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Taking care of business

There are some key threats to business that many business owners forget about or don’t get around to addressing adequately – internal fraud, inability to work, disaster management and insurance considerations.

Owning a business has its distinct advantages. Choosing your work hours and being able to make decisions for your own future are just two, but this higher level of freedom takes a back seat when things go wrong… and as any business owner knows, things can and do go wrong just like in any other pursuit in life. 

Smart business owners plan ahead for even the most unexpected threats but as times change, these threats come in different forms. I’m going to highlight a few below with suggestions on how to deal with them before they affect your hard-earned freedom.

Protection against fraud

Personal and business fraud costs innocent Australians billions of dollars each year. The latest statistics available quote $6.05 billion annually, but that was reported back in 2011 by the Australian Institute of Criminology. With technology and fraudsters getting smarter by the year, it would be safe to say that this figure is now much higher. With increased awareness, many people do take precautions to protect themselves; however a business can be a more attractive target for fraud – both externally and internally. 

Every good business owner knows about protecting computer systems against external attack, but what happens when attack comes from inside? 

If you employ staff, don’t rely on glowing CVs. With so many former “star” employees now sitting in jail cells for committing fraud in the workplace, employee screening is now an integral part of the hiring process. Many independent services are available and cover everything from employment history checks through to full police checks. In addition, specialist insurance policies provide protection against “white collar crime”. Paying a little bit more for these services not only brings peace of mind but another level of freedom.

Who can you rely on?

It’s crucial that all business owners have appropriate personal and business insurance cover if they are unable to work due to illness or an accident, but that will only look after the financial costs – who will manage business operations if you can’t? 

If you are the only person in your business (and over 60% of businesses in Australia – nearly 1.3 million – do not employ staff), it is imperative to have all of your operations and procedures clearly documented. But it doesn’t stop there – if something happened to you, who would know where those documents are and how to access them? A wife or husband may have a general understanding of a business, but if they have to step into it on a full-time daily basis, will they know how it all works? Set aside some time to take them through your procedures and show them where key material is located. 

If you don’t have a partner who can step in, ask a trusted friend or colleague if they could look after the basics to keep your business operating in the short term. Most importantly, make sure they know where your procedures and important documents are located now, not when you might be unable to tell them.

Having a good contingency plan to cover your absence is vital – knowing that someone will be able to pick up the reins will mean the difference between keeping your business operating and having to close it down.

Disaster strikes!

What would happen if a disaster – natural or man-made – struck your business? Would you be ready? How long would it take to get back on your feet? Would you fully recover? Here are four key areas to address to help maintain your freedom:

  1. A good business disaster recovery plan must be documented (not just in your head) and copies provided to all key personnel. Everyone should know what to do in the event…
  2. Business interruption insurance cover can cover major outlays such as setting up new premises or re-establishing computer equipment.
  3. Important original business documents such as mortgage papers trust deeds, corporate registers, and signed agreements should be kept securely off-site, with scanned copies backed up in a separate location. 
  4. All computer files should be backed up daily with a current copy located off-site. If you don’t have a separate location to store backed up files, copy them to a cloud-based server.

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