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Small Business

Risky Business

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There are many things you need to do to protect yourself and your business. It's hard to believe but there are many businesses who have no insurance at all and these thrill seekers need to take a careful look at their business and the perceived risks they face. Accidents happen and having no insurance could wipe you out of business and even come back at you personally.

By the book

Make sure you apply for any licences required to run your business legally. The government department responsible for small business in your state has the process streamlined and you can see what permits, registrations or licences are required for your particular business. Local governments have a fair amount of control over:

  • The land or buildings used for business activities
  • Your personal legal liability
  • The way businesses advertise themselves.
  • The way a council zones an area can prohibit a business from operating or only allow trading to occur with council consent.

One size doesn't fit all

Your risks are just that - yours. Just as your business is different to others, so should be your cover. After all, a small home-based start-up will not have the same needs as a larger company leasing office space. This is not as hard as you think. For example, if you have domestic contents insurance, contact your insurer and tell them you’re running a home business and need to extend your policy to cover business assets. The extra cost is not exorbitant and is a cost your business should pay.

Commercial leases

Most commercial leases require council approval for a business to operate. If the council won’t let you run a business in premises you’ve leased, you’ll still have to pay rent until the premises can be re-let. Unless they’ve given you incorrect information (which you’d have to prove), the landlord is generally not under any obligation to obtain consent from the council, you are!

What about signs?

Signs, and any other form of outdoor advertising, come under the control of councils. Generally a licence or permit is needed for any ad so get approval to avoid your signs being removed. If the council allows signs but refuses to approve yours, you can go to a planning appeal tribunal for help.

Is that your name?

Check the proposed name of your business with the Department of Fair Trading (or its equivalent in your state), the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Trade Marks division of IP Australia. Registering a name doesn’t mean you own it. If your business name is different from your own name or you have added words to it, you must register it. Certain names will be rejected. Once registered it must be on public display in your business and that name must be used exactly on all correspondence. Renew your registration after three years. Here’s a warning: registering your business name or having a company name does not give you ownership of that name. If you want ‘ownership’ of your business name you will need to apply for a trade mark.

Accidents can happen

Be careful if you run a home-based business because the home can be an accident zone. Walk around your property and check out any area that could be an occupational health and safety problem for yourself or others coming onto your site. If you think that people don’t come to your site then think again, do you ever have couriers picking up or dropping off, do contractors come for meetings or do service people come to fix up your phones or computers? If anyone who comes into your workplace is injured they could sue you, you must remember that your home is a workplace and therefore you must be strict with safety standards. Do a safety audit: Is the front-gate working effectively? Is the path to your office free of clutter or slippery substances? If you have animals such as dogs make sure they are business friendly and even on a leash if necessary. Remember that the majority of accidents happen in the home and you need to be extra cautious if you use your home as a workplace.

Are you backing up?

If your business relies on computers, you must back up everything you do on a daily basis and keep a copy of your work offsite in case your workplace is subjected to a fire or other natural disaster and you lose the lot. This may sound dramatic but many home-based businesses after the Canberra fires found it so hard to get their lives up and running again because they didn’t have any back up protection.

Are you insured?

Be safe, not sorry. Look into all the different types of insurance that you’ll need, and keep in mind that it’s not a case of one size fits all. 

Minimise the risks

Being in business is a serious matter. If you want to enjoy your business and your life, taking business matters seriously from the start allows you to do that.

GIO Business Interruption Insurance. It could mean the difference between a pause in your business and an end to it. Click here to find out more.


Published on: Wednesday, August 12, 2009

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