How to Better Secure Your Business from Theft
October 27th 2023
News that Target, Whole Foods, and Nordstrom are closing some stores in 2023 due to increasing incidents of theft underscores how expensive crime can be.
The cost to companies is in the billions of dollars collectively, the U.S. Department of Commerce says. But if major corporations are retreating due to the negative impact theft is having on their businesses, imagine the impact theft has on smaller businesses without the cash reserves or financial resources larger organizations do.
So, what can you do to protect your company from crime?
Although nothing is ever foolproof, there are some steps you can take to make it more difficult for unscrupulous people to steal from you.
Preventing theft from inside
A report from Willis North America estimates that employees account for as much as 90% of all corporate theft. Given this massive statistic, focusing prevention efforts on folks inside the business makes a lot of sense.
Some of the best tactics you can use to curb theft from employees, suppliers, vendors, and visitors include:
- Careful screening of job applicants. Before you ever allow anyone access to your business, do a thorough background check. In addition to interviewing them, talk to people they’ve worked with to get a better sense of their personality and work ethic (LinkedIn is great for that). Some companies run a personal credit check to see if the candidate is responsible with money.
- Locking down company assets. This includes tangible assets like raw materials, files, and inventory as well as intangibles, such as processes, intellectual property, and finances. Make it difficult for anyone to walk off with goods that aren’t theirs by instituting a sign-off policy, for example, or an approval process that forces multiple eyes to look over a request. Intangible assets, such as computer-based documents and information, can be protected through passwords and online tracking. One-third of employee theft cases occur due to lack of internal controls, or checks and balances set up to spot bad behavior, reports the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
- Using purchase orders. By generating purchase orders that need to be checked against delivered products and services, you create a paper trail that can help reduce the opportunity for employees to pocket some cash or product.
- Guarding your checkbook. Instead of handwriting checks for payment, print checks out once they are registered in your bookkeeping system. That will make it easier to spot any checks that are missing. Also, lock your checks up in a safe to restrict access to them.
- Installing security cameras. A physical security system that monitors hallways and common areas can help keep an eye on suspicious movements or behavior. You may not want to invade your employees’ privacy by installing cameras in offices, however, and it may not be legal.
- Setting up an anonymous process for reporting theft. Sometimes employees want to do the right thing and alert management to what’s going on without any backlash. To make it possible for employees to alert you to underhanded dealings that are going on, create an anonymous reporting process, such as a physical suggestion box or online form, and encourage employees to speak up.
Although the majority of theft is attributed to workers inside the company, it still makes sense to prevent outsiders from breaking in, too.
Providing external security
To prevent others from breaking in to steal from your company, there are a number of physical security tactics you can employ:
- Reduce the number of entryways. The fewer the public access points, the less monitoring you need to do. Direct visitors to one entry and keep delivery area doors locked. You can designate employee-only entries and keep sensitive areas inside, like counting rooms, locked. Whenever an employee leaves the company, change the locks or passcodes to prevent unauthorized access.
- Increase exterior lighting. There’s a reason many businesses have exterior flood lights shining brightly — because lighting has been found to deter criminals from trying to break in. In fact, 75% of commercial break-ins are due to inadequate lighting. Keeping some lights on inside is also a good idea, to make it obvious when something is going on that shouldn’t be.
- Add a layer of living deterrent. In addition to adding lighting, consider planting thorny bushes under windows to make it uncomfortable for thieves to attempt to access via the windows.
- Make windows less breakable. Since thieves often attempt to gain entry by smashing windows, apply a protective window film to make it more difficult for robbers to get through. The film is still permeable, eventually, but may make it time-consuming enough to deter someone from trying to get in.
- Invest in exterior cameras. In addition to strategically placed cameras indoors, pointed at doors and hallways, for example, installing exterior cameras to monitor doorways, walkways, and parking lots can add a level of security that can help keep thieves at bay.
In addition to implementing processes and technology to safeguard your people and property, consider adding insurance to help cover the cost of replacing anything that is stolen. Few business owners ever regret the investments they make in securing their companies.