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By Richard D’Arcy
In this recession, the majority of small business owners have 101 business decisions to worry about followed by the bank manager. The last thing they have on their mind is an Environmental Management System. However, in terms of environmental liability, there is one clear difference between this recession and the last one. That difference is the polluter pays principle. Put simply, this principle places the ownership of waste firmly with the producer regardless of who did what. This means that as a producer of waste you are responsible for it from cradle to grave.
The polluter pays principle makes the party responsible for producing pollution responsible for paying for any damage done to the environment. If your waste causes pollution at some point in the future and this waste is traced back to your company then you have a problem. Now you may well ask what has all this got to do with an Environmental Management System. Well ask yourself this question, if you cast your mind back six years ago, could you detail all the waste that was produced by your company? Could your company detail all the waste facilities that accepted your waste and provide recycling or disposal certificates for the waste? These may be a difficult question to answer. However, if you were requested to produce a set of accounts for 2006, the answer may be very different.
Richard D’Arcy continues his two-part article on company liability. This week he continues his focus on waste disposal and looks at scenarios where a possible civil case might occur.
By Richard D’Arcy
Let us imagine a sticky situation where John Doe calls to the office with a van looking for old batteries and the supervisor hands the company batteries over to just get rid of them. This van travels down the road a few kilometers and John Doe gets a very bad smell in the van. Two of the batteries are leaking, so he stops and dumps them in a field beside the road and continues on his way. A few year later that local tidy towns committee are cleaning up in the area and a child notices the rubbish in the field beside the road. He climbs down to collect the rubbish and the sulphuric acid spills over and burns him badly.
Unfortunately his Dad traces the marked battery back to your company. You claim the company never dumped the batteries there or anywhere for that matter. Ask yourself did you give hazardous waste to an authorized waste collector with a valid waste collection permit to collect batteries? Did you give the batteries to John Doe, John who? Do you have a receipt? Do you have a waste disposal for even one waste battery in all the years you worked in the company? Do you think it is against the law, a criminal offence to surrender waste to a person who has no permits to receive the waste?
The series of articles is essential reading for business owners. Ed
When a financial consultant conducts a wealth review of your assets everyone thinks of a balance sheet, debtors, creditors, stock, raw material, banks, business goodwill and customer orders as a good starting point to let you know what you can expect in retirement from the business.
How many financial consultants will ask you about the amount of waste arising from your business? How many will tell you of a possible hidden financial liability that may present itself in the future. How many business owners would consider their company broke the law when it comes to disposing of their waste. How many business owners take over a business and buy this liability for past failings just lumped in with the office furniture.
The answer from most business owners would run along the lines of “I bought the industrial site from you but I did not buy the large pile of hazardous waste you had piled down the back of the industrial site”. They may even tell you the EPA want you to remove the waste to an authorised facility and they agree with them. Now you could claim inability to pay but that leaves you with the awkward question of explaining what you did with all that retirement money you got for the site, or your pension or that house you own.
To illustrate this, let’s take an example of a company in the courier business that has ten vans on the road. The business produces very little waste, old pallets are recycled, packaging waste is recycled, office waste is shredded for recycling and the company even makes a small donation to the local national school to support the Green Schools program.
To save on costs, the company engages a self-employed mechanic who repairs the vans. He changes the batteries, replaces light bulbs, changes the oil, and replaces the oil filters. The mechanic pours the oil into a drum at the back of the small company workshop, places the vehicle batteries on a pallet for possible reuse and places the used oil filter into an open top container with a lid. Nothing wrong with that you say.
Now let me ask you a question. Would you store a barrel of hazardous waste at the back of your office, which is flammable, not labeled and contains a possible cancer causing agent?
Would you let one of your drivers carry sulphuric acid in his van amongst all those packages, a corrosive toxic chemical that can cause severe chemical burns to the skin of any person who may come in contact with the acid? Of course not you say. In the first place the driver is not trained, authorised or even insured to take such chemicals and, if he did, he would not be long with the company.
So what has all this got to do with liability, the business and wealth management you may well ask? Firstly let us look at the cost of doing things right first time and disposing of the waste in a responsible manner. If you are a very small operation, you may be able to take the battery and oil to your local recycling center and recycle the hazardous waste at no cost.
If you are a larger business, you could get a list of authorised recyclers from your local government office and contact the recyclers to collect the waste. The local government office will have a lot of helpful information about the relevant permits required by the person collecting the hazardous waste and the facility accepting the waste. In some cases, when the commodity price of lead increases, recyclers will collect a box of vehicle batteries at no charge, especially if the collection is in the area.
Alternatively you could just ignore the issue, let the oil, oil filters and vehicle batteries build up at the back of the small garage, and have the odd oil spill from the oil barrel which over a few years can build up into a lot of silt oil.
Now the new owner discovers that the half acre at the back of the industrial site is contaminated and also has 50 barrels of industrial hazardous waste. He proposed to clean it all up and send you the bill. Hold on, hold on, you shout, this is not my place any more. The new company man agrees with you and directs you to your old company and your old insurance policy. The insurance company tells you that your business should have disposed of the waste properly before profits were calculated and they direct you back to the company profits. Get the profits back from your friends the co-directors. Meanwhile the new company owners are getting impatient and want you to spend some of that hard-earned retirement package to clean up the mess and they are right. It is your mess.
Richard D’Arcy continues his two-part article on company liability for waste disposal next week and looks at scenarios where a possible civil case might occur.
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You are ambitious yet stupid. You chose a marketing degree to avoid having to study in college, concentrating instead on drinking and socialising which is pretty much what your job responsibilities are now. Least compatible with Sales.
Laziest of all signs, often referred to as “marketing without a degree.” You are also self-centered and paranoid. Unless someone calls you and beg’s you to take their money, you like to avoid contact with customers so you can “concentrate on the big picture.” You seek admiration for your golf game throughout your life.
Unable to control anything in your personal life, you are instead content to completely control everything that happens at your workplace. Often even YOU don’t understand what you are saying but who the hell can
tell. It is written that Geeks shall inherit the Earth.
One of only two signs that actually is studied in school. It is said that engineers place ninety percent of all Personal Ads. You can be happy with yourself; your office is full of all the latest “ergodynamic” gadgets. However, we all know what is really causing your “carpal tunnel syndrome.”
The only other sign that is studied in school. You are mostly immune from office politics. You are the most feared person in the organization; combined with your extreme organizational traits, the majority of rumours concerning you say that you are completely insane.
6) HUMAN RESOURCES
Ironically, given your access to confidential information, you tend to be the biggest gossip within the organization. Possibly the only other person that does less work than marketing, you are unable to return any calls today because you have to get a haircut, have lunch AND then mail a letter.
7) MANAGEMENT/MIDDLE MANAGEMENT
Catty, cutthroat, yet completely spineless, you are destined to remain at your current job for the rest of your life. Unable to make a single decision you tend to measure your worth by the number of meetings you can schedule for yourself. Best suited to marry other “Middle Managers” as everyone in your social circle is a “Middle Manager.”
8) SENIOR MANAGEMENT
(See above - Same sign, different title)
9) CUSTOMER SERVICE
Bright, cheery, positive, you are a fifty-cent cab ride from taking your own life. As children very few of you asked your parents for a little cubicle for your room and a headset so you could pretend to play “Customer Service.” Continually passed over for promotions, your best bet is to sleep with your manager.
Lacking any specific knowledge, you use acronyms to avoid revealing your utter lack of experience. You have convinced yourself that your “skills” are in demand and that you could get a higher paying job with any other organization in a heartbeat. You will spend an eternity contemplating these career opportunities without ever taking direct action.
11) RECRUITER, “HEADHUNTER”
As a “person” that profits from the success of others, most people who actually work for a living disdain you. Paid on commission and susceptible to alcoholism, your ulcers and frequent heart attacks correspond directly with fluctuations in the stock market.
12) PARTNER, PRESIDENT, CEO
You are brilliant or lucky. Your inability to figure out complex systems such as the fax machine suggest the latter.
13) GOVERNMENT WORKER
Paid to take days off. Government workers are genius inventors, like the invention of new Holidays. They usually suffer from deep depression or anxiety and usually commit serious crimes while on the job...Thus the term “GO POSTAL”
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Having been in business for over ten years, I hardly done any networking for the first five to eight of those years. Instead, I relied on recruitment agencies or people I knew. However, the agencies became more difficult to deal with so I decided to take another approach which was to attend networking events.
So why is networking so important to micro and small business? Well very simply it can be a source of good contacts and potential work. Who should attend and what events should you go to? That is a hard question to answer but I will give MY ANSWER though it is not definitive but just my opinion. In many cases it will depend on the business sector you operate in. There are a huge number of networking groups and events throughout Ireland and from what I understand all countries throughout the world.
Some events in Ireland can be very specialised but many will take business owners from every business sector. One of the most well-known and publicized is BNI. From my knowledge it has some excellent results. It’s expensive to join and sometimes the set targets are hard to achieve. I’ve joined a number of groups on LinkedIn and several have set up events where members can meet. Quite often this is done in a round table set-up with up to ten people per table. LinkedIn can also give you access to other events posted on it and e-mails are sent to group members. Many of these events are free and, if it is within your business remit, they are worth attending. It’s also good to have a couple of close business contacts who are likely to invite you to events. If you cannot afford to pay the fee, you can help in the organization and get the benefits for free.
So you’ve joined some groups and are networking to promote your business, what do you do next? Firstly, make sure you have a good supply of business cards. Write down what your business is about and list typical customers. NOW this part is going to sound strange but here goes. Set the stopwatch on your mobile phone and recite your information. If it takes more than two minutes, it’s too long so edit it without losing the major points. Recite it again. One minute-thirty seconds is about right. REMEMBER! THE LISTENER WANTS TO KNOW THE IMPORTANT POINTS IN THE FIRST TEN SECONDS. Memorise your data, book your place at the next networking event and double-check you have a good supply of business cards.
On the day what should you wear? This can be subjective but regardless of the industry you are in, always look smart. For both men and women I suggest either a business suit or a shirt and trousers/skirt. Men should wear a tie. Arrive early as this gives you a chance to talk and network before the event. You will be understandably nervous the first time, but just remember you know your business better than anyone else. Take your time and speak clearly and slowly. Don’t be afraid of missing bits out - I guarantee people will ask questions if they’re not sure.
So why is networking important to a small business? Very simply it gives you an opportunity to talk to others about what you do. You’re meeting new people and publicising your business. Someone will take your card and be in touch within weeks; this happened to me this yea. Do not run down competitors and do not hide from the fact that you have competitors. Be positive and have an open mind at the event.
Make a note of the business cards you’ve collected and send an email to those you want to follow up. For those you are particularly interested in, ask for a one-on-one meeting using the premise of having a coffee. It always works.
Attending networking events and seminars is not the only type of networking. If you are on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter or any of the other sites, contribute to the posts. Never forget that you are an expert in what you do and you should be proud of that and be willing to tell others. A client may come from making a simple comment on a post. Last year I offered my services on a LinkedIn group I belong to and put forward a template that could be used for a major project. The entire group is very likely to be involved in the project should it be successful. After a couple of follow-up conversations, the owner of the group recommended me to a company with whom I am in early discussions about doing some work.
So what can networking do for your business and how important is it? Well it can put you in touch with new clients and companies that can help you with aspects of your business you can’t give your full attention. It can put you in touch with potential partners. Attending the events will build your self-confidence and make you a stronger person.
So going back to my title “IMPORTANCE OF NETWORKING FOR MICRO AND SMALL BUSINESSES” do I think that Networking is important? YES I DO. I have made some excellent contacts in the last three years and several of them have progressed to clients. Networking works.
By Adrian Rush
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