Businesses at Risk – Insurance, Licenses and ABNs

Thus use of uninsured or unlicensed contractors, are very much unwanted issues on the Australian business landscape. Even something as basic as not having an ABN can cause issues. Each can inflict businesses with a series of problems. Despite much effort by industry, regulators and employers, these problems remain, and the solution is to employ comprehensive contractor management systems to prevent the problems.

Insurance- Issues and solutions It is critically important to verify that the insurance (public liability, professional indemnity, product liability, Work Cover) held by the ABN entity or owner of a trading name thereof.

The insurance must be evidenced by a certificate of currency with a valid expiry date and a sufficient level of cover.

There are absolutely no options in this area. Insurance must be sufficient to deal with the realities of the contract. This insurance is required to cover potentially horrendous liabilities. Competent contractors make sure they’re very well covered in these areas, so this check is also a good litmus test of the contractor’s business standards. The old business rule, “Don’t hire idiots” should be in full force at this stage of examination.

Licenses- No compromise, no problems Absolutely critical: Businesses must hold the correct licenses to operate.
 
For many businesses in the trade industries for example, they may need to hold more than one license (company and supervisor). These multiple licenses can be complex, but the common factor is that they must meet regulatory standards for the contract role. State and Federal licenses may be involved, depending on the business structure, legal entity involved and the state.
 
This requirement applies according to relevant laws based on whether the entity is a corporation, partnership, trust, etc. In the trades, a corporate license like a Master Electricians license, for example, applies to the contractor as an entity.
 
ABNs and statutory compliance- Non-negotiable issues Businesses must have an ABN and the license and insurance information must be in the name of the ABN entity (except in the case of trusts – where the licenses are normally held by the trustee). The ABN issue can be a real nuisance. By law, failure to provide an ABN means that employers must withhold monies rather than disburse normally. This can be a serious, and very avoidable, administrative tangle.
 
Contractor management services can provide excellent guidance regarding the requirements of licensing in specific cases, and most importantly untangle the possible problems prior to commitment. It’s a particularly good idea to get expert assessment of these critical issues, particularly if there are any “grey areas”.

 
There shouldn’t be any doubt whatsoever about licenses, insurance and ABN issues. There’s nothing at all ambiguous about the statutory requirements in these areas. They’re common business practice, and employers are entitled to expect that contractors can fully supply all information required. Contractor compliance management services can ensure that there are never any grey areas when doing business with anyone.
 
The top corporations in the world consistently engage contractor compliance experts to ensure and enforce best business and OHS practices and standards, even on minor contracts. It saves money and lives, and keeps contract management strictly in accordance with law.

7 Ideas for Developing Business Systems

Wherever you are today with respect to growing your company or organization, systematizing your activities is an essential part of setting the conditions for success. Because it’s critical to establish a solid foundation before your business starts growing rapidly, this article offers seven ideas for developing systems and processes in your organization.

Before your company can respond to rapid shifts or prepare for expansion, you will want to look around for leaks and cracks. Ask, “How do communications and work products flow from suppliers, within the organization, and to customers? Who hands off what to whom? Is this ideal or should we optimize processes?”

The answers may reveal areas where no methods exist, where methods are still too vaguely defined to cement, and where critical gaps reside that should be sealed before everyone can perform effectively on a grander scale.

For example, it might be comfortable in the early stages of a business for people to communicate very informally. However, informal communication by itself cannot support a consistent way of operating once more people become involved. If you plan for growth by systematizing as soon as possible, you’ll lay a solid framework and avoid an “implosion” later.

Another major consideration is the amount of irreplaceable intellectual property that might be stored in the heads of your employees or contractors. Employees, contractors, and consultants might come and go without your retaining a fraction of what they know. Can you afford to let them walk away without capturing their wisdom in your company’s knowledgebase? Can employees take time off without causing routine business activities to come to a halt?

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Take Time to Do a Little “Task Triage”

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Look at each of the applicable areas of your business, such as:

. Administration

. Project management

. Production management

. Information technology

. Quality assurance

. Marketing/sales

. Customer support

. Other functional activities

In each area — and even more importantly, across areas — you’ll find possibilities for streamlining, strengthening, and documenting your processes. Many processes will begin in one functional area and continue through other areas before completion.

The handoffs between people or functions often represent the weakest links because of the possibilities for miscommunication, bottlenecks, delays, and data entry errors. So be especially alert for those areas!

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Seven Things to Consider When Systematizing Your Business

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As you proceed to develop and fine-tune your processes, consider the following.

1. How mature are your processes?

Especially while in a startup mode, many of your methods might be in a “mushy,” formative state. It can take time to develop a repeatable pattern for accomplishing work. Even if your business has operated for a while, new activities will inevitably emerge. Consider whether each is mature enough to justify formal documentation, or whether less formal “desk instructions” would suffice in the meantime.

2. Can you streamline processes before documenting them?

Before documenting your processes:

— Consider whether all of the tasks or steps are actually needed.

— Consider where activities can be simplified, automated, or eliminated.

— Research where obstacles to productivity exist.

— Ponder all areas with the greatest potential for waste, errors, mistakes, and hidden drains on your bottom line.

— Think about how streamlining each area would improve your profitability, customer satisfaction, and internal effectiveness, and prioritize your efforts accordingly.

3. Who should document your systems?

People often don’t have the “extra” time to document their own tasks, since they already spend all of their time doing their regular jobs. Another option might involve “job shadowing,” where an intern or new-hire continually observes, discusses, and documents what an expert performer does.

This relieves the expert of that burden, while providing a way for the intern to learn and contribute value immediately. Alternatively, you could hire a procedure specialist, and if a client engagement benefits enough to pay for it, that’s ideal!

The intern or specialist also can recommend ideas for improvement that surface from a having a fresh perspective. The expert can help fine-tune the resulting procedures, which would all become part of the company’s information library.

4. How can you go about systematizing?

Begin by asking, “How do we […]?” and then fill in the blank with the activity you wish to systematize. Diagram all steps required to complete that process, across all functional areas.

You may discover that if you routinely perform certain steps in a given order, those are good candidates for step-by-step procedures. In areas where the steps vary based on the circumstances, a list of guidelines might be more appropriate. If you are able to automate procedures, consider using electronic support systems.

5. What types of documentation should you produce?

— Systems, at the highest level, represent collections of related processes.

— Processes, depicted as diagrams or process maps, provide overviews of tasks that transform inputs into outputs by adding value during each task step.

— Procedures cover the step-by-step, “how-to” details for performing task steps. Procedures might appear in training materials, job aids, and work instructions. Similarly, guidelines show what rules to follow in more variable situations.

6. What can you delegate or outsource?

If you have designed your processes to be easy to follow and repeatable, so that others can produce the same result each time, you are ready to delegate. And if you can hand off to someone with less expertise without losing speed or quality, hurray!

7. What can you continuously improve?

Always be alert for ways to eliminate, automate, or simplify every activity that you perform routinely. Your time is valuable, so your goal should be to spend time on the activities that will contribute most to your company’s profitability. For every step, ask, “What value does this add? What’s a faster, less complicated way of getting this done? Can a different view of this system expose new possibilities for streamlining?”

In conclusion, systematizing your business may seem like an overwhelming effort. By enlisting outside help, and prioritizing the areas to simplify and document according to what will have the greatest impact on your bottom line, you’ll achieve better results in a shorter period of time.

Contractor Verification System

90% of U.S. Firms neglect to screen contractors [1]. Despite the number of contractor relationships that thrive in the workforce, historically contractors have not been screened.

Unfortunately, although contractual employment relationships are prevalent in the U.S., so are the lawsuits that occur as the result of the employing company should have a contractor verification system to ensure that their contractors are screened prior to performing work.

Luckily, there’s a simple solution: contractor screening. In fact, many companies have picked up on the recent trend of employing a third-party contractor verification system, to ensure their contractors are pre-qualified for work. Contractor verification systems are designed to screen your contractors and suppliers that come on site or support major portions of your business.

In the past ten years it’s become quite common to see large Multinational companies who employ thousands of contractors every year to the big company to hire a third-party contractor verification system to pre-qualify and manage suppliers. These contractor verification systems are a highly effective way of ensuring that your company avoids a potential lawsuit as the result of employing an unsafe or unethical contingent worker.

Developing and maintaining a world-class contractor verification system can be easy. It’s a matter of properly collecting, organizing and centralizing your contractor data into an efficient database. The information that you gather should then be reviewed and verified for accuracy:

1. Documents- Each contractor should complete a qualification form which can be reviewed for contractor licenses and compliance with regulation requirements.

2. Insurance – Insurance statistics are an important indication of how qualified your contractor is and should be reviewed for accuracy and adequate coverage.

3. Safety Information- For those companies with a higher level of safety, audits should be performed on your contractor’s Safety Manual and implementation of their safety plan.

4. Employee Information- Background information should be collected including drug screening and past history on those employees engaged in important company activities.

Awareness in selecting safe contractors and subcontractors cannot be overrated. Choosing a safe team using an effective contractor verification system greatly reduces risk and minimizes incidents. Incorrect documentation, inadequate insurance coverage and be an employee’s prior disruptive or destructive performance can severely negatively impact your business.

By evaluating the criteria we discuss above, implementing a contractor verification system and keeping up with regulatory changes and best practices, you can avoid lawsuits and protect your company. These simple measures can save you millions in losses and damages every year.

References:

[1] Source: Screening Contract Employees: An Important Slice of Corporate Security. Jennifer http://www.allbusiness.com/labor-employment/human-resources-personnel-management/12398009-1.html

Why Smart Virtual Assistants Create Systems

Virtual assistants are gifted professionals who can typically organize and run any business their clients hand to them. But when it comes to being organizing and running their own businesses, that’s more of a challenge. When you’re wearing multiple hats it is easy to put off creating our own systems.

A smart virtual assistant’s business should strive to run as smoothly as their local 5-start restaurant. At anytime you should be able to add a new client to your workload and not miss a beat in your productivity and service standards.

Creating and documenting your business procedures can be done quickly and easily if you take a few steps. And thanks to technology, we can create our systems plan in a variety of ways. Here are three steps to get you started:

Gather Your Information. This step is quite challenging for many because it means collecting all of the information you have previously stored in your brain (and all over your office) into one specific document. Your goal is to record your daily business routine to paper. Be sue that it includes all passwords, resources, the web addresses, phone numbers, contact information, etc.

Create a Video Record. In addition to recording your information on paper creating a video tutorial where you explain and describe exactly what you’re doing and why you are doing it. You can use Camtasia or its open source counterpart CamStudio to complete this step. The benefit of the video is that you’ll be able to share them with future contractors or employees.

Monitor Your Results. This step involves paying attention to your business. For example, let’s say when you began your virtual assistance business you were using Excel to keep track of your accounting. But now you have more clients and Excel is becoming cumbersome. So you decide to try a program like FreshBooks. So you’d take a moment to compare how much time you are saving (or losing) with your newly proposed accounting system. Once you’ve examined your experience you would update your systems document.

Business systems can be broken down into three words: Plan – Do – Review.

  • Plan out how you want you business to run.
  • Do what your systems plan outlines; don’t improvise or change anything until you get to the next step which is to Review.
  • Review if the way that you’re working is the most effective way to get business done and if not, make adjustments as necessary. By repeating these steps you’re well on your way to a well-run business organization.

Building Your Home Business System

Many home based businesses fail within six months of starting. This is usually because the new business owner has not put in place, the proper systems to run a home based business. In this article I’ve included a few tips that should help you to organize your new business.

Office space

It is important to have a proper workplace for your home business. Many people try to work out of their garage or a corner of their bedroom or even in a portion of the family room. This tends to cause disorganization. Curious children getting into things in your workspace can also be a problem. If you don’t have a specific space set aside for your home based business you need to make one.

Set up an office space specifically for your business, even if most of your work is done outside of your home (as with building contractors or plumbers). Setting up a specific desk, file cabinet, and telephone line for your business is important. If you don’t have a room in your home that is exclusively used for your business, you need to have at least a portion of a room set aside. This area shouldn’t be used for anything else.

Telephone

Your home base business should have its own telephone number and an answering machine set up specifically for your business. If your clients can get a hold of you via the telephone you need to have a way for them to contact your online. Sharing your home telephone line with your home based business can cause problems. If you have teenagers or other family members who are prone to use the telephone a lot you may not get an important business calls. Setup rules for your business phone. It should be used for business use only. Whoever answers your business phone needs to do it in a professional manner. This is important if you want your business to be taken seriously.

Organizing Data and Supplies

Your office should have a secure filing cabinet to organize your business documents. You should keep all important data in this filing cabinet. All receipts and other forms need to be kept where you are not going to lose them. It’s also important to keep documents and other business related materials put away so that someone doesn’t spell something on them. Losing important paperwork can be very costly for your home based business. Selling products that look like your children have been playing with them is also not good for your business.

Computer

Data on your computer should be password protected. If you don’t password protect your business documents it’s possible that children or even other family members can go in and accidentally delete your home based business data. Losing computerized business records can also be very costly for a new home based business.

Financial Management System

Another big mistake that new home business owners tend to make is not having a separate financial management system for their business and your own money. Your business should have its own bank account. You should give yourself a payday. Avoid giving your self advances, even when you feel you have earned them. Keeping track of business expenditures is important. If your financial records are mingled in with your grocery shopping it’s going to become very difficult to keep track of funds.