If you already operate your own business in Florida or if you are starting up your own new business, congratulations. Starting a new business can be exciting, and being your own boss can be genuinely gratifying. But running a business can also be somewhat dangerous, and you’ll face many types of risk as a business owner. In spite of those risks, and whether your business is a sole proprietorship or a corporate giant, you can prepare for and deal effectively with risks if you know what to look for.
When risk emerges, it’s the business owners who are well-prepared who are able to reduce risk’s negative impact. Some of your risks are legal, so you ‘ll want to start by consulting a good business lawyer, and in Central Florida, an experienced Daytona Beach small business attorney. Dollar losses, lost time and productivity, and negative impacts on clients and customers can all be minimized in almost every risk situation. Let’s take a closer look at four broad categories of business risks.
1. PHYSICAL RISKS
Physical risks are the risks to your physical safety and the safety of your employees, customers or clients, and visitors. In a workplace setting, location risks and physical risks must be identified and dealt with. Location risks include natural disasters – floods, hurricanes, blizzards, and tornadoes – but also nearby fires, explosions, and crime incidents. Building risks include fires and explosions inside the workplace as well as building maintenance (safe stairways and sufficient lighting, for example) and hazardous chemical spills or exposures. To manage the physical risks and potential physical risks facing a business, owners should:
- Make sure all employees know the location of all exits.
- Install fire alarms and smoke detectors and check them routinely.
- Consider a sprinkler system to offer added protection.
- Make sure all employees know the exact address to give a 911 operator in an emergency.
- Inform all employees that safety is the top priority.
Employees who work with hazardous materials must be fully trained to handle such items safely. Owners must make certain that a job site is routinely inspected for leaks, spills, wet floors, and other risks, and owners must have those conditions fixed promptly. Keep halls, aisles, and walkways safely maintained, and reduce the possibility of trip-and-fall injuries by keeping junk and clutter from piling up.
Business owners should create and implement a plan to promote safety and to deal with the immediate effects of any safety-related incident. In particular, insurance companies and local fire departments often provide advice – and even workshops and seminars for owners and employees – on workplace safety, how to avoid workplace accidents, and how to respond when and if workplace accidents happen.
2. EMPLOYEE RISKS
Employee risks cover a wide range of potential threats to a business. Alcoholism and drug abuse are ongoing and continuing risks. Employees facing these issues should be strongly encouraged to seek appropriate treatment or counseling. Partial coverage for some of the costs of treatment may be covered in some insurance policies. Illness and the overall health of your workforce are also risk concerns. Consider implementing an employee health awareness program that encourages exercise, a healthy diet, and regular checkups.
Crime, unfortunately, is also an employee risk for too many businesses. Theft, fraud, and embezzlement are perennial, but a process that requires two signatures for checks and other transactions can help reduce opportunities for embezzlement and fraud. Strict accounting procedures may also help, and for some positions, comprehensive background checks are imperative. However, business owners may need a business attorney’s advice, because federal and state laws govern background checks and how they may be conducted.
3. TECHNOLOGY RISKS
In the 21st century, businesses also face technology risks. Gas-driven generators can provide most businesses with the electricity they need to endure most power failures and blackouts. In larger manufacturing plants, you may need several large auxiliary generators. High-performance back-up batteries and surge protection devices are virtually imperative to avoid damage to computer equipment and the loss of vital documents.
Insurance is a basic tool for dealing with many kinds of risks. Fire insurance is imperative for any business occupying a physical location. Purchase insurance from someone you can trust, and read every detail of a policy. If you aren’t certain about the terms of a policy, seek your business attorney’s advice. Have adequate insurance and review your policies routinely to make sure they’re still adequate. When insurance can’t meet all of your risk-related needs, you might consider forming an LLC or a corporation, which will protect your personal assets from judgments and claims against the business.
4. LEGAL RISKS
Businesses also face legal risks. Product liability and premises liability lawsuits, employee discrimination claims or wage and hour claims, zoning, environmental, and advertising regulations all pose potential legal risks that require a business owner to be constantly vigilant. Implement procedures that protect the confidential information of your employees and clients, and ensure that your employees fully understand the need for confidentiality. With clients, use written contracts that state precisely the scope of your costs, products, and/or services.
If you hire immigrants, an entire set of additional laws – immigration laws – will have to be considered. Under federal law, employers who knowingly hire employees who are ineligible to work in the United States can be cited and penalized. Companies that hire employees must also be I-9 compliant. The I-9 is a document that’s required by law for every employee, and it’s the government’s main tool for determining if an immigrant is qualified to work in the United States. The government strictly enforces I-9 compliance.
Business owners might also want to consider formal employment contracts that include nondisclosure and non-compete agreements. Have a business attorney explain the advantages of such contracts, review your ongoing contracts, and draft your future contracts. In Central Florida, an experienced Daytona Beach small business attorney can review all of a business owner’s potential legal risks and help owners implement solutions to possible legal problems – before those problems can emerge and damage your business.
Risk is a natural part of our lives, so naturally, it’s also a part of doing business. But in the 21st century’s litigious, heavily-regulated business environment, the counsel and services of an experienced small business lawyer are indispensable. If you own a business, let an experienced small business lawyer advise you regarding risk, liability, and insurance – before you take any more risks.