Background Checks: How They Can Help Better Protect Your Small Business Against Crime
If you run a small business, you've got a lot of worries. Besides all the normal concerns like competition and pricing and location and customer service... now security has become increasingly important. You face the threat of theft, fraud, embezzlement, scams... the list seems almost endless.
When you're in business, you can run up against...
- Suppliers who provide shoddy goods that you don't discover until after you've paid for them
- Customers whose orders you promptly fill but who wiggle out of paying
- Employees who rob you of everything from supplies and equipment to cash and services.
The Federation of Small Business - a British business group reported that over half (58%) of all small businesses in the UK suffered at least one crime during a recent two year period. They concluded:
"Crime, and the fear of crime, can directly impact on day to day business activities. It can damage a business image, resulting in the loss of existing customers and deterioration in the quality and range of services offered by the business, which will limit turnover (profits) and
restrict business development."
When you run a small business, it's up to you to look out for your company. But how?
Background Search Services on the Web Provide an Economical Answer
Many of the problems that small businesses face in trying to deter crime can be helped with information available on the Internet. You can use 21st Century technology to get the better of the crooks and thieves and scam artists.
But if you're not familiar with whats available, you may not realize all the important things you can find out with a good background checking service.
It used to be expensive to check into someone's background to see if they were hiding anything. You had to hire a private detective or pay big bucks to an investigative agency. Not today - not with Internet databases so readily available to us. Some of the services are free. However, a business will benefit most from the more in-depth background checking services.
These higher quality services usually charge a fee to subscribe, but it's smaller than you'd expect - especially considering the volumes and usefulness of the information they provide. A year of service is often less than what you'd pay to bring in lunch for a staff meeting. Plus, the paid services are kept more up-to-date and are typically faster and easier to use.
Sometimes referred to as Internet Detective sites, or Personal Search sites, the website based services give you the low-down on all kinds of formerly-hidden information.
Here are the types of things you can and should be looking into for the protection of your business...
Criminal Background Checks
Any time your business is dealing with someone you don't know, you should run a quick check to see if they have any history of criminal activity. It's very simple to find out about:
- Criminal Records
- FBI Records
- Prison Records
- Sex Offender Status
You have access to their entire criminal history if there is one. With violence in the workplace such a major issue, a simple criminal check can be a very effective way to avoid problems before they happen.
Background Check for Employment (Pre-Employment Screening)
If you've got a small business, you should be pre-screening each person you consider hiring. No matter how professional, or how harmless, they appear.
A small print shop franchise in Florida hired an especially friendly fellow as their bookkeeper after the owner got too busy to handle it himself. The new employee didn't offer much in the way of references but he sounded like he knew what he was doing and - big plus - he agreed to work cheap. The owner figured he would save money hiring the guy. He figured wrong.
The bookkeeper drained more than a hundred thousand dollars out of the company before they found him out. Turned out he'd previously been charged with embezzlement. Something a criminal background check would have quickly turned up.
Background Check Existing Employees - Make it a Condition of Employment
You shouldn't check only new hires. Over time, employees can develop habits and get involved in activities you'd never suspect. So you should regularly check on existing employees. Note: this is something you should get legal advice for - but generally if it's a condition of employment and you let them know in writing, it's not invading privacy. You entrust employees with company funds or materials that can be stolen, or negotiating and purchasing power that can be abused. Keeping an eye on existing employees is just being prudent.
Too many small business owners think of their company as an extension of their family. They don't want to think ill of the people they give jobs to. Truth is, most employees are trustworthy. They just want to do a good job and get paid fairly - but they see you as the boss, not their daddy. Even in real families, the black sheep will have absolutely no conscience about turning your good will to their good fortune. Don't be so kindly that you end up getting taken for everything you own.
Background Check Each Company or Individual You Do Business With
You should investigate every supplier or contractor who serves your business. If the possibility of harm exists, then you need to know if someone you're in business with is likely to harm you. You can check credit, check backgrounds of the owners and managers, check the company itself for any past criminal or questionable activity.
Also check customers if your dealings with them permit. Most non-retail businesses will have the opportunity to look at their customer's backgrounds for any warning signs. Don't get left without payment for your products or services when a quick look up on the computer can resolve questions.
Check both suppliers and customers out. It's just good business.
Real Estate Business Transactions Are Often Easy Targets for Crime
Real Estate often involves significant investment, both initially and over time. Whether you're a landlord or a tenant, you need to check out those with whom you're doing business. Using a background check service, you can:
- Check Credit and determine if Social Security Numbers provided are valid
- Check Tenants for past problems or criminal activity
- Check Landlords for tenant actions against them or other legal problems
Charity and Other Community Support
Businesses frequently get called on to support their community. Charitable organizations often solicit donations, many times in sizable amounts. Before you give money freely to anyone, be sure they're legitimate by running a background check on their organization and the principals involved. Otherwise the help you think you're providing could turn around and hurt your business.
Running a small business is more of a challenge today than ever before. Use online database search services to help you protect your business and keep you, your customers and your employees more secure.