I was 24 years old and had just joined my father's company. He owned a vending and food service company. I was in training to be a new supervisor.
My first task during my first week at work was to fill in on one of our vending routes. One of the tasks I had was to take an inventory of the route. This allowed our bookkeeping department to balance the route and make sure all of the inventory and cash was in the proper place.
This was 1976 and the average route at that point would do about $3,500 per week.
When we balanced the route we found that the route was over $4,000 short. This triggered an immediate re-count of the entire inventory. After the second inventory the route balanced. This meant the route was really short $4,000.
The likely culprit for this shortage was the route driver I was filling in for. It appeared that he had stolen a lot of money. All because the route was not independently inventoried in over a year.
After we confirmed the shortage my father asked me what we should do. In my mind there was no question; we had to fire the route driver in question. He was responsible for the inventory and cash. On his watch there was $4,000 that had disappeared.
This experience provided me with several important lessons. Among them were:
- You must balance your books on a regular basis. (Way more than once a year.)
- When you give someone responsibility for cash and or inventory you must hold them accountable for both.
- There are certain issues that happen where you don’t give an employee a second chance.
- If you have to inconvenience yourself because an employee needs to be replaced, you need to do so.
- You have to trust your bookkeeping system after you make sure it actually works.
- Theft always must be dealt with by having the guilty parties dismissed from your company.
This was a big deal in my development as a manager. Having the ability to let someone go from your company for seriously breaking rules is a necessary skill all managers need to learn.
No one enjoys firing others but when it’s time to have someone go you have to follow through. Letting bad actors stay in your company hurts everyone.
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