One of the direst threats for a businesses is that posed by crime. Businesses that neglect to address this threat do so at their peril. It may be that you are attracting custom and reaping healthy profits, but if you are not protecting your business from criminals who may wish to inflict harm upon it, then that success will be a precarious one. This much, perhaps, is unsurprising; if you have no means of preventing criminals from entering your premises, damaging your stock or hurting your staff, then your business will suffer as a result.
Crime in the UK, according to official government figures, is falling. One of the most likely driving factors in this downturn is an increased willingness among home and business owners to take the problem more seriously and to introduce new practices and technologies which help to combat it. The problem is that the criminals, too, are always looking for new and ingenious ways to undermine these measures.
In the article that follows, we’ll take a look at some of the best ways to ensure that your business is as secure as it possibly can be. Once these are put into practice, they will help to safeguard the business and ensure that the damage caused to it by crime is kept to an absolute minimum. Business owners should therefore ensure that they have taken the following actions:
Perform a risk assessment.
The first step toward solving any problem is establishing exactly what is causing it. This is just as true when it comes to securing your business as it is in all other things. A risk assessment should identify vulnerable areas and weak spots, in order that they be addressed by any subsequent action you take.
It may be that you have already fallen victim to crime. If so, then learn from your mistakes and take action, so that the same vulnerability cannot be exploited over and over again. For example, if you have an employee who leaves a door open during the night-time shift while going for a cigarette break and thereby allows a thief to get in, the best way of stopping future attacks is to ensure that the door is never left open again.
A risk assessment may reveal many such problems. Many of them may be fixable with just a few changes put into practice – these changes can be put into effect without spending any money at all, but by instructing staff as to how these problems may, in future, be avoided.
While there are some problems which can be addressed with a few changes in practice, there are others which may require some further investment.
As well as performing your own internal risk assessment, you should also seek the advice of the people who know best – the police. If your premises is in a crime hotspot, then they will know exactly where the threats are coming from and how you can lower them.
Similarly, where cybercrime is concerned, you should speak to whoever is providing you with IT equipment and services. This will enable you to protect your business against the threats posed by viruses and other malicious attacks.
Problems with information technology are often, by their very nature, intensely technical and there is no way that business owners can be expected to keep on top of them without soliciting outside advice from specialists. There is a wealth of information out there on the subject – and the state of play is constantly evolving. It is therefore important that you consult with someone who knows what they are talking about.
Secure your premises
Once you have identified the potential weak areas of your premises, you should make sure that they are properly secured. This might involve fitting additional locks and lighting, or it might involve getting rid of certain doors and windows in order to bring in more robust replacements. Burglars’ are easily deterred by impassable obstacles.
A similar deterrent comes in the form of an alarm system properly advertised with signs and flashing lights. If you have a great deal of high-value stock, then a good investment would be to put up security shutters – particularly if the site is not manned overnight.
While the cost of this may be off-putting for many small business owners, it may be economically viable in the long term because of the effect it has on your insurance premiums. Insurers recognise the value of a secure investment and, in many cases, this will be reflected in the amounts of money they will charge you.
While these general precautionary investments will prove useful, it is also important that proper training is given to everyone working on site. This will ensure that the damaging impact of any incident is minimised.
It is especially important that staff members know to co-operate with any criminals who threaten them. After all, human life and limb is worth more than whatever the thieves might intend to make off with. Ensure that tills are routinely emptied and that cash in the safe is routinely banked. Advertise these practices and put up signs to warn would-be robbers of it.
Secure your equipment
If your premises contains high-value goods and equipment, like laptops and other portable electronic devices, then it is important to keep them secure. If possible, keep them in a room which cannot easily be accessed and fit them with security tags which will enable you to track them down if they should become stolen.
Keep track of your equipment
Even if you have the most rugged security arrangements and your equipment is kept under lock and key, it may be that it nevertheless sometimes goes missing. After all, human error can make life easier for thieves and deliberate co-operation can make it easier still.
If you are in the habit of recording when and where all of your equipment is being moved around to, and by carrying out regular stock counts in order to identify discrepancies, then this danger will be minimised. Petty cash is particularly attractive to thieves, as it is portable and its absence can be disguised as (or mistaken for) an error.
Prevent employee theft
As we’ve just mentioned, one of the greatest dangers comes from your employees themselves. For this reason, it is important that your hiring process is stringent enough that potential thieves are excluded. This will include checking employment history and references in order to ensure that no wrongdoing has occurred in the employee’s past.
It is important that staff are aware of the seriousness of petty theft. Suffice to say, where theft is identified it should be dealt with decisively. This will set an example to other employees. You should co-operate with prosecutions when they are required.
Protect sensitive information
We have thus far discussed the importance of protecting a business physically. But we live in a world in which information can be just as valuable as cash and goods. For that reason, it should be handled sensitively and in accordance with the data protection act.
Whether sensitive information is stored digitally or physically, it is important that access to it is restricted. This typically means ensuring that authorised individuals are told to devise strong passwords which cannot easily be guessed. Pseudo-random acronyms which are only memorable if you know the entire sentence they spell out. For example, ‘WDBSAETYAN’ is almost impossible to commit to memory, but ‘why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near’ is not.
You should also ensure that malicious hackers cannot gain access to your sensitive data through the internet. This requires that security software, such as firewalls and anti-viruses, be installed; and it also requires that they be kept updated and thereby equipped to deal with new threats.
Properly dispose of sensitive documents
If you’ve ever seen a television drama in which someone roots through a skip in search of sensitive documents, then you’ll be aware of the cost of throwing such documents in the bin. While many of the actions thus far listed are complex and hugely dependant on circumstances of the business, this one is a great deal more straightforward. Documents containing sensitive information need to be destroyed and your office staff require a means of destroying them. You should therefore invest in a shredder and ensure that all of your employees know how to use it and when it should be used.
Evaluate your performance
Security is not something which can be permanently fixed and then never again addressed. The situation is constantly evolving – new technologies are becoming available which better protect your premises and new methods are being devised by the criminals your business needs to be protected from.
For this reason, it is important that you undertake periodic reviews – preferably by an impartial third party – in order to identify any problems before they occur and take preventative action. These security audits should ideally performed at annual intervals. Once undertaken, they can hugely benefit the security of the business as a whole and thereby it’s general performance in the long-term too.