Inside Job

Employee theft is a threat you can’t afford to ignore

Delegation is an important skill for a business owner. What’s the point of being your own boss if you can’t let go of certain tasks in order to focus on bigger-picture aspects of the business? Or to just have some more time to yourself?

Owning a business is a lot of hard work, but it’s supposed to provide you the flexibility to have a satisfying life away from the job as well. Being constantly consumed by all aspects of the business 24/7 doesn’t sound very rewarding.

Of course, delegation means placing trust in employees, and unfortunately, business owners sometimes find themselves victimized by workers they assumed were trustworthy. This month’s Money Manager feature explores that issue, as Susan Frew, author, business consultant, and owner of Sunshine Home Services, shares what happened to her business during a period when she was more hands-off and had delegated a lot of responsibility to an office manager.

The topic of employee theft has been on my mind lately. I recently wrote a profile for our sibling publication Pumper magazine about an Oregon septic pumper who had caught an employee embezzling from a previous business he owned in California. It took years for him to get things back on track. Same with Frew’s company, which is finally almost squared away on the debt accumulation that the employee theft incident caused. While perusing news items, I also recently read a story about a Wyoming plumbing company, in which the bookkeeper embezzled at least $120,000 over a three-year period.

In all these cases, employees were trusted with important company financials and business owners had let go of some oversight responsibility. This sort of stuff never stays hidden for long, but even over a short term, significant damage can be done that can take years to recuperate from.

That said, the lesson here is not to never trust anyone and excessively micromanage every aspect of the business. It’s OK to offload some job duties. That’s a benefit of being a business owner that should be taken advantage of. But there’s a balance to strike, where despite whatever responsibilities you’ve decided to delegate to others, you’re still plugged in enough to daily operations that you can quickly jump on any issues that arise.

Maybe you’ve actually had an experience like Frew’s and learned some of this the hard way. Hopefully, you haven’t and have only had trusted employees who are indeed just that, giving you no issues. Whatever the case, employee theft is something to be taken seriously. One of those things you assume won’t ever happen to you until it does. Trust your employees but stay vigilant.

Enjoy this month’s issue.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.