Saturday, September 26, 2015

Dangers to Your Small Business Pt. 1 - Employees Who Steal

Hiring the right employees for your Small Business is an important factor in your success.  But what happens when instead of being an asset, that employee actually turn out to be a liability, or even dangerous?

In this 3 Part Series, we will take a look at Employees who can put Your Small Business in Danger. First up ~ Employees Who Steal!

Employee theft is not uncommon. Billions of dollars are lost each year by employee theft, fraud, and embezzlement. And many times the employee that you least expect is responsible.

While workplace theft is harmful to any business, the effect that it has on a Small Business can be devastating.

Take a look at these Employee Theft Statistics released by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners* on September 7, 2015:
  • Percent of Annual Revenue Lost to Theft or Fraud     7%
  • Percent of Employees Who have Stolen at Least Once from their Employer     75%
  • Percent of Employees Who Have Stolen at Least Twice from their Employer     37.5%
  • Percent of Business Bankruptcies Caused by Employee Theft         33%
The statistic on businesses that go bankrupt due to employee theft was the most startling.  The reality is that many Small businesses operate on a small budget. They simply cannot withstand the loss of revenue or inventory. Even one act of theft can have an impact on a small business's bottom line.  

And as a result, your dream of running your own business is put in jeopardy. 

Employee Theft can Ruin Your Small Business!  “Tweet This

Being aware of both how to spot employee theft, and what you can do about it if discovered, can help.

But first, it is important to know some common reasons why employee theft occurs in the first place.

Why employees steal:
Most frequently, employee theft is a result of personal financial problems. A gambling debt or escalating expenses like increasing mortgage payments or medical bills, can all be a factor.

Your employee might turn to stealing from your company as an easy solution to their problems. They will convince themselves that it is a “victimless” crime, that it won’t harm your business, and even that they run little risk of getting caught.

However, no matter what rationale they may use to justify their behavior, stealing from your company can have a lasting effect on the foundation of your small business.

If you are really paying attention, the warning signs are there.
Here are some tips to help you 
spot employee theft 
in your own small business. 

Most employee theft will occur in your accounting, bookkeeping, and finance departments. You will need to be aware of any significant changes in the behavior of any employees who work in those departments. Anything that gives you pause or raises your internal red flag is where you will need to focus your vigilance.    

Look for these signs:  
  • Employees Who are Suddenly Stressed or Complain about Finances ~
Complaining about having trouble paying bills or even difficulty providing for necessities (food, clothing, rent/mortgage).
  • Employees Who are Living Beyond their Means ~ 
Suddenly bragging about big ticket purchases (luxury cars, vacations), a significant jump in the quality of their work wardrobe, unusual spending, etc.
  • Employees Who Insist on Working Solo or Who Never Take Vacations ~ 
Even when swamped, they insist that they can handle the work load alone and need no one else's input or help. This should raise a strong red flag, especially if they handle your books. The bottom line, they fear being discovered if anyone else has access.  
  • Employees Who Suddenly Change their Work Habits ~ 
All of a sudden, they are coming in early and staying late. You find that they are now the first ones in the office and the last to leave. This should only be a concern if it is something out of character.  
  • Employees Who Submit Questionable Travel Expenses ~ 
This is not a cause for alarm if it is a one time thing. But employees who persistently turn in travel expenses that are missing receipts or that exceed amounts allowable for travel or client dinners need to be checked. 
  • Unusual or Persistent Accounting Discrepancies ~ 
Are you suddenly experiencing problems meeting payroll? Are there inconsistencies between an employees’ work hours and hours paid?
  • An Ongoing or Sudden Problem with Petty Cash ~ 
Is the amount of cash on hand being spent more quickly than usual? Does the amount fail to reconcile against the withdrawals listed in a ledger or collected receipts?
  • Inventory is Missing ~
The inventory of products you sell does not match against your books or receipts for what is being sold. Even if small items like office supplies (paper, pens, folders, printing supplies) that you should have in storage are missing or being used more quickly than usual.  

While some of these things 
might not seem like a huge deal, 
over time they can have a significant impact 
on your bottom line, 
especially for a Small Business. 
Even theft by a single employee can harm you.
#SmallBiz #BackgroundChecks
Tips can Help You Prevent Employee Theft in Your Business:
  • Screen Job Applicants Thoroughly   
This should be your first step in helping to prevent employee theft. Before hiring, a Background Check should be performed on any applicants you are considering for hire. It should, at the very least, include a criminal history check. As the position warrants, you may need to look at civil court records, driver license violations, as well as verification of education, past employment (including reasons for leaving), and references.

Find out more about fitting the Background Check to the Job Here!
  • Develop a Strong “Zero Tolerance” Policy on Employee Theft 
This should be your second step when it comes to helping prevent employee theft. Write a policy that lists anything you consider to be theft and the consequences of the theft being discovered. You also need to be clear that you intend to file charges with your local police department if you find any employee is stealing from your company.

Be sure to put your policy in writing and distribute it to all new and existing employees. Have them sign a statement that they have read and understand your policy.

Also set up a system where employees can anonymously report suspected incidents of employee theft ~ and be ready to follow up on them.

The key is to send the message that employee theft will not be tolerated.
  • Never Allow Only Person to Control any Aspect of Your Company Finances  
This is where checks and balances are critical. No one employee should ever be responsible for sending out the bills, collecting payments, and making bank deposits.

Be sure all incoming checks are endorsed “for deposit only”. You might even want to set up a system where larger checks must be handled by more than one employee. As the owner, you should personally inspect all bank statements and look for any red flags ~ checks out of order, unusual payees, etc.  

Conduct periodic “surprise” audits on all your books in addition to having a yearly professional audit. Check for any unusual activity or payments being made to a person or company you don’t recognize. 
  • Form Strong Relationships with Your Employees 
Make sure you are “out and about” within your company. Always treat your employees with integrity and honesty. Get to know them ~ their names, families, etc. This will help make you more aware of any unusual behavior or if they are acting “out of the ordinary”. Having a strong relationship may also help prevent employee theft from happening in the first place. It is much harder to steal from someone that you know and have come to respect.    

Despite your best efforts, you may still find yourself the victim of employee theft.  
#SmBiz #EmployeeTheft 
If you suspect an employee is stealing from you, You Should: 
  •  Document Clearly Each Known or Suspected Instance of Theft 
Include dates and times discovered and what was taken. Let your employees know that you are investigating (it may actually prevent further theft).
  • Check All Your Records for Any Inconsistencies 
Make note of any entries and totals that don’t match. Include ingoing and outgoing inventory against sales.
  • Interview Your Employees 
Let them know exactly what you suspect. Meet with them privately. Your honest employees will be much more apt to share anything they know if it is done one on one.
  • Be Ready to Follow Up on Your Findings 
Your employees need to know that you take employee theft seriously. Follow your company policy, even if it includes termination or prosecution.

The keys to preventing and identifying employee theft 
are knowledge and awareness.  

The knowledge begins with knowing as much about your employees as possible both before and after you hire them. This begins with strong screening tools and continues with frequent interaction between employers and employees.  

In most cases, employers who take the time to build a trusting and open relationship with their employees will never have to deal with employee theft.

However, turning a blind eye to potential red flags is never in your best interest. Paying attention to the warning signs and questioning anything that seems “off” could save your small business from ruin.   

Don't let Employee Theft put Your Small Business in Danger! Using these preventative and follow-up measures will help you protect you and your company!

Authored by   

API can help Your Small Business succeed! Visit our Website to find out more About Us and our Background Check Investigation, Business Mentoring, and Security Services. 

Let’s Connect! Click on API's Contact Page to find links to all our Social Sites. Thanks!

* Source: Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, Easy Small Business HR, Institute for Corporate Productivity, Jack L. Hayes International, Inc.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

If You are not Doing Background Checks on Your New Hires, You are Making the Biggest Mistake Your Small Business can Make!

Running Your Own Business is your dream.
You pour all your energy into building it ~ coming up with the perfect product or service, choosing your location. Whatever it is, you are all in. It is an exciting time.
But it can also make you feel stressed and overwhelmed and you find yourself being pulled in all different directions.
This is the time when many business owners think about hiring someone in to help. 

It may just be someone to answer the phones and take orders, or it may be a bookkeeper to keep track of your finances. You may even only be thinking about hiring someone part time.

Whatever the case may be, when it comes time to hire many small businesses make the biggest mistake they can make. They Skip the Background Check! 

Instead of approaching hiring with caution, they think that simply because they are a small business, screening their applicants before hiring them isn’t necessary.

Maybe they are hiring people they know ~ relatives, friends, or friends of family and friends. Maybe they think they can’t spare any additional money checking into their applicants’ pasts. Or they might think that they should take anyone just to lessen their own work load. 

Still there are others who believe they have a good "sixth sense" when it comes to people. They think they will "just know" if someone will be a good fit. And, after all, their resume just looks so impressive. They couldn't be more wrong!

As is true of any person you have just met, first impressions can be deceiving. Don’t Fall into This Trap!

Not Doing Background Checks is a Big Mistake for Small Business  “Tweet This” 

#SmBiz #BackgroundChecks
As a small business owner it is important that you hire carefully, not in haste.    

Not all small business owners recognize the importance of screening their employees from the start. Many believe it is not necessary or that it is too time consuming and expensive. They also might not understand the consequences of making a bad hire.

When you hire, you need to remember that who you hire is a reflection of your business. They are often the first “face” of your company that your clients and customers see. Your clients often deal with your employees on a much more intimate basis than they do with you.  

That is why making a hiring mistake can actually harm your carefully cultivated brand. It can even put your small business, your other employees, and your clients in jeopardy.  

You may end up hiring someone who steals from you or your customers. They may even be violent with or bully those around them. This could put your company at risk.
And as a small business, you are unlikely to be able to weather the impact of making a Bad Hire.

This is where an employment background check comes in.  

Find out more about Why Not Doing Background Checks is a Big Mistake for Small Business by visiting our original article on LinkedIn!

Authored by  

Do You have Questions about How You can Use Background Checks in Your Business? Contact us here, We can help! We will guide you in creating sound hiring policies and help you decide what you really need, while keeping in mind your bottom line!
Find out more About Us and Our Services!  
We offer Small Business Mentoring and Security Consulting too! And leave a comment, We would love to hear from You!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Do You Have a Criminal Record? Find out the Best Time to Tell Your Potential Employer!

Finding a job is a lot of work. And if you have a criminal record, the entire process becomes even more difficult.  

In this challenging job market, many ex-offenders feel like they don't stand a chance against job seekers with clean records. And since most employers will screen for criminal history, it may seem like all the odds are stacked against ex-offenders from getting the jobs they need. 

While existing “Ban the Box” laws and other guidelines dictate when and how employers can use an applicant's criminal to determine their hiring decisions, being screened is still a reality for anyone seeking employment. 

That is why it is important that ex-offenders deal with their criminal record head on!

Ex-Offenders Looking for Work are Wise to Disclose their Criminal Past!  “Tweet This”

One of the most common areas of concern for ex-offenders is whether or not to Self-Disclose their criminal past.

Laws exist that dictate when and how an employer can use your criminal record in deciding employment. It is important to remember that those laws are there to protect you.  

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines state that ex-offenders cannot be denied employment based solely on their criminal record history, except in certain industries as required by law. Instead, an employer’s decision whether or not to hire you must be based on “business necessity”.  

When looking at your criminal record, Employers must consider:
  • The nature and gravity of your offense or offenses.
  • The time that has passed since your conviction and/or completion of the sentence.
  • The nature of the job you are seeking.
Learn more about criminal histories and hiring here!

Despite these protections, many ex-offenders are still worried. You may think that it is better to just stay quiet and take the chance that your past will not be uncovered. This is unwise.
Instead, the smartest thing you can do is to be open and up front about your criminal history.  

The important questions then become; When, What, and How to do it right!

Discover When and How You Should Disclose Your Criminal Past to Employers  “Tweet This”
  • When Should You Tell Your Potential Employer about Your Criminal History? 
The best time for you to self-disclose is either after the interview (if an interview is part of the hiring process) or, ideally, when you receive a conditional offer of employmentIn either case, by then the employer has had the chance to get to know you, access your skills, and is interested. And in most cases, it is at this point when a background check is imminent.

That is why taking the time now to talk about your criminal past makes sense.  
  • What Should You Disclose about Your Criminal History?
Convictions that occurred in the past 7 to 10 years. Current employment laws and guidelines have focused on the validity of using convictions and not arrests as part of the employment screening process. In most cases, that is where your potential employer will place the greatest weight. You can find out more about Convictions vs Arrests in Employment Background Checks here!
  • How Should You Explain Your Criminal History to a Potential Employer?
Our #1 recommendation is that you focus on what you have learned from your past. Take responsibility and be ready to explain any circumstances that lead to you committing your crime(s). When you are  truthful, it is much more likely that the employer will put your past in context.  

But don’t let your conviction be the focus – stress what you’ve learned from the experience. Take this time to explain what you have done to reform. Share clear examples of any training programs you have completed or any certificates you have earned, even those earned while you may have been incarcerated. 

You should also include any letters of recommendation from employers, mentors, or even support group leaders. Be sure to emphasize any examples of your reliability and trustworthiness.  

What your potential employer is really looking for is anything you have done to show you have moved on and have done the work to improve yourselfWhile sharing this personal information may be difficult, it can go a long way towards getting you a second chance and showing you have moved on.

For many employers, finding out you lied can be a bigger deal breaker than discovering you having a criminal history. That is why being prepared and ready to take responsibility is crucial.   

Employers realize that not everyone looking for a job is squeaky clean. So when you take it upon yourself to be open and up front about your criminal past, they are more likely than ever before to give you a second chance.  

Bottom Line ~ It is in your best interest to be truthful. Don’t take the chance that your criminal past won’t show up. It will.  

Being proactive and taking the initiative to self-disclose will leave a much more favorable impression than if you let your employer find out only after the background check!

Please Leave a Comment and Share this on your favorite social sites! Thanks!

Authored by   

API can help you navigate the world of Employment and Background Checks. Visit our About Us and Background Investigation  pages to find out more!

Contact Us here for any questions you may have about Hiring, Security, and Your Small Business. We would love to hear from you!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

When Tragedy Strikes, It is How We Respond that Defines Us!

#SmallBiz #FacingChallenges 
I will never forget where I was the morning of September 11, 2001.

My children had both just left for school and I was sitting at my computer, cup of coffee in hand, ready to start my day. And, as usual, I had a morning news show on in the background, when something that the host was saying caught my attention.

The screen filled with images of a plane crashing into one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. I sat there in disbelief and confusion, running various scenarios through my head as to why this could have happened....plane failure was the only one I could really wrap my head around.  

Then, moments later, I watched live as another plane flew right into the second tower.

I could no longer deny that what I had just witnessed was a deliberate act.

And as the morning progressed, and we learned of the heroism of those on United flight 93 , and the attack on the Pentagon, that became more and more clear.

We were the victims of a cold and calculated terroristic act.

The next minutes were spent in fear, worrying about my children at school and my husband who worked in Washington D.C.

The next hours, days, and weeks were spent alternating between horror, grief, and anger. 

The news was filled with stories of the thousands of people who lost their lives or where injured in the attacks. We also were learning, piece by piece, information about those responsible.

But the stories I fixated on the most were those about the many who risked their own lives to help and try to save others.

The selfless acts of not only our first responders and other police, fire, and emergency crews, but of seemingly ordinary men and women who did everything they could for people they didn’t even know ~ these are what had me riveted.

For me, this is what characterized us as a nation and as people in the wake of 9/11. And it changed me.

It is How We Respond to Adversity that Defines Us  “Tweet This”

The sad truth is that there is no escaping tragedy and sadness in our lives.  And many times things happen that are out of our control. 

I am thankful that they are not all of the magnitude of 9/11, but I believe it is how we respond to these adversities that truly defines us.

Some people react with anger or a “why me” attitude. Others crawl into a shell of isolation and denial.  

And while experiencing those emotions is understandable, and even to be expected, the people I admire are those who can reach inside to find strength, perseverance, and even heroism in their adversities.

They know what it means to face them head on. They take it in, allow themselves to grieve and get angry, then emerge ready to take action.

Instead of being crippling, their adversities bring out the very best in them. They are their own heroes. This is what defines them.

That is how I challenge myself to live.  

#FacingChallenges #Heroism
I have had my share of tragedies and set backs, two of which made their own indelible impact. My father died when I was 29 and, at the age of 35, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Both rocked me.

However, I decided they did not have to derail me or define me. I still had a life to live, a family and friends to love, and even a fledgling small business to run.

I believe that I have actually emerged a stronger, wiser, and more resilient person. And it was the conscious choices I made early on that really made a difference.  

I chose to start each day with optimism. I focused on keeping my children safe and secure. I was thankful for my husband and his unwavering support. And I continued to work hard to make my business a success. 

This mind set serves me well still.

So, while I cannot compare the heroism of those people who risked themselves on 9/11 to me in my own life, I do know that the adversities I have faced and what happened that day has made a difference.

They have defined me. And I believe your own experiences define you too.

Choose to be the best you can be.....Be the Hero of Your Own Story!

Authored by  


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