One way to keep your business financially sound is to do all you can to mitigate risks. You can protect your business by putting certain policies in writing. Here are six policies that every small-business owner should have in written form.
1. Returns Policy
If you run a retail business or online store, it’s important that you clearly post your returns policy so customers will know what to expect if they want to return an item or ask for a refund. In the policy, you should outline how long after the purchase you will accept an item, what condition the item should be in, if customers need a receipt, if you charge restocking fees, and how you will refund customers’ money. Be sure that your policy conforms to your state’s laws. For example, retailers in California must post their policy where customers can clearly see it before making a purchase.
2. Business Hours and Turnaround Time
Customers need to know when they can reach you, whether you own a retail store, service business, or online shop. You should state your business hours in writing, so customers won’t feel neglected should an emergency or question arise outside business hours. For example, if you run a website, but only respond to customer email from 9 to 5 Pacific Time, make sure your visitors understand that. Likewise, if you run a service business and are available after hours for some things, be sure to let customers know how to reach you then.
You will also need to include your turnaround times for ongoing projects. For instance, if you build custom furniture, include the average wait time for each piece in your policy so customers will know what to expect.
3. Workplace Safety Rules
In addition to adhering to your state and Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety standards, you should create a workplace safety policy for your business in to inform your employees what is expected of them. Once they acknowledge they’ve read it, it can help mitigate any damages that might be caused by employee negligence. You can download a free workplace safety sample, then schedule a free OSHA onsite consultation to determine the specific work hazards you should address in your policy.
4. Device Use Rules
If your employees use your computers, tablets, or phones to conduct illicit or illegal activities, or if they get into an auto accident [PDF] while using them, your business can be held responsible. That’s why it’s important to create a written device use policy that outlines exactly what employees can and cannot use the devices for. Once your employees read the policy and sign it, if they commit an act that results in legal or financial consequences, you will be less likely to be held accountable. In addition, your policy should address the specific risks associated with bring your own device (BYOD), even if you don’t have a BYOD policy in place. Keep in mind that in addition to creating the policy in written form, you will also need to prove that you enforce it on a consistent basis.
5. Disciplinary Policy
Your employees should have a thorough understanding of what behavior is acceptable in the workplace. A disciplinary policy informs them what will happen if they break the rules. Your disciplinary policy should include a list of actions that require discipline, the consequences of those actions, the steps and procedures for enforcement, and what rights they have if they want to appeal. If you have to terminate an employee, this record of disciplinary actions will be helpful. The ultimate goal of your policy should be to provide your employees a chance to change their behavior.
6. Late Payment Fees
Before you extend credit to customers, it’s important to have a late payment fee policy in place. For instance, you may require that customers pay your bank fees in the event of a bounced check, interest on past due invoices, or collection of legal fees if you have to hire an agency or attorney to recoup your money. Your state laws may limit the amount of interest you can charge, so be sure to check yours. Be sure to clearly state your late payment fee policy on your invoice template so that all of your invoices automatically contain these important details.
By putting all of these policies in writing, you will go a long way toward protecting your business. If you don’t have all of these policies in place in your business, why not start now?