One word was used often at Success Group International’s Fall Expo, held Oct. 2-3 in Palm Desert, Calif. — failure. And one phrase was used just as often — embrace failures and learn from them. Educational sessions over the two days showed how members of Plumbers’ Success International, Roofers’ Success International, Electricians’ Success International and AirTime 500 learned valuable lessons from some devastating failures and turned their businesses around.

SGI President Rebecca Cassell also briefed members on how the organization was evolving since its purchase by investment group Aquila from Direct Energy earlier this year. The goals of SGI are to build closer relationships to its members and continuing growing its membership.

Discussions of business failures — as well as how to rise above them and achieve success — included handling customer complaints, companies unable to grow because of leadership obstacles, and marketing and advertising mistakes.

One key area plumbing and heating contractors need to focus on is employee theft, Cassell noted. An audience poll revealed that 78% of audience members have had an employee steal from them.

“One of the top reasons service businesses fail after the 5th year is because of embezzlement,” she said. “And 33% of business bankruptcies are caused by employee theft.”

Most contractors believe their field staff may be stealing from them, but office staff and managers also have opportunities to take money from the business.

“Most frauds are committed by trusted, long-term employees with access to money,” Cassell explained. “The more seniority and more responsibility an employee has generally means larger sums of money are stolen.”

 Preventing fraud involves due diligence of the owners — know what your margins should be, institute internal controls on who has access to financial information, and properly dispose of written and digital financial information.