Report: Occupational fraud is siphoning ‘staggering amounts’ of money from small businesses

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

Internal occupational fraud — schemes that involve employees who misappropriate assets, tamper with checks, skim cash or steal inventory — is a significant problem for businesses big and small.  This week, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners released its findings on the state of fraud in corporate America, and the numbers should concern anyone running a business.

The association’s biennial research, published in its 2018 Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse, looked at 2,690 cases of occupational fraud at organizations around the world.  The average duration of these incidents occurred over 16 months and cost the businesses affected a whopping $7 billion. Read More…

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Why an Android Phone Makes More Sense Than an iPhone for Your Business

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(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

Because my firm implements customer relationship management applications, our clients are mostly business owners and salespeople who are on the road and work long hours. Many of them rely on their smartphones (as well, I assume, booze and Ambien) to get through the day – and night. So inevitably I get asked what smartphone I prefer and for as long as I can remember I always give the same answer: The Palm Treo.

But that’s not available anymore. So now I recommend any device that’s running Google’s Android operating system.

Now, don’t get mad at me, iPhone users. I agree that you are smarter, cooler and better looking than me (although, no offense, I do question the intelligence of anyone who sleeps outside of a shop just to buy a stupid phone). Yes, and of course, the iPhone is awesome, elegant and powerful. I have many clients who use and love their iPhones. My entire family – except me – are avid and happy iPhone users and we all peacefully co-exist unless someone switches on Fox News.

But this is a business decision. For my clients, who are mostly small and medium sized companies, an Android-based phone makes as much sense as work boots, safety glasses and Ford F-150’s. Let me explain why.

For starters, Android is part of a much, much bigger community. Go ahead and look it up. It’s OK…I’ll wait.

See? Even though it seems like everyone around you is using an iPhone, they’re not. Android actually controls more than 80 percent of the global smartphone and tablet market and Google is forecasted to grow this market share to 85 percent by 2020. Sure, these are users from India, China and other parts of Asia but can we all admit that these people are mostly smarter than us? They clearly know a good thing when they see it.

So what does this all mean? It means a bigger community of users that provides more options, support and competitive pricing for a business person looking for the right device. Not to mention a great reason to visit Mumbai.

Speaking of devices, Android is supported on way more of them than Apple’s iOS platform. The iPhone used to be the only cool thing in town. But Samsung, Amazon, Sony, HTC and many others make very cool devices that not only run on the operating system but also knows your favorite TV show, what restaurant you last ate at and what size underwear fits you. For a business this means that if you create your own internal apps or have found a great app for your company, your users will be able to run it regardless of their device and no matter how crappy it is. It all comes down to more flexibility and choices…and unfortunately more crappy apps.

Let’s not forget lower prices. Business owners like me are notorious cheapskates. iPhones can be expensive – and so can some Android-based devices. But that’s only if you go high end. The cheapest iPhone around is about $350. But you and your sales staff can be easily equipped with great Android phones or tablets costing well south of $300. Some Android phones I’ve seen sell for as little as $130. Just think of the savings that you can share with your staff in the form of higher wages and better benefits! Hello? Still with me?

Look, I’m not going to quibble about user interface and features – both operating systems have strengths and weaknesses and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from selling software and living on this planet for many decades is that everyone has their opinions, likes and favorite things, no matter how inferior they are. How else do you explain The Bachelor?

Leaving the features debate aside, I can confirm that Android does beat Apple in two big areas: battery life and storage. Because Android devices are more flexible, manufacturers are able to allow their users to more easily add on expanded batteries and flash drives to increase their file capacity. Of course, those added batteries could likely explode while in-flight, but those are the risks and we’re braver than we look, especially when it comes to getting an extra 30 minutes on Instagram.

Finally, I’m also a big fan of Google. In my experience as a CRM consultant, I find Google to be more business-friendly than Apple, and it’s not just because I loved that movie with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson where they went from dopey watch salesmen to winning an app contest against a bunch of brilliant Ivy-League students…and Owen Wilson also got the hot Google executive too.

Google apps, though available on the iPhone, are better integrated on Android devices. I rely heavily on Maps, Chrome, Gmail, Hangouts and other Google Business Apps for doing documents, spreadsheets and surfing porn. I find that Microsoft apps, which many of my clients use as I do, work better on Android devices than Apple ones and I was just kidding about surfing porn.

Of course, Android has its weaknesses and its biggest is still security. It’s a more open platform and Google’s oversight of malware and malicious apps – even on its store – is less stringent than Apple’s. That’s why Android devices are more vulnerable to attacks. Having said that, in the five-plus years I’ve been using my Samsung devices I’ve never really been harmed by an online attack mainly because I just pay the ransom fast.

So yes, I do recommend Android-based tablets and phones to our clients. But I don’t get into arguments about this stuff. The truth is that, although I prefer the Google platform over Apple’s, both are excellent and will work well for any business owner or salesperson. Think about it for a little, make your choice and move on. There are likely bigger issues that deserve more attention, like what in the world did that hot Google executive find attractive about Owen Wilson?

Gene’s Smallbiz Tech Check: How to Make Your Online Store More Personal and Engaging

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

Tech Check is a weekly blog that offers suggestions for solving some of the biggest headaches business professionals face with technology.

This week, we spoke to Nahma Mehta, Co-founder and CEO of AbsolutArt.com. Launched in 2015, AbsolutArt.com is an online store that scouts trailblazing artists from around the world and brings affordable, limited-edition works of art straight to consumers—signed, numbered, and professionally framed. Her company has 12 employees and is located in Stockholm, Sweden.

Nahema is frustrated that the human connection is often lost when shopping online. Typically, she’s bombarded with a bunch of JPG files, and it’s easy to forget that there’s a creator who has dedicated his or her life to the creation of the artworks she’s viewing. Without that human connection with the artist, she and her customers can feel overwhelmed, intimidated, and disconnected. Read More…

And the best ‘small’ city in the U.S. for start-ups is … where?

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

oming more and more attractive.

“I have seen tremendous support for small-town businesses from local leaders, schools and residents,” said Michael Glauser, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship in the Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University. “One small business owner I know has a store in a small town and one in a large town. He gets far more support and stronger sales in his small-town operation. People want him to succeed and stick around.” Read More…

Most employers and workers don’t fear robots — but they do fear something else

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

In these times of tight employment and growing demand, many business owners I know are making investments in technology to help automate tasks and get more things done with less people. So, is the rise of these potentially job-killing technologies creating concern among workers?  According to one report the answer is: not really.

Insurance company MetLife recently surveyed 2,500 benefits decision-makers and another 2,600 full-time employees at companies across the country as part of its 16th annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study. The report found that both groups are embracing automation technologies with “open arms.” Read More…

More retailers than ever are going bankrupt

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

Ask anyone running a store and they’ll tell you that it’s tough to be in the retail business. Merchants big and small are struggling to meet the demands of a customer base that is demanding better service, lower prices and products both in-store and from the comfort of their homes. A new report from investor research firm Moody’s certainly confirms that.

According to last week’s report, bankruptcies in the retail sector were at a record high during the first quarter of 2018. Read More…

Gmail is Getting a Major Re-Design…And Other Small Business Tech News This Week

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

Here are five things in technology that happened this past week and how they affect your business. Did you miss them?

1 – Google says it’s doing a major re-design of Gmail.

Google “confidentially” told its G-Suite customers this week that it’s planning a major re-design of its Gmail software.  “We’re working on some major updates to Gmail (they’re still in draft phase),” a company spokesman said. “We need a bit more time to compose ourselves, so can’t share anything yet—archive this for now, and we’ll let you know when it’s time to hit send.” (Source: The Next Web)

Why this is important for your business: Read More…