In the world of business, there are two types of companies: those that protect their customers and those that don’t. In many ways, keeping your clients safe is a matter of common sense. But in others, it’s the law. If your customers can’t trust you to protect their personal data and interests, they can always find someone else who can.

Take a look at the past

Your business may not be an international powerhouse, but you can learn a lot from the mistakes made by your professional predecessors. Tyco is a great example. Back in 1999, the company was being investigated for what was deemed questionable, at best, accounting practices. What the SEC found was that three individuals had received more than $6 million in bonuses – bonuses that were never approved. Further, unreasonable expenses, such as a multimillion-dollar birthday party for one executive’s wife and a $2,000 trash can, were discovered. This revelation caused a huge upset with Tyco’s investors, as it clearly showed a blatant disregard for the company’s profit – and therefore, their financial interests.

New rules

Because of scandals like this, Congress passed new legislation to help safeguard shareholders as well as the general public against fraudulent accounting practices. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) went into effect in 2002, and essentially governs the management of paper and electronic records, and requires a traceable trail when it comes to all things financial. SOX compliance is only required of publicly-traded entities, but there are ways to implement procedures in your own small business that won’t ruin your budget. Digital Guardian goes into more detail in this online guide.

Standard operating procedures

In addition to implementing the financial practices, including recordkeeping, it’s also in your and your customers’ best interest to create standard operating procedures (SOPs). Even if you are a small company, having a set of checks and balances and an established set of procedures is a good idea. You can create an SOP in a few minutes or hours, depending on how much guidance is needed to complete the task. Typically, you’ll want to outline the scope of the specific process and get everyone involved to verify that the procedure is correct.

It really does not have to be complicated; think of your SOP as more of a guidebook. It ensures that your employees follow company processes, and it can also serve as a training guide for new hires. One area where an SOP will be extremely important is in how you obtain, use, and secure your customers’ data. explains that CRM tools and data backup are important – having an operating procedure in place will ensure these tools can do their jobs.

A culture of care

Perhaps one of the most important things you can do to keep your business, your customers, and your employees safe is to create an environment of care and awareness. Ensure that your employees are trained and know how to prioritize cyber security. You will also benefit from requiring multiple levels of approval before anyone accesses important information. This should pertain to both customer data and your company’s financial records. Encourage your employees to speak up (which can be done privately, if they prefer) if they suspect that anyone in the company is not following the rules, or if they have an idea that might improve operations or security.

Your business is your livelihood. If your customers and partners can’t trust that you will do what’s best with their money and personal information, you won’t have them for long. Implementing procedures to ensure your business runs smoothly may seem unnecessary now, but as you grow, it becomes more and more critical to your business. So, prioritize security, and don’t leave anything to chance.