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Category Archives: Business

Save Time And Reduce Your Investment In Endpoint Security

Trojans, worms and spyware sound like elements straight from a summer blockbuster, but the kind of action/adventure they provide on your PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets make them more like a horror movie.

By deploying effective endpoint security, you can help prevent attacks and keep your users safe from viruses and other malware, such as spear phishing and advanced persistent threats. Today’s  state-of-the-art endpoint securityhas come a long way from its early roots in “antivirus” and has morphed into a complex suite of sophisticated protections against modern threats.

But good protection isn’t free; so, how can you save money, while still protecting your computers? Here’s how to reduce your investment….

Keeping users safe

In an ideal world, users would be perfectly security conscious. These mythical users wouldn’t:

  • Click on suspicious links.
  • Open file attachments emailed by criminals pretending to be their friends.
  • Respond to phishing messages that appear to be from a bank.
  • Disable software updates because warnings and reboots are annoying.
  • Disable a security product because it slows down their PC.
  • Install free software from an untrustworthy developer, because their friend liked it on Facebook.

Sadly, our world is less than ideal. Much, much less: A recent report said that 86 percent of U.S. businesses surveyed had lost sensitive data during the previous year.

User awareness training helps, but it isn’t sufficient. That’s why your endpoints need securing. Doing so helps prevent your users from accidentally exposing sensitive business information, such as your  banking credentials, secret-sauce recipes or future product plans.

Save time and money on endpoint security

Your challenge is to protect your users while minimizing costs: How do you save time and money, while keeping your company safe?

Look for a modern endpoint security solution – not one thrown together from an old antivirus program and a fresh coat of paint.

How can you tell?

A start-of-the-art solution does the following:

  • Works intelligently in the background, without bogging down the user’s computer
  • Scans for malware in seconds, not hours
  • Uses a reliable, built-from-the-ground-up cloud security service to identify malware, not a huge signature file that’s quickly out-of-date
  • Works intelligently while offline, reconnecting with the cloud service to check changes made while disconnected
  • Fixes infected PCs, if necessary, by rolling back the computer’s state to a known-good point
  • Automatically monitors untrusted software executions to prevent infection
  • Allows you to enforce certain policy settings, such as use of USB ports, and prevents users from disabling security features
  • Doesn’t fight with competing installed products, to allow you to test it safely

How does it reduce your investment?

A modern solution will reduce costs by being integrable, controllable and reliable. That means your operating costs are lower, and you won’t lose money from malware infections that only waste IT workers’ time and squander end-user productivity.

Purchase cost is, of course, a factor. However, in most analyses of total cost of ownership (TCO), operations and end-user productivity losses dwarf all other costs.

You have to first consider your budget realities, but it’s smart to benchmark yourself against what similar companies spend. There are free security solutions, but they don’t provide the control or sophistication to minimize your TCO.

Don’t Be Fooled

Keeping your company safe requires more than a warmed-over, 10-year-old anti-virus product. You need a state-of-the-art endpoint protection solution to safeguard your organization, in addition to user awareness, enforced policies and proper patch management.

The best solutions allow you to sleep soundly, knowing that you’ve taken the key steps to protect your systems, while keeping costs low.

Tips to Mitigate Against and Handle Security Breaches

Risk assessment. Similar to any other risks that a business may face, when seeking to prevent cybersecurity breaches, the first step should include quantifying the risk. In the cybersecurity context, this will include identifying certain elements of a business’s system that are particularly exposed. This will range from the vulnerability of the company’s online web presence to the possibility of physical access (on-site) to a networked platform. Risk assessments should be carried out on a regular basis so that new threats can be identified and the business remains aware of current trends in cyber threats.

 

Software Security Measures. Having identified areas of risk, tailored security measures should be put in place to address these concerns. The company’s IT environment should include effective firewalls and antivirus software to deal with threats. It should also ensure that software used in the business is kept up-to-date with the latest security patches and updates.

On-Site Security Measures. The most effective software solutions will often be rendered useless where a breach of cybersecurity occurs through a breach of the company’s system from within. Sensitive computer systems should include effective access control restrictions, server rooms should be secured at all times and disposal of IT equipment should be handled securely by competent staff.

 

Service Providers. A cybersecurity breach in a third party, providing services to a business can be just as damaging as a breach in the business itself. Unfortunately, the business is likely to have even less control in this scenario; therefore, it is essential that all relevant contracts clearly delineate responsibility between the parties. On the occurrence of a cybersecurity breach, when time is critical, protracted negotiations on liability should always be avoided. Contracts with software providers should also be reviewed to ensure that maintenance services and bug patches apply to earlier versions of the software that may still be in use, and that any software updates are made available to the company on release.

Testing. One of the best ways to reduce the risk of a cybersecurity breach is to undergo testing, such as system penetration testing. Companies can avail of a range of tools from cybersecurity providers that will simulate an attempted system intrusion or a widespread DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack.

 

Company Policies and Training. Putting in place effective policies to handle cybersecurity breaches is essential in mitigating the risk of a breach. This may include a specific cybersecurity policy, as part of a comprehensive IT policy. However, even the best policies are useless if staff are unaware of the content of policies or how they should operate in practice. Educating staff on potential threats and how to report them up the chain can be vital in the early detection and response to a cybersecurity breach.

 

Cyber Insurance. As the number of cybersecurity breaches has risen exponentially over recent years, a number of insurance products are now being made available to deal with the damage. Whilst the cybersecurity market is still relatively small, larger organisations are now beginning to take out such policies to mitigate risk. Cyber insurance policies often include a range of additional extras, such as access to technical experts that can assist a business in responding to a breach.

Handling Cybersecurity breaches

Where a cybersecurity breach has occurred, acting quickly (and efficiently) will be essential in minimising the damage.

 

Containment. One of the first responses on becoming aware of any cybersecurity breach is to contain the problem. Where it is possible that a third party has gained access to a system, such access should be blocked immediately. Where a breach involves the ongoing unauthorised disclosure of personal data, access to such data should be restricted. Whilst these actions will be obvious, it will be important to be aware of the disruptive effects this could have on the business. For example, shutting down core systems may also raise business continuity concerns. Therefore, it is important that backup systems are deployed where necessary to mitigate these effects. Finally, any immediate technical response, carried out by the business, should be comprehensively documented as it may need to be reported to the authorities at a later time.

 

Investigate. A full investigation should take place to assess the scale of the breach. In order to put in place appropriate remedial actions, it is important that the scale of any breach is not underestimated. It is also important that appropriate individuals are put in place to handle this investigation. In this respect, it is often beneficial to seek out external technical expertise, who may be more adept in identifying areas where the breach may have occurred. In parallel to any technical investigation, it is advisable that an external legal team carries out a similar investigation so that advice can be provided on the ramifications, whilst the business will still be protected under legal professional privilege, which may become relevant where future litigation may arise from the breach.

7 Tips on Keeping Your Limited Company Compliant

Hire a good Accountant

One of your main priorities as a business owner is to oversee your company’s accounting and tax obligations. A good Accountant is worth their weight in gold, and can take a huge burden off your shoulders. They can take care of your company’s annual returns, payroll, VAT returns, CT returns and statutory annual accounts. It is vital that you choose a dependable Accountant to carry out these tasks as mistakes can be costly.

Ensure your company secretary is capable and keep your statutory registers up to date

By law, every Irish company is required to appoint a company secretary. The main duties of a company secretary are to ensure that the company complies with the law, manage the company’s daily administration and any additional duties that company directors may delegate. Whilst there is no qualification requirement for this role, it is important that your company secretary possesses the skillset and knowledge required to keep your company compliant.

The secretary will generally maintain the statutory company registers, which are required to be maintained under the Companies Act. The statutory registers include the register of directors and secretary, members, beneficial owners, transfers, directors and secretary’s interests and debenture holders.

Know your dates and put your company on a ‘watch list’

Once your company has been incorporated, it is good practice to add your company to a ‘watch list’.  A watch list will remind you via email that your company’s Annual Return Date is approaching and it will alert you should any changes be made to the company at the Companies Registration Office. Core.ie provides this service free of charge once you register with them.

Understand your role as a director

Company directors’ have a wide range of responsibilities which can be quite diverse. Company directors have to comply with the Companies Act 2014 and have duties under Common law. If a director is found to have breached company law, he or she can be liable to penalties that can range from a fine up to €500,000 or a maximum jail sentence of 10 years. There are different categories of offences ranging from 1-4 under the Companies Act.

To avoid such circumstances, company directors should become familiar with the responsibilities and duties of the role. Information can be found on both the CRO and ODCE websites.

Know the requirements for company letterheads and websites

One requirement that often gets overlooked is the requirement for Limited companies to list their full legal title on company letterheads. This includes the company name, company number and registered office address. As well as this, the company directors must also be listed by name in the footer. Both forename and surname must be included and the nationality in brackets beside any director who is in not Irish.

Company websites are another location where a company’s details must be displayed. This includes the company name, number and place of registration. This must be located on the website’s homepage or must be on an alternative web page that is to linked to from the homepage which is easily accessible.

If you have a database of customers or potential customers, it is important that you are aware of your requirements under Data Protection legislation.

Keep minutes of meetings and have an AGM

Keeping minutes of directors’ meetings is a requirement under the Companies Act and is prudent to ensure key decisions and matters are noted and dealt with. The Annual General Meeting (AGM) is a meeting of shareholders (and directors) of a company where they have the opportunity to ask questions and get information about the company. Whilst this is no longer a legal requirement for most companies, it is a good idea to ensure this takes place. It is usually the duty of the secretary to call the AGM and give 21 days’ notice to the members.

Know what other legislation is relevant to your business

Depending on what industry you operate in, there may be other legislation that you need to comply with. For example, directors of construction companies need to comply fully with health and safety legislation. Should you have employees, it is very important to have a staff handbook to cover legislation and have policies on dignity and respect at work, whistleblowing, leave, health and safety, internet usage, etc.

Some business types will require a licence to operate. Such businesses include Accountants, Solicitors, Travel Agents, Recruitment Agencies, Betting shops and high value goods dealers. If you are unsure of your specific business obligations, it may be worth consulting a Solicitor.

6 Tips for Choosing a Business Name

Some aspects of selecting a business name are subjective and reflect the personal wishes and preferences of the owner. There are, however, some mistakes that business owners make in naming their establishments that just don’t make good business sense. Avoid these and your business name can serve as a real asset that can help bring many profitable returns.

1. ABC
A business name that comes at the beginning of the alphabet can be a plus since many business listings are alphabetical; however, some businesses have taken this strategy to absurd levels. Using A, B, or C as the first letter of your business name can help, but be sure the name is something that makes sense and is something you like and are really comfortable with.

2. Use a Simple Easy-to-Pronounce Name
The idea is to get people to remember your business name and to be able to understand it, spell it and pronounce it. It should also be short enough to fit on a business card or display on a sign.

3. Allow for Growth
Choose a business name that is wide-ranging enough to give your business growing room. Geographic business names are popular e.g. Arklow Housecleaners. But what happens if your business takes off and you’d like to expand the geographic area you cover? The same goes for naming a business after one product or service. For example, the name “Joe’s Lawnmowers” would need to change if Joe decides to add other related products. Stay away from names that describe current fads or trends: If a new “Millennium Bookshop” opened in 1999, it may have sounded timely – nine years later, it would sound dated.

4. Create Your Identity

A business name should be one or more of the following:

  • Memorable
  • Descriptive
  • Imaginative
  • Distinctive

A good way to start is to write down key words that describe what your business is, what it does, and what pleases you about it. Use a dictionary and thesaurus to find different words that express these things. Also look for famous expressions that might pertain to your business.

So, let’s say Mary has a small business selling her delicious fruit tarts, and she considers herself to be the best at what she does. Mary names her business “Queen of Tarts” because: she loves the play on words, it expresses what her business is and does, and the word “queen” is perfect – she’s female and her thesaurus shows that “queen” also means “person of authority”.

5. Being an island

You’ve thought up 15 business names that are in the final running, and you think they’re all pretty good. Now is the time to get some feedback. Run those names by some close colleagues, family and friends. You might be surprised at the number of things they bring to your attention that you’ve overlooked. A little constructive objectivity goes a long way when choosing a business name.

6. Make Sure You Can Use a Name
Before settling on a final name, you’ll need to ensure that you won’t be violating someone else’s trademark rights to a particular business name. You want to avoid being forced to change your business name in the future and possibly paying damages.

  • Get your solicitor to do a company and trademark search.
  • Type your prospective business name into a few search engines to see if the name comes up.

Invest some time and thoughtful effort to come up with a really good business name. It will pay dividends.

10 Tips for Managing Your Time

Providing both vision and leadership, entrepreneurs know that the success or failure of their businesses depends on them. As a result, many find themselves working a staggering number of hours. They say they will slow down after making it over the next hurdle. But another hurdle always appears. Running at such a fast clip may bring short-term results, but those gains can be lost quickly through ill health or divorce. Learning to use your time more efficiently not only helps you achieve a healthier balance between your business and personal lives but it can also save your business from missed deadlines, overtime wages, lost customers and more. Putting in more hours isn’t the key to success. Managing your time more effectively is. You’ll be more productive in fewer hours and live a happier, healthier life as a result.

1. Work towards larger life goals

The first step in effective time management is to determine where exactly you want to go. Without a clear picture of your destination, you’ll wind up someplace else. Think long-term: What do you want to achieve by the end of your life? Or even at the end of this decade? Write it down and be as specific as possible. Then determine what steps you must take to meet your goals. Write these down too.

Next, keep a time log of everything you do for at least a week, preferably a month. Note the number of hours or minutes you spend on each work project, meeting, phone call or other activity. Log activities as they occur; just doing it a few times a day results in missing important details.

2. Figure out where you are spending your time

Compare your time log to your life goals. The majority of your time should be spent on activities contributing to the realisation of your goals. Make a note of any activities not directed towards this end, and try to eliminate them. It might be better, for example, to discharge a difficult client whose projects stray from your company’s core business, and instead put more effort into marketing and finding new clients. Consider ways to streamline the tasks you are obliged to do: for instance, you can sometimes accomplish just as much with a teleconference as a lunch meeting. Say no to any new endeavours unless they somehow support your goals.

3. Delegate

Don’t hesitate, as many entrepreneurs do, to delegate some of your tasks. One print shop owner, who was putting in 90 hours a week, was so discouraged he was ready to close down his business. He couldn’t give additional responsibility to his employees, he said, because they were not experienced enough. Then a health crisis kept him out of the shop for several weeks. In his absence, those same employees performed extremely well.

4. Use an organisational system

Organise the information you use most frequently, such as appointment dates, telephone numbers, action lists, mileage and so on. There are many fine organisational systems available. If you are a procrastinator, make a concerted effort to cure yourself. Consider whether your tendency to procrastinate is caused by a lack of enthusiasm for your projects. If this is the case, it may be that they do not support your life goals. If you’re a slow starter or consistently underestimate how long a project will take, schedule frequent project reviews to hold yourself accountable or set false deadlines so you are not frantic when the actual deadline arrives.

5. Commit to better time management

Each week, set aside time for personal planning. Review your goals as well as your schedule for the coming week to make sure they are mutually supportive. Remember, the most important thing is to make a strong commitment to managing your time. If you don’t, time will control you.

6. Clean off your desk.

Use folders to contain all documents relating to the same project and keep all work-in-progress folders in one place. Toss aging industry journals or create a corporate library. Don’t leave a cluttered desk at night.

7. Group similar tasks

Time is often wasted changing from one task to another. Do all of your writing, emailing and telephoning at one time. Take this step further: group similar types of email. All good email programmes have filtering functions so that all email with the words “Project: Destroy Them” can be grouped, and all email from a particular address can be coloured in blue, and so on. In other words, let technology make less work for you.

8. Break large tasks into smaller steps

Estimate the amount of time needed to complete each step rather than the entire project. Monitor your progress along the way.

9. Create a written agenda and set a time limit for each meeting

Insist that discussion items be placed on the agenda before the meeting.

10. Review your life goals annually to make sure they are still valid

Things change. Accept that and tweak your life goals accordingly.

Build a Relationship

 What do we mean by relationship-building?

When we talk about the competency of relationship-building in the world of business, we are referring to building strong relationships with partners and clients – about using interpersonal skills to network in an effective way.

What does a competent relationship-builder do?

Somebody who is competent at relationship-building focuses on understanding the needs of the client and getting the best possible results. This competency promotes an ethic of client service and so an understanding and anticipation of a client’s changing needs is essential. Stress and conflict are other issues that a competent relationship-builder will manage – keeping composed and acting as mediator when conflicts arise.

How can I start to develop the competency of relationship-building?

First identify the business plan goals of your department and decide what your role is going to be in helping to achieve those goals. You will need to study the business plan and learn as much as possible about your clients’ activities, interests and needs. This information might be available in their own annual reports or in client surveys conducted by your company. Talking to your clients about how you can best meet their needs is also a sensible first step to take.

Seven steps to becoming an effective relationship-builder:

  1. Draw up a plan of what you need to do in order to give your clients what they want. Discuss your ideas with your line manager and then do what is necessary to implement the plan.
  2. When the plan has been set in motion, schedule regular meetings with your line manager to review the progress that you are making and make any necessary adjustments.
  3. When you are working as part of a team or group within a department or a company it is important to assess your contribution to the group’s work. Think about how your efforts help or hinder progress.
  4. Make a weekly analysis of your commitments. Set yourself a goal for each week so that you follow them through. Make an effort to do what you say you are going to do – and also, to do it by the time that you say it will be done. If you get into the habit of doing this it will become like second nature.
  5. Build up a file of contacts and classify them in a way that is meaningful for your particular work context. Then you will know exactly who to call with any queries or when you need information.
  6. Don’t just wait for feedback to come to you, request it from a variety of sources – from your line manager but also from colleagues, clients and people who you supervise. Listen to what they have to say and act accordingly.
  7. Build informal relationships with the people who are working around you. Make a point of greeting people who you normally don’t speak to. Ask them about their interests and make it a goal to practise small talk with them. Listen to what they say and remember so that you can ask about a particular interest the next time you meet.

The Simple Business Plan

In a world of increasing complexity and one with growing demands on our time, it can be challenging to create a business plan. In recent years, however, there has been a growing trend  in the production of simple business plans.

What is a simple business plan?

A simple business plan is a business plan typically produced by start-ups. You write your business plan as normal but you reduce the breadth of content in certain sections of your business plan.

Why would I write a simple business plan?

Simple business plans are appropriate when there are a lot of unknowns or when you are simply at the idea creation stage. At this point you do not want to invest significant time and resources in a full blown business plan, but are looking to produce a business plan that will enable you to forward it to interested parties for further consideration. Once you have received feedback you can then proceed with a full blown business plan.

What does a simple business plan contain?

The simple business plan contains much of the same content of a standard business plan but certain sections can be put on hold at this point e.g. cash flow statement, balance sheet etc. Sections can be skipped and a greater emphasis can be placed on the idea, the market opportunity, the likely demand, the routes to market etc

What is the point of a simple business plan?

One frequent problem entrepreneurs have is that they can keep ideas ‘in their head‘ rather than commit them to paper (or to a PC). However, ideas are practically worthless when they relate to a product or service in isolation (or without providing a market and commercial context). By producing a simple business plan, the entrepreneur is taking the next step towards their idea reaching fruition.  A simple business plan will ensure that there is a holistic view of the business opportunity and an assessment of whether it is commercially viable or not.

How do I create a simple business plan?

Business Plan Pro has the option of a simple business plan built -in. By selecting the option within Business Plan Pro, the number of tasks you need to undertake is reduced from the number needed to produce a standard business plan.

Multiple Intelligences

 Everybody has a different approach to learning and the more we understand about the type of learner we are, the more effective our studying should become.

Howard Gardner first introduced us to the idea of Multiple Intelligences in 1983. He believes that there are several types of intelligences that can’t be simply defined from one IQ test. He categorises intelligences under the following headings;

1.  Verbal linguistic – having a good verbal memory, being interested in words and how language works

2.  Analytical / logical – being able to investigate and have a scientific approach to learning

3.  Musical – being sensitive to sounds and rhythms

4.  Visual spatial – being imaginative with a good visual memory

5.  Kinaesthetic – being receptive to touching objects to enhance your memory

6.  Interpersonal – being good in group work, listening to others

7.  Intrapersonal – being aware of your own personal goals and motivations

8.  Naturalist – understanding the link between nature and humans

It’s important to understand that these intelligences work together and it would be unwise to think of ourselves as having only one or the other. Labelling learners as a particular type of learner could stop them from exploring all of their intelligences. So instead we should think of ourselves as having dominant intelligences.

When you are next in a classroom ask yourself these questions to think about how you learn:

  • When I hear a new word do I need to see it written down to know how it’s spelt?
  • Am I interested in grammar and how English tenses are put together?
  • Are my notes kept neatly in a methodical way?
  • Do I keep a personal dictionary of newly learnt words?
  • Does my personal dictionary help me to remember the words?
  • How easy do I find it to hear differences in sounds?
  • Does drawing pictures of new words help me to remember them in English?
  • Does touching an object help me to remember what it’s called?
  • Do I enjoy listening to the teacher and taking notes?
  • Do I prefer working on my own or with other people?
  • Do I know why I’m learning English?

This list of questions is obviously limited but it’s a good start towards becoming a more effective learner. The more you are aware about your dominant intelligences in the learning process the more you can exploit them to make learning a more enjoyable and rewarding journey.

Business Plan Vs Business Model

 A business plan is essentially a more detailed version of your business model. A business plan has been traditionally understood as a physical document, although increasingly this view has changed as business plans have migrated online. The business plan format very much depends on the context and business plans are often verbalised via presentations where a presenter pitches their business plan to an audience. Business models are more likely to take the form of either simple verbal descriptions or one page visual representations which can either be produced before a business plan or as part of the same planning process.

It is also worth noting that there are increasing numbers of business plan critics who argue that their composition is too time consuming and that people need ‘to get building’. Some of this criticism has come from software developers (many of whom are proponents of the Lean Start-up Methodology).  I personally feel their arguments are a little simplistic and that entrepreneurs need to map out a viable business model and a business plan in tandem. I also think that the arguments are more valid in an Internet business context, where it is relatively easy to bootstrapa low-cost website which can be used for feedback and constant iterative development.

If you are looking to build a new business and are about to draft a business plan, you should also spend time working out your optimum business model as well as drafting a visual representation of it.  You can use the following framework to map same. In recent years there has been significant innovation in the range of business models, and some of them may be of relevance to your offering. Finally, it is also worth noting that some business models such as the Internet bubble model have largely had their day. Very few investors will invest in businesses these days that have advertising at the heart of their business model.

Uses for Business Models

1. Starting a new business
If you are starting a new business (particularly an Internet-based one) and are seeking investment, the business model will be an important element of your business plan. Any prospective investor will be very keen to understand your business model clearly i.e. how you intend to generate cash, and whether it appears that you can do so profitably.

2. Innovation and product design
Business model innovation enables you to take a holistic view of the business to assess unique opportunities that exist outside of innovation solely on the product side. Business models also jump industry so it is a good idea to keep a breast of innovative business models you come across (regardless of the context). One simple (yet common) form of innovation is deploying business models from another industry in your own. As Mark Johnson claimed in ‘Reinventing your Business Model’

The low cost business model pioneered by the likes of Irish airline, Ryanair (replicating the Southwest Airlines model) is now becoming more popular in the hotel industry, for example, where costs are being reduced significantly and entire business models are being reassessed. The CitizenM hotel in Amsterdam airport, in the Netherlands is one such example; staffing levels are far below industry averages as customers are forced to self serve.

3. Creating Revenue Streams
As I mentioned in the opening sections some Internet companies struggle to monetize their customer base. Their business model is effectively parked as a trade off to attracting ‘users’. The logic here is simple; if you offer a free service you remove the biggest risk or barrier to new prospects. Once you have significant volumes of users you can then create a business model to monetise this large user base.
Similarly, in the gaming industry ‘free to play’ has been a popular model where users play the games for free but pay to acquire virtual goods be it tools to play the game better e.g. buying weapons or multiplayer access.

4. Competitive Analysis
A traditional means to assess the attractiveness of an industry was to undertake strategic analysis using the methodology prescribed by Michael Porter in his Five Force Analysis. His core argument was that these following five forces determine the competitiveness of an industry and hence its attractiveness:

  1. The threat of the entry of new competitors
  2. The intensity of competitive rivalry
  3. The threat of substitute products or services
  4. The bargaining power of customers (buyers)
  5. The bargaining power of suppliers

Understanding businesses from a business model perspective can also be extremely instructive as you can build up a narrative regarding how companies perform certain activities to gain a clear understanding as to their strategies. Using this in tandem with Porter’s Five Forces will give you a good sense of the competitive landscape which can then help you decide on the optimal strategy to pursue and also to preempt competitive threats.