You can't eliminate risk, although you can--with the help of insurance policies--limit its impact on your business. But insurance isn't the only answer. You can and should control your exposure to risk by instituting programs to minimize it. Use this checklist to battle the loss of proprietary information, prevent crime and ensure that you're insured.
Protecting Proprietary Information
Make sure everyone who sees your secret information is aware that it's secret. Notify partners, customers, suppliers and employees exposed to proprietary secrets that the material is confidential. Get them to agree not to use it against you or disclose it to anyone without your written permission. Get this in writing; have them sign these nondisclosure agreements. Stamp documents "Confidential".
Enforce physical security. Put up some "No Trespassing" signs, erect fences, lock entrances and exits, and hire security guards. Lock your secrets up.
Use employee and visitor identification badges to control access to your business. Establish rules requiring people to sign sensitive documents in and out.
Set up passwords. Use them to access computers, copiers, fax machines and other machines that could be used to copy or transmit secrets.
When employees leave, take measures to ensure that secrets don't leave with them. Collect sensitive materials from the offices of terminated employees before allowing them to return to their desks. And before they go, remind them of the nondisclosure documents they signed.
General Crime Prevention
Be wary of people who don't appear to belong in or around your business. Ask them questions. If their answers are vague, unconvincing or suspicious, call the police.
Encourage employees to keep their personal possessions in sight at all times. Don't leave purses of briefcases unattended in public areas or unlocked offices anywhere. It only takes a matter of seconds for things to disappear.
Instruct everyone to lock office doors when they step out, even for just a minute.
Install deadbolt locks on external doors. Burglars typically spend no more than a few minutes or even seconds attempting to break into a building. Sturdy, properly installed deadbolt locks on all external doors are a must.
Have a trustworthy locksmith rekey locks on all new facilities as soon as you move into them.
Install outdoor floodlights to eliminate dark areas where criminals might hide. Make sure parking areas are well-lit.
Never leave the keys in company cars or other vehicles. Have a sign-in board where they can only be picked up by authorized employee. Also, never leave car doors unlocked.
Join business community groups that have the mission of fighting crime. When companies join together to fight crime, they can make a significant difference.
Giving Your Business an Insurance Checkup
The following is a list of the common business assets you should consider protection against damage and loss:
Automobiles, trucks, construction equipment and other mobile property.
Buildings you own or lease.
Cash and securities.
Computer equipment and media, such as diskettes, tapes and drives.
Furniture, equipment and supplies.
Improvements to the premises.
Intangibles such as trademarks and good will.
Outdoor property not attached to a building, such as signs and fences.
Records and papers, including accounts receivable, books and other documents.