Solutions Review’s Expert Insights Series is a collection of contributed articles written by industry experts in enterprise software categories. Justin Beals of Strike Graph dives into why security compliance is a business accelerator, not a roadblock.
All too often, early-stage companies wait until a security certification is required by one of their partners or becomes legally required before they decide to take action. At that point, they’re already way behind on their security compliance. While they’re playing catchup, the competition is winning deals.
I’ve experienced the pain of this situation firsthand. At one of my prior companies, we were in the final stages of closing a deal with a critical customer when they requested our SOC 2 audit. But, like many young organizations, we didn’t have one yet. We spent the next six months scrambling– filling out security questionnaires, reviewing our policies and practices, and going through security reviews.
But in the end, as my VP of sales used to say, “Time kills all deals.” We ultimately lost the customer because we didn’t have the means to quickly prove that they could trust us with their data. The good news is you can learn from my painful experience. Keep these three basic compliance concepts in mind, and your start-up will be ready when the business comes knocking.
Security Compliance Isn’t a Hurdle; It’s a Launch Pad
It can be easy to think about security compliance as something you just have to get done in order to avoid fines or legal action. Maybe you’re feeling a sense of resentment that you have to jump through a bunch of hoops that don’t seem to have much value. This deficit view of compliance is far too common, but it prevents you from getting the full ROI on the time and energy you put into your security program.
In the years since we lost that critical deal over the lack of SOC 2, my perspective on security compliance has shifted. I no longer see it as a box to check but rather as a valuable trust asset– a way to prove to your customers that protecting their privacy is a priority for your organization.
Trust buys you a lot, including the ability to build relationships with customers and business partners faster than your competition. Those relationships result in more contracts, more customers, and more revenue. Internally, you establish a culture of compliance that sets you up to quickly adapt to accelerating changes in security regulations and expectations. This helps keep you in a position to beat out the competition and maintain your reputation as a valuable company to do business with.
A Part of the Growth Process
It’s a simple fact of life: your organization will have to deal with security compliance at some point.
Unless you’re doing business solely in cash and keeping records in a physical filing cabinet — and maybe even then! — you will be legally obligated or required by your customers and partners to prove you are adequately protecting your data. So why not be prepared from the outset? When we had to rush toward last-minute SOC 2 compliance, we learned how much harder it is to accomplish compliance when you’re cleaning up mistakes instead of building a robust and clean foundation from the beginning. If you take a security-conscious mindset from the first step, you can create a security posture that is appropriate for your business context and sets you up for future growth, including additional security frameworks.
And, don’t forget that many security certifications — like SOC 2 and ISO 27001 — require audits in addition to extensive documented policies and procedures and annual employee training. These things don’t happen fast, so if you wait until someone forces your hand to get started, you’ll be months, not weeks, away from closing the deal!
Take It One Step at a Time
When you first start learning about any of the significant security frameworks, it can seem utterly overwhelming. In the process of guiding my own companies through the security compliance process, I’ve learned a vital lesson: take it one step at a time.
Instead of thinking about compliance as an enormous checklist, make sure you tailor the process to your company’s unique needs, then map out what you need to do. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Concentrate first on determining which pieces are most important for your company. They don’t have to be perfect, but they do need to be strong enough to build on. Once you’ve charted a path forward, work your way along it calmly and steadily. Involve not just the tech team, but stakeholders across your whole company. You’ll reach your goal faster, using fewer resources, and with more team-wide buy-in than if you do an all-hands-on-deck scramble at the last minute.
The bottom line is security compliance doesn’t have to be a painful burden on your start-up. It can be the thing that takes your company to the next level and ensures its continued growth. The key is to set yourself up for success from the beginning.
- Security Compliance: Why It’s A Business Accelerator - February 9, 2023