Monday 5 December 2016

Problem solver: How can I ensure that my staff aren't stealing from me?

Feargal Quinn

Published 11/08/2016 | 02:30

Feargal Quinn
Feargal Quinn

Q: I run a business which involves several members of staff taking cash from customers and our cash controls are poor. Can you give me any advice?

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A. At the very early stages of my retail career I recall an incident where a member of staff had been caught taking cash from the till.

She was a staff member I knew well and I was genuinely upset by what I had heard. Having sat down with her, I heard her describe that her financial situation at home was not great and she had been tempted to do something which she might not otherwise have. The most striking thing for me was her sentence that said "And it was all very easy for me to do."

She meant that we didn't have enough systems and procedures in place to make it difficult for her. While it was no excuse and she certainly shouldn't have taken the money, from that day onwards I held my managers accountable, at least partially, if a member of staff was involved in theft.

The vast majority of staff in every business are honest, however it is vitally important for any business to put systems and safeguards into place which act as deterrents in rare events that someone is tempted to do something they shouldn't.

You have a responsibility as a business owner to make sure these deterrents are in place. Mandatory issuing of till receipts, random spot checks and control avoids are all part of this process.

More importantly, explaining these procedures to staff to act as a deterrent is also a vital element in the process.

Q. Is there any money to be made from producing products under the supermarkets' own private label. I'm a food manufacturer and have been considering this?

A. Some food producers adopt a strategy of building their brand and getting the consumer to understand what that brand represents.

A large part of the value of their business is the consumer understanding of this brand and the recognition it gets in the market place. There are other producers out there who concentrate on creating high volume production businesses that are highly efficient and are based on volume production and efficiencies. Some businesses combine both strategies.

There is certainly money to be made in producing private label for retailers although it is a very different discipline from producing a branded product.

Very often the private label businesses tendered and the producer who has the cheapest price for the specification wins the contract. That means that you have to be good at lean advertising and challenging all the costs in the business. The fact that the private label business is very often tendered means that there is a timed duration to when you might be producing the product for, ie, you could have a contract for a year to produce a certain product which might create a certain vulnerability.

A good strategy might be to combine building your own brand and also producing a private label for one or more of the retailers. I would certainly advise you to attend the annual PLMA show in Holland. This is where all of the private label manufacturers in Europe exhibit and you would get good learnings from attending this show. Bord Bia should also be able to give you some good advice and talk to you about the possibility of producing a private label for the international market.

Send your small business questions to himself@feargalquinn.ie

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