In 2017, there were 10,000 cases of business identity theft in the United States. Credit agency Experian reports small and midsize businesses in North America are losing up to $1 billion a year to these imposters. Crimes include tax fraud, credit card use, and website ransom. Is your business protected?
Too often, smaller businesses are targets for fraudsters because thieves realize these companies have fewer resources devoted to protection.
Fortunately, there are several simple and affordable steps you can take to guard your company against identity theft.
Monitoring service: Businesses can enroll in a monitoring service that keeps watch over the company’s credit report. The service will monitor for red flags in credit activity.
EIN: Many entrepreneurs run their businesses under their personal Social Security number. To increase protection, obtain an employer identification number (EIN) and keep personal and business finances separate.
Data protection: If you maintain paper records, use a secure mailbox, shred unneeded documents, and keep sensitive information in locked files. To guard digital files, use firewalls, anti-malware technology, and antivirus software. Change passwords quarterly, using random password generators.
Insurance: Review your insurance coverage with your provider to verify appropriate policies are in place. Cyber insurance can help protect your company against significant loss related to identity theft.
HOT BIZ TRENDS
Leverage LinkedIn to Expand Your Reach
LinkedIn is a thriving content platform that can give you plenty of organic visibility at no cost. Posting content on LinkedIn helps you grow your personal brand and connect with customers, potential employees, industry influencers, and others.
So why not capitalize on the free exposure?
Here are some tips to get people to pay attention to your postings and actually read your LinkedIn content.
LinkedIn gives more exposure to status updates, which have a limit of 1,300 characters (around 250 to 300 words), than to articles. Make sure that the first sentence of your status update is compelling. People scroll through their social media feeds quickly, and if your first sentence doesn’t grab them and make them tap “See More,” your posting is sunk.
Don’t put links in your status updates, because LinkedIn doesn’t want people leaving its platform. To share a link, place it in the first comment of your post and let people know where they can find it.
Limit paragraphs to one or two sentences. Short paragraphs are more digestible and keep readers engaged. For best results, use proven content formats such as lists, tips, case studies, and lessons learned. Even failure stories are useful to help readers connect with your content.
Encourage your network to ask you questions. Then be sure to reply to every comment on your post.
Replies don’t need to be lengthy, but the more you engage with commenters, the more visibility your content will get in the news feeds of your network.
Also, make sure your comments on other people’s posts show up in the news feeds of your connections. Remember, the more “links” you can establish with your content, the better.
Working from Home? Don’t Miss These Home Office Musts
Whether you occasionally take work home from the office or run a small business out of your spare room, your home working environment is important and should be functional and inspiring.
First off, select a location that suits your needs and your working style. Do you work best amid buzz and activity, or do you prefer a quiet space? Will clients be stopping by? If so, privacy and ample seating are essential.
Colors can affect your mood, so give some thought to the surroundings. Some people feel energized in a bright, cheery environment. Others prefer to concentrate surrounded by cool, calming tones.
Give yourself a view and make sure your office has plenty of light. Natural light is best to reduce eyestrain and prevent headaches. Position the computer monitor to avoid glare from a window or overhead light fixture.
Organize both vertically and horizontally. Give yourself plenty of storage space, including shelves, drawers, and bins. Don’t overlook uses for corners and nooks. Make sure your electronic equipment is close to outlets and easy to access. Invest in a good-quality, comfortable, ergonomically correct chair. If you’ll be spending many hours here, the added expense is well warranted.
Add some greenery. It’s been shown that plants reduce stress and increase productivity; plus, plants are an inexpensive way to add charm to a home office.
Lastly, don’t leave out your office pet. If your furry friends like to hang out in the office, a comfy bed or basket for your dog or cat is well worth building into your design.
Prevent Workplace Harassment and Resulting Lawsuits
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines harassment as “unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.” Conduct of this nature becomes unlawful when it creates “a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.”
If an employee feels he or she has experienced workplace harassment, the company may be held liable. Resulting lawsuits can prove quite costly to the employer. This makes proper precautions to prevent workplace harassment vitally important to business operations.
To protect your employees from harassment and protect your company from lawsuits, take the following steps.
Create a written policy: Put your workplace harassment policies in writing. Be sure to include clear descriptions of various types of harassment, what employees should do if they feel harassed, and what actions will be taken by the company if this occurs.
Consult with professionals: To ensure your policy adheres to current laws, ask an attorney to review your statement. He or she can ensure that it clearly defines harassment and provides a complete picture of your policy. Your regional or district office of the EEOC is another good source for guidance in creating this written policy.
Revise the handbook: Once you have prepared your written policy, make sure it is included in your employee handbook. Your handbook should also include an equal employment opportunity statement and an at-will employment statement.
If necessary, revise the current book and redistribute copies to all employees. This may require some investment of resources, but it does no good to create a policy unless everyone is made aware of it.
Train your employees: Make training on workplace harassment mandatory for employees. This might involve a video, presentation, or a simple meeting to review your policy. Ensure every employee fully understands your procedures for the reporting, investigation, and resolution of workplace harassment complaints.
When employees complete this training, have them sign an acknowledgment form that states they understand the policy. Keep these forms in each employee’s file.
Take immediate action: If an employee reports an occurrence of workplace harassment, act on the complaint right away. Don’t ignore it. Don’t put it at the bottom of the priority pile. Fully investigate any claim of harassment.
Refer to your policy for proper protocols to handle the situation. An improper response can easily lead to a lawsuit or further incidents, so making the time is well worth the effort. An immediate response helps provide a safe work environment for employees and protects your bottom line.
Put coverage in place: Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) offers coverage in the event an employee files a lawsuit regarding workplace harassment. The policy covers claims regarding discrimination, harassment, and wrongful termination as well as other employment-related matters. This insurance can be written as a stand-alone policy or may be provided as a Business Owner’s Policy endorsement.
Consult with your insurance agent to determine which type of policy and how much coverage are appropriate for your business.
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