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Entrepreneurs Panel

Debbie Pierce
Charlie Mullins
Laura Tenison
Brian Hay
Richard O'Sullivan
Michael Oliver
Steve Purdham
Julie Meyer
David Pollock
Jeremy Roberts
Tony Caldeira
Jennie Johnson

Daylight robbery

Tony Caldeira

Set up St Helens-based home textile company Caldeira Limited in 1991 to supply cushions, pillows, throws, curtains and bedding to volume retailers worldwide. Caldeira opened a Chinese joint venture company in 2004 and completed its expansion into a 200,000 sq ft factory in the Hangzhou province in 2006. The firm has now moved its headquarters to Knowsley and, in 2007, opened its doors in the US with its first sales office in New York. The firm bought 14 Fabric Warehouse stores out of administration in 2008 to cement its expansion into retail to boost its manufacturing division.

Question: 

I suspect one of my senior team members is not being entirely honest when it comes to expenses. How should I handle the situation?

Answer: 

Any theft or fraud by a senior member of staff is extremely serious and must be dealt with quickly.

Firstly, prevention is better than cure. Have you put systems in place to do everything possible to minimise the risks?

For example, bogus expense claims should be addressed in contracts of employment and you should have a separate expense account checking system in place to eliminate fraud.

Another good way to reduce fraudulent claims is to put all expenses on staff credit cards. This reduces the need for cash transactions by your staff and increases transparency.

Secondly, investigate the matter as far as possible before confronting the individual. If your suspicion is misguided, any wrong accusation will destroy trust, reduce morale and could result in a claim against the firm.

If there is an element of doubt after your investigation, it may be prudent to “discuss” these “issues” without accusing the employee directly. Advise staff of “issues” and their consequences. If this is done well, the problem will probably disappear.

However, if it is clear that the manager is systematically fiddling their expenses, you will need to summarily dismiss them in the correct manner. If they’re stealing, they’ve got to go!

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