Theft and other security breaches cost small businesses billions of dollars each year. In addition, certain events can result in loss of customers or completely bankrupting the business. Following are 10 tips for small business owners seeking to protect themselves in a variety of possible scenarios.
Tip 1: Require Background Check
Employees have access to information about your business. They also have access to information about your customers and, in many cases, access to your customers. One bad apple can ruin your business. Before hiring a new employee, consider performing a criminal background check and possibility, a credit check. In addition, if you hire temporary workers verify the company who supplies the workers also runs these checks.
Tip 2: Create an Employee Policy Manual
Many employee lawsuits can be avoided with clearly defined employee policies. Sexual harassment is a leading workplace problem that results in lawsuits. Employees should be properly informed about all policies. There should be a specific investigation procedure and employees should feel confident there will be no ramifications for reporting violations.
Tip 3: Diversify Financial Transactions
Financial transactions should be handled by at least two different employees. Consider personally counter-signing checks over a certain dollar amount. In addition, develop a policy of mandatory vacations for all employees. Many financial irregularities are discovered when employees are on vacation and unable to “cover” their activities.
Tip 4: Invest in a Shredder
Many businesses improperly dispose of important documents. As the old adage states: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure;” and there is a treasure-trove of information in the trash. The simplest-and usually least expensive-fix is to purchase a cross-cut shredder. Employees should be trained to shred all documents.
Tip 5: Utilize Document Tags
Many types of technology have become smaller and portable. This added convenience has made these items easier to steal. Document tags can act as a theft deterrent. In the unlikely event an electronic item is taken, document tags can assist with item recovery too.
Tip 6: Protect Passwords
Often times, passwords give people more access to your business than the actual keys to the front door. Employees should be issued individual passwords and access codes. A master password should only be offered to key employees. Require all employees to use sophisticated passwords including numbers, capital and lower case letters and change them frequently. At no time should any password be posted on a computer or other public, or accessible places. Consider investing in a password management software program for additional security.
Tip 7: Update Virus Software
Most computers have preloaded, trial, virus software. Many small business owners neglect to continue the subscription after the trial period. All businesses need some form of virus protection on their computer. There are some free options available online. However, most companies will want to consider a more sophisticated program; an unprotected computer is akin to leaving the front door unlocked. Antivirus software is typically affordable, and is so far anyway, routinely necessary.
Tip 8: Install a Security System
The price of security systems has steadily receded. It is possible to purchase a camera-monitoring system for under $1,000 – something that would have cost you many multiples of that just two years ago. In addition, many security firms will install systems at no-cost, if you sign up for a monitoring service. These cameras can be seen over the web, from home or at other remote locations for off-site monitoring.
Tip 9: Light It Up
Install exterior lighting around all windows and doors. Install tamper-resistant switches and change the light bulbs frequently. Properly illuminate all interior spaces; especially areas where cash is handled.
Tip 10: Don’t Establish Routines
If possible, vary your schedule. Be sure to be on-sight different days and times each week and drop by locations unannounced. Additionally, encourage your staff to vary their routine regarding banking transactions. Have employees handle all business deposits during business hours; however, have them take different routes and visit the bank at different times.
These ten tips should help keep you, your business and your employees safer. Remember, it is always better safe than sorry.