As national practice leader of accounting firm Price Waterhouse's investigative-services division, James B. Hunt has concluded that "the problem of small, successful businesses is that they don't have time to set up the right financial infrastructures." Here are some ways to safeguard your business against fraud:
· Decentralize responsibility. Hunt says, "The more people you can involve in a key function, the better. That's because the more people who have to band together to carry out a fraud, the less likely it is to happen."
· Open your bank statement yourself. "This won't take you more than 20 minutes a month, but it's the best single way to protect the company," says Hunt. When the CEO opens the envelope and looks at all the canceled checks, someone else isn't going to have the opportunity to embezzle by check and then get rid of the evidence when the bank statement comes.
· Rotate staffers. Every six months to a year, move your financial staffers around and give them different jobs. "That way you'll uncover scams quickly, as soon as the new person discovers that financial reports or numbers just don't make sense."
· Watch sick days and vacations. If a staffer never, ever misses a day of work, he or she may be afraid of what you'd discover during an absence. Be suspicious.
· Buy fidelity-bond insurance. It protects against catastrophic embezzling and other acts of dishonesty on the part of employees.