From the October 1998 issue of Entrepreneur

Each year, 4 million American women are assaulted by an intimate partner. That may sound strictly like a personal issue, but domestic violence is also a business problem. The impact of that violence spills over into the workplace in the form of increased absenteeism, high insurance costs for medical claims, lower productivity, and the risk to other employees if the batterer decides to attack his partner at work. In fact, the Justice Department reports that husbands and boyfriends commit 13,000 acts of violence against women in the workplace every year, and more than 70 percent of employed victims say their abusers have harassed them at work. Perpetrators cause more than 60 percent of their victims to be either late to or absent from work.

What should you do if you either suspect or have evidence that one of your employees is a victim of domestic violence? It may be tempting to turn a blind eye or, as many companies have done, terminate the employee because of substandard performance. But that doesn't do anything to help the victim avoid serious injury or death; it also doesn't do anything to preserve your corporate investment in that employee's training and work.

A better strategy is to find a way to help. The American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Domestic Violence and Tort and Insurance Practice Section has launched an outreach campaign called "Domestic Violence: It's Everyone's Business." The campaign's centerpiece is a brochure that outlines ways victims can prepare to leave an abusive relationship and measures they can take to minimize the danger of that action, including tips for making themselves safer at work.

Providing all employees with this brochure, even if you're unaware of any specific situations, lets them know you'll support them if they have a problem.

The ABA provides free copies of the brochure and offers a free Domestic Violence Safety Kit that includes a disk or camera-ready copy of the brochure and additional information. To obtain the brochure or the kit, contact Angela Boykin at (312) 988-6229 or e-mail her at BoykinA@staff.abanet.org

Play It Safe

Small companies can have big-company safety programs.

Workplace accidents can be expensive, both in terms of dollars lost and the human suffering involved. But many companies don't need a full-time safety director, which is why Lanny R. Berke, president of Safety Solutions of Minnesota Inc. in Plymouth, Minnesota, created the External Safety Director (ESD).

According to Berke, hiring an ESD allows a company to have a safety director without hiring a person for that job. Berke's services include safety reviews, workplace safety programs and products, accident and hazardous situation prevention, new product hazard analysis, and training.

Although it's impossible to measure the impact of accidents that don't happen, Berke points out that few companies are immune to the repercussions of potentially crippling litigation after an incident or citations by federal agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or Consumer Products Safety Commission.

"I help companies identify and eliminate hazards and risky situations, I develop and establish the programs they need, and I train their employees to keep them going," Berke says. "My intent is to work myself out of a job as quickly as I can."

To find a safety consultant, Berke recommends asking colleagues for recommendations. Then ask candidates for details of what they'll do for you, request and check their references, and evaluate their credentials and experience.

Name Dropping

Should you change your company's name?

Does your company's name accurately reflect what you do, where you operate and whom you serve? If not, it may be time for a change.

A company's name can be a tremendous marketing tool--but only if people remember it, says Rudy J. Alvarado, CEO and chairman of Advancia, a high-tech consulting firm in Oklahoma City.

When Alvarado purchased a controlling interest in Advancia eight years ago, it was going by the name of LB&M. Because the name was created by previous owners, it had no meaning and no relevance to the current operation, so last year, Alvarado changed the moniker to Advancia. If your company is in a similar situation, Alvarado offers these suggestions:

  • Choose the new name carefully. Be sure no one else is using a similar name that would cause confusion. Protect the name by registering it with the appropriate agency in your state and, if applicable, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Washington, DC.

Alvarado chose Advancia because it was a "coined word" that isn't listed in the dictionary, meaning it would be easier to trademark and protect; it was available as a Web address; and it doesn't translate to mean something negative in other languages.

  • Get your customers involved. Two years before the change, Alvarado began telling clients a name change was in the works.
  • Keep your employees informed. Let employees know what the impact on them will be. Alvarado encouraged employees to submit suggestions for the new name.
  • Make the announcement a marketing event. The day the company name officially changed, Alvarado presented employees and clients with coffee mugs, pens and T-shirts emblazoned with the new name and logo.
  • Establish a transition period. For a while, you may want to answer the phone with both names and include the old name on printed materials.

Next Step

Educate yourself and your employees on domestic violence and safety planning. For more information and for referrals to resources in your area, contact the National Domestic Violence Safety Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE.

Contact Sources

Advancia Corp., alvarado@advancia.com, http://www.advancia.com

Safety Solutions of Minnesota Inc., 4470 Forestview Ln., Plymouth, MN 55442, (612) 559-1534