From the top 19 January 2016

Betfred co-founder gives his top ten tips to safeguard your business as a small company owner

Peter Drone is well versed in business protection
Peter Done is well versed in business protection

Peter Done, co-founder of BetFred and managing director of Peninsula Business Services, uses his experience of growing companies, and advising others accordingly, to provide ten simple steps new and early-stage entrepreneurs should adopt to safeguard your business.

Running a small business in itself can be a challenging prospect, particularly with the peaks and troughs associated with the ever-changing nature of business and shifts in the economy. But sometimes, as employers, it is the smaller aspects of running a business that can catch employers off guard, leaving them susceptible to damaging consequences that could have been prevented. Below are ten tips small business owners should consider in order to help safeguard your business.

(1) Have policies in place

Policies and procedures are the cornerstone of the employment relationship. Having a policy on every issue that may crop up during employment is unrealistic, but consider what the major concerns in your organisation could be and draft a policy to set employee’s expectations. For example, if your employees travel on business, have a company car policy setting out acceptable standards of upkeep of the car.

(2) Be aware of the law

The law can work in the favour of the employer – you need to know your rights too. Naturally, employment legislation provides employees with rights in a wide variety of situations but a good awareness of how things work can also be advantageous for employers.

(3) Give yourself flexibility in contracts

A written contract of employment is a statutory requirement for employees, but careful drafting can give you the flexibility where you need it to ensure that your organisation can react quickly to changes in the economy and safeguard your business.

(4) Communicate with staff

Employee engagement does not have to be an onerous concept and when achieved, it can pay dividends. Listen to your employees when they have ideas about improving your product or your services, and make the changes where you can. No-one knows their job better than they do.

(5) Be flexible where you can

If you can help employees out occasionally with allowing a last minute annual leave day for an emergency, or adjusting an employee’s hours when they are going through a difficult time, you will build trust and loyalty and employees won’t mind when you need them to go the extra mile for you.

(6) Keep records

Keep an audit trail of everything you do. Imagine that you are giving evidence in an employment tribunal hearing regarding a conversation you had with an employee two years ago and consider how well your memory will perform. Having contemporaneous letters and notes will give you the most robust opportunity to give your side of the story, should any of your decisions be questioned. Records of some data for example, pay information, is a legal requirement.

(7) Don’t allow rule breaches to go unnoticed

Disciplinary rules will not be respected if you do not show that you mean what you say. If an employee is consistently late, for example, implement your formal disciplinary procedure. Even minor rule breaches should be addressed in order to represent the consequences of employees’ actions.

(8) Don’t put up with below par performance

Employees who do not meet the required performance standards should be dealt with. If you don’t, your organisation will not be firing on all cylinders and other employees will begin to resent having to pick up the slack.

(9) Protect your data

Your client/customer data is arguably one of your most prized possessions. Make sure your employees know that you consider this data highly confidential and any data leaks will be deemed a severe act of misconduct.

(10) Seek good advice

Getting a sound legal opinion on your position is invaluable in assessing how you should manage your employees. Employment law is constantly changing, to a degree that turning a blind eye could put employers in legal hot water. Gaining professional, impartial and practical business advice will allow you, as the owner to do what you do best, run your business.

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