You work hard to run a business that turns a profit and provides jobs in the community. As such, you are always disappointed to learn of losses from theft. Whether you run a retail business subject to shoplifting or a B2B operation with mysteriously disappearing inventory, people stealing from your business is hard to swallow.
According to a 2017 report from CNBC, business theft costs U.S. companies some $50 billion annually. And by the way, that number relates only to crimes committed by employees. It says nothing of shoplifting or theft committed by visitors and guests.
Three Groups of Thieves
There are essentially three groups of people who perpetrate business theft. At the top of the list are employees. This is no surprise, given that they have ample opportunity. Unfortunately, this particular group tends to cause the most heartbreak for employers. Business owners are distraught to learn that trusted employees would steal from them.
What do employees steal? Anything and everything. Office supplies go missing from the storeroom. Inventory is stolen from the warehouse. Company credit cards are used for personal purchases. Even bookkeepers help themselves to the daily receipts. Anything that is not nailed down is a target.
The other two groups of potential thieves are:
- Customers – In a business-to-consumer (B2C) scenario, there is a general understanding that customers steal. Think of a retail setting. Shoplifting is an ongoing crime that retailers have been fighting since the birth of retail.
- Visitors – Visitors who do not necessarily qualify as customers might also steal. For example, you may have a number of vendors who visit your premises to provide on-site services. Some of their reps might help themselves to your property when they visit.
The unfortunate reality is that anyone who comes in contact with your business property can steal it. Moreover, it doesn’t have to be limited to goods and cash. Even your intellectual property can be stolen.
Why People Steal from You
By now you are probably wondering why people would steal from your business. According to research cited by the BBC in 2012, there are a number of reasons. The first is genuine need. A person might shoplift from your grocery store because they are legitimately hungry. They have no food and no means to buy it.
Unfortunately, legitimate need is rarely the reason. In fact, research conducted in North America suggests that police officers, nurses, and doctors are involved in more shoplifting incidents than any other professions. They are not doing it because they have a genuine need.
So what’s going on? People who steal without genuine need may do so for any one of several reasons:
- Getting Even – Stealing in business settings is often a matter of getting even. An employee might feel they have been wronged and the only way to right that wrong is to steal. Another employee might steal because they feel they are being underpaid. They get even by taking company property.
- Dealing with Loss – Some people steal as a way of coping with some sort of loss. It might be the loss of a loved one or an important relationship. It could also be a loss that does not necessarily affect the thief personally. For example, doctors and nurses deal with loss of life every day. The loss is not personal, but it is one they have trouble coping with.
- The Thrill – People steal from businesses just for the thrill of doing so. They find it exciting to see if they can get away with it. The risk of being caught only heightens the pleasure.
- Psychological Compulsion – There is that small group of people who steal due to a psychological compulsion. They suffer from a condition known as kleptomania. They steal because they cannot help themselves.
There are other reasons people might be stealing from your business. The five discussed here only scratch the surface. The point is that people steal for reasons that may or may not be valid. Yet their reasons are not germane to protecting your business. What you care about is preventing theft.
Prevention Strategies for Businesses
As a business owner, you might suspect people are stealing from you. So what do you do? That depends on the nature of your business and the type of theft it is subject to. A good place to start is with the theft of goods and business inventory.
Because these are tangible items, Vivint Home Security recommends installing video surveillance cameras. Video cameras are non-negotiable in retail environments. You should have enough cameras to watch the entire floor as well as your warehouse or storage space.
Security cameras are also appropriate in other settings. If supplies are missing from your office supply room, install a camera. A camera in the break room could help you discover who is stealing coffee and snacks. Virtually anywhere theft occurs is a candidate for video surveillance.
Tight Inventory Control
Some companies fall victim to business theft because they do not keep an eye on inventory. They are very casual with what comes in and what goes out. The solution to this sort of problem is to implement tight inventory control procedures. Everything used in the office should be logged. Everything leaving the warehouse to go out to customers should be tracked.
Business owners can further reduce theft by establishing accountability policies. For example, someone should be holding the bookkeeper accountable by auditing the records on a regular basis. There should never be a single person solely responsible for handling company finances.
Everyone from middle-management to the company supply officer should be accountable to someone. Accountability makes it harder for people to steal.
In closing, there are as many anti-theft strategies as there are reasons for stealing. The key is identifying the scope of the problem in your business and developing strategies accordingly. The fact is that people steal. If they are stealing from your business, they will not stop on their own. You have to make them stop.