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

Join Bobby on The Hard Shoulder every Tuesday, with thanks to Energia

Each week broadcaster, entrepreneur and agony uncle Bobby Kerr joins The Hard Shoulder to answer all your employment-related questions.

This week, Bobby and Ivan kicked things off by discussing free food at work and the concerns around calories based on a recent report from EurekAlert

According to EurekAlert, a large study in the US has found that the free food people get at work is contributing to unhealthy eating habits as a lot of it contains large amounts of sodium, refined grains and there's very little whole grains or fruit on offer.

20% of Americans get food from work at least once a week equating to approximately 1300 calories. 

Some suggestions for employers who want to combat this is to promote a salad bar over the likes of pizza or burritos and replace potato chips with sunflower seeds.  

Now onto your questions... 

I am suspicious about a couple of receipts submitted to me as legitimate business expenses. A customer relationships manager in my business is entitled to bring out clients on occasion on the basis of entertainment. One particular manager has befriended a client and they are far too friendly for my liking - dining out at the expense of my business regularly. However, the customer is very important to my business so I need to tread carefully. Any ideas?

Bobby says this is surprising to see from a business owner who sets the rules around customer relationship management and that he hasn't addressed the issue yet. Maybe this employee is in fact closer to the customer than he is to the business so that could pose its own risks, as Bobby points out. 

In this instance, the business owner should start to deal with the customer directly to mitigate any risk, like the employee leaving with a big customer. 

I want to appoint a non-executive board member to the board of my SME. I am hearing there are a few different types of directors. Could you explain the different types and what they do? 


There are four types of directors you can have in a business:

  1. Registered director - This can be an executive or non-executive role that is registered with the companies office. 
  2. De facto director - This is someone who performs the duties of a director but has not been appointed director. 
  3. Shadow director -  This is a person who has not been appointed as a director but who gives directions or instructions that the directors of the company are accustomed to act upon.
  4. Alternate director - This is someone who has been appointed to attend a board meeting on behalf of a director. 

I work in HR for a logistics company and I'm thinking of going back to college to do a HR course at night time. I never went to college the first time, I just started straight into work after school. My boss has said he will pay half of the college fees if I agree to a three year commitment not to leave the company. Is this unreasonable?

Bobby says this isn't an unreasonable offer but if this person was unsure, they could suggest a pro rata deal to their boss instead. This could be something along the lines of agreeing that if she left after one year, she's only given a certain amount of the money back, more after two years and the full amount granted she stays for the full commitment. 

That might be the fairest option, Bobby suggests. 

You can listen back to all of Bobby’s employment advice from Tuesday’s The Hard Shoulder 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