Q: I suspect employees are stealing from my business. How can I find out, and what can I do to prevent this in the future?

Sharelle Turner, a CPA and certified fraud examiner with Kerkering Barberio, answers: It depends. Are we talking about the theft of cash, inventory, equipment, supplies or something else? There are many ways of stealing from a business.

By analyzing your financial statements, you may be able to find signs of theft. Compared to the sales that are being reported, is the cost of goods sold higher than you would expect? This could indicate that sales revenue is being siphoned off. It could also indicate that inventory is being stolen.

You may want to be very up front and officially enact a fraud prevention program. Many businesses today use a confidential hot line that an employee or other individual can use to report theft.

Every business needs to have a system of good internal controls. Discuss the situation with a certified public accountant who specializes in providing audit services and assessing internal controls. Also, check the Web site for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners http://www.cfenet.com/home.asp for additional information and to locate a certified fraud examiner in your area. Sharelle Turner may be reached at sturner@kbgrp.com.

Q: Other than offering insurance benefits to employees, what else can I provide without breaking my budget?

Larry Geimer, president of Larry Geimer & Associates CPAs, P.A., answers: The opportunity to provide non-budget-busting benefits to your employees is extensive. The most popular idea today is flextime. Rather than working a pure nine-to-five day, many employers will allow employees an earlier or later start time or lengthen their hours Monday through Thursday in exchange for a shorter Friday. Vacation days continue to be popular, so occasionally employees will be happy to take additional vacation days in lieu of a salary increase. Sick days can be combined with personal days, which allow the employee hours or days off with no questions asked. This is extremely popular with young parents.

You may want to take a second look at your firm holidays to see if they can be expanded. Depending on the type of business, some employees are now allowed to work part- or full-time out of their house. Small gifts are always appreciated, especially at the holidays. Company events, such as lunches, dinners, picnics, sporting events and concerts, can be great for team building as well. Use your imagination about what would make you happy as an employee. Larry Geimer may be reached at Lgeimer@cpasarasota.com

Q: Two department heads in my company clash and their conflict affects the teams they manage. How do I bring about a rapprochement?

Linda Larsen, an international speaker, trainer and best-selling author, responds: Begin by having separate conversations with both individuals that sound something like this: "Bob, I know there are some challenges between you and Carol. Those problems are negatively impacting our employees and our bottom line. I'm not here to blame or accuse anyone. I'm here to fix the problem so that all parties feel like they leave winning. I truly believe that we can accomplish that. The key is that I need your help. Would you be willing to meet with me and Carol?"

Assuming that both parties agree, I would then ask them to honor the following guidelines in the joint meeting: They must be able to speak for a specified period of time about what they feel the problem is. Then the other party paraphrases what was just said. We're not talking about agreement, just understanding. Then the second party gets to voice his or her feelings about the problem. Finally, the three of you brainstorm ways that you think the problem(s) could be solved. Linda Larsen has worked with companies such as Pfizer, Kellogg, IBM, and Gillette to help them manage conflict, communicate more effectively and improve their bottom lines. She can be reached at (941)927-4700 or www.lindalarsen.com

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