Profiting At The Bottom Line™

This month’s focus: Don’t Let Title, Position, Or Familiarity Dull Your Prudence.

It’s tough to be on guard all the time. We want to trust, it’s in our nature. Yet, there are times where we allow our prudence to be overshadowed either by being familiar with someone, or, they’re what we might think of as “a person of stature.” e.g., A doctor, lawyer, dentist, CEO, and more. The issue many times is: It’s not that someone may intentionally be looking for ways to capitalize on your trust for the wrong reasons. It’s that many times it is us making the availability all too present, and obvious. Where the other party just can’t help themselves because the temptation was too great, and far too easy, as to be exploited. Remember the old adage: Why does a rattlesnake bite? Because that’s what they do.

Case Study: Not all that long ago before the digitizing of everything was so prevalent physical checks were the mainstay of business transactions. A normal practice was to initiate the checks (i.e., write them) upon arrival of any invoice, then to hold those envelopes in one place, container, drawer, etc. till the appropriate date within the terms. (To clarify: You might receive a bill 3 days after a delivery but your terms were 21 days.) Usually these bills would be kept unsealed as to allow viewing (usually by the owner) of how much was being paid and when due. As funds became available usually the owner would then signal which to send out. It was a crude way of controlling payables, however, before the advent of total reliance on computers, it worked rather well.

As with everything this assemblage of payables were always kept within arms reach of the owner or fiduciary responsible. Many times it was nothing more than a 12×16 inch box holding dozens of envelopes. Yet, many at times consisted of rather large amounts. It would not be unusual for a majority of checks at any given time to be not only five figures, but six or more.

One day the owner of an establishment which I was working instructed me that he had a guest arriving. The guest was the head-chef of a very prominent 5 star restaurant in town. He was having a one-on-one meeting with this chef as to help solidify the new relationship we just acquired with his restaurant, and asked if I would show them around the plant then sit him in his office till he returned. I said “of course” and posited that I would remain in his office with him till he returned. I was told I needn’t stay with him, just make sure he was comfortable for he wouldn’t be more than a few minutes.

I asked again, and once again, was assured there was no need. Almost in an incredulous tone I asked (more – implied forcefully) that the container holding the envelopes of payables should be removed from his office. Or, at the least put out of sight. For they were right there in full view and who knows who this person may be.

In an almost condescending tone my prudence was brushed aside while stating, “Mark, this person is the chef of The XXXXXX. Trust me, you don’t get that position without the owners there knowing who you are. And besides, there’s nothing in there that isn’t already where he is. You worry too much. Don’t worry, he’s fine.” And so over my best protests I did as required leaving the payables nearly within arms reach of anyone inside his office.

Less than 12 weeks later we were informed there was a shake up at one of our clients. The client? Yes, it was the same 5 star establishment the owner tried to make feel so comfortable just weeks prior. And the shake up? It was none other than the very chef he entertained and allowed to sit in his office alone in a trusting manner normally reserved for only the closest of personnel. And the charges?

Embezzlement.

© 2015 Mark St.Cyr

Profiting At The Bottom Line™ is a monthly memo, which is pithy, powerful, and to the point. It focuses on innovative techniques and or ideas that you can put to work immediately in your daily or business life.