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Pressure can make diamonds, but it can also make dust

CREDIT CONTROL

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As we start the new year, hopefully refreshed and having shaken a bit of the 2021-23 dust from our heels, I think it is important we recognise how the business landscape has changed so that we will be well placed to respond accordingly.

There are unprecedented financial pressures on people from all parts of society, labour shortages in key industries and whole sectors of the economy brought to their knees because by the pandemic and the response to it.

Being locked down with people who we may not have been completely sure we liked, unable to rely on even the most stable of incomes, and for many business owners the very real possibility that they may not ultimately have a business to return to, has brought to light behaviours and a frequency of financial offending that I have never seen in my career.

In the last few months we have seen millions of dollars stolen/diverted from employers by otherwise loyal employees, business partners setting up competing companies behind business their partner’s backs, and domestic partners filtering money into “escape funds”.

In one case we had to work to prevent a participant in a business from trying to arrange an “accident” that may have well killed the intended target simply for monetary gain.

In my experience, if you want to see someone behave in a way that they have never done before, put them in a position they have never been in before – unfortunately morality appears to have a price limit, and that limit seems to have fallen more sharply than a restaurant’s turnover during Covid.

With the stories of personal woe and hardship that are around – many genuine of course, but not all – it is easy to forget the belts and braces that exist to protect businesses from onboarding problem clients and problem staff.

When an attractive new client or potential staff member makes contact with you, verify their story and ask why they left the last supplier or employer?

If the reason given is, “Covid”, remember that covid gave employers and creditors the best excuse ever to release its underperforming staff and badly conducted accounts; If the staff member or client was as good as you may think they are, ask why they are coming to you – are they the diamonds in the middle of the hard rock or are they the pulverized rock dust that didn’t make the cut?

It’s not a case of being untrusting and cynical (like a certain 42-year-old private investigator/business advisor I could mention), it’s about making prudent choices in what is probably a crucial rebuild period: Implement full credit checking of all key staff on application and of course all clients.

One method I recommend is reaching out to an external HR/credit consulting agency that can advise on best practice onboarding of both staff and clients. As I always say to my clients, a 15-minute process at the start of any business relationship is far more efficient than a three-day hearing at the end of it.

Just a thought.

RELATED: Not always better the devil you know

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Nick Kerr
Nick Kerr
Nick Kerr is the director of IPI Group Limited. He can be reached on 021 876 527 and nick@nzipi.com.

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