To help reach more customers and provide services remotely now is the time for small businesses to increase their online presence.
SaaS and low-cost integrations are democratizing digital business tools, giving small businesses the same capabilities as their larger counterparts with fewer risks. Any business today can leverage social media to build its brand and attract customers with little to sometimes no cost, for example.
While these tools have a significant upside for small businesses, they are also creating large and complicated gaps to patch – particularly for those operating in highly-regulated industries or operating in unfamiliar geographies and jurisdictions.
As more transactions are done online and companies start to hire across regional lines, small businesses need to make sure they are sticking to the laws of the land.
Here are three adjustments that small businesses can make if they want to continue trading securely and compliantly in this distributed world.
1. Implement Tools that Can Navigate Complex Regulations
The beauty of distributed work is that it is not limited by geography or the size of the company.
Businesses, big and small, can source, hire, buy, and sell to anyone from anywhere and at any time. And there are some perks to this. According to Global Workplace Analytics, a typical employer can save an average of $11,000 per half-time telecommuter per year, simply because employees are more productive, and absenteeism and turnover are reduced significantly when staff is allowed to work remotely. Businesses in turn can save on overheads like rent and utilities.
However, small businesses need to tread carefully when they take to hiring internationally, as this can open them to unfamiliar employment laws. In the same vein, what constitutes a legally binding contract can be interpreted differently from one territory to another.
For instance, while eSignatures are regulated at both the federal and state level under the ESIGN Act of 2000, Europe follows Electronic Identification, Authentication, and Trust Services (eIDAS). This is a critical piece for small businesses that need their deals to legally hold up where they operate because in serious cases, inadvertently flouting the rules puts small businesses at risk of sizable fines they often can’t afford. For example, it can cost companies as much as $14.82 million if they don’t comply with customer data protection regulations.
This is why small businesses must look for tools that are flexible and consistently kept up to date functionally, and to meet legal regulations, given how fast-paced and fluid today’s digital-first environment is.
2. Secure Your Operations Even from a Distance
The shift to distributed work has seen cybersecurity risks soar.
With everyone’s home Wi-Fi replacing a single workplace Wi-Fi connection, surface areas for attacks have exploded for businesses of all sizes as more are working remotely. The FBI reported a 300% increase in cybercrime since the beginning of the pandemic.
And cybercriminals have their sights set on vulnerable small businesses. They know that small businesses simply do not have the leverage to pay for ransoms, nor resources of huge IT departments at their disposal to tackle serious attacks. It’s not surprising that of all the credit card breaches reported, a whopping 95% were from small businesses.
With 20% of small businesses falling victim to cyberattacks and of those, 60% going out of business in six months, it is prudent to have cyber security in place. The alarming thing is, however, 62% of firms say they don’t have an up-to-date cybersecurity strategy – or any strategy at all.
Overall, a not-so-costly way to keep the business secure in this distributed world is to review your cyber strategy on a more frequent basis and conduct more regular audits so you can detect and deal with anomalies faster. Educating employees on cyber safety best practices and how to properly monitor and report any suspicious transactions is a good place to start.
The silver lining is, small businesses these days have access to many SaaS tools that are designed to protect small businesses from cyber threats. For instance, a cost-effective vulnerability scanner can help spot weaknesses in your online systems before the hackers do so you can make system updates to help prevent attacks, or manage it much better when it happens.
Even when such investments seem hefty at first, they are worth every penny when you compare them with the cost of a security breach, which can be more than just monetary, too.
3. Fraud-proof Your Business and Protect Your Customers
It is increasingly common for data breaches and ransomware attacks to come from within the organization these days. In a distributed working environment particularly, where you have less oversight over employees’ activities, fraud is a growing threat.
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners says 71% of entities expect fraud to rise, and 51% have uncovered more fraud since the onset of the pandemic.
The U.S. Department of Commerce notes that businesses lose $50 billion as a result of employee theft, with internal fraud accounting for close to 70% of annual financial fraud cases. Moreover, with companies risking losing $1.5 million on average in a single instance of fraud, it is dire for small businesses to have a plan in place when sensitive documents fall into the wrong hands.
Whether it’s faking transactions, manipulating bank statements and invoices with editing software, or forging identities, digital tools like eSignatures can help deter fraudulent behaviors.
Many of them come with built-in audit trails to guarantee paperwork and transactions haven’t been tampered with. Sophisticated solutions even come with hashing technology, which makes a copy of every version of a document should you need to compare it with a questionable version.
Go Digital in a Safe and Secure Way
As businesses are more compelled to fully cross the digital divide, doing so exposes them to significant threats.
It is more imperative than before for small businesses to ensure workflows are accounted for, every data entry and exit point is secure, documents can be tracked to protect everyone involved, and contracts signed are compliant with whom and where the business operates.
These measures are worth investing in and won’t be undone post-pandemic. Small businesses that have them will find themselves in a better position all around when the world is back to itself again.
This article was written by Small Business Editor from Small Business Trends and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.