Solomon Bruce Consulting Blog

Friday, May 27, 2016

Why Do You Pay The Invoice?

         The news has been full of articles that address inside embezzlement in a company.  The bookkeeper, the office manager, the comptroller are all individuals who have been cited for embezzling company funds—often without the knowledge of the owner or other ranking corporate officials.

            A former car dealer told us that when he operated a car dealership, he opened all the mail and signed all the checks!  Now, drastic and tough?  Well, we don’t think so.  Knowing what is going on in your business is the key to a successful business.  Knowing what is being bought, how much is being paid and what the product is being used for is important in any business.  Now, this method will probably not be viable if the company has sales in excess of $600 Million dollars a year.  However, anything less than that in sales, this method works.

            The car dealer went on to say that he belonged to a network of car dealers which regularly got together for mentoring and advice.  At one of the sessions, the moderator gave many of the attendees’ checks for $75 to $100.  He wondered why he did not receive one.  The answer, his firm did not pay a bogus invoice that had been sent to all of the dealerships.  The check was the amount of the bogus invoice which was paid by some clerk, unwittingly, in most cases.

            This is a great illustration of good internal controls in the company.  If the company has good internal controls, money loss is usually reduced to zero and the negative publicity that occurs with embezzlement negated.

            If you don’t sign the checks, find out who does.  Ask to see each invoice and the amount paid.  You may be surprised at the results you find.  They may not be what you had imagined.  You may further find out that there is “some leak in the till” that you were unable to identify. 

Professional Responsibility in the Mentoring Relationship

Providing mentorship to employees, often subordinates or lower organizational relationship individuals requires the highest order of due diligence and professionalism—with absolutely no comprise of professional standards.

The recent firing of an Air Force General Officer for an inappropriate relationship with a lower grade individual illustrates this example.  This officer, according to media and internal Air Force investigation reports, provided “mentoring” to a married male/female military couple.  The mentoring, according to all reports was satisfactory, until the General Officer began sending emails which were deemed by Air Force officials to have sexual connotations to the female mentee.  The end result, after a lengthy investigation by Air Force officials was to remove the General Officer from his position and seek his immediate retirement.

These challenges are not unique to the military.    Chief Executive Officers and other high ranking corporate officials are often found to engage in the same egregious behavior—with the same results—failing to meet company standards, being asked to leave the company, normally unceremoniously and rapidly.

The senior member in a mentor/mentee relationship is always responsible for conducting the relationship in a professional manner.  Why the senior member?  He/She is assumed to be more knowledgeable and experienced and should know and understand company rules, policies and procedures.  After all, the “junior” mentee sought out the “senior” mentee for advice—knowing the company rules and regulations is one of the responsibilities.

Close emotional bonds often forms between mentors and mentees.  Although these bonds can be close, emotions must be maintained at a high professional level at all times.  Egos are often stroked and it “feels good” to have someone provide positive feedback and ego enrichment when, in many instances, a senior official is faced with a myriad of unpleasant and often distasteful problems that require resolution and answers.  Well, all of that is part of being a senior corporate official--- it is NOT all peaches and cream in the C suite.  That is why senior officials are paid big dollars.  However, do not ever let your guard down—if you do—bad decisions are often made and careers are prematurely terminated.

Mentorship- Leading other Team Members to Success!

              Much has been written in the past few years about mentorship in the work, job and personal environments.  The idea that seems to get posited over and over again is that having a mentor should increase one’s success in life—be it at the job, in personal challenges and life in general.

                A mentor is someone who is willing to share, help, explore, teach, counsel, and guide an individual when he/she is taking on a new task.  That task could be as simple as learning how to swing a golf club, or as complicated as adapting and adjusting in a new organization.  In most instances today, a mentor is commonly thought of as a colleague who will help another colleague learn new material, provide some different focus and direction in allowing an individual to become successful in a job environment.

                In the work environment, a mentor may be a senior corporate officer who has experienced what the new employee is just now learning.  This individual, who is probably not in the employee’s supervisory chain can explain, show and describe tasks, processes and procedures that the new employee is unfamiliar with.  These meetings can take place over a breakfast meeting, a cup of coffee or a round of golf or racquetball at the gym.

                One role of the mentor is to help guide the mentee along the way—however, allowing the mentee to “fall and fail” is also a valuable part of the experience.  No one wants someone to fail, however, in failure is learning and forward progress.  I have had many mentees—I rarely allow them to fail, however, viable and strong learning transpires when someone tries something and discovers that it does not work—even though we may have had a similar discussion on the matter just the week before.

                The mentorship relationship must be maintained in a professional manner at all times.  Throughout the experience that you have as a mentor, it is sometimes easy to assume what in transactional analysis is defined as a “parent-child” relationship.  A mentor relationship is not that—it is a professional relationship between two professionals.  Discussions of matters such as intimate family matters, financial concerns and other non-job related areas are not appropriate.  Many companies have rules and regulations regarding what is and is not acceptable in a mentorship relationship. 

Good common sense is the best guideline—the mentee wants to know how to be successful, just like the mentor.  The other concerns, although of possible interest, are not germane to successful mentorship.

With more millennial age employees entering the work force, some baby boomers may feel insecure or intimidated about the millennial’s use of digital technology.  Here is a case where in one instance, you serve as a mentor helping a new employee.  In the next minute, the millennial employee is your mentor, teaching you new digital technology that you may not have experienced.  The relationship is dual path—i.e., one time you are the mentor, the next time, you are the mentee!

Mentoring is fun!  As a mentor, you have the opportunity to aid and assist another individual grow, learn and mature in his/her future.  It could be a job, hobby or life in general.  Taking this role seriously will ensure that you help the mentee be a better employee/individual and you will receive more intrinsic satisfaction than you ever imagined.

We Wanted a Square Sink, Not an Oval One!

           A homeowner recently remodeled his master bath area.  He and his wife spent several weeks working with a contractor to identify all of the work that was desired to update the bathroom.  Construction day finally arrived, and after two weeks of living in the basement guest suite, the homeowner was excited to finally get back into his master suite.
            The granite counter top was installed, one of the final steps in the construction process.  Immediately, the homeowner noticed an error!  The granite countertop, all one piece,  had an oval cut out for the sink, not a square cut off that was originally designed.  Oops—a big mistake.
            The granite installer went ahead and installed the countertop, thinking that the homeowner, after living 2 weeks in the basement would accept an oval sink instead of the square sink.  Well, no dice!  The homeowner was unwilling to accept the error and required that a new piece of granite be installed, properly designed and cut to his original specifications.
            Well, 2 more weeks of basement living, 4 trips of 140 miles each way for the granite company, another piece of $3000 granite--- again, errors of monumental proportions that should not have happened if the attention to detail step was performed all along the way.
            The contractor offered to “reduce the price” for the countertop—however, the homeowner did not want an oval sink—he and his wife ordered a square sink.
            How could this error happen?  Again, failing to pay attention to detail, carefully reading the customer requirements caused the granite company to have to “absorb” the rework costs of the countertop.  Can the granite cut in error be salvaged?  Perhaps, if some smaller pieces can be cut from the larger piece.
            Was the homeowner unreasonable with the contractor?  No, in our opinion.  The homeowner ordered what he wanted and was delivered something that failed to match his requirements.

            We have said this previously, but will say it again—close attention to detail is necessary and required in all facets of business operations.

Where are Pages 47-86?

               A publishing firm used a new printer for their printed material.  One of the pieces of print material that was required is a quarterly publication that contains business information, advertising, and local stories of the community. 
            The publishing firm had been using an out of state printer to produce the magazine, however, with new firm ownership, the decision was made to find a local printer.  The printer selected was in a HUB Zone (Historically Underutilized Business) zone as defined by the Small Business Administration.  This is also a woman owned, minority business that had wonderful testimonials on their web site.  There was no reason not to use a new firm—their bid was competitive and service appeared to be acceptable.
            When the magazines were delivered to the publishing firm, they were distributed in the local area.  15 minutes after the first box was distributed, the calls started coming in—we have a copy of the magazine, however, the magazine is missing pages 47-86.  Advertisers started calling--  where is our ad—the one that we paid a premium for?
            The bottom line—confusion- frustration- unhappiness and rework on all parties involved.  How could this happen?  How could 6500 magazines be produced and no one check to see if they were complete and correctly printed?
            This challenge is one that many manufacturers have every day—quality control of the final product.  In this case, it appears that not only did the printer not have a quality control program, but the binding company did not either.  Nobody seemed to check to see if the final product met customer specifications!  This is the first step that should be done whenever something new is being built, constructed, designed, engineered, and manufactured!
            Rework, schedule delays, increased costs, customer unhappiness all result when the first article is not checked to insure that it fulfills all manufacturer specifications.  We are all humans and we all make errors—that is a given.  However, in this scenario, which ended up being a comedy of errors all around, many people were involved, but no one checked to insure that the product was correctly produced!
            Remember the old carpenter adage, “Measure twice, cut once.”  Sadly, that did not happen in this instance—creating challenges all around.