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In the days I owned my vending company cash controls were a big deal.  It was almost like a game.  Some of our employees would find a way to steal and we would find a way to stop them from stealing.  It went round and round and the game seemingly never ended.

You don’t have to have a cash business to have a theft problem.  In fact, some of the biggest embezzlements I’ve seen have been with businesses who shouldn’t have had a cash control problem.

Who opens your bank statements?

This is the biggest issue I see when it comes to controlling every day theft.  You have a trusted bookkeeper who might have been with you for years.  You believe they would never steal from you.  For some reason you decide to look at what’s going on with your accounts.  Lo and behold you find that you’re missing several hundred thousand dollars.

This is not a rare scenario.  An easy way to make sure it doesn’t happen to you is for you to open your banks statements and look through them before sending them to your bookkeeper.  If people in your company know you’re looking, they’ll be much less likely to steal from you.

Are credit cards balanced on a monthly basis?

We live in a credit card society.  If you’re like me you probably put a significant amount of your company’s purchases through a credit card.  With lots of transactions it would be easy for someone to get ahold of your company credit card and make some personal purchases.

You need to make sure you balance your credit card charges every month.  You do want to have all of the charges on your credit cards be authorized.

Do you sign your checks?

One of the dumbest things I ever see in small businesses is auto-signers for checks.  There is no reason you don’t sign your own checks.  After all, even if you have fifty checks a week, you’re talking no more than ten minutes to sign the checks.

I can promise you that if there is a check that looks out of place you’ll notice it a lot faster if you’re signing the checks than if you allow someone else to sign for you.  And please, don’t get a stamp to sign your checks.  It really doesn’t make you look like a big company.

Do you have a petty cash fund?

If you do, then you need to balance receipts.  It’s easy to take a few dollars here and there.  Before long, you’ve got money missing from your petty cash fund.

I know it’s not much money.  At the same time all of the big thefts I’ve seen started as small thefts.  Keeping control of small things might keep you from having to deal with a big embezzlement.

What about agreements with suppliers and customers?

One of the more complicated ways to steal is to have a supplier write a check to an employee for goods that never arrived.  This takes a lot of planning and if done could cost you a ton of money.  Or, one of your people could be stealing finished goods and selling them at a discount to one of your customers.

Don’t say, “that would never happen to me.”  If you do, you just might be in a position where you’ll wish that you paid a little attention.

At the end of the day theft control is just using common sense.  Think about your business and show up where you’re not expected.  You could be glad you did.

Part of having a good theft control program is understanding what the key metrics are in your business.  We have a special report on this topic that might provide you with some ideas.


Topics: cash flow management, embezzlement, theft

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