Here is where these meetings always start. You are in a conference room with your company’s executives and here I am, a lawyer, advising you on what you can and cannot do under statute A or regulation B. This could be our first meeting or our 25th and usually we’re meeting because the company wants to make a move in a certain direction and needs advice. But I’d like to talk about what happens before a business gets to this stage in their relationship with their lawyer/law firm/general counsel. Whether you’re just starting a business or have an established corporation there are three factors that any business should consider when just getting started or making changes to their business.
Now connectivity, safety/security and exposure, or what I call “CSE”, might seem like no brainers but you would be surprised how many companies, big and small, ignore their CSE’s and find themselves in severe financial trouble. Understanding and analyzing your company’s CSE’s will go a long way to making your company’s operations productive. In addition, it will go a long way to making your future meetings with your lawyer/law firm/general counsel more productive. This may seem simplistic but sometimes the best rules are simplistic.
So with that being said let’s talk about CONNECTIVITY. Simply stated it means to connect or have an ongoing connection with someone or something. Thirty to forty years ago to have connectivity with your customers all you needed was a phone, a fax, a business card and some advertising. Today you needed all of these tools plus a website, email and depending upon how large you want your business to be, or how small, a social marketing plan. The real time, or instantaneous, connection that comes through the use of social media gives businesses a chance to change direction very quickly to satisfy customers but only if it chooses to take advantage of the technology. First, as a business owner you need to decide what level of connectivity you wish to have with your customers
Secondly as a business owner if you are going to use the tools of modern technology you have to make sure that your customer’s information will remain safe and that their transaction will remain secure. I use the terms SAFETY/SECURITY interchangeably because they are a big part of people’s concerns in society today. If a consumer cannot be reasonably sure that their information will not be safe and secure when they purchase a service or product from your business, then you will not be in business for long. Credit card numbers or personal information such as a social security number or a date of birth are forms of consumer proprietary information that you as the business owner have to continually find ways to protect otherwise you are exposing your business to liability.
Which brings us to our last factor to consider EXPOSURE. Any time a business or a person tries something innovative and new
there is always thepotential that they are opening themselves up to legal liability. As a business owner you want to minimize your exposure as much as possible so what is the best way to do that? First, ask yourself “will this product/service hurt a customer who is using it if they use the product/service in the way that it is intended to be used?” Second, ask yourself “is there any way for this product/service to hurt a user if they use it in a way that it has not intended to be used?” Finally, ask yourself “have I given enough instructions to the consumer about how to use the product/service and how not to use the product/service so that they won’t hurt themselves and they understood what they were being told?” If your answer to all three questions is YES, then you have managed to limit your exposure. You cannot get rid of all your levels of exposure but you can minimize what the business is responsible for on any given day.
Remember whether you are just starting a business, keeping the business afloat or thriving remember CSE (connectivity, safety/security and exposure) and your business will have a strong foundation.