmas, too.
Christmas time is also the season of cybercrime. Phishing scams, for instance, are a persistent problem for organizations at all times of year, yet there is usually a steep increase in the number of scams at Christmas as cybercriminals take advantage of distracted staff to launch targeted attacks. The silly season tends to be the time of year when employees let their guard down, which can result in a huge loss of sensitive data.
As inboxes are flooded with eCards, messages from friends and family, and delivery notifications from online retailers, those Grinchy fraudsters are out there looking to smuggle their deceitful emails in among the flurry of festive messages.
Research last year from IRONSCALES, which involved a comprehensive online survey of over 500 cybersecurity professionals, revealed that more than 90% of successful cyberattacks worldwide begin with a phishing email. To further highlight the problem, the FBI recently posted a public advisory on increases in business email compromise (BEC) attacks, in which threat actors requested that victims purchase gift cards for corporate gift-giving or holiday functions.
(Image source: ic3.gov)
If you want to do something good for organization this year, treat your staff to cybersecurity awareness training, and of course ensure that all of your cybersecurity defenses are well-stocked, and that your IT security team has everything it needs to see you safely through 2019 and beyond.
- Staff Turnover
With the New Year will come New Year’s resolutions, and for any unsatisfied employees, a new job may be right at the top of the list. Employee turnover is highest in January, according to Visier, which may be due to a number of reasons. For starters it’s the time of year when organizations ramp up hiring, so your staff will feel that there may be new opportunities on the horizon. Some people also like to wait for their end-of-year bonuses before leaving, and many want to enjoy the holidays before starting a new job search.
As such, it’s important for organizations to do everything they can – for a full twelve months of the year – to keep their employees happy, engaged, and feeling that they are valued so that no mass exodus occurs in January.
So – what do employees want? Well, the 2018 Global Talent Trends study by Mercer found that 51% of employees wish their company offered more flexible work options, with 71% of those thriving at work reporting that permanent flexibility is something their organization offers. The survey also found that one in two employees would like to see a greater focus on well-being at their company – which includes an emphasis on physical, psychological and financial wellness.
(Image source: mercer.com)
Another key finding from the report is that modern-day employees want to work with a sense of purpose – thriving employees are three times more likely to work for a company that addresses this need. Working with a sense of purpose boosts employee motivation productivity, morale and overall job satisfaction. According to Mercer, in order for employers to provide purpose to employees, they should:
- Create a company vision
- Show recognition
- Express gratitude
- Let employees know how their job impacts the company and its clients
- Frequently discuss the meaning and value of the company
- Share customer success stories
- A Bad Fourth Quarter
The Grinch will soon know precisely how good or bad your fourth quarter has been. While some industries – such as retail – can usually trust Q4 to be the most profitable of the year, for others this isn’t a guarantee.
Global financial services firm Kabbage recently conducted a survey of 300 US businesses to understand what financial dynamics impact their Q4. It found that the Q4 opportunity for sales and profitability varies hugely by industry. While, predictably, Q4 is the most profitable time of year for 74% of online retailers and 71% of brick-and-mortar retailers, the same is only true for just 27% of IT and software vendors.
Profitability, of course, ties directly into cost management – and costs can soar in Q4. Of the industries covered in the Kabbage survey (also included were foodservice, transportation, real estate and property management), all reported their costs increasing in Q4 anywhere from 25% to 75%.
41% cited purchasing more inventory as an additional Q4 expense, 25% cited increased spending on advertising, and 31% also spent more on employees in the form of bonuses, holiday gifts, and office parties. In addition, when businesses don’t have their most robust sales records in previous quarters, they may require additional funding to meet heightened Q4 expectations.
The bottom line is that cash flow planning is of vital importance for businesses to drive revenues and reap profits during the fourth quarter, and thereby have the capital secured to start 2019 strong and ready for another big year ahead.
While it’s perhaps true that an unexpected disaster can strike any company at any time, the odds remain in favor of those businesses that are always prepared for the worst eventualities and take active steps to prevent them from happening throughout the entire year. If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail, and at no point will a good business be dropping the ball on cybersecurity, employee retention or cash flow planning. Christmas may be a time of hope – but hope is not a strategy. Don’t let the Grinch steal your data, staff, customers, or profits now or at any other time of year. Get a proper, documented strategy for all of your activities next year in place, and you won’t have to rely on mere hope that 2019 will be a great one.