SME’s

GDPR Checklist for Small Businesses

GDPR Checklist for Small Businesses

Is getting ready to comply with the GDPR at the top of your to-do list? With the implementation date just around the corner, it is time to consider how your business will be impacted and what you need to do to be ready. We’ve compiled a checklist that small businesses can use to plan their course of action.

Understand Personal Data Within your Business

Before anything else, you must be able to understand types of personal data your business is handling (i.e. name, email, address, bank details, etc) and what can be considered as sensitive data (i.e. health information, religious views, etc). You also should know where the data comes from, where it is stored and how it is used.

Develop a Consent Policy

Do you require consent to process personal data? Under the GDPR, consent needs to be explicit, clear and specific, which can make some activities (such as marketing) more difficult. Understand where you need to acquire consent.

Make your Security Policies GDPR-compliant

Spend some time reviewing and updating your security measures and policies – if you don’t have any, get some in place. Using encryption is generally recommended and can avoid your business hefty fines in the event of a data breach.

Prepare for Access Requests

Under the GDPR, all citizens will have the right to access their personal data, rectify inaccurate data, object to their data being processed or even completely erase any of their personal data you hold. You will need to be able to process such requests within the required timeframe.

Create Fair Processing Notices

Under the GDPR, you will be required to use fair processing notices to clearly describe to individuals what you are doing with their personal data. You should include why you are holding the data, who you may be sending the data to (i.e. employee, customer, supplier, etc) and how long you’ll be holding the data for.

Train Your Employees

Everybody in the business should understand what constitutes a personal data breach and how to pick up the signals. All employees should be made aware of the need to report any mistakes or breach to the person responsible for data protection (i.e. the DPO) within 72 hours.

Conduct Due-Diligence on your Supply Chain

To avoid being impacted by any data breaches (and consequent penalties), make sure that all suppliers and contractors are GDPR-compliant. You’ll also need to make sure that you have the right supplier and contractor contract terms in place.

Do you Need to Employ a Data Protection Officer (DPO)?

Unless your business is processing large volumes of personal data, your small business may not need to employ a full-time DPO. However, it is recommended to appoint someone responsible for data protection within the business. Or use a virtual or outsourced option.

Even if you do not hire a full-time DPO, getting all processes and documents in place to be GDPR-compliant can be a lot to take in for small business owners. We can help you assess areas of risks and get prepared to comply with the GDPR. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if this is something you’d like to discuss!

Small businesses, donations and working with charities.

In our experience, a lot of small business owners are very aware of social responsibilities and many have started businesses based upon a principle or an ethos.

It would seem that small businesses are the perfect target for a charity or ethical organisation that requires donations. It appears logical, that a principled small business owner would be very keen to have a transparent and open link with a charity, especially a charity that reflects their values and is compatible with their approach to business. As a small business making smaller more frequent donations works for us as opposed to large one off donations.

So with that in mind; here are two suggestions or challenges, that if overcome, would help us integrate a charity into my business.

The first issue is highlighting the destination of the donation and the positive impact it may have?
There is a certain cynicism with regards to how much of the donation goes to the cause itself, perhaps the charity can tackle that issue by providing a statement or a certificate with every donation, outlining where the money is going and what percentage will impact the grassroots, or make a difference?

The second issue is access to a branded dedicated link (continuously live) to make it easy for our clients and us to make a donation. For example, some of our services like ‘updating a contract’, may require minor tweaks and we may avoid charging our clients for the work, however attaching a value to the work is useful and may be an opportunity to integrate a charitable donation option into our service. Its means we complete minor work for a fixed value which results in a donation instead of a direct payment or not charging any fee.

The charities we’ve spoken with are not structured to provide a simple payment mechanism for us to use. You would think with all the technology out there that making a charitable donation that’s transparent, open and ethically acceptable would be a simple task.

Hope you find our thoughts on this subject of interest.

If I can understand then I am more likely to adhere

If I can understand then I am more likely to adhere

Whilst ignorance is not a defence, ignorance can cause confusions which often leads to problems or disputes. Understandably when you are running a small business, avoiding these types of situations is beneficial.

Ignorance of the law as we know is no defence and can often lead to problems and costly legal battles. In short, ignorance is bad for business – which is why having a well-drafted contract written in an accessible style can be a small business best friend.  That awareness is a key skill to obtain when building a business.

A contract written in a style that is readable and understandable is good for your clients, as well as the business. Legalese speak can often confuse clients or customers, and this confusion can lead to a breakdown in communication, non-payment and disputes.  Especially for small businesses, this can lead to serious problems.

Small businesses need to have clarity and transparency, which can be shown through a well-drafted contract that protects both the business and the customer. By taking the time to have this drafted you are helping to sustain your business, by giving your clients trust in you. An understandable contract will go a long way for a client and often encourage them to use you again. They know the terms of the agreement they are entering into and know what is expected of both parties. If they can understand the contract then it encourages them to adhere.

Whilst ignorance from clients will, for the most part, be genuine, some may use it to their advantage. An ambiguous contract gives clients the excuse to act in a negative way, as they cannot understand it. They can use this misunderstanding to avoid their contractual responsibilities.

Understandably, small businesses can often believe that they don’t need a contract, or they are too busy to have one done. A contract won’t always stop disputes happening, but a well-drafted set of terms and conditions will help to prevent them. It allows the business owner to manage risks better if the clients understand the contract.

Making the legalities of a business accessible to clients is good business practice. Businesses should not be interested in clouding disputes with an ambiguous contract, as it wastes precious time and money.

General confusion caused by a misunderstanding can have devastating effects on a small business, and it’s important to try and avoid these situations. Giving your clients a contract they can be read and understood will help to reduce problems, and encourage loyalty. Just think, would you buy something if you weren’t quite sure what you were getting?

Special Offers

Starting a business can be tough, and keeping up with legal costs can be even tougher. Which is why we have launched some fantastic offers as a way of saying thanks to all our existing clients.

 

Affordable payment plans

Protect your business without breaking the bank! No need to pay your bill all in one go, with our cashflow friendly payment plans. No more large bills and simply pay over six months by direct debit, subject to terms and conditions.

Free aftercare support

Before you issue your new terms and conditions, our aftercare support team will guide you through the process. We will encourage you to develop good habits, using your contracts in line with your sales process and allow you to have confidence with a new professional approach.

Discounted Upgrades

Making the change from sole trader to LTD company? For a donation to our Give a Little campaign, we will upgrade your terms and conditions to reflect the new phase in your business.

Shareholders’ agreements: protection from loss or unnecessary expense?

28th  Oct 2013

Setting up a new business can be a costly endeavour. Between the new website, marketing and the expense of looking for new customers, many businesses do not consider risk management as a priority from the outset. The introduction of a contract such as a shareholders’ agreement is often put on the back burner and the function and profitability of the business become the main priority. The forming of such agreements can be seen as time consuming and costly but actually this business expense can save the company money in the long run and can creates a foundation and ultimately an incentive for all shareholders and directors to work together.

A shareholders’ agreement is put in place not only to resolve shareholder issues, but to resolve them quickly and quietly, keeping the business’ reputation and income intact. It can govern the actions of each shareholder and consequently the directors of a company, as the people who form small businesses tend to occupy both roles. It is a valuable mechanism in situations of shareholder disagreements or removals. It may prevent an ex-director providing the same services while attempting to poach the previous company’s customers. This would essentially save the company from spending both time and money on unnecessary court proceedings. A further attractive characteristic of a shareholders’ agreement is that it is not in the public domain. Therefore, any boardroom disagreement can be kept quiet to preserve the company’s reputation.

An article from the Independent newspaper, explains the benefit of using a shareholders’ agreement and how the alternative involving court action is much more expensive than putting a shareholders’ agreement in place, “In any event court action is usually expensive and time consuming and may damage the company’s reputation and the goodwill of the business. It is therefore important that there is a contractual procedure in place to resolve any deadlock as quickly and as privately as possible.”

It makes sense putting a shareholders’ agreement in place from the beginning to cater for changes in the shareholders’ interest and business direction. Consequently, the implementation of such a contract would be much trickier after the shareholder changes focus.  Resolutions to such situations are more time consuming and generally uncomfortable as the negotiations take place under a cloud of changing priority and frustration.

The article continues, “the directors and shareholders’ personal plans and expectations may diverge over time, making it harder to agree the terms of the shareholders’ agreement later on in the lifecycle of the company.”  So, putting a shareholders’ agreement in place may also result in a business being more profitable. The agreement can also regulate the everyday functions of the business, allowing decisions to be made quickly and fairly, taking account of the views of each shareholder. It can also regulate the responsibilities and remuneration of each shareholder, which could potentially prevent many misunderstandings and disagreements.

David Reilly, Director at Create Ts and Cs commented, “We believe a shareholder agreement is not only a mechanism for solving problems within a limited company and promoting the sustainability of the company but it’s also a way of managing governance in the business; reflecting the particular culture of the business.  Managing the consent issues and the shared responsibilities of each shareholder/director (in most small businesses the directors and shareholders are the same person); this way responsibility is allocated and incentive built into the agreement to ensure that each director/shareholder (small business model) is part of something that is theirs’ to grow as a team.  This is best done through a tailored agreement, which is a shareholder agreement that is first discussed with the shareholders/directors and the key issues agreed beforehand and then reflected in a tailored contract.”

Yes, it is a relatively costly instrument and is not always utilised. However, this does not take away from the fact that these agreements are an essential tool for your business. It should be common practice for these agreements are formed at the start of the venture alongside forming a company.

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Self-drafted and ‘off the shelf’ contracts versus bespoke contracts – what’s the difference?

 

Self-drafted or general off the shelf contracts are not adequate for those businesses who want to manage their liability, a case from www.lexology.com (legal website that explores business issues and law) shows how self-drafted or off the shelf contracts just don’t manage the risk within a business and can lead to businesses issuing contracts that are simply unenforceable.

The High court found that an exclusion clause contained within the standard terms and conditions of an IT supplier was unenforceable leading to an award of damages of £110k in favour of the Client. The case (Kingsway hall hotel limited V red sky IT limit [2010] EWHC 965 (TCC). Legal firm RPC (www.rpc.co.uk) commented on this case saying, “from this case it was clear that there existed a clear disconnect between red sky’s standard terms and conditions and the manner in which red sky sought to sell their software.  Suppliers should ensure that their standard terms accurately reflect the sales and contract process. Any gap between the process envisaged in the standard terms and the actual process may result in clauses being unenforceable.  Standard terms and contract processes should be reviewed regularly with legal advisers to ensure enforceability and maximise their benefit”.

Click here to view or Bespoke contract versus self-drafted or off the shelf contract chart outlining the pro’s and cons.

 

Please sign here ….however please don’t ask me what’s in the contract.

 

It’s not uncommon for a client to sign a contract where the content is not understood, the origin of the information unknown or is drafted by an unqualified hand?  There are a variety of reasons for this; one of the key reasons is that legal services appear to be an expensive luxury rather than a must-have for your business.  Generally, this type of contract is unenforceable and this can cause a problem for both parties when a dispute arises.

The danger of contracting with an unenforceable contract is expressed in an article posted on Lexology, “Am I being unreasonable”? by legal firm Nabarro LLP, the article comments on the importance of a contract containing clauses that are reasonable and in-line with the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 (UCTA), “it is always been in a contracting party’s interests to consider the reasonableness of the contract clauses; take advice on whether the court would be likely to uphold the clause should it be subject to challenge”.   So knowing what’s enforceable and what’s reasonable defines the credibility of the contract.

Its key to remember that this is not just a legal issue but is a business issue, a think tank aimed at creatives/designers called Creative Latitude believe that the contents of the contract is a key client communication, “If we have to take a deep breath and are physically uncomfortable when we present the contract, that uneasiness is bound to be communicated to our client. The last thing you want to do is cause your client to see the worried look on your face and wonder, what the heck is in this contract”?

David Reilly, director at Create Ts and Cs commented, “Our client acquire bespoke contracts ratified by a solicitor so they know that the contract is enforceable (deemed reasonably).  It’s critical that their potential customer knows they have gone to the trouble to invest in a contract that is enforceable and protects both parties”.

Considering the investment of time and money to contact clients, coffees and lunches, sales systems and marketing campaigns, it makes sense to continue the good work and invest in a professionally written, assessable contract relevant to your business ensuring its ‘reasonable’ and ‘enforceable’ throughout. 

 

The correct contracts attracts investment; get the due diligence right.

 

 

Making your business an attractive proposition for an investor or potential buyer can be a time consuming task.  Apart from the usual business day to day of ensuring you are making sales and keeping your clients happy while increasing profitability; there is the added preparation of documentation to allow the key business info to be viewed from the outside and understood by a potential suitor.  The process of viewing and interrogating this documentation is generally classed as ‘due diligence’.

According to sellingbusiness.ca, “despite all the uncertainty regarding the due diligence process; some principles that if applied can assist the process and increase the chances of reaching a satisfactory sale.  For example it’s advisable that the sellers prepare a large portion of the documentation needed for due diligence before putting the business up for sale, especially financial and accounting information and legal documentation”.  This principle is applied to either investing-in or buying a company”.

Colin Munro, Director at Mi City, www.mi.uk.com comments on the need to impress an investor, “Small businesses need to protect their intangible assets in order to build value and if investment is to be attracted at any future date then clear legal definitions will be a requirement of the investor.  It is much better to agree terms with a supplier prior to commissioning any work, clarifying any areas of ambiguity. This will help to prevent future disagreements and potentially costly negotiations”.  

So, having the right contracts is important as it shows investors or buyers you can protect your asset and build value within the business.  David Reilly, Director at Create Ts and Cs, “in my experience investors or potential buyers will feel a certain reassurance that you have gone to the trouble of putting in place the correct contracts with suppliers and customers to assist in managing risk and help contract in a manner that assists the process of getting paid on time, protecting your IP and generally providing a professional framework to protect both parties while doing business.  Also a contract can demonstrate residual value where contract duration is signed up to; for example, a signed contract ensures a certain amount of revenue and value for the contract period.  i.e. a 12 contract should yield 12 months revenue, which of course is attractive to a potential investor or buyer”.

It’s not unreasonable for a potential investor or buyer to be interested in a company that has invested in its own business processes and formally manages their client relationships. 

Bill Christie, FCIBS is a Chartered Banker and Managing Director at CER, www.cerbusinessfinance.co.uk, who assists businesses identify the appropriate funding for their company commented “I cannot stress strongly enough the essential requirement for a business, no matter how small; start-up or indeed established to have an “approved” set of Ts & Cs; specifically designed for your business.  Yes, you can obtain Ts & Cs from the Internet but they may well not be designed to provide the right protection that you and your business require.  When discussing a funding/business proposal with a prospective client, I consider that Ts & Cs are just as important as Business Insurance”.

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What our software developer clients are saying

We recently drafted a bespoke set of terms and conditions for PHP Developers, Malt Blue Ltd and they’ve been kind enough to blog about the difference and added value bespoke Ts & Cs have made to their business.

Now maybe it’s just a matter of perception in my own mind here; maybe it is. But ever since going through this process, the tone and quality of the interactions with clients has definitely gone up a number of notches. I see myself taken more seriously and remunerated as such.

But maybe it’s something else. Maybe, it was just coincidental timing – I don’t believe that. Irrespective of what it is, I know two things:

  1. I’ve had a good solid look and think about my intent in running a freelance business
  2. I’m more focused and professional in my conduct

This isn’t to say or infer that I wasn’t before. But going through this process changed me, because of all the topics that I started considering in such depth; which in turn, led me to consider other aspects of how the world sees my freelance business. Topics such as letterhead, email signatures, they way that I write and communicate with clients and so on.

Read the full post.

It’s always great when we receive such positive feedback from our clients.  How can we make a difference with how you perceive your business?  Contact us today.

 

Creatives can neglect contracts at their peril.

The subject of terms and conditions traditionally for Creatives is usually the last issue on their mind. It’s also common for Creatives to acquire someone else’s terms and conditions or write their own contracts. Unfortunately the credibility of these contracts is only tested in times of dispute; so contracts drafted in bullet points format or acquired from an unreliable source generally don’t contain the correct enforceable clauses to assist the business to resolve issues that arise.

Similarly, those many companies who choose to do business on a handshake, as honourable as that sounds, find the frailty of the contract is exposed when a dispute arises, as there is no real legal detail or proper fall back position to solve disputes. Writing down the details of how you’d like to do business is a simple idea and best captured in a contract that is tailored to the relevant business sector and business type.

There seems to be a natural resistance to formality and detail, yet during times of disagreement it’s often the details that will protect a business.

Terms and conditions can be for many Creative businesses a way for outlining ‘how they want their customer to engage with their services, from quotation to completion of the work.

Colin Hardie, Director at Ubisan a web commercialisation business commented, ” Create Ts and Cs listened and managed to distill the more specific elements of my business into a coherent and highly professional set of bespoke terms and conditions…. something that would have been impossible to achieve with an“off the shelf” alternative”.

This also means, outlining your payment terms, the IP ownership and managing scope creep through effective ‘sign off’ processes captured in the Terms and Conditions. All these issues are central to ensuring you get the work done on time and in-line with your Creative business strategy while getting paid, which can assist cashflow and promote sustainablity within the business.

David Atkinson, Director at design agency CO2 Design, said,” Before we got a bespoke set of Ts and Cs, we like many others got a set from the web or looked at others, now we have a ratified contract that communicates clearly with our clients.  Also, we’ve managed to reduce the amount of debt within our business to a level we can manage, which has helped the business”.

Its also common for some potential clients to request a set of Terms and Conditions prior to doing business, if you don’t have a relevant set of Ts and Cs, then you’ll simply accept the terms offered by the client or in some cases run the risk of signing up to a contract which is packed with clauses no one knows the consequences of signing up to! Meaning you get paid and agree to the terms according to the clients terms and conditions.

David McCullough, MD of Urban Niche, a social media marketing business based in Edinburgh commented, “Urban Niche contracted Create Ts and Cs to draft a bespoke set of Terms and Conditions to support our bid for NHS business, I am delighted to say we won the business and believe Create Ts and Cs contributed greatly to our bid and ensured we had the correct commercial contract; helping us to present our business professionally and prepare appropriately for our negotiations”

Having a relevant, sector focused contract in-line with the Creative business is one way of avoiding unnecessary disputes and allows the Creative business owner to concentrate on doing the work they enjoy doing .

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Create Ts and Cs provide a bespoke set of Terms and Conditions for your business at a fixed price, this unique approach to individualising commercial Terms and Conditions allow Start up and SME sized businesses the opportunity to protect themselves, manage risk and guard against future unnecessary disputes at an affordable price. Download: terms & conditions | privacy policy