How to Prevent Your Business From Becoming a Victim of Fraud

As a small-business owner, you have a lot on your plate. Keeping an eye on everything that’s going on in your office is not possible nor is it a smart use of your time.

When your designing your business structures, you want to make sure you’re hoping for the best from your employees, managers and business partners – but planning for the worst.

The statistics in a recent Entreprenuer Magazine article should send a big jolt of fear into small business owners. According to a 2016 embezzlement survey by HISCOX, a specialty insurance company, 80 percent of embezzlements occurred at small businesses — defined as those with less than 150 employees — and 30 percent of embezzlements involved a loss of more than $500,000.

One major reason scammers target small businesses is because they often lack checks and balances. Typically, a company starts out with employees who are family and friends, and everyone has access to sensitive client information, inventory and sometimes even the checkbook. You may say, that won’t happen at my company — they all love working here — but it does. In fact, 30 percent of the embezzlements occurred because there were no checks and balances at all.

Checks and Balances

Make sure your business has a system of checks and balances to protect your cash, assets, and overall business and to keep operations running smoothly.

The Purpose Of Checks And Balances

So what role should checks and balances play within your organization? Think of them as a series of simple security measures meant to shield you against fraud and other forms of financial malfeasance.

What are the Most Common Forms of Fraud?

  • Check Tampering
  • Skimming
  • Billing Fraud
  • Reimbursement of Expenses
  • Cash Larceny
  • Payroll Fraud
  • Inventory/Merchandise Fraud

Preventing Fraud

From Dun & Bradstreet, there are things you can do to help guard against small business fraud.  Here are seven suggestions for how to prevent the most common forms of fraud.

Check Tampering

Forging, altering, or stealing a check from a company bank account is known as check tampering. The best ways to help protect against this common type of fraud include keeping the company’s checkbooks locked away, regularly taking account of all checks – including voided payments – and reviewing bank statements as they’re delivered. The perpetrator may keep their withdrawals relatively small to try and avoid detection, so it’s important that you have an up-to-date picture of your bank accounts.

Skimming

Skimming occurs when money is taken from a business before it’s recorded. In its simplest form, an employee might pocket cash at the register without ringing up a sale. If this is the case, even balancing your receipts with total cash for the day won’t reveal the theft. Check your inventory on a regular basis. If items are missing and can’t be accounted for on receipts, someone may be skimming.

Billing Fraud

In one scenario, an employee with bad intentions sets up a shell company, then bills his employer for fictitious goods or services. Billing fraud also occurs when an employee submits an invoice to the company for personal purchases. Either way, the business owner has been duped by a disingenuous employee.

This type of fraud is best prevented by requiring your signature and approval for all business expenses, regularly reviewing the company’s list of vendors, and having different people responsible for invoicing and issuing payments. These protections can make it more difficult for someone to sneak in improper bills.

Reimbursement of Expenses

Many companies reimburse employees for legitimate business expenses, such as mileage or hotel bills. This is only fair. Unfortunately, employees who submit fake receipts or try to get funds to cover personal purchases take advantage of the system. You should require receipts for all reimbursements, along with a stated business justification. Something as simple as “Entertaining client A” should suffice.

The company should also require the business owner or finance head to sign-off on these expenses. Keep an eye out for suspicious spending patterns, like unusually large requests from the same employee month after month.

Cash Larceny

Cash larceny typically involves theft of cash from the company after it has been recorded in the books, but before the funds can be deposited. Albeit on a smaller scale, theft from the company’s petty cash pool is also a common occurrence.

The best way to protect against cash larceny is to stamp all incoming checks “for deposit only” with the name of your company. In addition, cash deposits should only be made by the company’s owner to ensure all funds make it to the bank. Balance your cash register receipts at the end of each business day to make sure payments are accounted for.

Payroll Fraud

In this scenario, the employee causes the employer to issue a payment for false compensation claims, such as phony overtime or paychecks for people not on the company payroll.

The size of your business can affect measures you take to prevent payroll fraud. If you only employ a handful of people, you may be able to monitor their hours simply by paying a little extra attention during the day. This isn’t feasible if you employ dozens of staffers. Instead, you can require employee signatures on all time cards and make them come into the office to claim physical checks. That way you should be able to spot people on the payroll who don’t belong. You might also offer direct deposit, which is convenient for employees and ensures paychecks are going to the right people.

Non-Cash Fraud

While cash is king, many criminals are happy to steal merchandise or inventory. Known as non-cash fraud, it can be equally costly to a business.

The most effective way to avoid non-cash fraud is to initiate very tight inventory controls. Tactics can include making periodic inventory counts, installing surveillance cameras, and increasing the presence of physical security.

Taking fraud lightly is exactly what the individuals hacking into your system now are hoping for. Eventually it may come knocking at your door. Hopefully when it does, you’ll be prepared.

 

Nurturing a Lead is Required to Make a Sale

Times have changed.  Getting a lead is not easy and it is definitely pricier than in years past.  Nurturing the lead into an appointment is not easy either, but in the end it’s what will be required to keep your doors open.

What is a Qualified Lead?

A qualified lead is a prospect in your lead-tracking system who has expressed interest in buying your product and passes a set of lead qualifications in order to progress further down the funnel.

This does not mean that they are ready to buy today. But it does mean that they have been qualified to need your services and/or products.

What Should You do With a Lead?

You’ve launched an ad campaign and started to attract great leads. Leads captured online are typically from individuals who saw a proposal and took an action (usually a click that takes them to a landing page).  At that point they took the time to read your ad and then took the extra step to provide you with their name, phone number and email address.  These are not disinterested individuals.

Your job now is to keep those leads happy, while gently leading them through the sales cycle. If your sales cycle is a long one, the task is more complicated.  And, by the way, hearing aid sales fall into the category of having a long sales cycle.

If you aren’t getting sales from leads, there may be several reasons why:

  • Lack of lead nurturing is the most common cause.
  • Lack of persistence.  Kapture CRM reports that it can take up to 8  to reach an actual prospect.
  • Lag time. Your staff does not respond to the lead quickly enough.
  • You aren’t providing feedback to the individual handling the marketing that will allow them to refine the quality of the leads.
  • Unqualified or untrained salesperson. The person returning the calls has to understand that their role is to function as a salesperson. The staff member’s role is not to act as a just a receptionist whose sole purpose it to schedule an appointment. Give the “salesperson” the tools they’ll need to convert the lead to an appointment.  At a minimum make sure they understand the offer being promoted through the ad that attracted the lead in the first place.

Good News/Bad News

It’s important to keep in mind that 50% of qualified leads aren’t ready to buy. They might be open to education, and delighted that you can identify their pain points, but actually signing up for your solution? They’re not there yet.

So, what’s the good news?

Research studies state 80% of these people are going to buy from someone in the next 24 months. This is where lead nurturing comes into play.

Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost.

The biggest mistake you can make is to think that one contact, for example, one message left on an answering machine is all that is required to “nurture a lead”.  If you have a lead that has responded to a “call to action” by providing their contact information, they’re a qualified lead.

How Many Contacts to Make a Sale?

Some articles say 12. A few of the more optimistic ones pick 7 as their answer. Some go for a range between 10 and 15. The truth is, it takes as many contacts as it takes. If you’re lucky enough to get an impulse buyer, 1 contact may be plenty to cement the deal. If you have a cautious buyer in a bad economy, you could be looking at 20 or more contacts prior to conversion.

An often cited statistic suggests that more than 80% of conversions take place sometime after the 5th contact.  A study from Dartnell Corp investigated the number of times a prospect was called before a salesperson waved the proverbial white flag. Here is their data:

  • 48% quit after the first contact
  •  72% stop after the second contact
  • 84% give up on a prospect after the third contact
  • 90% wave the white flag after the fourth contact

As you can see, almost half of all salespeople quit after the first call. And the vast majority (90 percent) quit relatively soon after.

What Most Entrepreneurs Get Wrong

It’s all about the sale, so why do 90 percent of salespeople quit so quickly? There are many reasons, and the simplest is that they let business and life get in the way. Some get caught up in busywork because it is easier than having to follow up. Others just lack the discipline to make those follow-up calls.

The fact is that 10% of salespeople make the 5th call, and studies show that 80 percent of sales are made after that fifth sales call.

The difference between success and failure is persistence.  It’s true with most things in life including turning a lead into a sale.

How to Compete with the Online Sale of Hearing Aids

Many people have engaged in the online shopping versus brick and mortar shopping debate. Both brick and mortar stores and online merchants have certain pros and cons that differ based upon the types of products offered and the specific needs of the individual shopper.

If you are not planning to sell hearing aids online, how can you compete with companies that do?

5 Advantages of a Brick and Mortar Store

  1. A core benefit is the most obvious one, the ability to touch and see objects in person. Online stores can provide the consumer with pictures and videos, but actually holding the product can provide some tactile impressions that simply cannot be matched online. Particularly when it comes to the sale of hearing aids. The ‘in-store” experience simply cannot be matched online.
  2. Instant gratification, the ability to buy an item and bring it home immediately. Not every hearing aid can be sold and brought home immediately but the option for many patients does exist.
  3. The ability to support local merchants. Don’t underestimate how strongly some of your patients feel about supporting their local economy. Your demographic is keenly aware of the interconnectivity of their financial well being to the financial well being of those around them. Even the younger demographic has slowly but surely begun to embrace the concept of “buy locally” with everything from food to clothing to home goods and so on.
  4. Your customer can speak directly to an expert about their purchase (in case there is any doubt that means you). You can provide information about the products and more importantly answer questions about the products that are bound to arise. Online stores provide answers to frequently asked questions but that’s of no use to a patient if their question isn’t listed.
  5. You can provide service that is simply unavailable to online shoppers.
    • Walk in service hours
    • Include batteries with the sale and mail the batteries to the patient’s home.
    • Keep an ample supply of loaners, always welcome if your patient will be attending a once in a lifetime event days after his hearing aids need to be sent out for repair.

The most important thing to remember about service is that no two people will define service in exactly the same way. Ask questions and teach your staff to ask questions. Find out from your customers what you could do to provide a better experience and then do it.

Your demographic is concerned about their health, they have a hefty amount of discretionary income and they will be more than happy to spend it on your services if you give them plenty of reasons to.

How I Bought a Chandelier

And yes this has everything to do with buying and selling  hearing aids.

Times have changed. Consumers are buying en masse online and retail is feeling the effect. Read more in The Atlantic about the “Great Retail Apocalypse”.  Unfortunately, many hearing healthcare providers are failing to fully grasp how that’s impacting the hearing aid industry. If anything, hearing aid consumers are a bit behind other consumers when it comes to using the internet to research and to make a purchase.  As we age, we’re less likely to want to figure out new ways to buy what we want.    But if by learning a new trick or two, the average consumer can (in their mind) save thousands of dollars, they’ll figure it out and in a hurry.

Buying a Chandelier

Back to the chandelier…I am in the market for lights that will hang over an island. Store displays are limited, so I started my search online. I knew the color, size and shape that I wanted. Eventually I found just what I was looking for. I read the reviews about the lights and one reviewer mentioned seeing the exact same light for half the price.

I did a reverse image search and sure enough found the exact same light for more than 50% off the price of the original light, however, the manufacturer was not the same. Initially I figured the light was somehow different, so I researched the new company and found that the first company manufactures a few of its products under a different name. It sells one product line to higher end stores and one to discount stores…. same light.

I ordered 2 chandeliers that should arrive today.

Price, Quality, Quantity Pick Two

What does this mean for you? It means that your consumer is potentially online learning everything they can about hearing loss and hearing aids. By way of an example, I pulled the trigger on my chandelier purchase (all things being the same in my mind) based on price.  That does not mean I bought chandeliers for $1 a piece.  It means, I had a certain quantity that could not be changed and a certain quality that I wanted.  I would’ve paid the original price but I was willing to spend time searching for the lowest price possible.  Something that the Internet makes extremely easy to do.  And if it works for other purchases they’ve been making, why wouldn’t they at least consider trying the same approach for a product that costs thousands of dollars?

Purchasing decisions are based on selecting 2 of the following 3 options (price, quality and quantity).  You can select 2 of those options, but not all 3.

If you can’t compete on price

And you can’t compete on quantity (you are selling either 1 product or 2 products)

Quality is all you have left.

Educate them about the benefits of seeing you and why they shouldn’t buy hearing aids online. Amazon sells hearing aids online and Alibaba, Amazon’s biggest competitor sells hearing aids from China.

I am your demographic and if I was in the market for a hearing aid, I would take the same approach to purchasing a hearing aid that I did to purchasing a chandelier.  You need to give me compelling reasons not to treat a hearing aid purchase in the same way that I would treat the purchase of a chandelier. In fact, if you can’t give me a list of 5 reasons that I shouldn’t buy my hearing aids online for the lowest price I can find, then you have a problem that needs to be resolved today.

The Trick to Being a Better Boss

Not everyone is great boss.  In reality there are probably very few people who would describe themselves as a great boss.  A great boss according to Steve Tobak of Inc. has the following traits:

Traits of a Great Boss

  • They hold themselves and others accountable.
  • They’re not full of surprises.
  • They fix things.
  • They have a feel for the business.
  • They get the job done.
  • They manage up and sideways effectively.
  • They’re awesome decision-makers.
  • They’re effective, not productive.
  • They live for their jobs.
  • They have a sense of humor, humility, and empathy.

Doesn’t Sound Anything Like You?

If the above sounds nothing like you.  And you’re pretty sure it never will, it’s time for Plan B. In a large company it’s possible to insulate yourself from the aspects of leadership that you know you lack by hiring managers who possess those qualities.  But what do you do when you’re the leader of a group of 10 or fewer employees?

This is a great time and place for well-defined office policies and procedures.  Yes, everyone understands that you are responsible if not for the creation at least for the implementation of “the policy”.  The policy manual should be read and signed as part of any job offer so that each employee understands the office policies and procedures. However the burden of responsibility to react to unreasonable, irrational or unrealistic requests from employees is shifted from you to “the policy”.  For example,

Request – “Dr. Jones, my sister is being married in Canada and I need 3 days before the wedding to travel.”

Response – “Congratulations to you and your family Jane, your personal leave time will cover 2 of those three days.”

The Good News

You aren’t required to become emotionally involved.  They’ve supplied a request, you don’t need to assess whether or not it’s reasonable or realistic.  The policy you have in place allows you to provide an answer.  They may not like the answer, but it’s hard to argue with a policy they agreed to from the start.

In the beginning there will be a learning curve as you begin to implement the policies.  Over time and especially with new employees deferring to the policy manual will become second nature.  Make sure to update the manual frequently as issues arise.  While you can’t foresee every conceivable circumstance that might arise, frequent updates will ensure that you come close.

Is the Person Answering Your Phone Costing You Money?

You’re hoping that your advertising and marketing efforts will make the phone ring. But what happens when it does?

  • Who answers the phone?
  • Do they know what to say?
  • Do callers feel like someone on the other end cares that they called, is knowledgeable about the business and can solve a problem?
  • How many times a week are calls mishandled by staff members to the point where a potential customer decides to contact another business?

If you aren’t 100% certain of the answers to those questions or the answers aren’t making you too happy, then you have a problem. The person who answers the phone is often a patient’s first impression of your office. Your ability to survive in an increasingly competitive marketplace is dependent on every component of your business firing on all cylinders. And the biggest misfire of all may be the ability of your front desk person to successfully handle incoming calls.

How to Successfully Manage Your Incoming Calls

Hiring the right person

Start the interview process over the phone. They could be the most qualified person on the planet for the remainder of the job description. But if they’re primary role is to answer the phone and they sound awful on the phone, move on to the next candidate.

Consider a bonus-based compensation

Money does motivate job performance. Consider providing staff with a bonus or commission for every appointment booked that turns into a sale. If you find that one in a million person who is absolutely, positively making a difference at the front desk, pay to keep them. One lost sale a month would’ve more than covered their salary and incentives.

Do not “close” during lunch

Businesses that do not take calls during their “lunch hour” make me nuts. Considering that many people use their lunch times to take care of personal business, you could be losing out on a lot of business. It’s a none too subtle sign to potential customers regarding your company’s stance on “customer service”.

Confirm call back times

Agree on a set time that the “owner or boss” will return the call. By stating clearly that the person who they really want to talk to returns calls between 4:30PM and 5:00PM you’ll cut down on the people who will inevitably call back 3 or 4 times in the hopes of catching the decision maker.

Provide scripts

You can’t script the entire phone experience. But I can’t tell you the number of offices I’ve contacted where the staff answers the phone in ways that make me cringe. “Hi, Hearing Center.” “Hearing Center, please hold.” Hearing Center, Can I have your name please.” None of these are appropriate. If the person calling has a hearing loss, they might not have heard, please hold and thought they were disconnected. A script should contain the opening lines and the answers to the most frequently asked questions.

Training

The simplest way to provide training is to record the incoming calls. 90% of all problems can be identified and resolved if you and your employee just sit and listen to the calls.

Businesses that apply these strategies will notice a difference; it will make your customer’s happier, your staff more efficient and everyone less frustrated.

Content Marketing for Audiology

A blog can be defined as a personal website or web page on which an individual records opinions, links to other sites, etc. on a regular basis. In the early days of blogging, people wrote blogs along the lines of a diary, a way to express their thoughts and feelings.

The Role of the Blog

Over time businesses began to embrace the role of blogging as a way to provide information to both potentially new and existing customers. Business owners began to realize that blogging online gave them the ability to expand the information provided to customers about existing products and services, answer the most frequently asked questions, address common misconceptions, introduce new products and services and so on.

Blogging is also important for giving your practice exposure and to build a sense of community. It’s one of the best ways for you to establish you and your practice as the authority in your area for all things related to Audiology and hearing healthcare.  What else can a blog do for your practice?

Preventing Buyer’s Remorse

You have just spent an hour, maybe an hour and half convincing a patient that spending upwards of several thousand dollars for a set of hearing aids is a great idea. They are now about to leave your office. One of the best ways to prevent buyer’s remorse is to use your blogs to continue the sales process once your patient leaves the office, for example:

“Mr. Jones, when you go home take some time to go through our website. I know I gave you a lot of information over the past hour. Most of what I just told you can be found on our website, but you may also find a answer to a question or two that you hadn’t even thought of. We like you to know that we have the answers to your questions 24/7.”

Your website and in particular your blogs represent you and your practice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s almost like have a full-time employee who does nothing but answers patient’s questions 24/7 and who never calls out sick.

Content Marketing and Ranking

Content marketing is a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material, for example blogs that do not explicitly promote a brand but are intended to stimulate interest in it’s products or services.

Your blog should be designed to answer a question.  Today’s search engine are designed to respond to real (or natural) language queries.  Natural language search is search carried out in everyday language, phrasing questions as you would ask them if you were talking to someone. These queries can be typed into a search engine, spoken aloud with voice search, or posed as a question to a digital assistant like Siri.

Why the Evolution of Search?

First of all, search engines – particularly Google – have improved their search capabilities so much over the years that people expect to find exactly what they’re looking for on the first try.

Secondly, search technology has improved to the point where we can begin to teach search engines to understand longer, more complex queries, with different components that modify each other and can’t operate independently.

The third key component contributing to the development of natural language search is the rise of voice search and digital assistants. It’s becoming a lot more common for people to search by talking into their phone.

Quality content is far more than just a buzzword marketers throw around for fun.  It’s what savvy marketers strive for, and what Google and people look for. It’s what separates the winners from the losers online; it’s what will help your site rank well in the search engines, and what will help you build trust, credibility, and authority with your audience.

Are You in Panic Mode?

The independent hearing healthcare provider is being confronted by a variety of outside influences unlike anything they’ve ever seen.

  • 3rd party insurances that that you feel a need to accept but a rate that leaves little room for profit.
  • Online retailers who compete solely on the basis of price, using ad campaigns that are a direct violation of HIPAA.
  • An average cost per lead has tripled in the past decade, meaning you’re spending 3 times as much to attract the same number of new patients.

The only difference between a problem and an opportunity is in the mind. A problem means that there is no clear solution, while an opportunity means there is a chance to exercise creativity.

Steps to a Solution

Step 1
Stop panicking. It’s a complete waste of time and energy.

Step 2
Assess the situation. What can you control and what is outside of your control?

Step 3
Understand why the outside influences are becoming more and more effective. Instead, evaluate other industries. It’s easy to view the loss of business as being solely driven by price. However every industry has successful enterprises at a variety of price points.

What I’m suggesting you do is to evaluate why some businesses thrive at a price point significantly higher than their competitors. I’ll give you one possible reason why… value. They compete on value, not price. Competing on price alone, while it can be done is a risky proposition.

Only one company can truly have the lowest price and if all you do is tie them, customers will look for another point of differentiation. You will end up in the same place you are now, but with less money in your pocket. Given the volume of purchases of the small business owner compared to large chains, online retailers and box stores…competing on price is futile.

Compete on Value

Start by understanding your customer.

I know that you think you understand your demographic, but do you really?

Who will be using your product or service?

Do your potential customers still fit the demographic model that they did 10 years ago? Are they older or younger, what is their income level, educational level?

How does your prospect make buying decisions?

The sales cycle for most products and services is no longer a nice, neat linear process. Instead the cycle has become much more complicated. Potential customers have the ability to research a vast amount of information about a product or service (price point, reviews of the product, technical data) and compare the data across any number of providers.

How does the competition promote, price and sell its product or service?

Here’s how you’ll build this knowledge base:

  • Read what your customers are reading.
  • Know what your competitors are doing and saying both on and offline.
  • Attend an event where your prospects, customers, or other market players are speaking.
  • Record the information you gather and and analyze patterns.
  • Identify opportunities, so you can discuss them with your customers and prospects

Yes, this is a lot of work. But the payoff can be tremendous.

Deliver Value

Define the value you will be delivering.

Starbucks and Whole Foods are two examples of companies that offer products sold by their competitors for significantly less. Both companies have defined the experience their customers can expect each time and they deliver on that promise. Those experiences have been deemed by the customer to be worth the higher price point.

Kmart and Sears are excellent examples of companies that competed on price.  They failed to understand and respond quickly to changes in the marketplace and the inevitable is about to occur (Read More Here)

If you fail to deliver… fix the problem, IMMEDIATELY. In the age of social media, time is of the essence. You’ve heard the adage that that 1 unhappy customer will tell the story of their experience to somewhere between 9 – 15 people. With the ability to post their unhappy experience online you might be looking back on that 9-15 number with fondness as the number of people who view your customers story and share it with ours enters triple digits.

No one ever said running your own business would be easy. And if it has been easy, those days have come to an end. The information above is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. If you’re ready to get serious abut making money from your practice, give us a call. We know what to do.

The Importance of a Non-Compete Agreement

You own a small business and employ a handful of people. Should you require a non-compete agreement. The answer is yes, you should. You will be investing resources (time and money) into the training of any employee. You also have a customer base and other potentially key information that may be crucial to your success. The noncompete agreement is a form of protection against losses. Your company does not wish to invest in an employee only to see the employee take the skills acquired, or the company’s customers, to another employer.

Agreement Rules to Follow

  • Not every employee should be required to sign a non-compete, typically that’s reserved for just the professional staff.
  • Do not attempt to make the geographical constraints of the non-compete so large that it won’t stand up to a challenge in court (your employees have rights too).
  • Make sure you provide any potential professional employee with a copy of the non-compete for them to review before they take the job.
  • Make sure signing the non-compete is one of the first things the new hiree does. Nothing looks worse in a court of law than a non-compete that was signed 6 months after the employee was hired.

Enforcing a Non-Compete

Should you attempt to enforce a non-compete? Of course you should that’s why you created one in the first place. A member of your professional staff has given you their two weeks notice. Schedule an exit interview (yes that is something you should be doing anytime any employee leaves). During the course of the interview discuss the terms of the non-compete agreement. If you’ve structured a fair agreement and they were given ample time to review the terms of the agreement prior to agreeing to become your employee there is no reason why you shouldn’t fully expect them to abide by the terms of the agreement.