Crime Prevention: A Guide to Business Security

Crime Prevention: A Guide to Business Security

Virtually all businesses face the possibility of a burglary, a robbery or theft by an employee. Retail businesses also face the possibility of a major shoplifting loss. Law enforcement officials say that, most often, these are crimes of opportunity that happen because the criminal spots an easy chance and takes it. Here are some ways to make it more difficult for him or her.


Reduce the odds of becoming a burglary target by employing good security practices. Those include using deadbolts on all exterior doors and double-cylinder deadbolts (those that require a key on both sides) on doors with glass. Check all doors and windows every day before closing. Also, check all potential hiding places, like bathrooms, closets and storage areas.

Install steel reinforcing bars on doors and gratings or bars on windows, particularly those on the sides and rear of the building. Don’t overlook security at places like fire escapes, skylights, roof openings, air ducts, doorway transoms, loading docks, sidewalk and basement openings.

Use lots of light. Illuminate all entrances with vandal-proof fixtures to avoid giving burglars a nice dark place in which to work. Keep some lights on inside, and place them near the rear so that an intruder’s silhouette can be seen from the street.

Get an alarm system and have it checked regularly. Make sure it is wired to go off at all potential points of entry, including doors, windows, roof openings, loading docks and vents.

Keep as little cash around as possible. Make bank deposits frequently but don’t be predictable about when you go to the bank so as not to establish a discernible pattern.

If you discover a break-in, call the police immediately, and DO NOT ENTER THE PREMISES UNTIL POLICE ARRIVE. The thief may still be inside, or you may disturb evidence. 


Facing an armed robber is a frightening and dangerous experience. Most robbers carry weapons and are likely to use them if provoked or frightened.

Remain calm. That may seem like a tall order, but staying calm and being cooperative will reduce chances of physical harm. Remember, goods and money can be replaced; lives can’t.

Be observant. Try to remember everything you can about the robber: color and style of hair, complexion, height, build, age, eye glasses, distinguishing marks or tattoos, right or left handed, and whether they had any speech impediment or accent. If you can get a look at the vehicle without putting yourself or your employees at additional risk, the make, model, color and license plate number will also be beneficial.

Do not discuss your observations with other witnesses or victims; it’s easy to become confused. Wait to discuss details with police officers or detectives.


Shoplifters can be pretty sharp, and even the most innocent-looking customer could be a shoplifter.

Watch for them by installing convex mirrors, closed circuit TV cameras or, if your business merits it, use security officers. Train your personnel to spot shoplifters and make sure they are always on the lookout. If possible, greet each person that enters your business and maintain eye contact so they will know you are aware of their presence. Pay particular attention to fitting rooms and other isolated areas. 

Arrange counters and displays in ways that can deter shoplifters. Put displays in full view of all employees. Lock small items that can be easily slipped into a pocket or handbag, in counter cases, when possible. Keep expensive items away from entrances.

Prosecute. Shoplifters must know that you mean business, so decide on a policy of prosecuting offenders, follow through with it and then advertise you have done so.


Many businesses suffer substantial losses each year from employee theft. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you by thoroughly checking all references when hiring. Do not tempt employees by having careless security or by overlooking losses.

For help with learning about crime prevention and strengthening your business in the New Year, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.

Source: New York State Police

Common Mistakes That Get Employers Sued

Common Mistakes That Get Employers Sued

There are practical strategies every employer needs to know and best practices to use that will minimize their chances of being sued. Here are a few things you might want to avoid:


The simple fact is, not every employee can be classified “exempt.”

State and federal laws provide that certain positions may be exempt from overtime requirements, meal and rest breaks, but merely paying employees a fixed salary isn’t enough. An exempt employee is normally someone who is a high-level executive, administrative or professional employee, and sometimes artists and outside sales staff.

Employers sometimes designate employees as “nonexempt salaried,” but that term is mutually exclusive and misleading, as that status does not exist. A non-exempt employee earns an hourly wage that must be paid for all hours worked in their pay period. A salaried employee is paid a fixed amount that does not depend on the hours worked.

Misclassifying employees as “exempt” can be costly. Increasingly, employees are suing employers for off-the-clock work by employees who are challenging the exempt status of their job. In such cases, the additional wages and penalties including back pay for overtime, penalties for failure to provide meal and rest breaks, and penalties for failure to pay all wages at termination can add up.


Just because the employer – or perhaps the employee – wants to be considered an independent contractor doesn’t make it so. The primary determining factor is the degree of control: who determines the manner in which the work is performed, how it is performed, who supplies the tools and equipment, and where is the work performed?

Whether the work performed is a regular part of the employer’s business is also important. If a company makes a product and hires someone to help make that product, chances are the person is an employee, as opposed to someone who is hired for a one-off task, like painting the building.

Independent contractor status can come back on the employer if the contractor hasn’t been paying their taxes, owes a significant amount of money, has no assets, or can’t be found. The employer who didn’t make the required tax withholdings may now be on the hook for that money.


The best defense against a discrimination or harassment complaints is usually the front-line supervisors, because they are the eyes and ears of the organization. Training supervisors on topics such as sexual harassment, discrimination, disability, safety, and wage-and-hour laws can provide an additional layer of protection from lawsuits.

Employers with 50 or more employees are required by law to provide two hours of sexual harassment training for their supervisors every two years. Employers also have an affirmative duty to take reasonable steps to prevent and promptly correct harassing conduct, and training can be a vital component.


It might seem like you’re just trying to be nice, but giving employees too much flexibility about when to take their lunch and rest breaks can be hazardous to your wealth.

Employees must be provided an unpaid, off-duty meal period of at least 30 minutes if they are employed to work for a period of more than five hours. Importantly, the meal break must be provided no later than the end of the fifth hour of work. Failure to provide the meal break within that time frame can result in one additional hour of wages owed at the employee’s straight-time rate.


While it may seem reasonable to hold the final check of an employee who doesn’t return tools, laptops, cell phones and other company property, California law provides a hefty penalty is the deadline for giving the final paycheck isn’t met.

If an employee is terminated or quits with at least 72 hours’ notice – actual hours, not business hours – the employee’s final check must be ready on their last day of work and must include payment for all hours worked through the last day, including any overtime and accrued but unused vacation time.


“Use or lose” vacation policies are not permitted in the state of California. Accrued vacation time is considered a form of wages which cannot be taken away. Further, all accrued but unused vacation must be paid out at termination at the employee’s current rate of salary.

Employers can place a reasonable cap on the accrual of vacation time, after which no additional time can be accrued, but they may not take away what the employee has already accrued. While “reasonable” is open to interpretation, an employer who provides two weeks vacation a year may have a policy that caps the accrual at four weeks. An employee who has four weeks, or 20 work days, accrued and unused will not accrue additional time off until the employee takes vacation and uses some of the accrued leave.

For help with strengthening your business and understanding business mistakes to avoid in the New Year, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.

Source: California Chamber of Commerce

Disaster Preparedness for Your Business

Disaster Preparedness for Your Business

A disaster can prove devastating to an unprepared business owner. But there are things you can do to minimize the effects of whatever disaster may befall your business.

Disasters come in all sizes, from the wildfires that swept across much of California during 2017 and the hurricanes that struck the Caribbean, Florida, Georgia and Texas to more localized events such as a flood or fire that affects only the building in which the business is located. Even though smaller disasters don’t garner the publicity of larger events, to the businesses affected they can be just as damaging.

Preparing for disaster is essential, and should include business continuity planning as well as insuring your operations. Here are some tips:


Disaster planning should include having a list of all your employees and their contact information. Ideally, the list should include at least two ways of contacting your personnel: phone numbers that can receive text messages, and email addresses. And keep that list with you, whether in your phone, or on your tablet or laptop.


Planning for an alternate business location is also well advised, and will depend greatly on the nature of the business. A company such as a real estate agency may initially be able to operate temporarily out of a coffee shop or other location with internet access while a manufacturing firm will need to identify a suitable location as well as those who can supply the equipment they will need on an interim basis.

A disaster plan doesn’t have to list such alternate locations by address, but having a general idea of what kind of facility your business will need will make that decision easier when and if the time comes. Your staff should also know that, should something happen that makes your primary business location unusable, you will advise them via phone call, text and email of where you will meet.


Effective disaster planning also involves anticipating which type of events are most likely to affect your business. If you live in an area of the country prone to earthquakes, like California, certain precautions are essential. Those include making sure your building is up to code and that shelves, water heaters, and other furniture and fixture items are strongly secured to reduce the chances of them falling over and causing damage or injury.

For the property owner, preparedness should also include voluntary mitigation measures that go beyond what is required by local building codes, but which can prevent or minimize damage in case of such an event. If a business is located in hurricane country, hurricane shutters could be such a measure. 


Pre-disaster preparation should also include choosing your insurance coverage carefully. In addition to basic fire insurance, consider “rising water” insurance, which can protect in the event of rising water from a flood or a sewer back-up. In many areas of California, earthquake insurance could be a wise investment.

Consider business interruption and extra expense coverage. Business interruption insurance can replace revenue lost because of the disaster, enabling a business owner to keep his or her obligations current until things return to normal. Extra expense coverage can help defray the cost of moving the business to another location while the damaged location is being repaired, thus enabling the business to continue its operations.


Preparing should also include backing up your data frequently – at least daily – and ideally to an off-site service that is designed for data back-up and protection. Too many small business owners either neglect to back up their data, or back it up to a separate storage medium that they either carry with them or store in their home. In the event of a wide-spread disaster, it is quite possible that both the home and business would be affected. Using a professional service increases the chances that your business’s data — including customer lists, sales figures, employee information – will be preserved.

For help with disaster preparedness for your business in the New Year, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.

Defining Your Product’s Features & Benefits

Defining Your Product’s Features & Benefits

Showcasing the features that make your product unique is what helps to set it apart from the competition. Features can communicate the capability of a product or service, but features are only valuable if the customer sees those particular features as providing a valuable benefit. Benefits are the reasons customers buy the product or service.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell the difference between the features and the benefits, as many features might sound like benefits. The good news is that features can always be transformed into benefits. In fact, this process will help you create the strongest benefits possible. Highlighting benefits in your marketing and sales efforts, can help lead to higher sales and profits. Here are some tips:

For example:

  • Great gas mileage on a car is a feature; the amount of money you can save on gas is a benefit.
  • Pockets on the front of a backpack is a feature; having a handy and easily-accessed place for your keys and cell phone are benefits.
  • Home delivery is a feature; not having to take time out of your day or go out of your way to the store is a benefit.

A simple way to distinguish between a feature and a benefit is tell the audience how the feature will benefit them. Features are your products’ characteristics that translate into benefits. Benefits that provide emotional or financial rewards are especially attractive to people. Financial rewards allow the buyer to save money, make money, or gain time (since time is money). Emotional rewards allow the buyer to feel better.

Reap the Benefits of Asking Your Customers:

Never underestimate the value of your customers’ opinions when trying to clearly identify your benefits. There are numerous strategies for incorporating your customers’ feedback.

Consider your target markets’ viewpoints:

  • Develop surveys.
  • Talk to customers and ask them for suggestions or ideas for improving your products and services.
  • Look at who has purchased your product in the past.
  • Develop profiles (a list of information) about these customers. What do the profiles tell you about your benefits?

Complaints can have value, too. On the reverse side, understand the value of customer complaints. What benefits are missing? You could even train employees to question customers about what they like and don’t like. Once you know your benefits, use them relentlessly in your marketing

For more information or help marketing your product’s features and benefits in the New Year, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.

Ring in the New Year with a Healthy Financial Forecast

Ring in the New Year with a Healthy Financial Forecast

January is a great time for small business owners to get organized financially. From reviewing business expenses, to managing cash flow and revising business plans, every business owner can benefit from a financial refresh. Here are three financial tips to help you ring in a fiscally-sound 2018:


As a small business owner, keeping business checking and credit accounts separate from your personal accounts can help you track and record all business-related income and expenses. Most small businesses are required to file estimated taxes on a quarterly basis. To help your business plan accordingly, establish a separate bank account dedicated to your business taxes and set aside a monthly amount so you are ready when tax payments are due.

Consult with a tax specialist to be sure you are properly tracking and recording your earnings and deductions, and help you calculate your estimated tax obligations.


To keep your business running smoothly, you need both profits and a healthy cash flow. Oftentimes, a business may be profitable, but the profits may be stuck in accounts receivable. To plan for potential gaps and cash flow challenges, you may want to consider a business line of credit. Schedule time to meet with a financial advisor and/or banker for a full financial review that includes an assessment of your credit needs, and have them to walk you through the available options.


Every small business should have a formal written business plan to help with business decisions and strategic planning. If you have one already, now is the time to do a full review and consider updates to reflect your current business needs and goals. If you don’t have one, set aside time to draft this important document. An effective plan can help you prioritize how to spend your time and money, and sets measurable goals. It also can help identify current or future obstacles, so you can better anticipate and avoid potential risks. In addition, having an updated business plan may help you obtain business financing because many lenders require a formal business plan before extending credit.

Taking the time at the start of each year to update your business plan, evaluate your cash flow management and organize your finances, will help ready your small business to grow and succeed.

For help getting your business plan in shape for the New Year, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.

President’s Message

Bruce Stenslie

Our hearts go out to all those who lost homes and so much in the Thomas Fire disaster.  While the emergency isn’t over, it is both humbling and inspiring to witness the outpouring of understanding, support and spirit for a shared recovery for all.

On the business side, we’ve been far more fortunate in escaping immediate material loss.  Still, the impacts are profound and will be long-lasting.

Lost Sales:  The most significant impact to our economy—both now and moving forward—is the interruption to regular commerce, with small retailers and service firms suffering the greatest losses. The fire couldn’t have come at a worse time. The National Retail Federation reports that the holiday season represents more than 20 percent of retailers’ sales. For some shops, jewelry stores, for example, the share is closer to 30 percent.

Small businesses in Ventura, Ojai, Santa Paula, Fillmore, Carpinteria, Summerland and much of Santa Barbara have been shut down, with business at a standstill.  Those that manage to be open are finding very little consumer traffic. Our concern is that the pattern for lost sales may continue, as visitors may avoid the region for some time. The impacts may be particularly acute to hospitality and tourism, and the retailers and service firms that depend on visitation.

The Economic Context:  It will be months before we have a reliable economic impact, though here’s some narrow, but considerable context to consider:

  • Retail alone in Ventura County employs some 39,000 workers, or 12 percent of the region’s jobs, and represents more than six percent of our total regional economy.
  • Other Services represents another 10,000 jobs.
  • For the impacted west county communities of Ventura, Ojai, Santa Paula and Fillmore, the fire’s impacts may reverberate to more than 10,000 jobs in just these two sectors alone.
  •  In the Ojai Valley, the leisure and hospitality sector is at a standstill, impacting some 1,300 jobs and 30 percent of the Valley’s economy.

What’s the Path Forward?

  • Most immediately, we’re advising impacted businesses to do four things:
  1.   For business technical assistance,including access to capital, contact our Small Business Development Center, 805-409-9159, We have professional, no cost business advising services immediately available. We will also be a point of contact for information and referral for other Small Business Administration and FEMA assistance for business as it becomes available. We’ve added a link to our website,, for direct client registration for services and links to other resources. We’ll be adding to this regularly as additional state and federal resources become available.
  2. Business Insurance: If you’ve had any interruption in service or lost sales, immediately inform your insurance agent and determine whether you have any coverage. You may or may not be covered, but for accessing any future disaster assistance, it may be critical that you’ve made and exhausted any insurance claims.
  3.   Unemployment: If you—as a self-employed person—or any of your employees has lost work, immediately file or advise your workers to file for unemployment insurance. Be sure to indicate the first date of lost work and clearly state that the fire is the cause for the loss. Click here for information on how or where to file for unemployment insurance.
  4. Register for information at access to a comprehensive set of services and information, we recommend you check in at the Local Assistance Center, in Ventura at the Poinsettia Pavilion, 3451 Foothill Road, Monday through Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. There is also a satellite center open in Ojai, at 401 South Ventura Street, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00p.m. We will have Small Business Development Center representatives at these sites on a rotating basis.
  • More detail to come on State and Federal resources: Click here for the Business Recovery Resources document from CalOES and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. This is only a preliminary summary of resources, pending additional regional assessment by FEMA and the US Small Business Administration. We anticipate a broader menu of resources will soon be available, but it’s dependent first on the assessment, final declaration and direction to SBA, which is not yet completed by the federal agencies. Please check with us regularly and we’ll post updates as they become available. Meanwhile the guide provides contact detail and information on a broad set of issues.
  • Whatever You Do, Buy Local! As noted above, the greatest economic impact to the business community is by lost sales during the holiday period and lingering ahead. We know that the sales can’t be made up in just a few weeks’ time. Knowing that, we appeal to everyone to do their best in shopping local, investing in our local merchants and communities. Our partners at the Chambers of Commerce, Visitors and Convention Bureau, Downtown Organizations, cities and county are all collaborating to promote buy local campaigns. These efforts will extend into the new year, so please keep your local businesses in mind not just now, but continuously.

EDC-VC Specific Activities:  At this point, our primary activities are:

  • Getting our word out to partners and businesses, and providing professional business guidance and technical assistance.
  • Helping federal, state and local agencies identify and assess impacts to the region.
  • Coordinating the efficient delivery of service of all kinds to business. We have added a new landing page on our website for business disaster assistance. We’ll be adding to this on a regular basis, so check back frequently.

On Lending: We’re working on the implementation of a new, short-term business interruption assistance loan program, and expanding our resources in lending generally. Meanwhile, we approved our first short-term business recovery loan, using existing capital resources.

Finally, we know that recovery from this kind of disaster is a long-term consideration. Here’s to a healthy, vibrant, and sustainable Ventura County economy.


GBL Systems Corporation is an SBDC Success Story

GBL Systems was first introduced to EDC-VC through Ray Bowman, executive director of the Small Business Development Center of Ventura and Santa Barbara. Although there was no business area that GBL requested the EDC-VC to specifically address, its CEO Jim Buscemi stated, “We are constantly striving to improve our front office business processes and increase efficiency throughout all departments.” GBL Systems Corporation (GBL) was formed in 1990 around its core principles of research, technology development and advanced engineering; proving themselves time-and-again to be a leading provider of innovative software solutions across the U.S. Armed Forces.

Most recently GBL developed a groundbreaking capability called the Proximal Web™ technology, centered around the convergence of wireless signals and mobile devices. The Proximal Web™ technology aims to address the Navy’s Ready Relevant Learning (RRL) initiatives, proximal Command Control (C2), and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) training.

Some of the initial services provided by EDC-VC included process improvement/optimization, access to legal resources, introductions to businesses and local universities, and help with contractual agreements. Working with EDC-VC advisor Carlos Conejo, a Six Sigma front office specialist, GBL was able to better focus its deployment strategy for their Proximal Web™ technology FutureOrb™ application.

GBL also worked closely with Ray Bowman, who connected them to various resources at California Lutheran University (CLU). Jim Buscemi also stated, “Through EDC-VC’s introductions, we were able to establish a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between GBL and California Lutheran University, which helped us to successfully conduct a marketing exercise across various user groups as an assigned class project.”:

More recently, EDC-VC introduced GBL to SBDC advisor, Raja Subramoni, an industry expert who specializes in marketing, consumer insights and analytics. Subramoni was able to provide GBL Systems with assistance on several strategic marketing areas related to GBL technology.

Jim Buscemi later said, “After working with GBL for only a short period of time, Raja was able to coordinate quality external resources that were ready to explore a marketing approach for GBL’s technology Proximal Web™.”

Energizing the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem is Focus of Annual Meeting

CAMARILLO, Calif.–Entrepreneurship, technology and innovation will be the focus of the Economic Development Collaborative–Ventura County’s 21st annual meeting. Scholar, lecturer and researcher Philip Auerswald, will speak about the importance of entrepreneurship for sustained economic growth, and present current trends and strategies aimed at developing “entrepreneurial ecosystems.” The event is 3-7 p.m., Jan. 18, at the Spanish Hills Country Club, 999 Crestview Ave., Camarillo.

“Philip Auerswald is a world-renowned expert and dynamic speaker on all things entrepreneurial,” said Bruce Stenslie, EDC-VC president and CEO. “He uses the concepts of biological and ecological ecosystems to draw relevant comparisons to the ‘entrepreneurial ecosystem’ of a regional economy.”

Auerswald is an associate professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government and co-founder of Zilla Global LLC, a venture dedicated to nurturing ecosystems opportunity around digital land records (Zilla.Land). His work is about entrepreneurship, technology and innovation in a global context. Most recently the author of The Code Economy: A Forty-Thousand-Year History (Oxford University Press, 2017), Auerswald currently serves as the co-chair and executive director of the Global Entrepreneurship Research Network, an initiative of the Kauffman Foundation. He is also the cofounder and coeditor of Innovations, a quarterly journal about entrepreneurial solutions to global challenges, published by MIT Press.

Prior to joining the faculty at George Mason University, Auerswald was a lecturer and assistant director of the Science, Technology and Public Policy Program at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Washington and a B.A. in political science from Yale University.

“Ventura County has a robust landscape of entrepreneurs driving much of the innovation resulting in new patents and technology,” said Ray Bowman, director of the SBDC of Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. “We are thrilled to have someone of Philip Auerswald’s stature as this year’s speaker.”

The annual meeting will also pay tribute to outgoing chair, Cheryl Heitmann, and install the newly-elected executive board members for 2018.

The cost to attend is $75 and dinner is included. Tickets can be purchased online at For additional information, call 805-384-1800, ext. 21.

EDC-VC is a private, nonprofit organization that serves as a business-to-government liaison to assist businesses in Ventura County by offering programs that enhance the economic vitality of the region. For more information about the services available to small businesses through EDC-VC, contact Stenslie at 805-384-1800, ext. 21 or Or visit


Join us for free events at Camarillo StartUp Week, Dec 4 – 8



The days of installing an anti-virus program on your computer and forgetting about computer security are gone. Although we think that cybersecurity is a problem for large businesses, such as Target and Equifax, the reality is that a small business’s data vulnerability actually caused the Target breach. Data breaches are also caused by all-sized businesses because employees are not trained to detect common security scams. Small businesses are also being directly targeted by cyber-thieves because their information is easy to get and can lead to “larger fish in the sea.”

Today, you need to understand the threats, train your employees and be prepared to respond if your computer data is breached. Here are guidelines you can use:

How Does This Affect Me?

  • Recognize that you are at war and they are targeting YOU
  • Practice good Password Management
  • Trust but Verify
  • Download and Install Software Updates
  • Beware of Social Media

Top 5 Cybersecurity Tips for Small Businesses (4-minute video from Intel and McAfee)

Cyber insurance is available for businesses. Please talk to your insurance broker about the benefits, limitations and costs.

Encrypt your computer:

  • Microsoft offers BitLock for free, but it is only available on Windows Professional. Windows Home can be upgraded for a fee (about $100).
    Veracrypt is a free service for Windows computers.
    Apple has FileVault.
  • The major downside to encrypting your computer is that if you lose the password or your computer becomes corrupt, there is virtually no way to restore it.
  • Secure your hardware so it’s harder to steal
  • Install anti-virus/anti-malware protection.
  • Consider the importance of computer security in the same way you think of legal and accounting protection: consult an expert. Data breaches cost an average $45,000 and can destroy your relationships with your customers and vendors.

Educate your employees:

Cybersecurity for Small Business (30-min video from the SBA)

Cyber Security Planning Guide from the FTC (51 pages)

Here are three videos designed to train your employees about ways they can prevent a data breach.

5 Cybersecurity Posters for your Employees

Employee Handbook: Sample Cyber Security Policy

Security Awareness and Training (29-minutes)


Data Breach Response – a Guide for Business

For more information or help with cyber security for your business, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.


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