Ask John Dame: Act quickly and decisively when confronted with employees who steal and lie

Q: As hard as it is to believe, I have had one of my employees take my intellectual property and use it outside of our company to make money for himself. To make matters worse, I felt that he had been using my material and gave him an opportunity to “fess up.”  He told me he was not using my stuff and not to worry. I then verified my suspicions by attending one of his events, proving he had lied to me. I am devastated. What should I do?

A: There are a couple of behaviors that really send me into a tailspin, and lying and stealing are two of them. My belief is that you need to act quickly and decisively. You have a couple of choices.

One is to call him out on his lying and put him on probation with no second chances. This means even a white lie in the future would end his tenure with your company.

Your second option, and the one I would recommend, is to immediately end your relationship with him. Someone who lies once usually will find it easier to lie again. You cannot have someone like this working with you.

In the end, I would ask myself how this happened. My guess is that this has been going on for a while and that you have ignored all the signs of his behavior. What could you do differently to avert any issue like this in the future?

Q:  I believe it’s time to sell our company. My partner and I are over 65, and we both feel it’s time to move on. What are the steps we need to take to go to market?

A: There are several key things you need to do right now. First, I would find an investment banker or broker that can guide you through the process. Additionally, I would gather together a team that includes a great accountant and M&A attorney. Finally, you will need to determine a range of value for your company. This will enable you to make a good decision regarding any offers you receive.

I see two pathways that owners must take. One pathway is the business side of the sale, with steps to help you optimize your asset value. The other pathway is the emotional pathway, which is bumpy and difficult for closely held companies like yours.

It is a draining process to sell your company, filled with ups and downs. A good team can help you get to the finish line and help you consummate the sale.

One last item to consider is “what’s next.”  Owners I work with find it difficult to wind down. This needs to be part of your planning also.

John Dame is a CEO coach, executive team consultant and leadership strategist based in Susquehanna Township, Pennsylvania. Visit his website at: www.johndame.com.

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