You’ve won some business with a new customer. It’s an exciting prospect, and as you sign the contract, you might be thinking of your legal obliga­tions as only an afterthought, if at all.

Your plan may be to simply file the contract away and get to work. But do you really know the terms of your contract? Are you and your delivery team aware of all the promises you’ve made in signing that contract? Do you have the right policies and procedures in place to satisfy it? Many really don’t know the terms of their contracts.

If there’s one department many staffing firms lack, it’s compliance. To safeguard against possible negligence, consider hiring a compliance officer, or, better still, installing a compliance department to vet all contracts and serve as an internal audit function. Attention to compliance demonstrates a willing­ness to be a responsible partner.

Many professionals take a lax approach to contract review and compliance because they feel the risk of audit is moderately low. However, in the staffing industry, compliance audits are commonplace, ranging from onboarding, rate card or markup compli­ance to something more complicated like policies and procedures or security control.

Failure to meet contractual obliga­tions can have consequences. Depending on the nature of the audit and the failure, they can range from a repri­mand and a request for a response as to how the error will be addressed and fixed, to something more severe, such as delisting, suspension, termination of contract or even a lawsuit. If the contract is large enough, you might not only lose the customer; in some cases, you might also lose your business.

Strategic Staffing Solutions has a centralized compliance department that performs dozens of internal audits annu­ally, based on the greatest concerns of our customers and our leadership. We do this as a best practice, but more impor­tantly, we conduct them because ulti­mately it’s easier to respond to external audits with the required documenta­tion and with a better process in place to start.

Companies that don’t do well with the audit process, on the other hand, haven’t centralized their process effec­tively. Conducting audits at a local level sets a bad precedent because responses will lack uniformity and may not include appropriate departmental stakeholders that are tasked with managing contrac­tual obligations. It also runs the risk of disclosing information that the customer may have requested but doesn’t have a contractual right to review, or may be exposed to legal risks in receiving and reviewing.

If your company has several loca­tions, it may be wise to invest in a compliance officer who will travel from place to place to perform compliance training. Topics covered are usually specific to a customer’s contract and can include privacy, safety and codes of conduct.

Smaller staffing companies without a compliance department can always start small. But start somewhere. Read the contract and then perhaps start with an audit of onboarding practices for that customer and how it is executed, for instance.

Building relationships with customers and becoming thought part­ners with them allows one to get a good picture of one’s customer base and their respective industries, along with any trends or policy changes they may be facing. You can anticipate ways in which you can best assist them. We find being students of our customers’ industries allows us to make necessary changes to our process.

Our customers are often surprised that we read through their contract, ask questions, and make suggestions. It puts their mind at ease and we know this is a selling feature for us.

The investment in resources isn’t inconsequential, but a strong compli­ance program sets your business up as a best-practice leader. The investment is worth it. z