Between January and March of 2019, thousands of entrepreneurs applied for a prestigious mentorship and training program. In May, the winners were announced. Receiving a Tory Burch Fellowship is a great experience that challenges and benefits its recipients in numerous ways. Some of the key takeaways include learning that risk has rewards, strategy and focus is critical, and hard work can pay off. For the entrepreneurs, one of the most encouraging parts of the experience is being surrounded by so many other amazing women breaking ground and making things happen in their own industries. Kudos to the 2019 Tory Fellows – you are truly inspiring.
Why am I writing about the Fellows and the Tory Burch Foundation? This year, I am one of the recipients. And though this may seem to deviate from Stronger’s traditional Cybersecurity content — stay with me. It’ll make sense.
Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners
Small businesses are the backbone of the economy. Collectively, they employ more people and generate more jobs than large companies. Small businesses account for “99.7% of all business in the US.” But what is the difference between being a small business owner and an entrepreneur? Small business owners solve a local problem, while entrepreneurs think bigger, embrace risk, plan ahead and scale up. In short, entrepreneurs push the economy and their industries forward.
When Tory Burch started her fashion brand in 2004 with a single retail store in New York City’s Manhattan Nolita District, she also had the vision of creating a foundation for women. From the beginning, her personal mission was to grow and support a foundation that would support the growth of other women entrepreneurs — and she did that by growing a fashion brand to 250 stores worldwide. As her retail empire has grown, so too has The Tory Burch Foundation. This year, there was a record 50 National Fellows selected from thousands of entrepreneurs. Twenty percent of the Fellows are breaking ground in technology businesses. And from the 50 Fellows, I was the sole one selected from the Pacific Northwest.
After spending time with the 49 other entrepreneurs from various industries, these five things became clear.
- Entrepreneurs across different industries have similar struggles.
Hiring the right people, employee management, doing everything while getting spread too thin, gaining new clients, and managing cash flow are not industry dependent. It really doesn’t matter if you sell ice cream or have a law firm, the basics are all similar.
- PR and Publicists are crucial.
The world is so interconnected that strategy and truthful disclosure have never been more important. Embrace the media and learn to leverage the resources you have to tell your story.
- Networking is a key way to solve problems.
Networking isn’t just to find customers but to build a go to set of people who can help you solve all types of business problems, eg: who is a good patent lawyer, who has transported goods from China, who knows of the right board member to help join our board? Networking will help give you resources to solve the problems you will face.
- The number one mistake is failure to follow up.
Connecting well and working with customers is just the first step. What separates companies that thrive from ones that fail is the follow up. Following up is key to success.
- Entrepreneurs have to be able to take rejection and failure.
One of the wonderful one-on-one sessions we had was with the co-founder of The Muse. To hear her story of being rejected hundreds of times as she pitched for venture capital was encouraging and also daunting. More encouraging than not, as she has successfully raised 30 million in capital. Kudos.
What Does This Have to Do with Cybersecurity?
Each of the above points has a correlate within cybersecurity:
1. Every company must be aware of cybersecurity, and every company struggles with it.
All companies need to be aware of current risks and vulnerabilities, assess them, and have a plan. It doesn’t matter if you are a home office, small business, growing entrepreneur, established large company or multi-national, cybersecurity is not optional.
2. Truthful disclosure.
No one can afford to lie to customers anymore about data handling (privacy) and breaches. When a breach occurs having a plan to remedy it is essential — and part of a successful plan will include telling your customers the truth (it will also probably include using a PR firm to make sure that truth is told in the best way possible).
3. Networking solves problems.
Networking is a kind of ‘team building’ — whether its internal or external to your company. Getting your team and resources together and aligned will lead to successfully handling cybersecurity.
4. Failure to follow up can be catastrophic.
Even in cybersecurity, following up is key — not for building business or finding customers but in keeping systems secure, keeping employees up to date and trained, and making sure known issues are addressed (updates and patching, as well as making sure risk assessments don’t just sit in a drawer but that discovered issues are corrected).
5. Failure isn’t the end.
A breach doesn’t have to be the end of your company. When you have a plan and work through its steps, the risk of a breach being catastrophic are diminished greatly. Know what your plan is and keep working it — before, during, and after attacks. Failures will happen. It’s never a question of if you’ll be hacked but when; so know what happens afterward and what needs to be done.
No matter individual backgrounds or industries, no matter the size of the company or the drive of its leader, no matter if you consider yourself a small business owner or an entrepreneur, there are certain things that unite us. In this era of technology, cybersecurity is one of those. It takes work to run a company and build a dream. Don’t let a known risk ruin your success. Take the needed steps to be cyber secure and practice good cyber hygiene — and if you need help: ask your trusted network.
Again, kudos to all the Tory Burch Fellows out there and to everyone else working on creating something better for their industry, for the world, and for each other.