Despite the fact that the nightly television news bulletins are full of crime reports, and that break-ins and incidents of theft are so common that they hardly make the news anymore unless they are unusually brutal, most people take the attitude that it won’t happen to them. This kind of head-in-the-sand attitude might be a little risky for your typical homeowner but it’s straight up dangerous for small business owners.
According to the Australian Institute of Criminology’s most recent crime stats report, there were 14,582 cases of robbery reported in 2010. This actually represents a significant decline from its peak back in 2001 when there were 26,591 reported robberies. The important thing to note here is that these are only the ones the police have classified as violent.
On top of this, there were 216,886 instances of unlawful entry with intent reported, as well as 54,736 cases of motor vehicle theft, and 461,169 entries made under ‘other theft’ in the property crime section in 2010.
As a whole, the police must be doing a good job because crime rates are falling, but the sheer number of burglaries being carried out means that it’s something that should be on the radar of most small business owners.
The interesting thing about security in the business world is that once it meant having a sturdy lock on your door, but now it’s a term more commonly associated with internet viruses and malware. In reality, while digital security is important, your business can be crippled just as quickly if a thief jimmies open a window and walks out with a few months work of stock.
Just like with digital security though, it can be easy to let paranoia take hold of you and to end up overspending on services you don’t really need. If you call up a security provider, their motivation is going to be to sell you as much as possible, but at the same time, they are probably the most likely to know what they are actually talking about.
Mark Norton, managing director of ADT Security Australia, believes the most common mistake small business owners make is not taking enough precautions. “Many people believe that crime is not likely to affect them,” he says.
“However, small businesses are often viewed as easy targets as they may not make the same investment in security measures that larger businesses do and generally have less staff to keep an eye on things.”
ADT recently surveyed 500 small business owners and 500 employees of those businesses and found that 35.5% of respondents had been a victim of crime at work. Mark points out that of the business owners surveyed, 14% admitted to not protecting their business at all.
“Crime is especially devastating for small businesses,” Mark claims. “The potential for the loss of profit and merchandise to overwhelm a small-to-medium sized business (SMB) is high, as well as the financial loss incurred due to property damage, business disruption or closure, and lost customers and orders – not to mention the threat crimes like robbery pose to the physical safety ofcustomers and employees.”
The study by ADT also found that 55% of businesses surveyed had been a victim of burglary at some stage. In addition, 27% of SMB owners that responded had been hit by theft from employees, 26% had been hit by shoplifting and 25% had been on the receiving end of vandalism.
“It is important to note that different types of theft are more likely to affect different types of businesses,” Mark adds. “For example, a fashion retailer is particularly vulnerable to shoplifting, employee theft and other crimes such as ram-raid incidents.
“A service station is more at risk of armed robbery. An accounting firm may have to pay stronger attention to fraud. Business owners should carefully consider their specific needs when deciding what security systems to implement.”
How much to spend?
Much like everything in business, there is no silver bullet when it comes to security. There’s never really going to be such a thing as a warehouse that can’t be broken into, unless you can sweet talk your nearest deployment of Australian Army soldiers to keep an eye on it for you.
Mark points out that the amount business owners should spend depends on a variety of factors such as the nature of the business, its location, size, and the security threats that staff encounter.
He uses the example of a small office, which would have significantly different requirements to that of a warehouse, garage, retail store or a home office.
“Sometimes many security issues can be addressed without making significant changes to your business,” Mark says. “Simply widening the counter, for example, can deter opportunistic thieves from leaning over to access the till and placing security signs on windows and entrance-ways will show that the premises are protected.
“While locking up the premises is a given, a monitored alarm system will enhance a business’ security significantly.”
How much is too much?
Graham Wheeler, business development director at CCTV provider Mobotix believes that SMB owners need to carefully consider how much security equipment they really need before just putting it in.
“I regularly see small retail environments that have had a robbery and their first reaction is to put in some surveillance cameras,” he says. “They forget to think about factors like lighting conditions – they need to ensure the cameras they are choosing are going to function well in low-light or night time conditions.
“They often think about cameras in terms of external threats, but many small businesses suffer stock shrinkage from their own staff, so it’s not always just about monitoring for outside threats.”
Mark’s top 5
Mark Norton is the managing director of ADT Security Australia, and we asked him for his top five tips for securing your home or office.
1. Rethink the layout and organisation of your premises Minimise the potential for crime by assessing external lighting around the premises, access points and car park. Stores can help to reduce theft and stock shrinkage by reviewing fixture heights, identifying blind spots and deploying security mirrors which can help increase the line of sight of floor staff. Other strategies include keeping high-value items behind the counter or in locked cupboards, cash control procedures and float limits. Well-positioned signage explaining the security measures in place is also a good deterrent.
2. Consider your security threats Tailor security solutions to your business’ requirements, such as protection for shoplifting, robbery, employee theft, vandalism or fraud. Depending on the nature of the business, considerations should include visual surveillance, POS security, source tagging and inventory management systems, access control, and even if physical security guards are required on the premises.
3. Increase staff training Thoroughly train all employees in the proper use of opening and closing procedures; how to operate and respond to security systems in place; how to identify security threats and troubleshoot potential weaknesses. This includes both initiation courses for new staff and regular ‘refresher’ training courses held for all employees.
4. Implement a comprehensive security plan ADT recommends that business owners employ the services of a reputable security company for a thorough security assessment of their premises in order to highlight risk areas and develop a security plan.
5. Keep up to date It’s important for business owners be aware of crime trends in their local area and work with local police. They should also stay up-to-date on the tools and techniques employed by large retailers, which can be adapted to meet their specific needs.
• Install convex mirrors that allow employees to easily observe all corners and aisles in the business.
• Have only one functioning entrance and one exit to your business.
• Keep expensive merchandise inside locked cases.
• Light all exterior points of entry and exit.
• Install entry protecting alarms to detect the breaking of windows and the opening of doors.
• Install point protectors (such as pressure-switch mats) to detect when someone enters a restricted area, such as by a cash register.
• Install a deadbolt lock/latch in each exterior door and use high-quality padlocks on shutters and roller doors.
• Never have fewer than two people close up at night.
• Install a closed-circuit television system and consider paying to have it monitored.
• Place security signs and stickers on points of entry to serve as deterrents to robbery.
• Install cash register protection such as a silent alarm or a secret alarm trigger in the till. • Minimise the amount of cash in your registers by using a safe with a drop mechanism. This will allow you to make periodic drops during the day.
• Ensure local police/fire departments have current contact information for the store manager or other key contacts.
• Police advise that if you are a victim of an armed robbery, do exactly as you are told. Never resist.
Source: ADT Security
Ask the expert
Graham Wheeler is the business development director at Mobotix, and we asked him if there is still a need for your own independent closed-circuit television (CCTV) system if you are in a secure building.
It depends on the policy of the secure location. There are uses for physical security beyond simply catching criminals or preventing theft. For example, your own security system can have benefits for any potential OH&S matters. In many of these service office setups, cleaners will come in and use a wedge or a big industrial vacuum to keep a door open. All it takes is a small distraction for them to inadvertently leave a door open and enable thieves to enter a small office virtually undetected. So there are other, less obvious benefits to having your own security system even if the office building itself is protected.
It’s important to have a discussion with your office’s building manager to have a good understanding of the security policy and protection the building provides as part of