It is impossible to plan for every problem that your business could face, but there are some issues where a little preparation will go a long way towards reducing the damages. Here are three areas that you should address in your business before it’s too late.
Every small business owner wants to make sure that they dot all of the ‘I’s and cross all of the ‘T’s on their way to business success, right? You go about your business and do your best to satisfy customers and employees, and run a reliable and ethical business each and every single day. On the outside, it looks like you’re doing a great job covering all the bases. But are you?
Could it be that there are some things you’re overlooking? Getting complacent when things are going well can be a dangerous thing to do. We must always be on the alert for those issues, risks, and occurrences that can knock us off course.
There is an infinite list of issues that can arise that can endanger the success of your business. Not a very comforting statement, I know, but it’s true. And just like one needs to minimize their risk exposure by selecting which risks to attack or prepare for, you can also pick and choose which issues you might address in a proactive manner to save your business much potential time, dollar and data loss.
For the purposes of this article, I’d like to touch on three of these potential damaging issues: data protection, discrimination, and organizational planning.
When I’m talking about data protection, I’m really addressing two things – protecting your Internet connection or your LAN, and backing up your sensitive data on a regular basis.
As a small business entrepreneur, I’ve been very lazy on both of these fronts in the past. I’ve gone with an unprotected local area network and I’ve gone without regular backups.
While I know for a fact outside users jumped on my unlocked network, I don’t believe at any time that any of my equipment or data was harmed or infiltrated in any way (save for one unfortunate email spamming takeover that got me shut off from my ISP for a day till I removed the damaging spyware). I now use a WAP key to protect my Internet connection from intruders, thus protecting both my data and my bandwidth.
Backing up is a far different story. I lost a third hard drive in my main laptop, which contained all of my critical business files and emails. Unfortunately, at that precise moment due to poor planning, I was without any recent backup. I essentially lost a year’s worth of data. Normally, it can cost $5,000 or more to attempt to recover the relatively small 120gb of data that I lost, but thankfully I have some good connections and may eventually get most of it back for free.
The message is – don’t take anything for granted. Backup regularly. Personally, I switched to a Macbook, bought a Time Capsule and I’m now backing up every hour using Time Machine. That may be overkill, but I’m comfortable with it. Whatever you do, do something. Don’t allow yourself to operate without at least a weekly backup – and daily is much more preferred.
The small business owner is certainly not immune to potential discrimination lawsuits involving alleged unfair hiring practices or alleged sex, age, and other similar discrimination situations.
Small business owners are often unaware that the employment discrimination laws apply to them. Since such business owners usually do not have the luxury of having large human resource departments or in-house counsel such businesses are often caught in the dark about their obligations under these laws.
Any employer that has 15 or more employees must comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Employers with 20 or more employees must also comply with the provisions of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”).
As a small business owner/executive, this means that you must educate your managers and employees on employment discrimination laws as well as educate them on the prevention of sexual and other forms of unlawful harassment. In fact, it would be wise to bring in an outside consultant to conduct the necessary training to ensure that it complies with what the law requires for your size business.
And now for everything else. Seriously though, once you’ve covered two of your three most important resources – data and personnel – then it’s time to move on to protecting your overall mode of operations and, thus, your customer in the long-run.
Step back and review how you do business. Look at the business processes that got you to where you are today. Are they doing what they need to do? Are your customers happy? Is your marketing plan working? Are your supply channels what they need to be and costing you what they need to cost? It’s never too late to re-evaluate all the processes and activities that makeup how you do business and to re-review where you’re spending your money.
New processes can make you leaner and greener, and therefore more profitable and probably more desirable to your customer. If you don’t roll with the changes, you’re destined to be consumed by them. Be proactive about change, and you’ll beat your competitors to the punch.