Risk management - fail to prepare, prepare to fail
IF 2016 taught us anything, it was the importance of planning for the unexpected.
The shock waves of the Brexit vote in June will likely be felt for some time, with informed guesses aided by analysts and commentators the best some local companies can do in terms of gauging what impacts the departure from the EU may have on their business.
While it's vital for businesses of all sizes across all sectors to continually monitor the potential risks to their business, and regularly review their insurance policy, now is an ideal time to ensure a strategic plan for the year ahead is in place.
A lot can change in a year in business, such as the hiring of new staff, the landing of a major new client or investment in new property, technology or machinery. With these changes come new elements of risk which need to be effectively managed.
As well as the direct post-Brexit commercial considerations, which are paramount, there are also a number of potential implications for employment law in Northern Ireland which companies must be cognisant of.
Disentangling the UK from its EU commitments is likely to be a lengthy process, but preparing fully for all possible scenarios will provide companies with peace of mind and help protect the business if a challenging situation arises.
Health and safety is perhaps one of the most obvious business risk areas, particularly for the manufacturing and construction sectors, and one which requires the utmost attention.
Having an in-depth health and safety action plan for 2017 will help with any unexpected health and safety visits from the HSE, and also provide business owners with an added focus to complete their legal duties.
It would also be helpful to set the business an accident reduction goal. Setting a target of ‘no accidents' is unrealistic, but by aiming for a significant reduction to last year's total, a business can set off on what will hopefully be a continual downwards curve of accidents in the workplace.
Another helpful risk management tip is to start recording ‘near-miss' accidents and hazards. Reporting and taking action on these can play an important role in preventing the major accidents occurring.
A look ahead to risk management in 2017 would not be complete without advice on cyber crime, which is very much on the rise across the UK and should now be treated as a staple insurance. It's vital that local businesses and public sector organisations alike fully realise that cyber crime is real, and that a proactive approach must be taken to manage cyber risks.
If businesses haven't suffered a breach already, they could be leaving themselves extremely exposed to what is now a very likely possibility.
Following a year in which the global news agenda was dominated by sound-bites from the US Presidential election campaign, it's perhaps apt to remind local businesses of the advice from Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States, who warned that “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”.
While most New Year's resolutions can soon fall to the wayside, risk management and insurance cannot be ignored.
:: Richard Willis is managing director of Willis Insurance and Risk Management