When starting a business, entrepreneurs have a lot to think about. Often, the owner is responsible for sales, marketing, accounting, merchandising—the list goes on. While all that is important, don’t forget that you’re also head of security. And unfortunately, this is often a full-time job in itself. However, you can take steps to make your security role easier if you know what threats you face.
What Are the Threats?
If your business has a brick-and-mortar location—and especially if it’s a retail operation—you’re probably very familiar with the need for physical business security. Burglary is extremely common for businesses, and small businesses may be even bigger targets because they often lack the security features and loss prevention budgets of big retail chains.
What many people don’t realize, though, is that small businesses are being increasingly targeted in cybercrimes. Small businesses have valuable information too, like credit card numbers and personally identifying information that can be used in identity theft. These types of threats must be taken seriously and guarded against. In fact, some laws state that businesses without proper safety measures are just as liable as the burglar.
Here are six tips for maximizing business safety and security.
1. Install Security Cameras
If you have a physical location, you’ll definitely want security cameras running. Not only is the footage invaluable in the event of shoplifting or a break-in but just the presence of the cameras is often enough to deter many would-be crooks.
Cameras are cheap these days, too. You don’t necessarily need an elaborate system—a few wireless smart cameras can work just fine if you’re on a budget. Whatever setup you go for, you’ll want to make sure that the cameras have high enough resolution to make out faces. This precaution is important if you need to go to the police because it can be almost impossible to identify a suspect without a clear shot of their face. Night vision is also important for after-hours security.
2. Install an Alarm System
It’s a good idea to have some sort of alarm system installed on your premises. In the event of a break-in, the alarm can alert both you and the authorities to the situation and hopefully minimize losses. And, like cameras, alarms are also great deterrents. Many criminals won’t attempt the break-in if they know an alarm is present, and if they do break in, the sound may be enough to scare them off before they can grab any merchandise.
Monitored alarm systems, those with a remote center always monitoring the system, are probably your best bet for a business security system. There may be a monthly monitoring fee, but often the price will be worth knowing someone is watching your property 24/7 for signs of suspicious activity. Plus, many of these systems are quite comprehensive—putting together a complete system on your own with alarms, glass break detectors, motion sensors, lighting, and cameras can be both expensive and time-consuming. As a business owner, time is probably your biggest commodity, so consider going professional to save the hassle.
3. Use Strong Passwords
This tip applies to both brick-and-mortar locations and online-only businesses. Passwords should be secure and unique, whether it is for a POS system, an alarm code, a WordPress login, or an email account. Never use a password that is tied to your personal life in any way—birthdays are common, and horrible, password options. You also never want to use the same password for more than one service, as this makes it easier for hackers to gain access to your accounts. If your passwords are all the same and they get one, they get them all.
To create a strong, safe password consider the following guidelines:
- Make your password at least six characters long
- Ensure each password is unique for each platform
- Change your password quarterly
- Contain a mixture of lower and upper cases letter, numbers, and symbols
- Avoid personal information or common words and phrases
4. Have a System in Place for Closing Shop
If you have multiple employees, consider keeping a log of who is responsible for locking up at the end of the day. Limit the number of employees with access to keys, and have them sign off at the end of the day when they lock the doors. If you have an alarm system, give any employee with access a unique password (see above). Also, use ledgers to double-check the math any time the safe is opened or money is handled, and make sure witnesses sign off on the numbers.
The idea here is to create a paper trail of signatures and responsibility for your employees. Say your storefront is robbed overnight and the alarm does not go off. This typically means it was not armed in the first place. Knowing who was responsible is critical, and having them sign off forces accountability. It also helps to mitigate internal theft, which is an unfortunately common problem for any size business. In fact, internal theft accounts for 64% of small business burglaries. Perform routine internal safety checks to prevent robbery within your company. Make sure to track and update your inventory of office equipment, IT equipment, office furniture, and products. Also, distribute the workload and financial responsibilities among a team instead of leaving one employee responsible for the all the company’s finances.
5. Educate Your Employees About Potential Scams
Many security breaches happen accidentally from within an organization. Employees will unintentionally open a malicious link that starts a malware attack and sends private information to a hacker. Teach your employees about common scams and educate them about what to do and not do when they receive suspicious emails.
6. Create an Emergency Disaster Plan
Know potential threats and emergencies relevant to your location. If you live in Kansas, tornados are a bigger threat than floods. If you live in California, earthquakes are a real threat. Know which natural threats are relevant to your location and know what to do should something occur. Having a plan and knowing what to do instinctively can save your life in the event of a disaster.
Also, you’ll want to create a communication plan for your employees and discuss what everyone will do in case of a disaster. Talk with each employee about what they will do, where they will meet, and how they will communicate with one another. If communication lines are down, it’s important to have a central meeting location established so everyone can meet and re-group. Discuss different disaster scenarios and come up with a communication and action plan that everyone knows and can enact if necessary.
Provide an emergency kit for each employee to keep at their desk. If a disaster occurs, everyone will have the necessary items to survive, and even walk home if necessary.
Emergency kits should include:
- One gallon of water
- Non-perishable food/snacks
- Walking shoes
- Rubber gloves
- Toilet paper or tissue
- Ibuprofen or Tylenol
Of course, you can use plenty of other tactics to help boost security, but these six will go a long way and make your business more secure in the long run.