A small business has the potential for growth and for this to happen, there is need for it to have a guide on the proposed strategies that it needs to put in place to sail through. An enterprise has very many issues affecting it, as well as others that if well considered, could eventually become part of the bigger picture. What do I mean by saying so?

Issues like going for government contracts are never in the minds of many small entrepreneurs, but if given a thought, it could become just another line of operation for the enterprise. When you search online for information, you will get thousands of pages giving you a guide to a lot of issues that an enterprise owner can engage in. A good business guide should provide you with sufficient information about how to start and plan a business.

The guide in many cases does not give details on a step by step procedure on how to go about it, but the information therein should be enough to help you formulate your idea and plan for it in writing. The guide also gives information on how to market your enterprise, both online and otherwise. You also get to see what it is that other enterprises have done in marketing themselves in order to get to where they are.

Other sections in the guide include information on how to ‘green’ your enterprise or to make it more consumer friendly, how to create favorable working conditions for your staff members, managing your finances as well as protecting the assets that belong to the enterprise. By the time you are through with looking at the guide, you will have acquired a lot of skill and knowledge on management, detecting and controlling fraud and controlling your taxes.

Introduction

It is widely recognised that Email and the Internet is here to stay! Both mediums have become a vital part of business and personal communication in a world that increasingly relies on technology. We understand its benefits and sometimes berate its downsides; too much email, lack of personal communication, spam, the risk of employees accessing inappropriate material and using employer resources for personal gain.

This gain in technology has not come without cost as increasingly employers and employees are being bought to task over breaches of copyright, confidentiality, privacy, discrimination and harassment and in some instances criminal offences (pornography, obscene and threatening material).

This fact sheet examines ways of measures you can take to greatly reduce and protect your business from legal and other risks.

Recently Monash University reported that email abuse had significantly increased as employees seek to avoid personal confrontation by sending abusive e-mails to those they had targeted or are angry with instead of speaking to them face to face.

This type of behaviour places employers at risk of claims of workplace harassment and discrimination and it is important that you take measures to ensure that this type of activity is clearly communicated as unacceptable to your employees.

By way of example, Biz Momentum undertook a sexual harassment investigation for an employer after an employee complained of sexual harassment by a work colleague. Biz Momentum found that the work colleague had unlawfully accessed 500 different pornographic web-sites over a period of 6 months and at the expense of the employer. The employer took appropriate action.

What should I include in my electronic mail & Internet policy

Biz Momentum recommends that you implement E-mail and Internet policies that includes the following key elements

1. Computer Policies and Procedures

2. E-mail and Internet for Business & Private Use

3. Audit

1. Policies and Procedures

Ensure that you have comprehensive computer policies and procedures relating to defined boundaries that protect you from legal risk for using your E-mail and Internet facilities.

Communicate these policies and procedures to your employees and new starts – ensure that they sign off on these policies. This cannot be understated in the event of a dispute and is best practice management in protecting your business interests.

2. Email for Business & Private Use

a. Be upfront – use of E-mail and the Internet is primarily for business use. If you allow reasonable private use, specify when (lunchbreak) and the type of mail employees may compose (electronic banking, child-care arrangements etc)

b. Be specific on what an employee may not access or use E-mail or the Internet for (breach of copyright, spam, masquerading, personal business gain, acts that incite hatred, discrimination to name a few).

3. Audit

Your policies and procedures should inform employees that you conduct regular computer audits in line with the law. This is not an invasive procedure but is designed to protect your business.

No matter what the size of your business, wether you have stand-alone computers or you are networked ensure that your computer logs are audited on a frequent basis.

However a word of caution! Be careful! There are various laws (Privacy Act) that define what you may or may not do when viewing computer logs and this can include not opening and reading employee E-mail or Internet sites. However by viewing the computer logs you can gain a reasonable understanding from where the traffic is directed. In most cases it is obvious if a breach of your policies and procedures has occurred.

You may find other useful small business guides at Biz Momentum (www.biz-momentum.com). You need to treat this information sensitively and take further advice from your practitioner before taking further action.

Ensure you business is protected.

Philip Lye is Managing Director of Biz Momentum providing professional services in employee relations (HR / IR Matters), training your people to work with you and not against you’, ‘coaching you’ to be a better executive and review of commercial documentation, leases and agreements.

When you are ready to start a small business, you need to be sure that you are ready. This is because it is no easy task. You have to put in long hours and work extra hard. That is why you need a small business guide. This will give you some sense of direction when starting or even when in business. It is also important to ask for assistance on how to go down this path and survive while you at it. It is essential to have a business plan. This is the first step towards getting your business going.

This plan acts as a guide on how you intend to start your business, your marketing strategies, how to overcome obstacles, your projections etc. When you have a plan, you will be organizing various aspects of your business that may occur in the future. An important part of your small business guide is of course your start up capital. This has to be enough for you to do business for at least six months.

Another item you will need for your small business guide is to recruit a qualified team of people. When you have people employed in your business, you have a higher chance of your business surviving during the first few years. If you want your business to succeed, you have to have the required training and willingness to expand your knowledge. You have to know your strengths and weakness when it comes to business. Concentrate your efforts on what works well for you and use it to the full advantage.

It is also vital to keep your business costs low until your business is capable of running on its own. When you start in a frugal way, it will be easy for you to expand in the future. If you have and follow a reliable small business guide you will eventually achieve what you need for your business.