Whether you’ve just invented your business idea and rolled out a business plan or you are a seasoned entrepreneur, you need to protect your business. If you don’t secure what you’ve worked so hard to build, you’ll be creating loopholes that anyone can exploit to bring your business down.
Here are the top four elements of your business you should safeguard:
1. Legal Documents
Documentation, although usually considered mundane, plays an essential role in protecting the interests of your business.
A piece of paper may not directly seem to impact business success, but it offers immense protection if a legal issue arises later on.
Here are the legal documents your business needs to stay protected:
- Employment Contracts – A written agreement clarifies many expectations from the side of both the employer and employee and prevents future conflicts. Typically, an employment agreement encompasses benefits, confidentiality, compensation, responsibilities, and more.
- Confidentiality agreements – Enforcing a confidentiality agreement helps you to safeguard the secret to your trade or product. The agreement prevents an employee from revealing company information and secrets to third parties, including the competitors.
- Employee performance or discipline agreements – Sometimes, employees can slack in their duties and still expect to receive full compensation or even promotions. If you have an agreement defining employee performance and discipline, you’ll avoid a professional and legal conflict that could ruin your company’s reputation.
- Employee handbook – It has useful information about the rights and obligations of employees. The handbook contains details such as leave policy, safety and security, standards of conduct, anti-discrimination, and harassment policies. The document helps your business to avoid penalties and civil fees.
2. Customer Data
According to a Forbes Insight report, 46 percent of companies experienced damage to their brand value and reputation because of a privacy breach.
One of the ways to avoid data breaches is to safeguard your customers’ data.
That’s why it should be every company’s priority to:
- Maintain the integrity of customer data by keeping it accurate and up-to-date
- Safeguard data confidentiality by ensuring that only authorized employees access it
- Keep data available to the staff that needs it
Protecting customer data minimizes privacy breaches, which, in turn, builds trust, as customers prefer your business to that of your competitors who don’t have such controls.
Besides, it means your organization won’t have to deal with civil suits, fines, or multi-year penalties as a result of breaches.
Other than using strong passwords, the different methods of protecting customer data include:
- Limiting access to customer information
- Collecting only the necessary customer information
- Staying current on and using the latest encryption practices
- Educating everyone about customer privacy
- Consider destroying sensitive data after using it
- Let your customers know their data is protected
- Using two-factor authentication along with strong passwords to protect data
Niches like healthcare and banking have set regulations to follow, but even without those policies, every business should strive to protect their customer’s data.
3. Financial Documents
Regardless of your organization’s size, you are likely to end up with many financial records while running the business.
Examples include invoices, tax reporting forms, payroll reports, bank statements, receipt records, income statements, and more.
Protecting financial information not only prevents identity theft but also ensures rival companies don’t steal the data and use it to outsmart you. Likewise, if you ever want to sell or merge your company, you will need to present some financial documents as a part of due diligence.
So, how do you keep financial documents safe?
Embrace Digital Storage
Long ago, businesses used to keep their financial records in paper form. While you may choose to keep some of your files in hard copy, that’s no longer the best approach.
Paper documents not only take up a lot of space, but they also fade with time, which may interfere with the information on them.
So, you may need to keep all your files in digital format or back up all your paper documents in digital form.
Back-Up the Digital Files
Keeping all your electronic files in one place is risky. A computer crash or single malware can corrupt all your documents in seconds. To avoid such a catastrophe, consider storing digital copies in the cloud.
Protect the Documents
Even after backing up the documents on a different server, you may need to protect them from hackers, malware, and other cyber threats. Financial records usually contain sensitive details, such as credit card and social security numbers, that can be misused if cybercriminals gain access.
Thus, it’s essential to keep the files safe by ensuring every storage location has passwords, antivirus software, the latest encryption code, and more.
4. Intellectual Property
Every business has some assets to protect.
When establishing your presence in the marketplace, you’ll want to manage and protect your intellectual property. Protect your business by integrating intellectual property into your planning and strategy.
The various forms of intellectual property worth protecting include:
- Confidential information – Sensitive information, such as software code, product design, or marketing strategy, should be protected. A good example is Coca Cola’s secret formula that’s remained unknown for decades.
- Copyright – It’s the right that prevents anyone from copying your product without permission. The copyright’s duration may vary depending on the type of work.
- Patent – The patent gives an inventor an exclusive right, for a specified duration, to prevent anyone else from using the invention without consent. Your work or product is patentable if it suits industrial uses, is a novel, or one of its steps involves invention.
- Trademark – It identifies services or products as provided or produced by a particular company or person. The protection period is 10 years, but it’s renewable once you pay renewal fees.
Businesses handle sensitive information every day, whether it’s customer data, financial records, or employer-employee details. If any of this information falls into the wrong hands, it can have far-reaching effects on your business.
That’s why it’s essential to keep your vital business documentation safe and secured to enhance your business survival.