The Embezzlement Nightmare
“I hate calls like these,” I thought as I hung up the phone. My heart ached. Another dentist discovered his long time trusted employee had been stealing his hard earned money from the practice. It had been my fifth such call this week alone.
He alternated from being angry about the theft, to having heartache for the loss of the relationship. “But, she’s worked for me for 18 years. How could she do something like this? I trusted her. She offered to repay me and gave me all sorts of excuses. What do I do now?”
In most practice embezzlement cases, if just a few things had been done differently, the opportunity for embezzlement to occur would have been prevented - or at the very least, made it not so easy. Cross training staff and tightening internal controls are just a couple ways, but the biggest difference could have been made in strengthening the leader of the practice. Be the boss! Having a trusted employee steal from the practice ultimately serves as a wake-up call. The wake-up call message is this: “WAKE UP! Become involved in the business aspect of your practice.”
These are not business-as-usual times, so you cannot do the business of dentistry the same way you always have and expect positive results. Everyone’s economy has been affected. If you have let the “ownership” of the practice slip, seize it back now. In every professional practice (dental, veterinary, medical or chiropractic), I hear “Do what you went to school for and delegate the rest.” Sounds great, but it is a business myth - at least for a successful business.
Do you believe that Warren Buffet, Donald Trump or Bill Gates don’t oversee their businesses? They understand they must LEAD the business. Bo Bennett said, “Without initiative, leaders are simply workers in leadership positions.” If you are not leading the business of your practice, you are simply an employee. You are not a leader. You must not only run the reports, but understand the reports. If you do not understand them, then change their format so you can understand them.
Do you compare the day sheets to the patient sign-in sheets? Do you study the bank statements and compare the software’s collections report to them? Do you analyze the credit card charges on the credit card statement? Do the bank reconciliations? Are you the most knowledgeable regarding the practice software? Who controls the passwords or do you have passwords? Is the security for the practice software to its full potential?
What about new hires? Are you the one to call references - Doctor to Doctor? Do you do background checks on anyone handling finances? Have you checked your insurance for Employee Dishonesty Coverage?
Speaking at a convention on embezzlement, an attendee once quietly & honestly responded, “Susan, I understand why you want me to do this, but I just don’t want to do it.” That’s why we had all of those lessons growing up, when our parents said, “Because I said so.” We were hopefully trained to do the things we don’t necessarily want to do, but need to do anyway. It’s life. And, if you are not the boss of your practice, someone else will be.
This past year, I’ve been speaking to practice management consultants and practice management groups, training them on what to look for when they are in your practice. They are your second set of eyes and ears. They will see things you will not see. They can help.
Practice Embezzlement is critically increasing. The reason for the economic shortfalls and embezzlement increases are the same. Greed. We want more and we want it now. Some of us learned the difference between want and need. Some of us didn’t. The loss of the money is not the only loss when someone you trust embezzles. The greater loss is not something material. Money can and will be replaced. But experiencing a theft from someone you’ve greeted for a number of years, you’ve been there when they got married, when their kids were born, through the loss of parents, through sickness and health - it’s grief. It’s emotionally heart and gut wrenching. And the doctor AND staff walk through the stages of grief. Some doctors have become sick and others quit the profession because they were so grief stricken.
This betrayal of trust is overwhelming. It consumes your thoughts and your time and sucks your energy. I know this because I walk through it with my clients, every step, every day.
If someone really wants to steal from you, they will. But, it doesn’t have to be easy to do. Do not enable their theft by your ignorance any longer. It is not business as usual. Be the Boss. That’s the first step in preventing embezzlement.
Susan Gunn has over 20 years of business automation and computer financial software experience. She has been a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor since Intuit established the program, Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor and has written 22 books geared for professional practices sold internationally.
She is a Certified Fraud Examiner, with complete understanding of your practice, your practice management systems, and your practice's procedures. When embezzlement is suspected, she is able to investigate, interview and provide complete reports for prosecution and civil suit purposes.
Susan lives in Arlington, Texas and is a popular speaker at many major state and national meetings. Her passion in providing the right business solutions for a practice is evident by the success of her courses.
Susan Gunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgForward this article to a friend
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