From the moment you start-up, and throughout the life of your business- hiring your first employee, formalizing your business structure, and so on-you'll need to understand and comply with a host of government laws and requirements. But for many business owners, there's a parallel path of ever changing trade- and industry-specific government regulations that must also be navigated.
The federal government alone has more than 25 regulatory agencies who are responsible for enforcing legislation that impacts how and what businesses manufacture, distribute and sell, as well as how they manage the health, safety and welfare of their employees. Add the industry-specific regulatory requirements mandated by state and local governments, and the potential hairball of compliance that the small business owner faces becomes even more
So how do you untangle the hairball and make sense of what regulations apply to your specific industry? Here are a couple of resources that can help:
1. Make the Most of Government Web Services
Going straight to the source is usually your best bet when searching for the specific regulatory requirements that apply to you. For example, if you produce, distribute or sell organic produce then you almost certainly need to observe the regulations posted by the USDA, in particular its National Organic Program. And, if you sell organic food in a store or restaurant then you will also need to take a look at theFood and Drug Administration (FDA) Web site for guidelines on food labeling and food safety, not forgetting the Department of Labor site for fair labor and wage requirements. And
the list goes on.
Relying on individual agency Web sites will connect you to the information you need, but only if you know what regulatory bodies and regulations exist and where to get more information. The good news for business owners is that the government has actually done the work of pulling that information
together for you.
The U.S government's "official Web site for small businesses" - Business.gov- brings together small business resources from all levels of government, so that business owners no longer need to visit multiple Web sites to find government programs, forms, and guidance with laws and regulations.
In addition to information on how to start a business, finding loans, managing finances and more, the site also includes "Industry Guides" that provide resources that help small businesses in highly regulated industries comply with laws and government regulations.
These guides also provide information on training, financing, and business growth strategies. For example, the "Manufacturing Industry Guide" includes information on traditional and non-traditional financing sources, advice on "lean manufacturing", as well as an overview of free and low-coast in-person training programs to help small manufacturers expand and grow.
2. Trade Associations
Another way to keep your finger on the pulse of the regulations that pertain to your trade or industry is to leverage trade associations or organizations. For heavily regulated industries in particular, such as the restaurant industry, trade associations can help you navigate the tangled bureaucratic and regulatory environment with Web-based information and assistance on legal and risk management issues.
Finding the right association will require some research (and there are too many to list here), but as a rule associations either function at a national level, for example the National Association of Realtors and the Building Trades Association, while others, such as restaurant associations, operate at a state-level and can provide specific guidance into both national and local regulatory policy to help you comply with trade and industry laws.
If for some reason you feel your business has experienced excessive or unfair federal regulatory enforcement actions, such as repetitive audits or investigations, excessive fines, penalties, threats, retaliation or other unfair enforcement action by a federal agency you can file a complaint or comment with the National Ombudsman whose primary mission is to assist small businesses in such instances.
Message Edited by CaronBeesley on 01-05-2010 08:01 AM