By Patricia A. Kotze
When Johnny and his team started their business 10 years ago, they literally did everything on their own, from A-2-Z. And from A-2-Z they learned, along the way, that they probably, no, they should have, hired an attorney, a finance specialist, and several consultants who would have assisted with marketing, branding, overall operation setup, process improvement and basic steps to successful leadership within the workplace. Additionally, they would have strategized more effectively regarding risk management, and when slapped with their first employee insurance claim or discrimination lawsuit, they would have known whether to negotiate or to mediate, and would have come to a business-smart conclusion.
Whether your firm is small or has thousands of employees, running it is never easy. Federal and state regulations and tort laws change from moment to moment; no single manager can keep up with the constant evolution in the many facets of the business arena. Knowing on whom to call, and when to call upon them, can keep your company profitable and out of harm’s way. Staying focused on production and planning of your main business endeavor, whether it’s manufacturing, marketing or warehousing, is key. but looking outside of the box is necessary to spot areas of concern that may grow in size or fester outside the scope of your main focus. Experts are available who can steer your firm around dangerous and costly obstacles you may not have even known to exist without their help.
Workplace violence and safety are very high on the list of concerns for employers, along with growing claims of discrimination and all forms of harassment (not just of a sexual nature). Substance abuse and fraud against the business are still in the daily stream of employee misconduct activities.
Another area of growing legal concern involves the usage of medicinal marijuana, and whether employees have the right to hide behind this claim. Under Federal law, possession of marijuana is still a crime. However, in California, it is legal to be in possession of a small amount of “medicinal marijuana,” but there are no rules protecting associates who test positive for the drug in the workplace. In 2010 (California case: Ross v. Raging Wire Communications, Inc.) a claim for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act failed for an employee who was terminated for testing positive for medically prescribed marijuana. The employer terminated the offender based upon advice from a qualified legal consultant, and was rewarded with a victory in court.
Has your company done too much or too little to protect itself from the perils of corporate and outside influences that can prey upon your firm’s profitability? Proper and timely routine assessments by qualified experts are recommended. These can be handled internally but, depending on the scope of the suspected problem or the size of the company, outside qualified consultants or licensed investigators should be seriously considered to assess your firm’s potential liabilities and vulnerabilities. Even if your firm has a Director of Loss Prevention, a Safety and Training Manager and a team of OSHA compliance officers, a proper security survey is warranted from time to time to assure you’re on the right track. Your survey may result in the pleasant news that every aspect of safety and security is being handled with the highest level of proficiency and that every recommended procedure and policy is being implemented correctly; such results are, however, very rare, indeed. In almost every case, the viewpoint of the outside expert presents a perspective unattainable from within.
Very often, a good place to start assembling a team of outside experts is with a qualified labor and employment attorney. Ask trusted colleagues in your field whom they use for legal advice in employment matters; get on the Internet, use search engines, and read reviews of various law firms until you’re comfortable you’ve found the best fit for your company. Once you have them in place, you’ve taken a solid first step in your quest for the best team of consultants. All competent business and employment attorneys have the experience to guide you toward other qualified experts such as forensic accountants, psychologists, private investigators, productivity analysts, and human resources consultants.
Ten years later, Johnny and his executive team have led their firm into some very stormy waters. They’ve spent a fortune cleaning up problems “after the fact” while some of their competitors forged ahead, unscathed. Several civil labor lawsuits, all totally avoidable with good counsel, robbed them and their investors of hundreds of thousands of dollars which they could have otherwise added to the bottom line. Johnny’s company, at this point, is very lucky… he and his partners only need a “turnaround” in their business, not a “valuation” to sell. In spite of common errors and omissions, many companies struggle along and remain viable, never really knowing how much more successful they could have been, had they simply raised a hand and called out for expert advice at the right time.
Your company can remain “in neutral” or “reverse” instead of “going forward” if you fail to order periodic business “X-rays” to sort out problems before they grow to immense proportions.
There is great power in utilizing the expert, reasonable and intelligent information available at your fingertips through outside consultants.
THE Book on . . . Business from A to Z: The 260 Most Important Answers You Need to Know
Compiled and edited by Daniel Feiman.
Patricia A. Kotze, DRM, Inc., Author of “Chapter R” Risk Management
About the Author:
Patricia A. Kotze, is Managing Partner at Diversified Risk Management, Inc. (DRM), a licensed, nationwide investigation firm and has over 20 years of experience in labor and employment related workplace investigations. The firm offers a broad range of specialized risk management and investigation services that are designed to control loss and minimize exposure by providing innovative and strategic business solutions. DRM assists corporations, non-profit organizations and law firms in identifying, mitigating, and responding to risks through a comprehensive and integrated suite of professional service offerings. Ms. Kotze can be reached at 800.810.9508 or by email at by email.