Author - Scott Hunter- The Crisis Coach
ACS Tells Local Shops: Make Sure Retail Crime is on the Agenda for PCCs, was a recent headline from an Association of Convenience Stores article. Retail crime prevention by the police is important, and it is right that it is pushed up the agenda.
This problem is costing the economy, small businesses and their owners a lot of money. The British Retail Consortium - Retail Crime Survey highlighted that the overall cost of retail crime has increased 31 per cent to £1.4 billion. This is equivalent to 130,000 retail jobs.It therefore makes financial sense for business owners to examine ways of reducing the risk of crime to their premises. Some steps can be taken that will have an impact and will not require any additional capital expenditure. Nor will they require owners or employees to take any action that would put them at any more risk.
Criminals are often opportunists and by taking some proactive steps you can reduce the likelihood of your premises being targeted.Customer ServiceI have often been in shops when employees stand around one area of the shop or are not visible on the shop floor at all. If this is common in a shop then it will be noticed and it will be targeted by thieves. By encouraging employees to walk around the shop and interact with employees this will act as a deterrent to thieves. This does not require them to be in customers faces or pushy, but just have a visible presence. By doing this you also gain by provided better customer service, this could therefore result in an an increase in sales. CCTV
If your shop has CCTV operating in them have you conducted a survey to see that they are being used effectively. Time taken to conduct this quick survey can idenitify areas that the cameras may be more useful. The things you may consider are;
- Potential blind spots in your premises
- Location of high value goods
- Coverage of exits and entrances
- Coverage of counter areas
- Coverage of stock that is often stolen.
Using cameras as an extra pair of eyes to supplement the efforts of your employees will increase the effectiveness. Also put signs up that let customers know that CCTV cameras are in operation in your store. Again this will act as a deterrent to some potential criminals.LocationHave a look at your shop/premises and decide
if there are specific reasons that stock is located where it currently is. A lot of chains use the layout and location of goods to increase sales, this is important. However does your shop layout make stealing easier, and if so is it worth keeping the way it is? It would be worthwhile to see if you can move more vulnerable stock further into the store or areas that would make stealing them more difficult. The areas you may move stock to are closer to the counter, closer to where employees are, where there is good camera coverage (and advertised as such) all these will help act as a deterrent.CollaborationWork with local authorities and other shops to help each other providing a coherent and effective information sharing ability. This could include informing other shops of suspect individuals as they go from shop to shop. To communicate with the local police on ways that you can work together with them to help the local area, maybe asking for more patrols or having them at the higher risk times. Explore ways of setting up business equivalent of neighbourhood watch schemes, and advertise that there is a scheme in place. All these will again act as a deterrent to criminals and help reduce the risk to your business.VarietyWe are all creatures of habit, and when running a business this can be ever more evident. Deliveries are at certain times on certain days; this tendency to work to a schedule can make you more vulnerable.
Try to make alterations to your routine when it is possible, for example don't go to the bank at the same time and day every week. Although a large portion of crime is spontaneous there are crimes that are planned. If you have a rigid schedule and routine then that makes planning a criminal act against you easier. By introducing some variety to your routines that makes planning a lot harder, and therefore perpetrating the crime a lot riskier. These are just a few of the many steps you can take to assist in reducing the risk of crime against your business. The main theme running through these steps is being visible and introducing deterrents. It is far better to reduce the likelihood of it happening rather than trying to tackle criminals in the act.As in all areas of risk management, even if you take these steps there is no guarantee that you will not become a victim of crime. However it may be a lot less likely. It is important to consider actions if your business does suffer. Often swift and effective actions against perpetrators of crime can act as a deterrent to others. Ensure you ahve contingecies in place that will support your staff, assist the police and increase the likelihood of a succesful prosecution.Leave comments on actions you have taken that you feel have been effective in reducing risks, and help other small businesses reduce their risks.
Author - Andy Farrall
Is your firm reversing into trouble?
A transport firm has recently been fined £150,000 plus substantial costs at Chelmsford Crown Court for health & safety breaches. The prosecution followed an accident in which an employee’s head was crushed against the wall by a reversing lorry, an accident which – in the opinion of the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) – could have been avoided had the risks been properly managed. (See http://www.hse.gov.uk/press/2011/coi-e-3211.htm
The accident was horrific enough, especially for the victim, but what is equally horrific in its own way is the fact that such accidents are not exactly uncommon. Last year alone, according to the HSE, two workers were killed and 130 more were seriously injured after being hit by reversing vehicles.
Why is this allowed to happen? Why do people – especially managers – not realise that reversing vehicles are potentially lethal and so the risks associated with their use have to be managed properly?
Is it yet another example of “but ‘elf ‘n safety is just common sense, so we don’t need to do anything and it’ll be alright on the night
Author - Andy Farrall
Penalties for breaches of health & safety are governed, in the UK, by the Health & Safety Offences Act 2008. This stipulates that the maximum financial penalty for most h&s offences is a £20,000 fine at the Magistrates' Court (the lower court) and an unlimited fine at the Crown Court.
These penalties sound severe - and so they are - but I wonder how many people think that they are somehow academic, and that the courts will never really go to these limits, even though they're on the statute book?
Well, if you are of that optimistic school of thought here's a true story that may cause you to change your mind.
In 2009 the Crown Court in London tried a case resulting from an accident on a building site in London, an accident in which an employee had been injured. This had only come to light when the employee, who had been left unable to work, had gone to the local Social Security office to claim State sickness benefit. The office was unable to trace the accident (because, as it later transpired, it had never been reported) and the matter was handed over to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).
HSE inspectors visited the site unannounced and found that h&s was apparently an alien concept as far as the site management was concerned. In other words - it just didn't exist!
Matters were not helped by the attitude of the company's owner and sole director who tried to frustrate the enquiry at every turn. However, it seems he went a little too far when he decided to play at being a lawyer. He realised that under English law a "limited company" such as his has a separate legal identity, and that gave him an idea.
He reasoned that since the HSE were investigating his company he could thwart the enquiry by closing his existing company down, transferring all the assets to a new company, and then carrying on as before. The HSE investigation would grind to a halt because the target of the enquiry would have ceased to exist, and the new company could not be held liable for the alleged mistakes of the old. Simples!
Unfortunately for the would-be "legal eagle" he hadn't read Section 37 of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. Which was a shame, because the section says that it is possible to prosecute a director of a company if it can be shown that the offence was due to his "consent, connivance, or neglect" (such lovely phraseology, don't you think?)
So that's what the HSE did - they prosecuted the director and not his company.
He lost his subsequent trial at the Crown Court and had to face the legal consequences. The Judge fined him £99,500 for various breaches of health & safety, and then, in addition, ordered him to pay legal costs amounting to a further £150,000.
Do the sums and you'll see he received a personal financial penalty of just under a quarter of a million pounds!
As if that were not enough to make his eyes water the Judge rounded off his day perfectly by warning him that, should he fail to pay up in full, he would go to jail.
So, when the law says "unlimited fine" it seems that's just what it means.
Of course, I could be wrong ..... but I don't think so. Do you?
The last year has not been good news for RIM, with a technical fault in a server and the fail safes not working. Us Blackberry users lost or had massively reduced service for nearly 3 days.
As we all know there are times when things go wrong, but I would expect an organisation such as RIM to react and deal with it better. It maybe that more damage has been done by the lack of information to customers, rather than the loss of service.
With Social Media news travels fast, and bad news travels faster. There were mumblings on Twitter and other platforms soon after it was discovered by users that there was a problem. RIM should have had a policy and process in place to deal with this, and post information about what was happening. Instead the information came only from users, and was of a negative nature, this has also spread to other topical comments. Some comments on twitter: “What is going on today seems my internet connection maybe run by Blackberry!” “It's so thoughtful of BlackBerry to honor Steve Jobs by having two days of silence :P #BB#RIM” “Dear Blackberry, thanks for the new customers. Sincerely, iPhone & Android.”
The last comment sums up a lot of blogs and tweets. Will Blackberry users remain when there due to upgrade, or switch to Apple/Andriod. Only time will tell.
So what can you do? Answer the following questions, it can help identify where your weak points may be.
- · Are you aware of functions/services that are essential to your business still operating
- · How long can your business operate without any of these?
- · Do you have plans to get react to interruptions/incidents
- · Do you have a strategy to get back to operating within the required timeframe
- · Are these plans accessible to the required staff
- · Do you look at your supply/distribution lines
- · Do you have secure IT backup – and if so where are the backups stored
- · What are the most probable situations that would cause an interruption to your business
- · Do you have plans to deal with these
- · Do you have an internal and external communication plan or strategy
- · Are you aware of requirements of emergency services
- · Do you test these plans
- · Do you train your staff
But remember these plans do not need to be complicated. There are as relevant to small businesses as large corporations. As we have witnessed a communication strategy is vital in todays world.
This summer has seen a raft of large once in a lifetime events, and the largest of these being the hosting of the Olympic and Paralympics games. Although these events offer an opportunity for businesses, they also pose potential risks. It is therefore a worthwhile exercise to analyse the potential impact on your business and any associated risks. Once this exercise has been completed it can be easily replicated for other events that may have an impact on your business. Some areas you should consider include.
Although your business may not be in the area of an event your supply chain may be well be. Check with your suppliers to see if any event is likely to have an impact on their business. If there is a possibility then you should take steps to ensure that you look at solutions to insulate yourself from your supply chain breaking. Working in advance of these potential problems can save you a lot of time and impact on business critical operations if something does indeed happen to your supplier. Many solutions may be quite simple and cost effective to implement.
The opening of the Olympic lanes in London has caused major congestion on a large number of routes. These were identified early on and warnings were given about the potential increase in travel times. If your business relies on the use of roads or public transport that is likely to experience heavy congestion then you need to explore options to mitigate these. These can range from more flexible working for employees, rearranging delivery times or using alternative routes if possible. These are just some of the options available to you to reduce the impact heavy congestion can have on the normal operation of your business. It could also have an effect on the number of visitors you get in your premises. If it is likely to have a negative impact, what can you do to increase foot traffic or encourage customers to your store/shop.
There is a possibility that more employees may be absent from work during large events, such as Olympics or the World cup. Again this can have a hugely negative impact on your business. How can you reduce the likelihood of this happening, this could range from allowing flexible working arrangements, allowing employees to follow events using the web, or maybe even the T.V. Whatever solution you opt for it should be feasible for your business and not be detrimental in its own right. There is no point in putting a strategy in place to protect your business, and in the end it does more damage than the initial risk.
In the case of an event is there likely to be a spike or dip in your normal expectation of sales. If you run out of stock of a regular item, and your customers have to go somewhere else to get it, there is a risk that they will not return easily. Conversely holding too much stock of items locks a larger amount of your capital up than is required. Therefore you should make adequate provisions to ensure that you will have sufficient stock, or at least access to stock quickly to meet expected demand. Can you arrange quick delivery through your regular suppliers, or can you source the products at short notice from elsewhere. These two options may be slightly more expensive if they are needed, but require little or no upfront costs. They are therefore low risk options, and provide you with a safety blanket if you do get a sudden spike in demand.
There are many different considerations to make, and these are all dependant on the business you are in. But remember the world in which you do business is interlinked, and never forget to look past your immediate business. You should consider your customers, employees, environment and supply chain to name but a few. Which options are best for your business well again that depends on your specific circumstances so don’t just copy others, make your own. If they are well thought out and appropriate to you and your business they will be more resilient.