Our SME Agony Uncle, Bobby Kerr answers all your business and work-related questions


Each week broadcaster, entrepreneur and SME agony uncle Bobby Kerr answers all your employment-related questions.

If you catch a colleague breaking the rules, when is it your responsibility to speak up? Should you tackle the issue face-to-face? Or take it to the top?

What if someone else’s actions are putting the business – and by extension your job – at risk?

The way we interact with our colleagues can shape the way we feel about going to work – and this week we are looking at situations on both sides of the employee / employer divide.

Our first question comes from a listener who has been running a small, successful distribution company for the past 25 years – and is now thinking about taking a step back.

I have recently hit a significant birthday and I am now interested in selling my business. It is a limited company with two directors. Where can I go for some advice? What would be involved in the whole process of selling the company? I haven’t mentioned it to my own accountant yet as I would like an outside view first.

This listener appears to be approaching the idea of the sale in a measured and cautious way and for Bobby, he is right to be careful.

The sale of a business is all about market research and determining exactly what you have – as well as what potential buyers might want.

“I don’t think he really should have any fears in discussing this with his accountant because that is where I would be suggesting that he starts,” says Bobby.

“I think the accountant probably knows more about his business than he does.”

There are two main steps that have to be taken here. Firstly, he needs to come up with a mental shortlist on who might be interested in buying.

“It is about trolling the market,” says Bobby. “Who are the likely suitors here? What kind of businesses would be interested? Are there any competitors that I know of out there that would be looking to expand?

Secondly, he needs to bring someone in who can examine the business from top to bottom and come back to him with a clear “warts and all” valuation.

“Then he can go on to the next stage with a real sense of what the business is worth,” says Bobby.

“I think it is a good place to be in – you should never be afraid to sell your business in my view. I have been in business a long time at this stage but a good business will always be for sale on some level.”

I think I saw one of my colleagues stealing cash from the register last week what should I do? M Limerick.

The name of the game here is to tread very, very carefully – and make sure you are 100% certain before you start throwing around accusations.

“Personally, at this point, I wouldn’t do anything,” says Bobby. “I would raise Just my antennae.”

“Nobody wants to work with somebody who is going to put everybody’s job at risk by pilfering from the business so I would suggest mouth shut, ears and eyes open – acute observation.”

Once you are absolutely certain about what you have witnessed, the advice is to approach your boss in as discrete a manner as possible – and hope systems can be put in place to put a stop to the stealing.

“There are loads of ways of catching this and again in a cash business I have seen it all over the years,” says Bobby. “I have seen all the tricks.”

“Make sure you have your facts and your data, you’re your observations crystal clear - and then you take it to another place.”

I work as a chef and the boss has really high standards and it is a spotless establishment. I have noticed that my colleague never seems to wash his hands. Shoud I raise this issue with my boss? I'm annoyed with myself that I have not yet done so. 

With over twenty years in the food service industry, this is a real bug-bear for Bobby – and one issue he takes no prisoners with.

“Not to rub salt in but I think you probably should be disappointed with yourself for not doing or saying something here because this is not just a hygiene thing, this is a matter of health and safety and the reputation of the business,” says Bobby.

“It is a food business, it is a restaurant and if somebody gets sick or somebody gets poisoned, the whole business could be wiped out overnight so this is a serious, serious discipline issue.”

After breaking what is one of the fundamental rules of the kitchen, Bobby believes any employer would be within their rights to show this chef the door. 

One of my staff wants to add me as friend on Facebook. We get on well but there are plenty of times when I need to be the boss and tell them what to do. As a team, we get on well but beyond staff parties we don’t mix and I am not sure if I should add them as friend. Should I approach this head on with them and say why I don’t want to accept?

We all use social media differently and while some of us are snap happy with the sharing, others are still holding on to their privacy - with a clear divide between who you are online and who you are in work.

For Bobby, there is only one way to react to a situation like this.

“This has happened me a few times and I ignore it,” he says. “I don’t join as a friend and I don’t say anything about it.”

“By doing that I am saying, ‘I don’t want to know anything about your life and I don’t really want you knowing anything about mine and I don’t see any point in discussing it.’

“So, for me I just ignored it and it kind of went away.”

Harsh but fair.

You can listen back to all of Bobby’s employment advice from Tuesday’s Newstalk Drive here:

If you have a business or SME related query you would like answered, you can get in touch with Bobby each week by simply sending a short mail to [email protected]

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