Monday, January 30, 2017

Does Your Company have a Privacy Policy? Why You Need One Now!

Having a Privacy Policy for your business is a great way to let your Employees and Customers know that you take their security seriously.  

Creating a sound Privacy Policy is a crucial step in ensuring their PII (Personally Identifiable Information) is handled safely and thoughtfully.

Your Privacy Policy, or Privacy Statement, should have two versions. One that will appear on your website and one for the Owners, Managers, and Employees of your company.

The “public” online version should include the policy's purpose and an overview. It should also cover the key elements within your policy.

The purpose section is where you share why you have created a Privacy Policy. Explaining that you recognize the need to maintain the confidentiality of personal information and that you are dedicated to the protection of it throughout your company is vital.

Your online version will include an outline of your policy’s key elements. It should explain what type of information is considered PII, how you retain that information within your company, and the training you give your employees and contractors in the safe handling of PII.

It should also share how PII is transmitted to your employees and  contractors who may have access to PII, your adherence to all regulatory requirements concerning PII, and your dedication to the confidentiality of this information. Including your commitment to discipline, re-train, suspend, and/or terminate anyone violating your Privacy Policy is also important.

Why Your Business Needs a Privacy Policy Now!  “Tweet This”
While that covers the public version of your Privacy Policy, it is also important that you have a more comprehensive, internal version, for your employees and contractors.

Your in-house Privacy Policy will include all the key elements of your public policy, in addition to adding more detailed information that is specific to you and your company.

To make it truly informative, this internal policy statement should start by including specific examples of PII. This will help your new and existing employees recognize exactly what they should look for and safeguard.

Under your Retention section, it is important you detail how long your company retains PII information and your procedures for its disposal. 

Addressing employee and contractor training is also important. Reinforcing your dedication to safeguarding PII, when and how you initiate the training, and emphasizing mandatory compliance should be your focus. In addition, you should explain your commitment to ongoing observation and internal audits for potential violations.

It would also be wise to include “minimum necessary” and “need to know” principles in your Privacy Policy. Making sure to limit access to PII to only those employees and contractors that absolutely require it to do their jobs is the best practice.

Your internal Privacy Policy should also be more detailed when it comes to addressing data on portable devices and off-site access. Requiring anyone with access to PII to use only assigned, approved devices makes sense.

When it comes to regulatory requirements concerning PII, you need to state in your policy your commitment to complying with existing laws and staying abreast of any changes to those laws. Assigning this specific duty to one or two designated employees helps.

Finally, your detailed in-house Privacy Policy must outline what will happen in the event there is a violation or breach in your PII protocol. Be sure to completely explain the penalties for a first or subsequent offense so your employees and contractors understand the consequences of not following PII policy. 
Created by Kimberly Kline, API

Taking a conscientious approach when it comes to recognizing what data is considered PII, training employees in how to handle it properly, 
and creating a sound Privacy Policy makes sense.  
It shows your customers and clients your commitment to keeping their personal information safe…..and that is good for you and your company! 

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To find out more about what is considered PII and how you can train your employees and contractors to safeguard it properly, check out; 
Tips to Help You Safeguard PII in Your Small Business”!  

Need Help Starting or Growing Your Business?  Contact Us! Our Services include Business Mentoring, Hiring and Job Search help, and Security for Your Company! Find out more About Us too!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Tips to Help You Safeguard Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in Your Small Business

Created by Kimberly Kline, API
Keeping both your clients' and employees' personal information safe is the responsibility of every company, even a small business. That is why it is important to put practices in place from the beginning that will help!

That duty begins with guarding the Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of your employees and clients.

Here we will discuss what information is considered PII, why it is important, and what you need to do now to safeguard it.

What is PII?
PII (Personally Identifiable Information) is defined as any information that can be used to determine a person’s identity. It also covers any information that when combined with other identifying information can reveal a person’s identity.

Specific Examples of PII are:
  • Full Name (if not common)
  • Home Address
  • Date of  Birth
  • Social Security Number / National Identification Number
  • Telephone Number
  • Email Address (if private)
  • Vehicle Registration Number
  • Driver’s License Number
  • Fingerprints or Handwriting
  • Credit Card Numbers
  • Genetic Information
  • Login Name, Screen Name, or Handle (radio)
There is also information that could potentially be PII when it is combined with other Personally Identifiable Information. The idea here is that one or more of these examples when put together increases the possibility of identifying a person.  

Examples of potential PII:
  • Full Name (if common)
  • Country, state, zip code, city of residence
  • Age
  • Gender or Race
  • Name of School they attended or their Workplace
  • Grades, Salary, or Job Position
  • Criminal Record
  • IP Address
Safeguarding this type of information is important. 
Being lax in any way with how you treat it is dangerous and can open up your clients and your employees to identity theft. This can have serious, lasting effects on their bank accounts, social media accounts, and credit. Having unauthorized access to PII is also an invasion of privacy.

That is why it is crucial to develop a sound policy concerning PII. Your policy should include the safe handling of PII, the proper training of your employees in what is PII and how to keep it safe, and the consequences of not following your policy. 

Safeguarding PII begins with You and Your Employees!  “Tweet This”

As an employer, you are required to develop and implement a policy for the safe handling of PII. You must also include the rules of behavior expected, including the consequences for non-compliance.

You should also recognize that employees are often the “weak link” when it comes to safeguarding PII.  

Making sure they are both thoroughly trained and monitored helps. 

All employees and contractors who have significant privacy information responsibilities must understand your PII policy. This includes any employees and contractors who work with PII as part of their job duties such as Human Resources staff, finance staff, or Managers / Supervisors.

Created by Kimberly Kline, API

Establishing steps to both recognize PII and handle this type of information properly is the backbone of a good PII policy.

The first step is to identify whether the information is, in fact, PII. Educating your staff on the examples of what is PII and what, when combined with other information, becomes PII is crucial.

You should then consider “de-identifying” your records as much as possible. This means removing enough PII from any report or document so that the remaining information does not automatically identify an individual.

Another option is to “Anonymize” PII information. For example, you may consider substituting a code for the PII information (such as a name).

But the absolute best way to safeguard PII begins with controlling or limiting access to PII. This includes both physical and mobile access including cell phones, laptops, etc.. Curbing the number of people who come in contact with sensitive PII information is the easiest way to keep it safer and control how it is handled.  

Careful consideration of the location of your PII records is also key. Keeping them onsite with limited accessibility is best. Any offsite or mobile storage creates vulnerability.

Your policy also needs to consider the confidential transmission of anything containing PII.

The final safeguarding part of your policy should be developing an auditing program to monitor for potential inappropriate access to PII or for a data breach.

It is also important that your PII policy explains the consequences and corrective actions for breaching PII protocol. It should cover both employee and contractor expectations.

You must emphasize that compliance is mandatory and that the penalty for breaking the protocol for safely handling PII may incur disciplinary and/or criminal action.

Penalties may range from reprimand and retraining to suspension or removal. It should be noted that fines may also be levied on anyone found guilty of willful disclosure of PII.

The responsibility for properly training your employees and contractors who work with PII lies with you, the owner, and your managers. The best practice is to develop a thorough training program, make sure your workers follow the program, and frequently monitor the handling of PII.

However, no matter what you include in your PII Policy, the best way to protect your employees, clients, and your company is to practice the 
“minimum necessary principle”.  

The goal is to minimize the use, collection, and retention of PII to the least amount necessary.

This includes the previously mentioned limiting of access to PII. It also means the proper destroying of records physically, shredding for example, and digitally (sanitizing).

Creating sound PII handling procedures, along with a company Privacy Policy, makes sense. (Discover how to write a Privacy Policy for your Small Business here!)

Not only is taking these steps to guard PII the safe thing to do, it is the right thing to do….and your employees and clients will thank you for it! If you need help developing your PII or Privacy Policy, Contact Us !

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Are You Ready to Start Your Own Small Business?

We all have dreams.  
Some of us dream of hitting the lottery. Others play every contest and sweepstakes around - just hoping to land the big prize. Others wish for better health and happiness for themselves and their families.

Then there are those who dream of something different. These people dream of making a change and taking charge of their own lives ~ they dream of starting their own Small Business!

Maybe they have been working for others and are unsatisfied. Or maybe they are looking for a better way to take care of themselves and their families. Or, quite possibly, the pandemic shined an even brighter light on the pay, benefits, and working conditions of their current job.

No matter the reason, the dream of being an entrepreneur strikes many.

The lucky ones already know the kind of business they want to run. They know what services they want to offer or what they want to sell. But still others have no idea where to begin.

When we started Access Profiles, we were somewhere in between.

We knew that we wanted to start a background check company. The idea of helping other small business owners succeed by helping them "hire right" appealed to us.

We were lucky enough to start our business with partners. Each of us brought our own skill set to the table ~ and where one of us was lacking, there was another one of us to fill the gap.

But we still had a lot to learn. Most of it was by trial and error. And it certainly helped that we all were willing to jump right in and do many things we never had done before.

We gradually broke away from these partners and started running the business on our own. It was a wildly exciting and scary time. But we have persevered.

We have seen many changes within the background check industry. We have had to learn a lot about the day to day tasks of running a business. We have even had to focus more on blogging and marketing than we ever thought possible.

We have undergone a lot of changes since those early days in 1996, and we keep discovering more every day. That is one of the wonderful things about setting your own course and running a business of your own.

You can go in almost any direction you choose.

But that doesn’t mean we all don’t need a little help now and then!

For the past couple of years, we have had people contact us who are thinking of starting their own small business. Most have been interested in a background check company, but others have been all over the board.

And if you have read any of our articles in the past, then you know that at API we believe in Paying it Forward.  
We have spent numerous hours on the phone and through email fielding questions and offering support to these budding entrepreneurs.  

It was during one of these phone calls that an idea began to form. Our contact asked if we would be interested in actually mentoring her in starting her own business ~ and she offered to pay us for our time!

She wanted to “pick our brain” on the things we had learned in the past 20+ years and give her real guidance in getting her company up and running. 

This started us thinking ~ maybe we can start helping others on a more formal basis too. And our Small Business Mentoring Service was born!

Ready to Start Your Own Small Biz?  Contact API for the Help You Need!  “Tweet This” 

Now the real work began. If we were to make this work, then we had to go in with a plan. We knew we wanted to start something that could offer real value and concrete advice to anyone interested in starting their own small business.    

We set to work writing a Mentoring contract, creating a list of One on One Session Options, and developing lesson plans to go with those sessions. We even had to decide on a price for our services and set up payment options to make it easy for our clients.

Needless to say, it has been a whirlwind ~ but we are now up and running! 

We enjoy getting to know our clients and feeling their excitement as they get closer to achieving their goals. We especially appreciate it when, after a session, they share their sense of relief that they now know how to move forward.  

And, most importantly, we find great satisfaction in knowing we are truly helping people.
It has already been a very rewarding and satisfying adventure ~ and we are committed to continuing on this journey for a long time to come!

Authored by  

Are You Ready to become a Small Business Owner? Or are you interested in taking your company to the next level or finding out more about what it takes to run a Small Business?

Contact UsAPI can help you get started! Check out our Mentoring Session Options and find out more About Us too!

Monday, January 9, 2017

My Top Read Small Business Blog Articles of 2016

Created by Kim Kline, API

Another blogging year has gone by 
and it is now time to take a look back at 
what blog articles resonated the most with you, my readers!

Last year I wrote about a wide range of subjects, but all were focused on you and your small business.

Reader’s Choice ~ 2016’s Top Read Small Biz Articles!  “Tweet This” 

There is no wonder then that most of my top articles center around hiring and background checks.  Those two topics effect anyone who owns a small business and is thinking about taking on even one employee.

Of those articles, “Your 2016 Small Business Hiring Checklist ~ What You Need to Do Now” got the most traction.

Here I shared 8 tips that covered everything from developing a hiring strategy and attracting top talent, to how to hire a good screening company.  And these tips are just as relevant in 2017!   

My next top article looked a little more at employment background checks.

When it comes to these checks, employers can realize their value but still be making some costly mistakes.  Not following legal guidelines or not using employment screenings to their full potential top the list.   

To help, I shared the Top 5 Background Check mistakes you may be making, and what you can do to get on the right track.  Find them in “5 Background Check Mistakes You Need to Stop Making Now”!

Another top hiring article was “Why You Should Check Employments on all Your New Hires”.

When people hear the phrase “background check”,  they most often think of the criminal check first.  However, there are other parts of a good screening that are just as important!

In this article, I shared the valuable information that can be gained from checking with the companies where your applicant has already worked.

The key is to know HOW to Ask the Right Questions!  Find out more here!

My last three popular hiring articles 
centered on your applicants.  

In the first, I shared what information you, as an employer, should make sure your applicants know.

Being open and up front about the entire hiring and background check process helps relieve your applicant’s stress and start off your employer / employee relationship on the right foot!

Find out more in “Ready to Hire?  What Your Applicant Needs to Know!”.

The second concerns resume lies ~ one of the top reasons employers use background checks during the hiring process in the first place.  It is also a reason for not hiring an applicant if one is found!

In “Employers Share ~ Lie on Your Resume and You Lose”, I list the top 5 resume lies that will keep someone from getting hired and what a smart job seeker will do instead!

In the last of these 3 articles, “How Companies are Really Using Social Media to Hire”, I focused on what employers are looking for and why when they check out their applicants online!

What surprised many was that employers are really checking online to confirm that their top pick is really the right person for the job!  That includes verifying job qualifications and whether their applicant is projecting a professional online image.

Created by Kim Kline, API

In another of my most read articles, “What Storm Jonas can Teach You about Cooperation, Good People, and Small Business!”, I discussed why it is important for small business owners to act as a “community” to help each other succeed. 

By joining with other small businesses, we can pool our resources, our knowledge, and our experiences to create a powerful community.  We need to see ourselves as partners working toward a common goal.”

And keeping our sense of humor along the way doesn’t hurt either!

Despite the importance of helping others, there are times when it becomes “more than just lending a helping hand”.  This is when we need to remember to take care of ourselves and recognize the value of our time and knowledge.

That is why I believe that “Are You Paying it Forward or Just not Getting Paid?” resonated with so many.  In this article I shared 3 steps to help you “Pay it Forward” without being made to feel that you are being taken advantage of. 

My top most popular article was all about blogging for your small business!  In “Do You Want to Know the Best Blogging advice I Ever Got?” I shared the tips that have truly spoken to me and helped me to transform my own blog.

The key has been to really find my “voice” and make sure my blog is a good reflection of my brand!

My final Top Read Article of 2016 also dealt with blogging.  In “Are You Afraid of Starting Your Small Business Blog?”, I took a look at the fears that keep so many of you from starting a blog about your own small business.  I also share why blogging has been so great for my company and some easy steps so you can get started too!

if you have questions or need a blogging plan!  
I can help!

This rounds out my 
Top Read Blog Articles of 2016!

I hope to continue sharing topics and insights that will help you with your Small Business.  If you have anything you would like me to cover in the coming year, let me know!  I want 2017 to be great for Small Business. 

Are You with Me?

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Monday, January 2, 2017

Taking a Week off.......

This week I will not be posting a new blog article.  

I am taking this time to reflect on the past year and recharge for 2017!

I hope that all of you have the chance to do the same!

If you need some inspiration of your own, take a look at some of the articles I shared in the past. They are filled with tips and news to help you succeed in your own Small Business!

Created by Kim Kline, AP

In the coming year I already have articles planned on helping you start and revamp your business, keeping you informed about hiring trends and regulations, and much more!

If you have a specific topic 
you wish to see covered, 
I would be glad to include it in an upcoming article!

I look forward to continuing to 
share in your own Small Business journey 
in 2017!

Authored by   

For help with your Small Business, 

And find out more 
About Me and My Services too!