The interview

Mike Foreman

General Manager, SMB, AVG Technologies

Q. Who are you and what do you do?

A. Mike Foreman, General Manager, SMB for AVG Technologies. Our SMB group is a global organisation dedicated to un‐complicating the lives of small and medium sized businesses and the channel partners that serve them. I am responsible for all aspects of AVG's goal in growing this part of the business.

Q. What is it about the Pitch that made you want to get involved with the event?

A. I have been a small business owner myself. In the early days of my association with AVG I was managing partner at an IT reseller called F1 Services here in the UK. I am just one of several former entrepreneurs on the AVG SMB senior management team. The Pitch is the UK's most established national competition for entrepreneurs and is committed to helping startups to grow. This fits closely with our own view that startups need as much professional support as they can get in the early years. At AVG we are passionate about making IT security as uncomplicated as possible for them so that they can focus on growing their business.

Q. What expertise can you offer to entrants of The Pitch?

A. We can help them keep their IT simple and counsel them on any concerns they might about their data security or protection. We can also share with them our own success stories as entrepreneurs.

Q. If you had to give three tips on making a successful pitch, what would you choose?

A. My three top tips are:

  1. Do your research
  2. Understand your market
  3. Know your competitive edge

Q. How important is it for your company to engage with SMEs and new businesses?

A. Small and new businesses are our business. It is extremely important that we engage with our end users as much as possible. We want to communicate how the latest cloud technologies can make their lives so much easier. We also want to learn from them what aspects of their IT give them the most headaches so that we can understand what new product features would prove popular in the future.

Q. It's clear that Pitch attendees and those pitching themselves can learn a lot from the event, but what about larger companies like yours and what do you hope to gain from being part of The Pitch?

A. AVG's philosophy is all about empowering small businesses to manage their technology simply and reliably so they can stop worrying about their data and concentrate on growth in today's fast changing, increasingly mobile workplace. As Britain's top competition for emerging entrepreneurs The Pitch is an ideal forum to share our passionate belief that a well‐connected business is an essential ingredient for success today.

Q. What are the key mistakes small, new, or growing businesses make when it comes to their approach to security?

A. Some common key mistakes I can think of are:

  • Not keeping operating systems and software applications updated or patched
  • Assuming that staff know about computer security
  • Not backing up
  • Not making sure ALL devices ‐ including mobile devices ‐ are properly protected
  • Not planning for a "worst case scenario"

Q. BYOT has had a big impact on small businesses and opened up these enterprises to various tools that help them work more coherently and efficiently ‐ but what has the impact been on a small businesses ability to stay secure?

A. BYOT (or BYOD as it is also known) security is an area where AVG can provide a lot of help and insight. Although today most smaller companies still use on‐premise solutions to secure their IT, users are saying that remote access and the ability to store data from mobile devices in the cloud provides tremendous efficiencies. Research from Gartner suggests that by 2017, half of employers may impose a mandatory BYOD policy — requiring staffs to bring their own laptop, tablet and smartphone to work. A common solution to the BYOT security problem –particularly in the smaller companies – is to ignore it. Of those that do take proactive measures active‐synch policies are the most common (21%), followed by Mobile Device Management(MDM) tools (15%). The key point for entrepreneurs is to know that BYOD security is now affordable for startups.

Q. How large a focus should a security strategy be for a small business?

A. AVG’s view is that it should not be a focus at all. We advocate retaining the services of a local, trusted professional IT services company such as one of our resellers and asking them to look after it all for you. In one study AVG did last year small businesses were spending up to one day a week of their time sorting out IT. That’s far too much time. Entrepreneurs need to focus on business growth. Having your IT taken care of properly frees you to concentrate on your areas of expertise. In the hands of experts your IT should help to facilitate that growth even more.

More advice from AVG Technologies, supporter of The Pitch

  • Five key business trends from The Pitch 2014 by a judge and serial entrepreneur
  • Five exit strategy tips from a serial entrepreneur
  • Five tips for maximising personal productivity from a serial entrepreneur