In the simplest terms, compliance is the practice of adhering to a set of state, federal and industry-level regulations designed to govern how your business operates and maintains records. It ranges from simple issues such as how and where you display mandatory employee information posters within the workplace, to more complex considerations such as filing annual statements and adherence to equitable hiring practices.
Unfortunately there’s no global wisdom that can be imparted to ensure every business understands the issue. This is because the responsibilities of your business can vary widely depending on factors such as your industry, the state(s) in which you operate or the size of your workforce.
The best way to start is by getting information from the regulatory entities themselves. The U.S. Department of Labor has a fairly comprehensive resource page designed to assist small businesses in understanding their regulatory obligations. There are also helpful industry organizations such as the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC), which provides guidelines for how companies process, store and transmit credit card information.
Maintaining compliant payment and transaction records can prove particularly challenging for businesses such as retailers which deal with a large volume of cash transactions or paper receipts. While specific requirements vary by industry, the U.S. Small Business Association recommends retaining invoice and receivables records for at least five years. Implementing a comprehensive system for capturing and storing these records digitally can save an incredible amount of time and money in the event of an audit—especially when the alternative is sifting through five years of loose receipts and cash register tapes.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) also provides guidelines and information that can prove invaluable to understanding the specific safety regulations of your industry. Fortunately the categorization is quite granular, so whether you’re running a nail salon, a landscaping business or a fireworks display company, they’ve got you covered.