As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you are probably an expert in the actual product or service provided by your company. However, you may not be as well versed in the procedures and processes that are necessary to keep your business operating. While the particulars of each business naturally vary, there are several common features that every small business should maintain to ensure solid operations. This list represents some of the most essential functions involved in keeping a company up and running.

Maintain Company Financial Records

Financial and accounting functions include handling taxes, payroll, and bank statements, as well as invoices, contracts, and payments. If you or your staff members travel for business, those expenses must be accounted for as well. Even without trading in public stock, your company is also responsible for generating financial reports such as loan statements, revenue or sales forecasting, office or manufacturing space expenses, and equipment purchases or leases. Accurate record keeping for revenue and expenses is essential, whether they are assigned to an office manager in house or contracted to an outside accountant.

Update and Human Resource Records

Unless you are a sole proprietor, your company must maintain human resource records. These records include applications or resumes and job descriptions. Regulations for allowed absences, sick leave, vacation time, and other time-off policies should be established in writing and made available to each employee on your payroll. Your company should also establish a code of conduct, with clear guidelines for allowable and prohibited conduct and provisions for discipline or dismissal. Guidelines for resolving interpersonal conflicts should also be put in place.

Other necessary human resource related functions health insurance, retirement benefits, and unemployment insurance. Your company may also offer additional perks such as educational reimbursement. You should have written policies in place for dealing with each of these areas. It’s also smart to establish policies for meeting ADA requirements and providing workers’ compensation, even if you never anticipate needing either program.

Set a Budget for Marketing and Promotions

Your company likely doesn’t have a huge budget for glossy magazine ads or TV commercials. However, almost every company devotes at least some of its budget toward marketing and promotions. Social media ads, SEO keywords, email campaigns, and internet marketing are all relatively low-cost means of promoting your business to existing and prospective customers and clients. Establishing a budget along with record keeping for marketing and promotional expenses helps to ensure that those dollars are spent efficiently.

Institute Computer and IT Policies

Computers play a significant role in training, record keeping, and document transition for nearly every company. Your company should keep records of hardware and software in use, as well as established schedules for maintenance, repairs, upgrades, and replacement. Security is also a major area of concern. Your company should have clear, written procedures in place regarding internet access, as well as email and electronic document transmission. Strong security measures are especially critical in BYOD (bring your own device) environments where employees use their own mobile devices or personal computers for their jobs. 

Periodic checks should be conducted to assess risk levels for security breaches for your company’s computer and IT setup. Backups of mission critical records and recovery plans should be a priority, with redundancy built in to minimize vulnerability for loss due to fire, flood, software or hardware failure, malware, or ransomware.

Plan for Physical Safety and Security

Your company should have a plan in place for dealing with emergencies including exit policies and escape routes in case of fire or natural disaster. There should be an established schedule for maintenance, repair or replacement of HVAC equipment, as well as a contingency for handling critical breakdowns. Periodic checks should be made to ensure that windows doors and locks and doors operate properly. Procedures for preventing unauthorized access, such as automatic locks or keycard entry for workers should also be in place.

Conduct a Procedural Audit

Once you’ve determined the functions and policies that pertain to your business, the next step is keeping track of ongoing operations. Performing a procedural audit of your company at periodic intervals ensures the continued smooth operation of your business. A procedural audit focuses on the results of your company’s strategies, policies or procedures, and indicates which areas of your company are operating efficiently, along with disclosing areas or where policies or procedures are not being properly followed. A procedural audit can also suggest adjustments to areas that may need improvement.

Engage Your Employees

In many companies, the employees who are closest to the work represent the best sources for insight on efficient operations and ideas for improving procedures. This is especially true in a small company where employees almost always wear multiple hats. It’s a smart strategy to provide bonuses, rewards, or other incentives for employees who provide innovative ideas or hacks to improve procedural efficiency. Gift cards, magazine subscriptions, or other modest tokens provide recognition without breaking the bank.

Put the Pieces Together

Running a company involves more than providing actual products and services. It is also necessary to deal with the various moving parts of any company’s operations. Determining which areas pertain to your business and establishing a reliable record keeping system helps to ensure smooth operations. Periodic procedural audits determine which areas of your company are running smoothly and which areas need attention or adjustment.

It is almost a given that at some point an audit or assessment will reveal malfunctioning or outdated equipment. Or perhaps additional personnel are needed  either short term or as permanent hires.

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