Fraud Prevention Tip: Leverage the Value of an Informal Fraud Policy

We’ve been talking about fraud, and last week I asked you to create a fraud policy if you didn’t already have one. Pardon me for assuming that you don’t already have one but experience tells me you don’t. What you may find that what you do have, though, is an informal fraud policy – and you may not even know it.

Though I insist that an official, stated, written and shared Fraud Policy is important, I will be happy knowing that you also have an informal fraud policy.

An informal fraud policy is one that is implied by your actions and the state of things around your business – like security – but that is not directly stated. An informal policy is also known as a psychological fraud policy.

The Circuitous Route

I once ran a retail chain out of Delaware. The shrinkage was 5 or 6%, and when the company was doing 100 million dollars a year in business, we weren’t talking about an insignificant number here. That was about 6 million dollars a year of stolen goods.

Before I got there, when a cashier or sales associate was caught stealing the manager would have that person quietly taken into the back, loaded into a police car and inconspicuously taken to jail. But this is not Victorian England, and we need not be so discreet.

When I started running this operation and I caught someone stealing, I had multiple police officers parade them through the store in hand cuffs in a circuitous route. The police car would be out front lights swirling and sirens blaring, and the perpetrator would have tears coming out of his or her eyes. I wanted everyone to see, from employees to customers to management.

The Effects of the Roundabout Way

That policy resulted in a reduction of shrinkage by 50% in the first month. Over the course of the year that translated into three million dollars saved because people became far more terrified of the embarrassing consequences of getting caught stealing. They knew that I would take real and serious action against them and prosecute them for stealing.

Another example of a psychological fraud policy is a warehouse at which I had a ton of merchandise walking out the back door. All I did was stick a camera right outside that door, drill a hole in the wall and feed a little wire through. That camera and wire didn’t even go anywhere! They weren’t hooked up, but just putting it there scared everyone enough to stop stealing. Shrink declined immediately and dramatically.

Those are examples of informal and psychological fraud policies. Neither is stated in words on a sign, but they are actions that are regularly being taken agains those who are stealing and committing fraud, and employees understand the consequences of those actions.

Do you have an informal or psychological fraud policy at your business? If so, what is it and if not, what sorts of measures could you put in place to have one?

Prepare for Change: The Tale of K-Mart the Big Gorilla

Everything changes but change itself.

– John F. Kennedy

Little rings truer to me than this statement by President Kennedy.

I was speaking to a CEO group just last week and I was telling them: change is coming, change is here, change is staying. What does that mean? It means that everything changes but change itself.

Conditions will never remain the same, and as a business person you have to prepared for that. Be ready for the future and be ready for change.

Let me give you an example, that I like to call the Big Gorilla example.

A while back I was CEO of a manufacturing company that made t-shirts and sweatshirts. We did good, steady work, and one day K-Mart came to us and started placing huge regular orders. A big change!

They asked us to change our manufacturing capabilities to suit their needs. We did. Another big change that seemed worth it because they ordered so much so regularly.

Then one day, after we produced a million dollars worth of merchandise branded explicitly for K-Mart, they told us not to ship their order, that they were having some financial issues. That was $1 million of merchandise!

This was unwelcome change, and this is the power of the Big Gorilla. The Big Gorilla changes your customer mix; it changes your business; then it changes its relationship with you.

When K-Mart told me to destroy the merchandise and that I couldn’t sell it anywhere – I just had to eat it – I was pretty perturbed. I, of course, didn’t listen, and sold the merchandise overseas at enough to break even. When K-Mart eventually found out (an executive was vacationing in the area and noticed the locals wearing the merchandise), the company terminated its relationship with us, changing the nature of our business again. We had lost our Big Gorilla.

Two lessons come out of this story. The first is: Be Wary of the Big Gorilla. It’s nice to get a big buyer but when someone controls that much of your customer pie, change is always on the horizon.

And that brings us to the second lesson: Change is the Only Constant. Believe it and prepare for it by staying aware, recognizing that all projections have holes and flawed assumptions, being proactive rather than reactive and having controls in place.

What change has caught you by surprise? How do you prepare for change? Have you ever had a Big Gorilla – what happened?