25 October 2012, by tpotisk
Embezzlement, my office, my staff, my CA? Never!
Ha! Think again.
Embezzlement is a common financial disruption to chiropractic offices. Even worse, many DCs don’t know its happening, won’t accept that it’s happening, or don’t wake up to it until it becomes a catastrophe.
I talk with chiropractors all over the country through my ChirotoChiro.com chiropractor’s counseling service, and employee theft is a common dilemma that can devastate a practice, especially in this current economy. The loss of the money is only part of the problem. The real cost comes in the lost trust, division, suspicion, and in-the-toilet morale that permeates the practice.
Thankfully, I have some advice that can make embezzlement near impossible. And if you have a recent theft, if you act fast, a solution that worked well for me.
The following is an excerpt from my book Reclaim the Joy of Practice: An Advanced Guide for Advancing Doctors:
“Theft is a real threat in every doctor’s practice. Horror stories abound with doctors that lost thousands to embezzlement. Don’t expect to ever get much returned once it’s stolen even if the thief is caught and ordered to pay restitution. Instead, be pre-emptive by having tight monitoring of collections and continual cross-checking. It’s crucial to both discourage theft and catch it before it gets too far out of hand. Make one person responsible for financial transactions in your office, expecting reports of daily tabulations, and hold them accountable. Insist that all bank deposits match printouts from computers or cash registers. Observe at random all the financial matters, and let your staff see that you are watching. Never lose control of the business checkbook. You should personally sign all checks for payroll and other expenses whenever possible. If you trust someone else to sign the checks for you, then at least demand a printout each week showing what checks are being written, to whom, and for what amount.
In my career I experienced one minor episode of embezzlement. Here’s how it went. On three sequential deposits, my office manager noticed that $10.00 was missing from each weekly till. After she reported it to me, I immediately called the police and reported it. The officer said it was wise that I called because that’s typically how the problem begins – in small amounts as someone is testing the system to see if anyone will notice a deficit. He told me to suspect every employee, even the office manager, and that employees often steal as a pair or more. We then set a time for him to appear at the office, unannounced, with his uniform on, pretending to investigate and making sure all the staff noticed. We then met privately and drafted a letter to each staff member:
Recently some money has turned up missing as a result of theft. We have strong reason to suspect who it is and we are investigating further before leveling charges. This problem can be rectified if the stolen money is returned immediately. You can do it anonymously by placing it in an envelope and leaving it on my desk. Please don’t jeopardize your future with a foolish action.’
A day later the money appeared. The officer said the fast action, as we performed it was crucial. I’ve never had another theft since.
What’s the patient partnering angle here? It’s that patients deserve that we take responsibility to protect ourselves from embezzlement, not only because it’s a horrible distraction for us to deal with, but because it also puts some doctors out of business.”
I love CAs and other office staff. I’ve always said that in front of every successful DC there is one or more dedicated support staff. Take pre-emptive measures now for the benefit of your practice.
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Categories: Embezzlement/employee theft