From social media to hiring and cloud computing, some pointers for business owners.
A code of business ethics and conduct can enhance your company's reputation and stature, help you avoid ethical and legal pitfalls and "protect you from disaster if an employee's transgression causes your company to face criminal charges, suspension and debarment from federal contracting," says John Horan, a Seminole County commissioner and Foley & Lardner partner who focuses on business and administrative litigation and public affairs counseling in Orlando.
Businesses with federal contracts worth more than $5 million and with a performance period longer than 120 days are usually required to have an ethics code. But Horan says it's good business regardless of a company's size and contracts. He recommends an ethics code address:
» Its commitment to shareholders, customers, suppliers, lenders, investors, employees and the community
» Business conduct that is required, prohibited or permitted
» Discrimination, harassment, safety, alcohol, drugs and the like
» Use of company assets, intellectual property, procedures for keeping accurate records
» Bribery, kickbacks, Truth in Negotiations Act, political contributions, lobbying costs, hiring government employees, export and import compliance, etc.
Each employee should sign a certificate indicating that he or she has received the ethics code and will comply, says John Horan.
The benefits of the cloud are many: It can be thousands of dollars a year cheaper than traditional applications. It also can help lower power bills and IT support costs. But companies working in the cloud lose control over the software application and become dependent on the provider to maintain it — or fix it if something goes wrong. Cloud computing also has implications for privacy and confidentiality. Where will your company's sensitive data be stored? What's the security like? The safest bet may be to start with a few of the non-risky applications, such as video-conferencing.