I run a small chain of
grocery stores in the Midlands. All the stores are fitted with CCTV which we rely on in order to deter and also to prosecute criminals. I understand that the Information Commissioner’s Office has recently issued a revised code of good practice for CCTV operators. Could you please advise me on what measures I should be taking?

The 2008 Code is more concise and user friendly than before. Small businesses using CCTV for ‘unsophisticated purposes’ (i.e. solely to prevent or detect crime and protect their customers) do not have to follow the whole code provided they follow a straightforward checklist of conditions appended to the code:

●The Information Commissioner (IC) must be notified about the use of CCTV and its purpose

●an individual within the business must take responsibility for the CCTV system

●the images must be clear and kept secure

●cameras must not focus on people outside the premises

●the business must not retain images any longer than is necessary for the identification of incidents relevant to the prevention and detection of crime

●the business must know the procedure for dealing with people who request copies of their own images

●regular checks must be undertaken to ensure that the system is fully operational.

If a small business were to use CCTV for purposes that go beyond those listed above then it would become subject to the whole code. Ensuring compliance with a wider and more detailed set of rules would no doubt be undesirable for a small business; however the IC is clear on two things. First, the code aims to strike a balance between an individual’s right to privacy and a retailer’s interest in security. It is also the extent to which you use CCTV and not the size of business that determines how extensive your obligations are for using CCTV to capture images.

Vinod Bange is a data privacy expert at Eversheds, a law firm

How to manage the non-payers

I run a printing business and find that my cash flow is continually stretched due to late payers, and worst of all have recently been hit by a bad debt that has wiped out my profit for the last year. How do you recommend I manage my
debtors to minimise risk?

There are some simple preventive measures that you should follow, in order to avoid, as best you can, customers who won’t pay, and worse still, customers who can’t pay.

In taking on new customers, and on a continuing basis, you should always consider the customers’ ability to pay by undertaking independent credit checks and your own enquiries. If you have any doubt then it is better to ask for payment in advance or a deposit and to establish a payment record before granting a limited credit facility. If the risk can be contained you might accept cash on delivery or a small credit facility.

You should be vigilant even with established customers and particularly your largest customers and check their payment record so that you are not too exposed should they get into difficulties. Beware of delays in payment and “drip-fed round sum” payments.

Easing the collection process, the ”won’t pay” customers, can be addressed applying consistent practices including:

●order taking / delivery – checking old invoices are paid before a new order is accepted; making clear the terms and conditions of the order; ensuring all orders are in writing with the customers’ purchase order number; confirming the quantity description and prices before printing; delivering what was ordered and obtaining receipt signatures. ●invoicing and debt collection – invoice promptly and accurately; begin chasing before the due date and chase effectively and regularly getting firm customer commitments on payment. If the process becomes extended and you have kept your side of the bargain and sorted out any problems on the job then don’t be frightened to instruct your solicitor, or a debt collection agency, to first threaten then take legal action.

Simon Longfield, Restructuring Partner, Grant Thornton

Mentoring may be on doorstep

We’re part of a university spin-out and are looking for external mentors who can provide us with advice on how to take our product to market. What options do we have?

Your first port of call should be your university. Many universities run enterprise challenges with mentors from external organisations – taking part in one of these would improve your knowledge of the business process and give you practical experience of taking a product to market.

For example, the London School of Economics recently held the Entrepreneurs International Challenge with lectures from Stelios Haji-Ioannou and mentoring from the Sainsbury Management Fellows’ Society. Such events would allow you to draw on the substantial experience of the entrepreneurs involved.

You should try to align yourself with someone who has experience in your industry so you can get the best insight into the challenges you are likely to face when taking your product to market.

Dan Mutadich is president of Sainsbury Management Fellows’ Society

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