Saturday, December 27, 2008

New legislation - new possibilities for startups

I recently did a small research on the implications of the Sarbanes-Oxley 2002 Act on businesses. The general opinion seems to be rather sceptical on the implications of the law. Most of the critics are of the opinion that the costs of additional finance reporting, procedures and IT systems are too big and useless. Many companies have even decided to go from public to private to avoid all the work and costs of becoming SOX compliant.
The proponents of the act claim that by investing into IT systems, better auditing and effective processes the companies become more transparent, easier to manage and besides becoming SOX-compliant they also will be more effective after the upfront work and investment is done.

New legislation is a possibility.
As with SOX much of new legislation opens up possibilities for new business. With SOX the obvious winners were auditing, accounting and IT companies. As studies show it took up to $2 million for every public company to become SOX compliant. Much of the money was spent on consultants, IT systems and additional audit fees. Somebody made that money. :-) So startup-s! Check regularly the legislation put together in Parliaments, Senates etc. Maybe some of it creates new business opportunities.

Build good team spirit.
It is possible to make a transparent company with the help of IT systems and good procedures. There is a big obstacle though. If a company does not have an open and trustworthy working atmosphere then every bit of information becomes an asset. Meaning that the specialists and mid-managers are not exactly motivated to do additional work (reporting) which results in giving away some of their decision power (information). The primary reason is that even though they are honest and work a lot they are afraid. Afraid of the possibility that they lose decision power to upper management who then might just overrule them and make decisions relying on financial numbers only for example. And even with the best information quality there are always some matters that are not accounted for in the IT systems and the decisions made without consulting the people involved are usually not the best ones.
So the first step of making every change in the business, be it becoming SOX compliant or having ISO standards, is to have a good team spirit, give full information to every employee about what is being done and why. And then yes, you can get SOX-compliant and transparent and run a much more effective business.

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