Who's Protecting America's Small Business?

Too often, the 'engine' of the U.S. economy remains vulnerable

As technology suppliers target primarily larger end-user companies, even the industry magazines and Web sites tend to focus circulation efforts to recruit larger end-users as a way of appealing to advertisers. They also seek to target their circulation to specific, security-related job titles, a practice that unintentionally favors larger companies where security roles are more clearly defined.

The same big-company strategy also extends to trade show attendance, which is promoted more strongly among big potential customers. Even professional security organizations are targeted more to "full-time" security professionals rather than those for whom security is one of many functions. In general, security education and information about technology are less likely to be available as valuable security tools to small businesses.

Some large companies have embraced a role to promote security among small business, especially companies that are part of their supply chain. Large suppliers might require a supply chain certification that would point to specific vulnerabilities and guide small businesses to address them. However, there are obstacles to additional involvement of large companies in the security of small businesses, including possible civil liability, regulatory requirements and costs.

Businesses that import products also often seek Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) certification, a program that seeks strategically to secure and facilitate international trade. Such certification minimizes the need for products to sit waiting for a customs inspection; therefore, they arrive sooner. C-TPAT certification and supply chain certifications can help to guide small businesses toward a more strategic view of security.

Some Approaches with Promise

Public-private partnerships have also emerged as a tool to boost the security of small businesses. Here are some examples:

Michigan State University (MSU) Critical Incident Protocol (CIPS) Community Facilitation Program. Under a federal grant, MSU created its CIP program to "enhance cities', counties' and regions' capabilities to prepare for, respond to and recover from man-made and natural disasters through public and private sector collaboration, communication and cooperation."

The public-private partnership for joint management of critical incidents provides a channel for participation by small businesses in programs initiated in 47 communities in 24 states with 4,200 participants. When federal funding for the program ended last year, CIP began an initiative partnering with the Security Executive Council. Involvement by the MSU School of Criminal Justice provides expertise on a variety of subjects that could enhance business continuity, government continuity of operations, security, risk management, crisis management and emergency preparedness. MSU faculty members offer expertise in brand protection, hiring/recruitment/retention, security, domestic terrorism, risk/threat assessment, critical incident planning, identity theft and others.

Target/Safe City Program. Large retailer Target leads a community-based initiative to leverage partnerships and technology to help communities and businesses reduce crime and create an environment where people feel safe and secure. The collaborative effort involves area retailers, community organizations and business and property management. By combining resources through programs like these, small businesses are able to access technologies and information-sharing opportunities they otherwise could not. And the community focus on safety and security benefits all community stakeholders. Target's approach is to share resources and expertise to build safer, more vibrant communities.

COPS Bureau / Los Angeles. Community-oriented policing services (COPS) bureaus provide a means for police departments to focus on crime trends impacting neighborhoods. At the COPS Bureau in Los Angeles, for example, the focus is on specific enforcement against criminal actions identified by community stakeholders. The bureau uses any and all Los Angeles County resources to impact the crime in a specific neighborhood or area. This narrow geographic focus gives neighborhood small businesses the ear of local law enforcement, developing relationships and making their security concerns known.