I suspect my business partner is stealing from the company

Question:

I have a partner in my business; I have reason to believe that he is stealing from the company. I don’t have any hard evidence. How should I approach him?

Dr. Prakash:

The suspicion of fraud in itself is a good enough reason to end the relationship as soon as possible, because without trust there is no relationship, especially a business relationship. Any implication of accusation will strain the relationship further. Before you accuse your partner you should consult with an expert who can gather information to validate your suspicions.

In the case that your suspicions are confirmed you should create some safeguards with your CPA. The best way to end the relationship is to let a lawyer present the implicating information to your partner and in a very calm manner, tell the partner that in the light of such incriminating information, you could not continue in this relationship anymore, cut your losses and walk him/her out of the offices and follow up with legal action. Change all the business locks the same day and prevent all access to your accounts. As soon as possible let your customers know the new status of the ownership of the business.

Attracting the Right Workers

Question:

Hello, I own a small business and have trouble attracting the right workers. I am looking for someone to cover the front desk, answering phones and checking in customers. I can’t seem to keep anyone longer than six months. Do you have any suggestions in how to hire someone long term?

 

Dr. Prakash:

Employee turnover happens due to many reasons but one of the most persistent involves the inability of employees to feel secure in their job. To help them feel secure offer them a competitive salary and benefits. You can also try offering some incentives such as profit sharing or taking home a commission.

You can also work with a business coach that can help you assess a potential employee’s longevity with the company.

Difficult Client

Question:

Hello, I have this client that is very difficult to work for.  I fear that I may slip and really tell them off.  What is the best way to deal with them?  Should I fire them as a client before I get fired for cursing them out?

Dr. Prakash:

Ignoring the rude behavior of a client can create resentment. It is important to remember that every once in a while we are going to encounter rude clients/customers. Unfortunately, we can’t afford to fire them all! I suggest trying to attaching new meaning to their behavior and not to perceive it as personal. Think to yourself – this is a dysfunctional person who is trying to control the world by attacking others and if I become upset I will give them control over me and I refuse to do just that. This mantra will enable you to detach yourself from the situation and put a smile on your while you have to deal with them.  It will also make them aware that their aggressive and abrasive behavior does produce a negative reaction from you and it isn’t necessary to be rude in order to accomplish a task.  

Dressing for the Job

Question:

Hello, a coworker recently told me that I should dress for the job I want.  Even though I was a little insulted I knew they were right.  Should I spend big bucks to revamp my wardrobe?  It seems shallow to think that we are judged by what we wear.

Dr. Prakash:

Lasting impressions are often made in the first 30 seconds. Like it or not, people make judgments on our appearances so it’s important to dress the way you want to be perceived. It is not necessary to spend big bucks revamping your wardrobe. I suggest taking cues from your boss and coworkers. If everyone wears a suit to work, you should too.

You can also hire a wardrobe consultant. They can help you go through your closet and pick out key pieces that are professional. Many department stores provide personal shoppers. You can work with a personal shopper to help you find affordable and professional pieces that work for your job. 

 

How to Network

Question:

Hello, I graduated from college recently and have been working at this company for a few months. I’ve been told that I should network.  How do you do that?

Dr. Prakash:

One way to start networking is to join networking and young professional groups who meet on regularly to exchange information with each other.  You want to meet professional you don’t compete with to create personal networking relationships by referring clients to each other.
Your goal in networking is to educate the other professional about your business and assure them that you are a reliable source of referral for them. Of course you return the favor by referring back to them when possible.

 

Tips for the Young Entrepreneur

Question:

I have been in my field for some time now.  I feel that it is time to branch out on my own.  What tips can you give for a young entrepreneur?

Dr. Prakash:

Starting your own business can be complicated. Before you leave your current job, I suggest taking a few classes in Entrepreneurship. Such courses may extend a semester or two but be patient and get a good solid foundation in being a successful business entrepreneur. Before launching your business, make sure you have adequate funding through local financial institutions. The Small Business Administration has good information and tips on acquiring a loan. If there aren’t any non-compete issues create a small group of clients who may wish to follow you as you launch your business. Start small, keep you overhead as low as possible and provide excellent service at a reasonable price. Continue to network and grow your business. Good luck!

Hard to Please Boss

Question:

Help! There seems to be nothing I can do to please my boss.  I am giving 110%, but I feel as if nothing is good enough for him.  I know I shouldn’t be worried about pleasing him and should just concentrate on doing my job.  But I am worried that he is looking for reasons to fire me.

Dr. Prakash:

In the professional world 50 percent of your performance is evaluated by how well you do your job and the other 50 percent depends upon how well you relate to your coworkers, boss, the members of your team and your clients.  My advice is to develop a good working relationship with your coworkers and clients. This is the key to your boss realizing that you are a good team player and the clients you work with are happy. If you clients are satisfied with your work, your boss should be too. You can seek the assistance of a business coach to learn relationship building skills to develop such working relationships and overcome the sense of job insecurity you are currently experiencing.  

 

How to Keep Morale up After Cutting Benefits

Question:

As a small business owner I have recently had to cut some benefits for my employees. I unfortunately just can’t afford them. How do I keep this from hurting my teams moral?

Dr. Prakash:

As a business owner sometimes such business decisions have to be made. It is not the decision but the execution of this decision that will have the most impact on your teams moral. One way to carry out this decision is to bring your team members together and present the profit-cost- benefit data and discuss various options as to how best to handle the situation and create consensus on the course of action. Such joint decisions are usually more acceptable to the staff and workers because they were empowered to participate in the decision making and since it is their decision, you would not hurt morale or feel guilty about it. It may improve team morale and create a spirit of cooperation.

 

Preparing for a Layoff

Question:

Hi, the company I have worked at has laid off several employees now.  I fear that we will undergo a second round of layoffs.  How do I prepare for a layoff or prevent myself from being laid off.

Dr. Prakash:

Fear of being laid off in the next round of cuts is very real in this time of economic slowdown. The strategy to prevent such a layoff on your part would involve developing a close working relationship with your boss and /or decision maker, coming up with ideas that can help the company weather the storm with your help, and becoming indispensable so they would want to keep your position. The strategy to prepare for a job layoff, if and when it happens, would involve seeking an economic package which can sustain you for at least 6 to 12 months, be assigned  to a prepaid business coach (some companies offer this service) who can help you to develop a strategy to prepare for a whole new outlook to explore future  possibilities and carve out an entirely new career.

How to get Reimbursed for Company Expenses

Question: 

I work for this company where reimbursements to employees have been cut since the company is struggling to survive.  Yet, I keep incurring out of pocket expenses for my job.  What can I do to convince them that I need to be reimbursed?

Answer:

It depends upon the kind of expense you incur.  If the expense is incurred because of your job functions, the company is responsible for those expenses and you may send the HR department an itemized list with dates, amounts and how the expense relates to your duties. For future expenses, get clearance from your boss before you incur any expenses. If this fails then inform your boss that unless you are paid first you will not be able to incur any further expense because it represents a substantial portion of your budget. Also let him/her know why you would not be able perform your duties to meet the standards of performance.  You may also make your boss aware of the importance of the functions you perform and how lacking such functions will have an impact upon the overall image, productivity and success of the struggling company. Finally, if worse comes worse, check with your accountant and see if you could write off your job related expenses as a donation to a struggling company.