Published on Mar 4, 2010
When it comes to business security, being self-employed has plusses and minuses.On the plus side, having few or no employees other than yourself reduces the number of people you need to watch and worry about. According to the 2008 National Retail Security Survey, employees were responsible for 43 percent of unexplained losses by retailers, compared to just 36 percent for shoplifting. Fewer employees means fewer fingers in the pie. The flipside of fewer hands for the small business owner is that most of the security you do have will be your responsibility. Fortunately most of the common security pitfalls in business can be avoided if you pay attention to some simple precautions: Open the mail yourself. Don't delegate this chore. Most of the mail you'll receive will be routine in nature, and this task could easily be assigned to an employee. But that one piece in a thousand is the one you can't afford to miss seeing first. It's harder for a bookkeeper to embezzle funds if she knows you glance over every bank statement. Returned check notices come in the mail, as do complaints—and you don't want either hidden from you. Once you've opened the mail, someone else can process it. But you must permit yourself to learn first-hand what's coming into your business or, in some cases, what isn't coming in. Establish a secure network access and file management system. Use passwords, and change them often. Restrict access to your electronic files as much as you can. No one needs to know all about your business but you. Back up your data every day and store that backup disk or tape in a location away from the site of your computer. Maintain confidentiality. Be discreet about how much you reveal of your business or personal information to anyone, including your banks. Your accountant and attorney need and deserve your full disclosure in order for them to serve your needs properly. Their confidentiality obligations to clients are universally respected. But others, such as banks, creditors, and suppliers will always ask for far more than they actually need. Just because they ask for it doesn't require you to give it. Negotiate on a need-to-know basis. Use locks and alarms—or the appearance of same. Lock up your confidential files and valuable equipment and change the locks periodically. Signs and cameras (convincingly fake or entirely real) can be a good deterrent to shoplifting and other crimes of opportunity. And there's no need to let the staff know whether that camera leads to an actual security tape. The sophistication of your security systems is limited only by your budget. Consult with a security firm and get a menu of choices and prices in order to evaluate what would be most cost effective for your business. What are some of the other easy and low-cost ways to ensure security at a small business?