Protecting Your Business from Cyberthreats

Protecting Your Business from Cyberthreats

We’ve all heard about high-profile security breaches, from the Equifax data breach of 2017 to the Stuxnet virus. But small businesses are also at risk. Here are several security recommendations to protect yourself and your customers from cyberthreats.

Use antivirus and antispyware software.

Make sure each of your business’s computers is equipped with antivirus software and antispyware. Such software is readily available from a variety of vendors, and all software vendors regularly provide patches and updates to their products to correct security problems and improve functionality. Importantly, configure all software to install updates automatically. Ensure the software protects all pages on your public-facing websites, not just the checkout and sign-up pages.

Secure your networks.

Use a firewall and encrypt information to help safeguard your Internet connection. If you have a Wi-Fi network, make sure it is secure and hidden. To hide your Wi-Fi network, set up your wireless access point or router so it does not broadcast the network name, known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID). Password protect access to the router.

Establish security practices and policies to protect sensitive information.

Establish policies on how employees should handle and protect personally identifiable information, such as birth dates and social security numbers, and other sensitive data. Clearly outline the consequences of violating your business’s cybersecurity policies.

Educate employees about cyberthreats and hold them accountable.

Educate your employees about online threats and how to protect your business’s data, including safe use of social networking sites. Employees should be educated about how to post online in a way that does not reveal any trade secrets to the public or competing businesses. Hold employees accountable to the business’s Internet security policies and procedures.

Require employees to use strong passwords and to change them often.

Consider implementing multifactor authentication that requires additional information beyond a password to gain entry. Check with your vendors that handle sensitive data, especially financial institutions, to see if they offer multifactor authentication for your account. 

Use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN.

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a service that allows you to connect to the internet via a server run by a VPN provider. All data traveling between your computer, phone or tablet, and this “VPN server” is securely encrypted.

Employ best practices on payment cards.

Work with your bank or credit card processors to ensure it is using the most current, trusted and validated tools and anti-fraud services. You may also have additional security obligations related to agreements with your bank or processor. Isolate payment systems from other, less secure programs and do not use the same computer to process payments as employees use to surf the Internet.

Back up important business data and information.

Regularly backup the data on all computers. Critical data includes word processing documents, electronic spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resources files, and accounts receivable/payable files. There are numerous services to which a business can subscribe as well as a wide range of back-up software that will handle the back-up functions automatically.

Control physical access to computers and network components.

It is vital to prevent access or use of business computers by unauthorized individuals. Laptops are particularly easy targets for theft (or can be lost), so they should be locked up when unattended. Cable locks are readily obtained at electronics stores or online. Create a separate user account for each employee, and require strong passwords. Grant administrative privileges only to trusted IT staff and key personnel.

Create a mobile device action plan.

Mobile devices can create significant security and management challenges, especially if they hold confidential information or can access the corporate network. Require users to password- protect their devices, encrypt their data, and install security apps to prevent the theft of information while the phone is on public networks. Be sure to set reporting procedures for lost or stolen equipment.

For more guidance on protecting your business online, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.


How to Find Qualified Hires

The good news is unemployment is at near-record lows. But with that comes the challenge of finding and hiring qualified employees. Businesses of all sizes are facing the same challenge, but small businesses competing for workers need to be strategic in order to compete with larger businesses offering higher salaries and more lavish benefits. Here are three tips on how you can overcome these obstacles.

  1. Cast a wider net. Consider aptitude and attitude as well as experience, and consider a candidate who may have some, but not all of what you are looking for. If you’re willing to provide in-house training to get a worker up to speed, you can probably find a great candidate for less than the cost of a “dream candidate.” Consider job seekers in their 50s, candidates with disabilities or stay-at-home parents looking to reenter the workforce.
  2. Upgrade your offer. Review your budget and find a few ways to shift dollars to spend a little more on wages. Keep in mind that health insurance and retirement plans, such as a 401(k), are much-wanted perks for most job seekers.
  3. Involve your employees in the search. Motivate employees to tap into their social networks and spread the word that your company is hiring. Offer a bonus for any recommendations that result in a successful hire. Don’t hire someone just because you know them. A good policy is to have each candidate interviewed by at least three different people (including you). When others on your team buy-in to the selection of a particular candidate, there is a better chance that your staff will have a vested interest in helping the new person be successful.

For more guidance on finding and hiring the best candidates to help grow your business, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.

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Small Business Tips for Tax Organizing

Small Business Tips for Tax Organizing

As the April 15 tax deadline looms closer, small business owners often resolve to improve the way they organize and manage their financial and tax records to make tax preparation less painful. Here are 8 tips you can implement to reduce tax-time stress.

  1. Ask your tax preparer. Your tax preparer may already have a system you can follow to reduce the amount of work they have to do, ultimately saving you money. If you are cloud-based, you can set-up an account for your tax preparer to access directly.
  2. Digitize your documents. Gone are the days of the receipt-filled shoebox. The IRS accepts digital copies of receipts, which enables you to use tools such as Zoho Expense and BizExpense to manage receipts; TripLog and MileIQ track mileage using GPS; and the BizXpense mobile app tracks both mileage and expenses.
  3. Minimize your paper. Even with cloud-based accounting and digital expense management, you will still need to manage some paper documents. Keep paper organized and to a minimum by using a portable file box that you can take with you to your accountant. Be sure to “back up” with copies in a second box kept safely at home.
  4. Have your W-2 and 1099 form information ready. Keep your employee and contractor information up-to-date, so that it’s ready to go in advance of the January 31 deadline for delivering W-2 and 1099 forms.
  5. Take your deductions. Tax laws change year to year. Before you start your preparation, ask your tax preparer which tax deductions and/or credits apply to your business. Visit the IRS website and check your state for tax credits that apply.
  6. Use a business credit card for expenses. Simplify your tax organization by using a business credit card for expenses. Most cards provide a year-end summary of expenses sorted by category. Be sure to pay your credit card balance in full each month.
  7. File on time. Be sure to calendar all tax filing deadlines with “due dates” for your to-dos to be ready in time, especially if you have to make estimated quarterly tax payments.
  8. Make “fiscal fitness” part of your on-going routine. You can’t expect to be ready at tax time if you only organize once a year. By blocking in weekly or monthly time on your calendar and keeping the appointment with yourself, you’ll be in great shape at tax time.

For more guidance on organizing and managing your financial and tax documents throughout the year, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.


Chairman’s Message

Chris Meissner

One of my priorities as 2018 Chair will be to work closely with Bruce Stenslie as the EDC-VC enhances communication and support for the growing network of organizations and programs that support our developing entrepreneurial community.

A 2006 poll by MasterCard of small business owners around the world indicated that the primary motivation for starting a business was financial security (70%). Perhaps, like me, you assumed the primary reason would have been to “be your own boss.” If so, you’re not wrong at least when referring to the U.S. where 67% of respondents cited this as their primary motivation. According to CBS News’ Mark Hendricks, this is because the U.S. is a place where “individual freedom is highly prized.”

However, entrepreneurs quickly learn that freedom to operate is only as flexible as the marketplace allows. Commercial success requires hard work, discipline and a commitment to excellence. Talents needed to survive and thrive are honed under pressure with long hours and often little pay. With success comes employees, more obligations, often less freedom, and bigger challenges. Conquering those challenges requires new skills and personal growth. Failure to do so may require hiring, or perhaps losing control to, a professional CEO.

Professional CEOs are distinct from entrepreneurs in that they don’t found companies, they are hired to run them. If you’re an entrepreneur that has survived the startup phase, it’s worth doing a personal assessment and ask if you think you have the skills that someone else would hire if they were looking for a CEO to run their company. Is your company as successful and growing as fast as it possibly could? If you’re uncertain, it’s time to do a skills gap analysis. The EDC-VC and SBA can help.

Economic Development Collaborative Ventura County


View Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County PDF Report

EDC-VC delivers on-going technical assistance dedicated to entrepreneurs and early-stage firms participating in the region’s fast evolving co-working, acceleration and incubation environments and business launch competitions..

EDC-VC Welcomes 2018 Executive Board Leadership

Chris Meissner

Carmen Ramirez

Peter Zierhut

Chris Meissner, president and CEO, Meissner Filtration Products was installed as 2018 chair of the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County’s board of directors at the organization’s 21st Annual Meeting. He is joined on the executive board by Oxnard Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramirez as vice chair and Peter Zierhut of Haas Automation, Inc., who is continuing as secretary/treasurer.

“As an executive leading a well-established local company, Chris brings first-hand experience and in-depth knowledge concerning the challenges and opportunities existing in our local business economy. He has served on our board for 20 years and has worked tirelessly to provide opportunities for business growth and workforce development,” said Bruce Stenslie, EDC-VC’s president and CEO. “We’re excited that Carmen and Peter will share their talent, leadership and experience with our executive board as we continue to develop partnerships, programs and services to support Ventura County’s quality of life.”

A Southern California native, Meissner founded Meissner Filtration Products, Inc. in 1989. Located in Camarillo, the company develops, manufactures, supplies and services advanced microfiltration products and single-use systems worldwide, and has been a leader in the discovery, development and supply of enabling technologies essential to the drug manufacturing process.

An expert in his field, Meissner has received numerous awards, most recently, the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce’s Man of the Year for 2018. Other honors include Camarillo Waste Watch’s “Most Innovative Reuse/Recycling Program,” Start magazine’s 1997 and 2000 “Most Admired Manufacturers” and CSU Channel Islands Business and Technology Partnership selected Meissner as the 2015 recipient of the Community and Business Leader of the Year Award. A long-time resident of Camarillo, Meissner has been a member of the EDC-VC board since 1998, a member of St. John’s Seminary board since 2010 and a member of CSU Channel Islands Foundation board since 2015. He attended Santa Clara University in Northern California and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

Ramírez was first elected to the Oxnard City Council in November 2010. She is currently serving her second term in office after being re-elected in November 2014. She was named Mayor Pro Tem in December 2012 and December 2016. Ramírez is a public interest lawyer who has served the Oxnard community since her graduation from the Loyola University School of Law in Los Angeles. Currently, she is a private practice attorney in the City of Oxnard focusing on consumer matters, Social Security disability cases and immigration. She serves on numerous committees for the City, including the VCAPCD, and Ventura County LAFCO, Southern California Association of Governments, and was appointed to the Commission on State Mandates by Governor Brown in 2012 and again in 2017.

For 16 years she was the executive director of Channel Counties Legal Services Association, then served as the coordinator of the Ventura Superior Court’s Self-Help Center in Oxnard’s La Colonia neighborhood for nine years. In 1998 she was President of the Ventura County Bar Association and was elected to the State Bar Board of Governors. She has been actively involved in local organizations, including serving as board president of the bilingual Ventura County theater company, Teatro de Las Américas, a member of the Community Board of St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard and a board member of the Ventura County Community Foundation (VCCF). She has been a resident of Ventura County since 1978, she has received the Ben E. Nordman Public Service Award of the Ventura County Bar Association, the El Concilio del Condado de Ventura Community Service Award.

An EDC-VC board member since 2012, Zierhut is a senior-level manager at Haas Automation, Inc., one of the world’s leading manufacturers of industrial machine tools, where his role is vice president of outside operations. Responsibilities include government and community relations as well as the Haas Technical Education Center (HTEC) network, comprising more than 2,000 educational institutions around the world that use Haas products for educational purposes. Zierhut’s career at Haas spans more than 34 years, with experience including management positions in manufacturing, sales, marketing and IT.

Zierhut volunteers at several organizations including member of the board of directors of the Gene Haas Foundation, the Workforce Development Board of Ventura County, the Museum of Ventura County and Workshops for Warriors, a nonprofit veteran-training facility in San Diego. Past volunteer positions include board chair of the Workforce Development Board of Ventura County and committee member of both the sales and service and government relations committees of the Association for Manufacturing Technology in McLean, Virginia.

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 Small Business Development Center and loan, manufacturing outreach and international trade programs, contact Bruce Stenslie at 805-384-1800 ext. 24, or Or visit


Disaster EDD Unemployment Filing Deadline Extended to March 19, 2018

The Employment Development Department (EDD) has announced that workers, business owners and self-employed individuals who lost their jobs or had their work hours reduced as a result of the Southern California wildfires, floods and mudslides now have until March 19, 2018 to file for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA). The previous deadline was February 20.
DUA applies to losses beginning the week of December 10, 2017. Workers can receive benefits of up to $450 a week for a maximum of 30 weeks. These unemployment insurance benefits are offered to victims of a disaster and available to individuals who meet one or more of the following criteria:
• Worked or were self-employed, or were scheduled to begin work or self employment, in the disaster area.
• Cannot reach work because of the disaster and can no longer work or perform services because of physical damage or destruction to the place of employment as a direct result of the disaster.
• Can establish that the work or self-employment they can no longer perform is their primary source of income.
• Cannot perform work or self-employment because of an injury as a direct result of the disaster.
• Became the head of their households because of a death caused by the disaster.
• Have applied for and used all regular unemployment benefits from any state, or do not qualify for the regular benefits, and remain unemployed as a direct result of the disasters.
To receive DUA benefits, all required documentation must be submitted within 21 days from the day the application is filed. Required documentation includes a Social Security number and a copy of the most recent federal income tax form or check stubs, or documentation to verify that the individuals were working or self-employed when the disaster struck. Documentation for the self-employed can be obtained from banks or government entities, or affidavits from individuals having knowledge of their business. The fastest and easiest way for new claimants to apply for DUA is to use EDD’s online application, “eApply4UI,” available in both English and Spanish. Claimants can also file for DUA by phone between 8 a.m. and 12 noon, Monday through Friday:
• English: 1-800-300-5616
• Spanish: 1-800-326-8937
• Chinese (Cantonese): 1-800-547-3506
• Chinese (Mandarin): 1-866-303-0706
• Vietnamese: 1-800-547-2058
For more information visit or for assistance, contact EDC-VC SBDC Service Coordinator Alondra Gaytan at (805) 409-9159.

Be Local, See Local, Buy Local


Be Local, See Local, Buy Local

Healthy local businesses are essential to a healthy community. Here are some tips on how to help your business be more successful locally, be visible to your local community and help support other local businesses.


Successful businesses need to know their community. Make sure you have a business license and have filled a fictitious name statement with the County. Then learn what you need to about your city, including chamber of commerce, local library, local loan opportunities, local business training, local tax and improvement incentives and selling to local government. Links to all those and more can be found here.


Signs are meant to attract attention. The best signage is designed well enough to attract business, while at the same time is respectful of the environment in which it is meant to work. Click here for more ideas on how on-premise signs help small businesses tap into a hidden profit center.


All businesses need to have a website – even if you don’t sell online. It’s like having a telephone. Websites establish credibility, are essential for visibility and provides a system for customer feedback. Get Your Business Online provides a free website and domain name for a year plus training to help small businesses get online.


Add your business listing to Google Places. Google Places is a free program that allows businesses to put their information online, including their location, photos and business hours. Businesses that participate in Google Places appear on Google searches at the top of the search engine results. You can also add your business listing to Bing to make sure customers can find the right information about your business.

Other ways to increase visibility online include adding your own business-related videos to YouTube. More than 25% of all online searches are on YouTube. Google owns YouTube, so if you post videos on YouTube, your Google rankings will probably improve. Don’t rush into it; click here for more tips on YouTube videos. It is also important to make sure your business is found on GPS systems. If you want to be found, your business must be on GPS products and software. There are three companies that provide services to GPS (Global positioning system) software and products: Reference USA, Navtek and Teleatlas. You can register your business with each of these for free.


Facebook and Google both offer ways your customers can provide insight to what they think of your business. Facebook has a LIKE program where you can add a button to your website or to your Facebook page so customers or website visitors can recommend your business to their friends. +1 is a program from Google that lets people support your business provided your business has a listing on Google Place.

You can also encourage customers to use Google Review and Yelp. People can easily share their opinion about your business using Google Review and Yelp. Your goal is to make sure there are lots of positive opinions on both systems. Anyone can add a Google Review to a business that participates in the Google Places program. Yelp is an independent review site where people can put negative or positive comments about a business.

Businesses with customer reviews generally post higher in the search engine results than businesses without customer reviews. So, it is important that you encourage your happy customers to give you good reviews – and that you respond to negative reviews with an explanation or indication that you have heard their concerns and are addressing them.


Research shows that for every $100 spent in local, independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures. If you spend the same in national stores, $43 stays locally. If you spend the same on the Internet, $0 stays locally. But, where do you find local businesses? There are several options! Find certified businesses in your area via the state’s business certifying agency, look in the Yellow Pages to find local businesses, buy from chamber members, look at the Better Business Bureau, or find locally grown food at

For help with strengthening your local business and thinking more locally, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.


Negotiating a Commercial Real Estate Lease

Negotiating a Commercial Real Estate Lease

As a business owner, negotiating sales terms, purchases and service contracts is part of your day-to-day life. But when it comes to securing retail space, an office lease or industrial workshop, you may not feel as confident in your negotiating skills. Here are some guidelines to help you navigate negotiations:

EDUCATE YOURSELF ON THE CURRENT MARKET VALUES FOR YOUR AREA. Research the average rates for the type of commercial space you need (retail, office or industrial) using websites such as, or A commercial real estate broker can also show you historical data for the region.

KNOW WHAT YOU NEED. Create a checklist of your needs regarding space, utilities, infrastructure, parking, storage, accessibility to major highways and more. Note which are “nice to have” and which are essential. Be sure to confirm what uses the property is permitted for and that there are no zoning regulations or laws that could adversely affect your business.

UNDERSTAND ALL OF YOUR COSTS. In addition to the cost per square foot, some leases may expect you to pay Common Area Maintenance (CAM) costs, property taxes, insurance, trash collection, repairs and utilities. Depending on the lease terms, you may be expected to pay some or all of these costs directly, pay them to the landlord or have them built into your rent. 

ENLIST THE HELP OF A PRO. While a real estate broker can offer a lot of useful information, remember they are working on commission. Get the terms in writing and review with an attorney experienced in commercial real estate who can fully explain the terms, advise you on the length of the lease, subleasing options, remodeling allowances and help you negotiate before you sign any contract.

For help negotiating a commercial real estate lease for your business, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.

Building A Business Plan

Building a Business Plan

The business plan process helps you think through all parts of your business, establish a solid foundation and puts you in a position for business growth. The parts of the business plan that you can’t do or are hard for you, are the areas where you need professional help. Here are some tips for creating a business plan for your business.


There are three parts to a successful overall plan: strategic plan, business plan and operational plan. Business planning is similar to planning a vacation. The strategic plan determines where you are going to go, the time of year, and who you will go with. The business plan determines how you will get there, how much money to bring, and a basic idea of what you will be doing. Finally, the operational plan determines all the actions you will do once you are there.

With business planning you need to know the long term prosperity of your business and whether it is positioned correctly for the marketplace today and in the future. Don’t skip the steps. Research shows that strategic planning is the only form of planning that has a strong connection to financial performance. In other words, if your foundation isn’t solid, the rest of the business can’t thrive.


SCORE has developed a free online class for strategic planning that shows you how to create a mission, visions, goals, and strategy for your business. Once you have a strong foundation, you are ready for the business plan. There are many sources of help to create business plans – online classes (free and low-cost), low-cost classes through the SBDC and SCORE, books and software.


Click here for free business plan tools. Make sure that your business plan clearly supports your strategic plan. If it doesn’t, go back and refine your business plan; it is like building a house and not attaching it to its foundation.


Your operational plans are all the details you will need to do business: the forms you will need, the procedures, the sales process to follow and more. Get a binder with dividers and write notes as you think of things. Also, supplement your operational plans by reading books about business and talking with others. Make sure your operational plans reflect your business plan. Usually that means to make sure your operational plans (expenses and revenue) stay within budget – but it can also help you prioritize your time.

You need to revisit your strategic plan every year; your business plan every quarter; and your operational plan every week.


There is no determined length for a business plan. Really, a business plan needs to be whatever length is required to excite the financing source, prove that management truly understands the market, and detail the execution strategy. A business plan can range in size from 38 to 50 pages for a basic plan to as high as 80 to 100 pages for complex plans. Learn more from the SBA on its recommended business plans and length.


There are a variety of financial calculators that can help you figure out where your business stands. From starting costs and payroll tax calculators to market size and target inventory stock level calculators you can figure out several factors to include in a business plan. 


SCORE has developed a series of videos to help businesses use technology to improve their business. Learn how to develop a technology plan for your business, create a successful website and use technology to improve cash flow.

For help with starting your business and developing a business plan, contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.


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