Previously I talked about the three key risks for entrepreneurs—-security, regulatory and operational—and promised a deeper dive on all three.  This week let’s focus on security:  protecting yourself and your business, protecting your employees and protecting your customers.  Starting your business is an exciting challenge with lots of decisions starting with “What do I call it?”  A name is your business’s calling card, its elevator speech but, equally important, is what’s behind that name.  Protect Yourself:   I’ve often heard from a business owner that her business grew organically—starting out as something done as a side gig—and as successful as the business might be now, some things might not have changed.  The business is still run as a sole proprietorship with no separate tax identification number (EIN in tax lingo). That means that the business has been established using the owner’s social security number (SSN—more tax lingo!) Sure that’s simple to manage when you’re just starting out but protecting your identity is critical as your business grows. Regulations require that the business EIN is included when dealing with vendors or on any tax reporting given to employees or contractors.  If a business EIN isn’t available, then your SSN must be provided.  Protect your privacy!  File for a business EIN with the IRS even if you’re a sole proprietorship to avoid needlessly putting your SSN in the public domain.  Protect Your Employees:  Your employees are an asset to your business so ensure that a human risk management plan is in place too.  You might be scratching your head thinking “Buy employee insurance?”  Well, no, but risk is created when an employee either isn’t qualified to meet or isn’t following the expectations of her role.  A nonperforming or underperforming employee creates risk by negatively impact the culture of success you’ve built with all your employees.  It starts with a robust recruitment process with a job description that clearly lays out requirements and expectations (for example, years of prior experience, overtime requirements) making it easier to find the right new hire.  Post-hiring help employees succeed with training and access to procedures aligned to her role.  Finally, ensure a continuous, documented performance management process is in place.  Letting an employee know she has done the job well encourages greater contribution and productivity.  Having tough employee conversations is never easy but ongoing feedback supports a culture where employees feel free to ask for help rather than trying to hide or self-solve a problem—both of which create more risk for your business.     Protect Your Customers:  Privacy breaches are rampant and it’s not only large corporations that are targets!  Safeguard your client’s personal information as if it were your own.  If you receive, maintain, transmit or store client information, ensure that the information is handled and stored appropriately.  Know what personal information you have in your files and on your computers and limit access to client information to authorized persons only.  Finally, keep only what you need and properly dispose of information no longer needed.  Develop and maintain an Information Security Plan for your business and if you are using a third-party that has access to your client files, ensure you understand the security that the vendor employs as well.   Protecting your employees and your customers also protects you and your business.  Strengthening the core of your business and identifying and addressing risks are critical when positioning your company for growth.  Look for future articles addressing regulatory risk—keeping abreast of changes in government regulations and laws—and operational risk—lapses in controls due to intentional disregard or gaps in process.  Intrigued? Have questions? Please reach out and let me bring the business I’m passionate about to you.