Someone once said to me, regarding their injury whilst training for a marathon:
You’re either recovering from the last injury or trying to avoid the next one
Quite a perspective on the ‘benefits’ of becoming fit enough to run over 26 miles. However, the reason for many of the injuries suffered is that avoiding them takes effort, planning and discipline. So people don’t do it. There are many reasons a runner may fail to complete a marathon (he says having never had the desire), but an injury could prevent them from even starting or, possibly, ever being able to take part in an event.
Running a business is like running a marathon… potentially a never ending one (BTW if you thought this article was about physical fitness, best go here). So keeping the business fit and avoiding ‘injury’ also rings true. It has to be said that failure in business is a given. Failure could be due to many reasons, unprepared marketplace, insufficient funding, availability of skills but not from an injury. So, how can a business injure itself?
One of the greatest risks of ‘injury’ to a business is through not abiding with the law or keeping to required standards – usually referred to as ‘compliance’. Being ‘fit’ suggests that you are prepared to face the challenges that lay before you. Therefore, in line with many physical fitness tips on avoiding injury, here are my:
10 tips to help you run your business without injury
Whether you’ve been running a business for years or are just starting out, it’s important to avoid injuries by following some simple rules. They take effort, use of resources, planning and discipline, but in the end allow you give you the greatest chance of success.
1. Talk to experts
If you’re starting out in business, take advice. There are numerous government and EU (at time of writing) funded organisations established to provide business support. You may need to talk to regulators such about taxation, data protection, intellectual property and employment, to name a few.
If you’ve be running for some time, it’s good to keep a close eye on what the experts have to say. Make sure that you have channels open so you know that you are operating with accurate, up-to-date advice on all the regulations and standards that need your attention.
2. Choose your voluntary standards carefully
There are 1000’s of non-mandatory standards which you could commit your business to achieving. Quality Management (ISO9001), Information Security (ISO27001), Environmental Management (ISO14001). The list is nearly endless. Make sure you have a compelling business case for seeking to become compliant with one of these. It may be that your customers are starting to expect their suppliers to meet a certain standard. Some contracts have standards as prerequisites. However, they do take time to implement, so make sure there is a return on that investment.
3. Learn the proper techniques
When you identify an area that needs attention, take the time to learn out how best to tackle it. Free resources, on the internet, are great for research and ideas, but be cautious as “free” sometimes comes at a price, whether that is accuracy, completeness or age. Having said that, paid solutions can suffer from the same issues.
4. Get the right tools in place
This doesn’t mean run out and spend money on the most expensive
shoes computer systems. It does mean taking the time to ensure that your records management is effective, that you can create and maintain robust evidence and that all your staff can access and understand their part in being compliant. Where there are holes, then buy the new shoes!
5. Start gradually
Don’t try and become fit in all areas of business at once. Put a plan in place that sees you reviewing each area in turn. Look at each of the assets the business uses:
- Intellectual Property
- Brand and reputation
Depending on your industry, turnover, size and services offered, each of these may require differing levels of attention. Start with the basics of governing a business, taxation and employment to build up an initial level of fitness.
6. Warm up & Cool down
Use seminars, events, networking, business support organisations and regulatory bodies to ‘warm up’ on an area of compliance. Don’t dive into forms, templates, policies and procedures before you, and your team, are ready.
Once you’ve implemented or reviewed an area, take the time to reflect on what has been done. How has it affected the business? Have the changes created a problem elsewhere? Pause before moving on to the next exercise to check you aren’t straining the organisation.
7. Stay hydrated
As you are working through an area of compliance, keep abreast of the changes by subscribing to regulatory body newsletters. You will be able to find trusted advisory companies who provide free or low cost seminars or information sources to keep you ‘hydrated’ on the subject at hand. Suffice to say, compliance is a moving target and there are always new pieces of guidance, best practice and case law for you to drink in.
8. Balance your diet
Nutrition is important. Having the right business diet means to ensure that you are capable of maintaining this new compliance regime. Being highly compliant but bankrupt is not a sound approach, much the same as being able to run 26 miles in 2 hours but dying at the finish line! Don’t make compliance your whole world. Even if your whole role is compliance focused, make sure you fully understand the business, how it is operating and that changes in the diet of policy, procedure and culture can have both positive and negative impacts.
9. Vary your workouts
Areas of compliance tend to overlap. They definitely all use the same assets in the business, especially people and information. Focusing on a singular compliance constantly can be draining and leave other areas of the business weak. Spend time every month looking at different areas of compliance. Use the business muscles in different ways – over developing strength in one area may leave you less agile when circumstances change. Developing a balanced workout means that the business as a whole gets regular attention.
10. Know when to stop
You will never be 100% compliant. Accept that. Don’t overwork a particular area to make it perfect. There will always be an area that needs attention. Something will always be under strain. There will always be refinements. Stop, reflect, plan and focus on the areas that is now the priority.
How to treat business injuries
There is an acronym used in the treatment of physical injuries of RICE:
R: Rest the injury.
I: Ice the injury to lessen swelling, bleeding, and inflammation.
C: Apply a compression bandage to minimize swelling.
E: Elevate the injury, if possible, to reduce swelling.
This may be a bit contrived, but lets see if that can be applied to business too! A compliance injury can be called a number of things; an incident, a breach, a non-compliance (!), an event – there are many terms. These injuries can occur when procedures and processes have not been followed or if someone has deliberately sought to hurt the business. If your business has suffered an injury, then
R: Rest – If possible, suspend processing in the affected area whilst you investigate, mitigate and repair the damage
I: Immediate action – Take quick mitigating steps to stop the situation getting any worse and limit the scope. Make sure you communicate to the team what is going on.
C: Change – Implement well thought through changes to avoid the injury reoccurring. Don’t be hasty though, that could just create another problem
E: Elevate – Inform those affected by the issue and, if required, inform the regulator that you have a problem. You may have to stretch the PR muscle too.
Have you any compliance fitness tips?
Make a comment below or in social media – tips are there to be challenged, refined and revised.