Face it: The phrase 'business compliance' isn’t thrilling. In fact, many owners regard it as so boring they tend to neglect compliance altogether. But compliance isn’t really a bore, especially if you find your operation looking at a hefty fine or punishment.
Five Business Compliance Tips to Heed
Depending on the type of product or service you sell, the industry you’re in, and how many regulations govern your field, business compliance may be a minor challenge or major hurdle. But it’s clearly something you have to tackle head on.
Here are five essential pointers to keep in mind:
1. Take Inventory of Compliance Actions
Whether you have some a compliance strategy in place or no compliance program, the first step is to take inventory of the situation in your firm at the moment. According to Arbour Group, a leading provider of regulatory compliance products, you should begin by making a list.
The list should include three categories: fully compliant, partially compliant, and not compliant. Next, methodically detail each and every business action under the appropriate heading.
After organizing your compliance actions this way, you’ll be able to prioritize your time and energy. You can take immediate action on the “not compliant” list and shift those items into the “partially compliant” column until everything (one would hope) ends up in the “fully compliant” category.
2. Assign Responsibility
If your company is ready to take compliance seriously, the process requires someone’s full attention. As the owner, you have many other matters to tackle -- not just compliance.
So if you want to be serious about compliance, make it someone’s full-time job. Perhaps the notion of hiring compliance employees might sound expensive, but you have to think about the potential cost of a slip-up.
A compliance error could cost you two, three, or five times the amount you’re likely to invest in the salary for a compliance officer. This is a worthwhile calculation when you make the decision.
There are several different modes of thought with regard to the design of a compliance department. You can choose a centralized structure, where one CCO oversees all other departments, or a decentralized structure in which each department has its own compliance officer.
'Either model can work,' says Nicole Sandford, a thought leader in enterprise compliance. 'The trick is ensuring that the compliance officer has enough authority and bandwidth to make compliance a priority across the enterprise. If you don’t have a lot of people whose only job is compliance, how can you ensure that the people responsible within the business units give compliance the same attention as everything else they are responsible for?'
3. Make Room in the Budget
In addition to placing the right people, you need to ensure they have the ability to make any necessary changes. This means supplying them with an appropriate budget and fiscal resources to keep everything above water.
Budgeting goes hand in hand with hiring. If you hire people you trust, then you don’t have to worry about the budget. Provide them with what you can afford and then step away. But if you aren’t totally confident in your staff, you might have to do a bit more oversight.
4. Stay Organized
Organization and good record-keeping are vital to remaining compliant. You need a formalized strategy that enables you to stay on top of everything and locate any critical piece of information quickly.
'Regardless of whether your processes are paper-based or electronic, you must be able to both access and control your information,' explains Docfinity, a leader in enterprise content management. 'Management will ultimately be accountable for any documentation that is lost or misfiled. If auditors should request specific information, often it will have to be produced within a twenty-four-hour timeframe. Can your current system fulfill that requirement?'
5. Never Take a Breather
It’s tempting to assume you have things under control and let your foot off the gas pedal once you’ve set the process in motion, but you can’t afford to do that. Rules and regulations change constantly, so you can’t take a breather. If you sense that your team is getting worn out, find a way to reshuffle the structure as way of injecting some new energy into your compliance functions.
Proactive vs. Reactive
In business, there are times to be proactive and other times when it’s smarter to be reactive. Compliance falls under the category of proactive.
You can’t take a 'wait-and-see' approach because it’ll be too late by then. Admittedly, compliance isn’t fun. It’s in a class with having to put new tires on your car or purchase life insurance.
You probably won’t derive immediate satisfaction from compliance, but you should enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re better prepared for whatever might happen down the road. You have an opportunity, right this very moment, to start taking compliance seriously.
It doesn’t have to be a convoluted mess of a process. With the right planning and careful execution, you might experience little resistance.