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How a small businesses can spot BIG risks

There are a hundred and one things that can give your business nightmares. So it is important to spot threats before they turn into major problems. Here are a few tips on how to sleep soundly.

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There are a hundred and one things that can give your business nightmares. So it is important to spot threats before they turn into major problems. Here are a few tips on how to sleep soundly. Don't sweat the small stuff Your business is like a body. Everything is important but some bits are vital. Prioritise the people, equipment and information that are crucial. By thinking about which things matter most, you can focus your time (and money) on protecting them. For example, instead of filing away documents you will never really need why not back up your mobile phone SIM card, since it contains all the phone numbers of your key customers and suppliers. Keep your finger on the pulse If something is important to a business, there's likely to be a product or service out there to watch over it. There are services which can alert you when your website goes down, detectors for water leaks, lone worker monitors and even alarms which can switch on webcams for you to have a look at your premises. (So you can watch the disaster unfolding even while you are on holiday!) Keep your eyes on the horizon New laws and regulations can seriously affect your business. Yet you don't have time to monitor bills going through parliament or follow the progress of a new directive taking shape in Brussels. Join a trade association or business support organisation, such as the FPB, who will keep you abreast of things and sign up for news alerts. Let other people be your eyes and ears Your staff, suppliers and customers are a large network of potential information. Ensure they know what things matter to you and how to contact you if they learn something important. E.g. an acquaintance calls your mobile straightaway when he learns about a lawsuit involving your biggest customer. Know thy neighbour Getting to know your neighbours can produce a range of useful information that may help protect your business. You could learn that they are a qualified first aider or that they are keen to share the cost of anti-vandal paint or CCTV cameras. Alternatively, you may notice that they have no fire extinguishers, and a leaky sink located directly above your computer! Do a risk assessment Risk assessments are often used for health and safety issues. However, you should be alert to any hazard that might damage your business. Try the following exercise - imagine if you wanted to sabotage your own business! You will realise how easy would it be to: break in overload that shelf which is above your computer block that drain cover in the warehouse ring the Health & Safety Executive about your staff using the wrong ladders Single points of failure Try to spot the single points of failure in your business. This can be the one piece of equipment which could bring your entire operation to a halt. Though it may not be just equipment you are overly reliant on. It could be a person, a customer or a supplier. Damage limitation Things will no doubt go wrong at some point. How you react can avoid calamity and will also be seen as a measure of your professionalism. Therefore, a business continuity plan is essential. It details how you plan to cope when things go wrong. So when the customer calls you in a panic you can reply: "Yes, we had a fire over the weekend. But we have arrangements to work elsewhere and have alternate stock supplies. Your deliveries will happen as normal. We won't let you down." Get some outside perspective There is a reason why we don't let our children mark their own exams! It is too easy to be complacent and think we have solved all the problems. It can be really useful to get some outside perspective on where your business might be vulnerable. There are a variety of sources who can offer opinions on your security, business continuity or emergency plans – local crime prevention officers, health and safety officers, fire brigade, suppliers/customers, insurers, etc. Here today, gone tomorrow Things change. Your business environment is in a constant state of flux. The person or problem that was a threat yesterday may be gone today. Alternatively, you may be faced with a whole set of new risks when you move offices, install new equipment, downsize or grow. Schedule some time every few months to re-assess your business risks, so that you are here today and here tomorrow. About the author Stephen Belshaw works at Safe in the Knowledge ( We provide an online tool to check your own disaster planning arrangements and those of your key suppliers. Ensure your health and safety policies are up to date by subscribing to the latest edition of the FPB's Health & Safety Guide. Email to find out more.