By Ted Devine
Whether working as a one-person shop or part of a small consulting business, Apple consultants have more opportunity than ever to increase their revenue: 97% of Fortune 500 companies use iPhones for business, 98% of those companies use iPads, and Apple leads the individual smartphone market with 41% of users. When you take government and educational institutions into account, iPhones account for 59% of the entire enterprise smartphone market, and iPads for 78% of the tablet market.
But as with anything, these tremendous opportunities aren’t without their risks. Apple consultants who aren’t careful to manage the risks that accompany their work could find themselves with no clients, no revenue, and high legal bills.
The Major Risks That Threaten Apple Consultants
Here’s a look at the four biggest risks that threaten Apple consultants and how they can manage those risks to keep their business in the black.
° Clients who don’t update software or operating systems. Even if you’ve told your clients how important it is to download updates, they might not do it. And if an outdated version of an app or operating system leads to a data breach on a client’s device, they could sue you for your involvement. Sound absurd? It is, a little. But depending on the wording of your contract, the courts may side with your client – especially if the judge and jury aren’t tech-savvy enough to recognize the client’s role in enabling the breach.
° Clients who use devices for both business and personal use. Because of the popularity and utility of Apple devices, it’s common for people to use them for both personal and work purposes – even if only to check work emails on a personal phone. Small businesses are especially likely to have dual-use devices, as many small-business owners save money with BYOD policies. But the more ways a device is used, the more entry points for data exposure it offers for viruses and hackers.
Plus, devices used round-the-clock have a greater chance of being lost or stolen, which also exposes users to data breaches. Apple consultants need to educate clients about the options Apple provides for business-sponsored devices (Supervised Mode in iOS 7), as well as how using a device for both personal and business applications increases their risk of data loss.
° Customers who jailbreak their devices. While jailbreaking allows for greater customization of Apple devices, it also exposes those devices to more external threats and may void their warranty. Consultants need to be clear and upfront with clients about the risks associated with jailbreaking Apple devices – and should consider writing specific policies into their contracts regarding liability for devices that have been jailbroken.
° Marketing that breaks Apple’s copyright rules. Millions of Apple users means millions of potential clients for you, but in order to connect with them, you’ve got to make yourself visible. For most consultants, that means creating a website, an office, and advertisements about their services. While these efforts may attract clients, they could also make you the target of a copyright infringement lawsuit if you don’t follow Apple’s guidelines for trademark and copyright use.
° Not having Apple certification – or having it. Apple offers a number of certifications for consultants. These certifications require membership fees, yearly fees, and passage of certain training courses. To maintain membership, consultants have to pass continuing education classes. But once you’re certified, your business is listed in Apple’s directory of certified consultants and you can market your certification – a definite trust-builder, especially for less tech-savvy clients who may not know what to look for in a consultant. There’s no right answer for whether or not to get certified – every consultant should do a cost-benefit analysis for their own practice.
Managing Risks and Staying Profitable
To stay ahead of the game risk-wise, Apple consultants can implement four key risk management policies:
° Educate clients. Some of your greatest risk exposures come from what your clients do on their devices when you’re not around. Make a point of teaching them how to update software, avoid malware, and keep data secure
° Update contracts and use them religiously. Even if you educate your clients, some of them won’t take your advice. Further reduce your risk of being held financially responsible for their mistakes by working with contracts that limit your liability where appropriate.
° Get familiar with Apple’s copyright rules. Following the rules isn’t hard, but it requires knowing what they are. Failing to follow the rules can leave you on the losing side of a costly lawsuit.
° Invest in adequate insurance. Despite ironclad contracts, impeccable customer service, and to-the-letter rule following, it’s still possible that your business will be charged with wrongdoing in a lawsuit. Business insurance keeps you profitable by paying the legal costs associated with defending yourself. Specifically: Errors & Omissions Insurance protects you from client data breaches and suits alleging you did shoddy work, and General Liability protects you from allegations of third-party injury and property damage (GL is also required for anyone who wants to become a certified Apple consultant).
(Ted Devine is CEO of TechInsurance, the nation’s leading online agent for tech and IT professionals. Before joining TechInsurance, Devine held many senior leadership positions at Aon Corporation and spent 12 years as a Director of McKinsey & Company. He lives in Chicago with his family. )