Ask Steve

Ask Steve: Troubleshooting the “Missing Tools” Conundrum

Missing tools can lead to a lot of finger pointing, not to mention additional business costs.


Help me out here. I have three trucks, seven techs and overall business is great. I love what I do and enjoy the people working for me. Except for our tools! Now it may seem like a small thing but the “missing tools” from my employee’s trucks are driving me nuts, like this Wednesday when I discovered a brand new set of very nice screwdrivers were lost.

The challenge here is due to our commercial work and double shifts. Inevitably the same van gets used by multiple people over a week. So I can’t really put the blame on any one person. My employees have all been with me for years so I doubt (but am not certain) that the tools are being stolen. Any thoughts?

-Tired of it in Tennessee


Hey, Tired, first congratulations on being so busy you need “double shifts.” Lots of our readers would love to be in your shoes! And yes, I faced the same problem in my 16 employee, multi-truck company.

I just got sick of the whole finger pointing and the blame game on “lost” tools. It wasn’t just the expense (even though that was considerable!) but the loss of efficiency and the constant bickering, as in “Steve, uhhh, somebody took my carpet knife off the truck.” Or, “Steve, there isn’t even one screwdriver in my truck’s tool box today!”

(NOTE: Tired, have you thought about buying all your techs a Leatherman Wave? These handy little “multi-tools” are carried in a small leather belt sheath and have a knife, several sizes of screwdrivers and are pretty darn good pliers with wire cutting capability. I wouldn’t want to disassemble a truckmount with one but it is amazing what a tech can repair with a Leatherman they carry on their belt without even opening a tool box!)

But finally I decided to put an end to this inefficient and morale-sapping game. I bought each tech their own structural foam 26-inch tool box. Structural foam because it won’t rust and 26-inches because a knee-kicker would fit inside. Then I put every tool they would ever normally need inside and I made up an inventory list and pasted a copy inside the lid.

But here is the important part. I also had the employee sign a copy of the inventory sheet acknowledging receipt of the tools and then they could put a combination lock on their box. (I also got the combination.)

Now the dynamics changed and much for the better. Each day the techs would pick up their work orders along with their “own” tool box and headed off to the assigned van. At the end of the day they would store their locked tool box away. And at least once per month I inventoried the contents of each tool box.

So what can you do if anything is missing on your “tool inventory check?” It is very tempting to replace the tool and deduct it from the guilty employee’s paycheck. (Hey, they lost it!) However, in many states it is technically illegal to subtract money from an employee’s regularly earned salary.

But in many areas you can deduct money from a bonus. So many SFS members set up a yearly “Efficiency Bonus” for each employee. (Say $500 per year.) Now any missing tool is replaced and the cost is deducted from your employee’s bonus. I believe it is called “implementing accountability.”  

(NOTE: For my free Special Report on “How to Add Employee Accountability in Your Company” just write me at and put the word “Accountability” in the subject line.)

Sure, this tool box strategy cost me a lot to implement with a hefty one-time charge to buy all the tools. But it saved me over a $1,000 per year in “lost” tools and my company was much more efficient. We also avoided lots of bickering and negative feelings between our techs. And most importantly these personal tool boxes cut 30 points off my blood pressure! Try it out and let us know how it works for you!

P.S. Never implement any new employee policy without running it by your attorney or at the very least researching it with the appropriate state agency. Your potential legal liability can be huge if you don’t do this. (Don’t ask me how I learned this one!) 

Steve and ICS want to consult for you! For a personal reply write Steve HERE with your questions, problems, struggles and challenges!  Your help is on the way!

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