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Ant Bytes — AA21

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HOW TO PREVENT YOUR COMPETITION FROM SPYING ON YOU

Anthill issue 20 (Feb/Mar) had been on the news stands less than a week when we received a call from Julian Claxton, CEO of RISQ Group, a counter-corporate espionage consultancy. Claxton wanted to know if we were interested in hearing about the flip side of ‘How to spy on your competition’ ‘ ‘How to prevent your competition from spying on you’. Indeed we were.

RISQ Group’s main focus is on technical surveillance counter-measures and advice on how to protect corporate information.

‘Corporations take a really blase approach to counter surveillance,’ says Claxton. ‘Most of our clients say, ‘Oh, we’re sure it won’t happen to us, but we thought we’d better get you in anyway.’ If they were more paranoid we’d be a lot busier.’

Typically, Claxton and his team do not find any clandestine listening devices during a technical assessment of a corporate environment. However, they almost always come away with a list of security vulnerabilities requiring attention.

‘What many companies don’t realise is that the threat often doesn’t come from outside but from within. It could be a disgruntled or corrupt or curious employee who is gathering and remitting information to a third-party,’ says Claxton.

He is quick to offer up simple solutions for common vulnerabilities. ‘Companies conduct background checks on all of their senior executives and staff located in sensitive areas, and yet cleaners have master key access, work after-hours for low remuneration, and yet they often go unescorted. Cleaners are an easy target for infiltration. The same goes for contractors.’

Claxton suggests that companies use cross-shredders to prevent sensitive information falling into the hands of dumpster divers. He also believes that employees should be made aware of an employer’s right to monitor their email and internet activity, but this should only ever be exercised as part of a significant internal security investigation. So how do you prevent your competition from spying on you? Run a tight ship and ensure that employees are well educated about the potential security implications of every one of their actions. After all, loose lips sink ships.


Five tips for countering corporate surveillance

 

  • All contractors should be escorted when working on site.
  • Staff education programs should be implemented to ensure that staff are aware of the threats against them (social engineering, pillow talk, etc.).
  • Policies and procedures should be implemented relating to document protection, such as diligent document shredding and a ‘clean desk’ policy.
  • Implement good access control systems – this can include everything from refreshing passwords to closed-circuit television systems.
  • Conduct employee screening and background checks.


 

AUSSIE BUBBLES ENVELOP BEIJING

The Beijing Olympics will be one of the most fascinating in generations, not for who wins the most gold medals or how many world records are broken. More than anything, the Olympic Games is a seminal cultural experience, and the whole world is viewing Beijing 2008 as a very public metaphor for China’s arrival at the doorstep of superpower status.

The infrastructure projects currently underway in and around Beijing are the most breathtaking in Olympic history. But look closely at the dramatic $130 million Beijing National Aquatics Centre and you will see Australian ingenuity and flair all around literally. The design and development process for the Aquatic Centre was undertaken by three Australian firms ‘ architects PTW, engineers Arup and Rapid Prototyping supplier ARRK.

When Sydney-based PTW came up with the winning bubble inspired design, known as the ‘Watercube’, the architects knew that viewing it via CAD software didn’t do the design justice. They engaged ARRK, a supplier of Stereolithography (SLA) technology, to accurately recreate a scaled model of the Watercube, unleashing the WOW! factor that ultimately seduced the judges and won the contract.

So while you’re cheering on our swimmers at Beijing in 2008, spare a small cheer for this piece of Aussie teamwork, which is most certainly worth its weight in gold.

 

DIY BOOK PUBLISHING TAKES OFF

The business model behind book publishing has evolved at glacial pace over the past, well, centuries. Until very recently, if you wrote a book and you didn’t like the deal offered by traditional publishers, you remained unpublished or absorbed the cost and stigma of walking the self-publishing plank.

Now, two Australian entrepreneurs have devised innovative self-publishing business models with resonance.

Lisa Messenger, 35, is no stranger to marketing, having launched Messenger Marketing almost six years ago. In 2004, she wrote the book, ‘Happiness is’, and devised a sponsorship and marketing model that would enable her to generate the $80,000 it would cost to produce.

Messenger’s publishing company, Messenger Publishing, now focuses on two areas. The first is production, aimed at authors who want speed to market while retaining control. Most of these clients are entrepreneurs, many of whom are on the speaking tour and have an interest in selling copies ‘back of room’.

The other side of the business involves Messenger and her team helping authors devise strategies to market their books. ‘I work with them from the early stages of their manuscript so that it contains a lot of strategic for the end user. Once we’ve worked out a strategy, we target corporations.’

It’s an approach you’d expect would provoke indignation in publishing purists, but Messenger has tapped into a market need. Happiness Is has now sold 36,000 copies in Australia and only 3,500 through traditional channels (bookshops). Between August ’06 and January ’07 she picked up 91 clients.

Dale Beaumont, 25, has charted a similar course. At the age of nineteen he co-wrote ‘The World at Your Feet’, a self-help book for teenagers, then extended the project by co-founding ‘Tomorrow’s Youth International’. Two year ago, he began working on ‘Secrets Exposed’, which is now a series of six titles with 60,000 books in print and a plan to release a further 20 titles over the next two years.

‘My business model involves pre-selling the book before it is produced,’ says Beaumont. ‘All of the production costs are covered before the book goes to print, so the front end sales are all profit. Eighty percent of my book sales happen outside of bookshops.’

Both Messenger and Beaumont’s self-publishing models demand profound early strategising about who a book’s audience is and what that audience wants. In many ways, it’s an organic approach that has far more in common with startup business strategy than with traditional book publishing. It’s perfectly suited to the atomised nature of modern media and its rapidly evolving distribution channels. And the numbers don’t lie.

 

MY BIG IDEA
Tom Potter- Eagle Boys Pizza

In this ‘Year of the Idea’, we are asking a series of successful Australian entrepreneurs about big ideas ‘ their best, their worst and the ideas they wished were their own. This issue the spotlight is on Tom Potter, who has been at the helm of the trailblazing Eagle Boys since he founded the company 17 years ago.

What was your best idea?

I looked at the overall pizza industry and realised that we were pretty much all selling a similar product with a similar price and knew that if we didn’t work out how to make Eagle Boys stand out like a zebra in a pack of horses in the long term our future would be bleak. We realised that the actual product itself wasn’t necessarily what needed to change but the actual delivery and offer was what it was all about. By taking some very tough steps, by changing our technology and working our marketing, Eagle Boys introduced Drive Thru-Pizza with a service delivery promise of two minutes. That was the best idea I ever had.

What was your worst idea?

The worst idea I ever had was to probably spend too much time looking at the Asian markets, in particular China, some eight or nine years ago. The Chinese market was probably immature and not ready for a business such as ours. But on the flipside, our business was probably immature and not ready to export anyway. Although I was optimistic and excited about the opportunities as the doors opened in China, Eagle Boys just wasn’t mature or developed enough to go into Asian markets. After six years and establishing an office in Beijing, we closed it.

Which idea do you wish was yours?

My father owned a very successful soft drink business some 20 years ago in the foothills of the mountains in North-East Victoria, with a mountain spring well at the back of the property where they pumped their water up to make the soft drink. If only we had foreseen what opportunities existed in Australia in selling pure natural mountain water. That was an idea I certainly wish might have been mine.

‘Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in the summer and gathers its food at harvest.’
‘ Holy Bible, Proverbs 6:6-8

ANT BYTES

STARTUP.COM (TAKE TWO)

The 2002 documentary Startup.com is one of our favourites. The story of dot-com startup GovWorks’s meteoric rise and fall came to symbolise the heady 1990s internet bubble and bust. In an equally emblematic postscript, former GovWorks CEO and Startup.com star Kaleil Tuzman recently secured a US$100 million IPO for JumpTV, the internet TV company he founded following the demise of GovWorks. JumpTV, like the internet’s second iteration, is built on stronger economic fundamentals. In fact, the company’s rise would have made a great sequel documentary to Startup.com.

CHEQUE’S IN THE MAIL

Does this sound familiar? Dun & Bradstreet Trade Payment Analysis reveals that the average trade payment period in December ’06 across all industries was more than three weeks above the standard 30-day payment term. D&B Australasia CEO Christine Christian said trade payments have been more than three weeks above the standard payment term since January 2005, and urged greater diligence from debtors and greater vigilance from creditors to ease the burden on vulnerable SMEs.

WORK IT

Twenty-three-year-old RMIT Entrepreneurship student James Masini has just launched www.hippo.com.au, for young Australians and visitors to Australia who are looking for part-time and casual employment. Masini secured seed funding for Hippo, which is tailored to the transient professionalism of Generation Y. Meanwhile, a new recruitment job board ‘ www.jobbountyhunter.com.au‘ is offering cash bounties to users who successfully refer friends, family and other contacts for advertised positions. The process is being dubbed ‘social recruitment’, harnessing interlocking social networks to have hundred or even thousands of people searching for the right candidate, rather than just one recruitment professional.

COFFEE DRINKERS TOLD TO WAKE UP

New research has challenged the popular assumption that the morning caffeine hit hundreds of millions of workers rely upon to get them going does not improve alertness beyond normal levels. Peter Rogers, a professor of biological psychology at Bristol University, UK, suggests that the morning ‘buzz’ coffee drinkers crave is not a buzz at all, but merely the easing of caffeine withdrawal. He contends that the only people who receive a brief increase in alertness from drinking coffee are non-coffee drinkers.

IN THE LINE OF DUTY

A survey of 4,000 British professionals has revealed that 22 percent fiddle their company expense claims, with only four percent being caught out. The survey, conducted by Travelodge, turned up some interesting items claimed as vital work-related outlays, including adult films at hotels, alcohol, cat neutering, a pregnancy test kit and even a Caribbean cruise.

 
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