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What policies should you set in your small business?

By Samantha Garner | October 15, 2011

We’ve all had an experience with a business’ policy, whether it be guidelines for returning that on-sale sweater you just bought, or rules about reserving tables in the fancy new wine bar in town. As consumers, we probably don’t think about them too much. But as small business owners, policies should be set as close to start-up as possible. Entrepreneurs can never be too prepared!

Types of small business policies

Some policies, like the return policy given in the example above, will come to mind fairly quickly (lest customers come back with a coffee-stained pair of pants they’d like to return – and get their money back). Others won’t be as obvious. Here are some policies you might consider for your small business:

  • Return policy. Can customers return merchandise? Used or unused? After how long? What do they get in return – money, store credit or simply another item from the store?
  • Dress code. Some high-end restaurants and lounges have dress codes in place to maintain a certain image. These dress codes usually stipulate a few things, such as no jeans or baseball caps. Of course, dress codes may also apply to your small business’ employees.
  • Sponsorship/charity policy. Many small businesses are approached to partner with another business or event in sponsorship. However, sometimes an entrepreneur just can’t spare the time, resources or money. In other cases, there may be a restricted dollar amount an entrepreneur can set aside for sponsorship or charitable donations per year. This policy can change as your small business changes.
  • Privacy policy. In our digital age, privacy policies are becoming a hot-button issue. No matter how much of your business is actually conducted electronically, there are always privacy concerns to think about. A well-formed privacy policy will outline how and why you collect customers’ personal information and how it’s used or not used.
  • HR policy. Human resource policies are set up internally. They outline things such as holidays, salaries, proper attire, sick days and termination. An HR policy will help employees understand what you expect of them, and will help you organize and strengthen your business. It also protects you legally in some areas.

Some of these policies could benefit from your lawyer’s advice. Others can be created on your own. Decide on these policies as early as you can, and stand behind them.

Do you have any other small business policies to add to our list?

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