10 Pro Tips for Writing Policies and Procedures for Regulatory Compliance

10 Pro Tips for Writing Policies and Procedures for Regulatory Compliance

Many clients Tempest Risk Management works with need help with developing policies and procedures that demonstrate compliance within a regulated industry. These are often required to be submitted with licensing application before the business even opens. Some examples include:

  • Home health care agencies must produce policies and procedures that demonstrate patient rights communication, proper development of treatment plans and adequate supervision of case workers as outlined in state regultions.
  • Some manufacturing businesses must have clear and adequate health and safety plans and protocols that align with OSHA requirements.
  • Financial institutions must demonstrate adequate safeguards of customer data including an IT Disaster Recovery Plan and, in some cases, compliance with national and international standards

So how does one go about writing policies and procedures for a company that hasn’t even opened it’s doors? While this can be a tricky process to navigate, often requiring several revisions of the policies and procedures, here are some best demonstrated practices that we have found can help produce the documents that regulators are looking for:

  1. DO read the entire regulation before anything else. I can’t tell you the number of clients we have had that have never even read the regulations governing the business that they are trying to start. I give those businesses owner a less than 10% chance of success. Make sure you identify the regulations that you need to comply with and read them in their entirety. Often, regulations are complex and full of legal mumbo jumbo that you won’t understand. Don’t worry too much about it at this stage, just read everything that applies to you and you will probably pick up more than you thought. Yes, I know this means you may have to read through hundreds or thousands of pages of mind-numbing rules and regulations but if you cannot get through this, you probably will not be successful being a business owner in the industry.
  2. DO talk to the regulating agency before you start the application process. Many departments and agencies want to see businesses owner succeed and do so in a safe manner that protects employees and residents which is the entire point of these regulations in the first place. Ask for help and they are often willing to do so. Ask them for guidance on exactly which regulations you should study carefully and what they are looking for. Ask for examples or guides that they may have…who knows, you might get lucky and get a hold of a template that you just need to modify to fit your business operations.
  3. ASK for help outside of regulators if needed. Key places that I suggest looking:
  • Owners of successful businesses in the same industry. Ask them for advice on getting licensed and producing the documents required.
  • Industry specific groups or organizations. Unions, chambers of commerce and trade groups are EXCELLENT resources and you can usually get most of what you need for free.
  • Business consultants specific to your industry. While you will likely have to pay for their services, their advice is invaluable and will save you a lot of time and money. Check out Fiverr or Upwork to find someone who specializes in this niche service. Note this does NOT refer to “business coaches” which mainly focus on growing and running your business. You aren’t there yet.
  • Hire a lawyer – this is the most expensive option but in some industries it is a necessity, but I would start with an industry operations consultant or expert before going to a lawyer.
  1. Build an outline first. When you are ready to start putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) start with an outline of everything that needs to be included in your policies and procedures.
PRO TIP: In your outline, start with a description of the company then go into the specific policies and procedures you are required to provide. Read through the regulation in it’s entirety and anytime you identify something that you must document, add it to your outline. Don’t worry about the detail yet, that comes next.

  1. Once you have your outline completed, go back and start filling in the details. Make sure to follow exactly what the regulation requires, no more and no less, in each and every section.
PROTIP: If there are multiple regulations or documents/processes that you must follow, start with one and complete all of the documentation needed before moving on to the next one. You will find that there is often overlap and you may have already completed many of the requirements already when you covered the first regulation.

  1. Make it look professional. First impressions are everything. If a regulator just sees words on a page with little to no formatting, spelling and grammar errors, they wont get very far before they reject your application. Take the time to build a structure, embed images, logo’s, screen shots, pictures, etc and make sure it at least LOOKS like you are taking is seriously. If you aren’t sure how to use all of the features of word processing programs like MSWord and Google Docs, consider engaging an consultant like Tempest Risk Management who specialize in producing professional looking documents.
  2. Avoid over-selling. Unless you are very clear about how your day to day operations will run, avoid going into too much detail at the application stage. You want to demonstrate that you know and understand what you need to do. Just keep in mind that anything you provide to the regulators will be considered a commitment by them that this is exactly how you will be doing it. Avoid going into specifics such as the exact systems you will use or individual employee names. Keep it general at this stage and let the regulators come back to you to ask for more details if they need it.
  3. Identify roles and responsibilities. Whenever you are describing a task, make sure to clearly indicate who is responsible for what. Use job titles (ie Supervisor or COO) instead of proper names. Employees change a lot more frequently than job titles do.
  4. Expect the first draft to be rejected. Due to the complexity of your typical government regulation, you will probably miss a few things or not quite hit the mark on everything that the regulator is looking for. Don’t get discouraged, take their feedback, make adjustments and send it back. It is not unusual to have to go through 3 or 4 revisions before the regulators are satisfied.
  5. Remember that you are just building the foundation for operations and this will need ongoing and continued focus and work. Commit to having a quarterly review of all policies and procedures in the first year and annually thereafter.
PRO TIP: This does not have to be a one person job, delegate as much as you can. Assign an owner to each policy and procedure and make it a part of their job description to keep policies and procedures up to date and require an annual review and documented approval/certification of each policy and procedure.

Simple, right? Yeah, not so much, but by following theseguidelines and building a solid team of advisors and consultants around you,you can help make sure your business starts off on solid footing with solidpolicies and procedures.

Andy Ziegler

Tempest Risk Management


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