As a small or midsize business, you've already got your hands full, don't you? You're probably working around the clock just to make ends meet and keep your momentum going. Never mind the little details that come with the job.
But those "little details" can be a killer. Take compliance, for example. Managing tax, regulatory, and business license filings might not be at the top of your daily to-do list, but it needs to be addressed--and preferably not at the last minute, in a mad scramble to avoid penalties, fines, or lost business opportunities.
"Nowadays there are a lot of changing regulations to keep track of," says Cherie Hernandez, senior group product manager at CT Corporation, a company that offers corporate business compliance solutions. "It's easy for things to fall through the cracks. And the penalty for not staying in compliance can range from hundreds of dollars to thousands."
Here are 10 tips for proactive business compliance, courtesy of CT Corporation:
1. Assess your compliance situation. How much of your resources are being dedicated to compliance? These resources include staff, time, and money, and a quick, informal audit will show that it's not only the person with compliance in their title who's involved with compliance activity.
2. Centralize accountability. Determine which department should be empowered with central responsibility for business compliance. Typically, it's the legal department. The audit mentioned above will give you a realistic estimate of workload and staffing needs.
3. Gain control of your compliance calendar. With all compliance execution residing in one area, all important dates can be put on one master calendar. A Web-based calendar is probably best because it allows you to populate compliance events and other regularly occurring business dates automatically.
4. Communicate and collaborate. Create standardized processes and procedures for how information should flow between the centrally authorized compliance function and other departments, divisions, and subsidiaries. Establish controls for accountability, and leave enough flexibility for collaboration.
5. Use one productivity tool to consolidate compliance. Implementing a Web-based business compliance tool can be very effective. With this kind of tool, a list of daily tasks can be generated from the calendar, and customized email alerts can be sent to responsible parties.
6. Centralize information in one place. Ideally, this would be the same productivity tool as described above. A Web-based tool will automatically update requirements as they change, eliminating the need to check in constantly with each state. Those updated requirements will update the central calendar automatically, so accurate due dates will always be available to everybody.
7. Use "pre-filled" forms. In addition to populating the calendar, a central repository of key company information should also pre-fill in re-usable forms. Re-using and repurposing data will save hours of effort and improve accuracy.
8. Store and organize evidence for all your filings. This is essential for every compliance activity. Electronic confirmations of all filings can be stored in the document repository so that a complete history of everything pertinent to a filing is quickly and easily accessible.
9. Document and publish your systems, procedures, and checks and balances. Having everything related to filings in one centralized place means that staffing changes won't pose a problem when it comes to compliance. If one key person leaves, the company's vital compliance knowledge won't leave with them.
10. Ask the experts. Subscribing to a Web-based compliance tool usually means you also get access to a vendor's team of expert compliance specialists. Demand a partnership from this vendor to get full value from their expertise.