Is It Time for an Audit?

We’re just weeks into the new year, and if you do any searching on the internet, you’ll have seen more than you want on what 2014 will hold for small businesses. You probably have also seen enough negatives to make you worry that your business may not survive to see the ball drop on 2015. While there is a good chance a few of your fellow small business owners, both tackle retailers and other local merchants, may not make it through the next twelve months due to a variety of factors, there are steps you can take to help make this year easier on your business.

No matter what your fears are, there are always things that you worry about – they tend to be the issues that hurt the worst. One way many big and small businesses help prepare themselves for whatever may come their way is to do an annual, or even quarterly risk audit.

Risk audits are not easy. IRS audits may actually be easier for some, but in the end your business will be in better shape, and you may be able to sleep easier. Just ensure you actually take the time to truly answer or look into each step of the risk audit. This is no time to be distracted. If needed, take a few days to complete it, or two weeks if that is how long it takes to dedicate the time to this. If you’re too busy now, bookmark this page and come back to it when you do have time. Just do your business and your staff a favor and perform this risk audit by the end of next month. The longer you put it off, the more risk your business could be in.

How Safe is Your Store?
Do you perform monthly safety inspections on all alarms and are all of your fire extinguishers up to date? Does everyone know how to evacuate if there is an emergency? Is your parking lot well lit or are there safety hazards in your store? Take an hour, or more if needed, and go over every aspect of your store’s safety. Safety is one of the most overlooked aspects for many small businesses; don’t let it be one of yours. If you’re too busy to keep up on all of the safety measures your store has, appoint a safety captain from your staff and make it their job to do a monthly inspection. Just be sure to fix or replace any issues they find.

How Secure Is Your Digital Information?
There are news stories every day of data security breaches from major retailers. How secure is your site, or your online information? If you aren’t already taking steps to ensure your store is safe from a cyber attack, do so now. Hackers will always be on the lookout for a business that hasn’t taken the necessary steps to protect their information. Be sure your business is not their next target.

Are Your Policies Up to Date?
You have insurance on your store, but is it enough? Will the coverage you have properly help you get back on your feet? Are there holes in your policy that need looking into? While insurance shopping isn’t at the top of most people’s list, it is something that should be done annually or at least bi-annually. Cutting corners to save money each month by having lower levels of coverage could cost you in the end. Take a real look at your store’s insurance and then have a professional do the same. Getting a quote from an outside source could open your eyes to the extra options that are available to a store like yours. Hopefully none of you will need your insurance policies in the coming months, but if you do, is your coverage enough to get your doors reopened after a crisis?

Are You Managing Your Cash Flow?
The lifeblood of your business is your cash flow. Have you started managing it yet, or looked into possible ways to cut waste? The sooner you can identify areas of your business that do or can have a negative impact on your business, the sooner you can be assured your cash flow will be there when you need it.

Are You Flexible Enough?
We are just weeks into the new year. No one can truly predict what the fourth quarter will bring, let alone the spring fishing season. How flexible is your business – are you able to make the necessary adjustments that may be needed? It could be in inventory, staffing, technology, or even management. While flexibility is a hard area to identify in a risk audit, it is something that needs to be looked at. How many partners, or decision-makers are there that you need to work with in order to make a major change in your business? Is there a way to streamline this process? The more flexible you can make your business, and business decision-making process, the more capable you will be at adapting to the ever-changing marketplace.

Here are just five areas of your business that you should look at and do an honest audit on in the coming days or weeks. Each business will have their own answers to the questions, some may be surprised at what they find, some will be scared, and hopefully some will be happy. Being a business owner is not easy, but the more you can take a step back and fine-tune your business, the better you will be able to handle situations when they arise. Bad things happen to good businesses every day. Great businesses rebound from them. Do what you can to ensure your business is one of the great ones.

How often do you perform a risk audit on your business? What other areas do you include that are not on this list? Share your thoughts with us on our Facebook page or LinkedIn group.