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12/11/2012
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Hauling That 50-Pound Sack Of Compliance

Done wrong, your compliance efforts can needlessly weigh your team down

A business owner recently told me she was aware her business had done little toward necessary HIPAA compliance. She had reasons, of course. The economy was making business difficult, they were short on cash for extra projects, their profit margins were too small, and the staff was spread too thin to take on any new tasks or projects.

I understand her challenges. I've faced the similar issues as a business owner for more than 20 years. I also learned, the hard way I might add, that as your business grows, doing more of what you've been doing all along doesn't always support business growth.

What do I mean by that? I mean that healthy business growth is rarely doing the same things in the same way, only in volume. Businesses must change how they approach the different challenges that different stages of growth demand. As my wife, Doris, an entrepreneur in her own right, once said, "What works for one does not work for two. What works for two does not work for three." You can apply this to just about any task, process, number of locations, or number of employees.

Let's again consider the noncompliant business owner. Because she is comfortable with the idea that her company is small, she's trying to operate it as if it were still small, even though the problems she faces are far beyond small-shop challenges. She will never have the resources, in cash or staff, to address her compliance issues until she changes her business model to reflect its new, larger scale. And that assumes she survives long enough to evolve into that new business model.

Until this business owner transitions her business processes, requiring compliance would be like asking her employees to carry around a 50-pound sack. Even if the 50-pound sack has important contents, the extra weight and unwieldiness of it all will cause her business to slow further, maybe to stall -- a stall that may not be survivable.

So what is she, and others like her, to do about the seemingly weighty demands of compliance and security? The exact same thing any organization of any size should do: Build processes and operations to match the real business needs. Don't add compliance and security later; incorporate them from the start. To wait until later means you didn't plan for the extra weight these requirements place on your business.

If your organization cannot manage the cost of time, people, or money to incorporated compliance and security, then you either have not planned it correctly, or you do not have an economically viable business model. In the former case, develop plans that work. If you need help, many others have done this successfully, and hiring them can be less expensive in the long run than failing or risking noncompliance.

In the case you are simply not economically viable, you have a hard decision to make. You can find a new way, stop now before you suffer more, or die a slow business death that wastes more money and days of your life.

Glenn S. Phillips would like to lose about ten pounds. He is the president of Forte' Incorporated where he works with business leaders who want to leverage technology and understand the often hidden risks within. Glenn is the author of the book Nerd-to-English and you can find him on twitter at @NerdToEnglish. Glenn works with business leaders who want to leverage technology and understand the often hidden risks awaiting them. The Founder and Sr. Consultant of Forte' Incorporated, Glenn and his team work with business leaders to support growth, increase profits, and address ... View Full Bio

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