Security on a budget: Protecting small businesses from criminals

BY TONY SUGDEN

Security is a major concern for small businesses. In Kenya, 68.2% of small and micro-enterprises mentioned insecurity as a challenge to operating business, according to a study featured on KCA Journal on Business Management.  But small businesses, limited by access to funds, find it expensive to make the necessary investments in security, often leaving them exposed to criminal attacks. Yet there are low-cost measures that can limit their vulnerability to theft, break-ins and vandalism, all of which raise operating costs and disrupt or even close businesses.

In Kenya, small businesses provide 78% of the country’s employment and 18% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE). 

In addition to economic sustenance through employment creation, many small businesses act as suppliers to larger organisations, thus playing a vital role in the business cycle. This means that security challenges for small businesses can have a direct impact on larger companies whose operations may be tied to deliverables such as equipment and products, when security breaches mean their small business suppliers are unable to meet their contractual obligations. So what are the security options available for small business owners who wish to keep their ventures secure?

 

Of primary importance is a security guard at the entrance of the premise, especially vital for businesses where the public has direct access to premises. During the day, this will help in monitoring visitor traffic, safeguarding organisational property from theft, and warding off potential criminals who may even carry weapons into the premises. Various security firms offer competitive rates and tailored services for small businesses in need of highly trained guards. Small business owners can also consider installing surveillance equipment for their premises. In fact, the mere perception of surveillance acts as a major deterrent to potential criminals by between 30 and 70 % based on findings by various studies across the US and UK. With basic surveillance equipment going for as little as Sh20,000, it provides one of the most cost effective options for small business security, especially when placed at potentially high risk areas in the business premises.

Ensuring the areas surrounding the business premises are well lit will also significantly lower the risk of crime during the night, with well-lit localities recording 21% lower incidences of crime than poorly-lit areas, according to the Centre for Problem-Oriented Policing in the US. Installing lights on the exterior walls, with particular bias towards doors, windows and dark corners, makes breaking and entering or damage to property more risky for criminals.

It is also important to screen one’s staff during recruitment, for example undertaking background checks to establish their conduct in previous work places, at a time when 64% of small businesses in the US record at least one incidence of employee theft, resulting in firing, according to a study by the University of Cincinnati.

These measures, in addition to having burglar proofing installed on doors and windows, using high quality locks as well as alarm systems will lower the risk profile of a premises and its contents.

 

With that said, it is important to note that a business can never be completely safe from criminal attacks, and it is thus important to minimise the loss to a business in the eventuality of robbery or vandalism through taking out an insurance policy for the business. This will ensure that the business is able to pick up from any major criminal activity. A number of insurance policy providers will assess the security measures put in place and this may prove beneficial in significantly lowering the premium one has to pay, further keeping operating costs in check. 

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