As state and local governments continue to make major changes to regulations and increase penalties for noncompliance, small businesses are struggling to revamp their compliance processes while also maintaining day-to-day business operations. Besides compliance pressures, there are financial implications as well: The Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy reported that businesses with less than 20 employees spend 36 percent more on regulatory costs than large organizations.
Never before have the risks of noncompliance been greater. Now more than ever, small businesses need to take a critical look at their compliance processes to ensure they have a sound system in place to keep track of key dates and important information. If not, it might be time to consider bringing in a third party to help manage the compliance process for them.
Having a system that is spread across multiple people and uses multiple programs isn’t really a system at all. Not only can this type of process be a huge resource drain, it may also be giving a false sense of compliance security.
The following steps can help evaluate and implement best practices to keep ahead of the game:
1. Assess your company’s resources (staff, time, and money) dedicated to compliance. A quick audit will show that it’s usually not only legal, but multi-departmental resources, involved.
2. Centralize responsibility by determining which department should have ownership of business compliance. Typically it’s the legal department.
3. Gain control of your compliance calendar by keeping it in one secure area to ensure accountability. Visibility and accessibility are key to tracking important dates and assigning tasks.
4. Establish lines of communication and collaboration among key stakeholders, creating standardized processes and controls for accountability.
5. Repurpose data. Opt for pre-filled forms that can be reused, saving hours of effort and improving accuracy.
6. Store and organize evidence of your filings to create an audit trail even if you are filing electronically.
7. Document and publish your systems and procedures so if one key person leaves the company, the compliance knowledge doesn’t go with him or her.
8. Look into Web-based compliance tools. Sometimes they can be less expensive than creating or recreating one on your own.
Diane K. Brown
Executive Vice-President and General Manager
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