As so much time has been taken up lately on business related tasks and working with business clients I thought it a good time to have a week of business related blog posts. These posts are designed to help the small business owner or anyone thinking of starting up a business in some small but practical way.
Sometimes when people set up a small business they don't feel a need to spend some time writing up a few policies and procedures but doing so at the outset can be a very useful practice. We often think that the systems big companies have in place don't apply to small businesses but they can and do and besides it's better to future proof your business so that as it grows (which surely is what you want) it is easier to adjust policies than start writing them from scratch. You'll often find that a policy for a sole trader is adequate for a larger business anyway and so get that work done at the start when you have time before the orders and clients start pouring in.
Policies and procedures don't have to be complex and don't have to be written in legalese but they can set out how you are going to run your business and that can be useful information to have to hand for you to refer to and to refer your customers to. It's much better to have a returns policy if you are a retailer BEFORE somebody wants to return something. It's more professional to have a standard procedure in place to refer to than making up a policy on the spot. It's also more professional to have a procedure which your customer was able to make themselves familiar with BEFORE they even purchased from you. This removes gray areas and makes your position when trying to implement your policy much easier. It can give you some legal protection too if you have terms explicitly communicated rather than implied.
Writing policies helps you to clarify how you want to achieve your aims, how you want to manage risk, how you want to provide the best service and how you are going to operate within the law, regulations and industry standards. Again far better to do this before an issue arises than to find yourself slapped with a huge non-compliance claim which could and does lead to small companies going out of business.
Some of the most obvious and essential policies to have as a small business (or any business come to that) are such as:
terms and conditions of sale of goods or service - these just lay out what you will do and what the client/customer will do and how you will go about it
payments, returns and refunds policy - these will make it clear how clients will be expected to pay for goods or services and what your stance is regarding returns and refunds
data protection policy - most businesses keep some information about their customer, whether that's a name and address, telephone number, email or banking details. Any business is obliged to ensure that it stores such information safety and in accordance with the law and this policy can set customer's mind at rest assuring them that you will not share their information with anyone else
health and safety quality and content - these assure your customer/client that you have taken necessary steps to ensure their safety, that you are happy to divulge which materials you use to manufacture your products.
There are more which you could write up but these should provide a good basis and if they become too involved then you could consider splitting them to make them an easier read. For example separating out your content information from your health and safety policy or advise.
By having them available to customers to read either on your website or social media site you can then reasonably expect your customer to have read them before entering a binding agreement to purchase goods or services from you. This helps you to run your business smoothly and effectively serves the dual purchase of forming the small print of your sales as well as being a point of reference for you and your customer as already mentioned.
If you are thinking of setting up a business then a set of basic policies and procedures can also help to furnish and focus your business plan and they can help to identify any problematic areas you had not thought of previously.
One final thing, be sure that you share your documents in PDF format which is non-editable and always watermark and copyright your work. After all a lot of effort goes into writing these documents so you want to protect them as much as possible and not have them available for yout competitors to swipe. Also add a disclaimer if the policy only affects certain parts of your business and not others.
If you would like any help or guidance with writing some policies get in touch by clicking here for our Crafty Little Business Solutions page, we will be happy to help put a package together with you for a super competitive price.
Happy to help with any business related enquiries, website and blog design, business card and business stationery design to professionalise your business. Just get in touch.
Hope you found this useful