On the way from a Company of One to a Company of 1,000, there are loads of pitfalls but none so detrimental as hiring the wrong people.

Sometimes, bad hiring is easily corrected--moving people to different positions or terminating them--but actions like that use time and resources small businesses don't have a lot of. On the other hand, a bad hire can be the death knell of a company if their actions lead to litigation, terrible PR, or financial mismanagement.

Nonetheless, hiring new people is a part of growing your business, but there is one person you should never hire--and the worst part is that, when you hire them, you don't know how bad they can be for your business.

There's not a name for this company-killer, but their careers all follow the same path and the entrepreneur in question always does the same thing...

For want of a better name, let's call him "Sam."

You hired Sam to do a little bookkeeping or maybe some administrative or managerial tasks to free you up to handle more of the management in your own company. He's perfect! He gets to work on time, and in no time at all, he had the books straightened out. Before long, you made Sam a full-time administrative assistant. He still handled the books, but those only take a few hours a week, so he was fine with it and liked the chance to work full time.

Since your schedule had eased considerably, you've asked Sam to cover for you from time to time so you could go see your kid's ball game and, when summer break came around, you actually took a few extra days off to take the family out of town.

Sam did a heck of a job and, when you returned, everything was fine.

No complaints, no issues, and no red flags.

Sam is great--your staff likes him, your customers like him, and he takes initiative in all manner of places while still going to great pains to make sure he has your approval before taking definitive action. Eventually, because he always has his ducks in a row, you simply tell him to "take care of things" and quit actively managing Sam.

The longer you work with Sam, the more you come to rely on him and, inevitably, one of two things happens--either Sam wants more money or your reliance on Sam means that you are painfully unaware of the actual state of your business because you were enjoying the free time that your abdication of responsibility gave you. Sam, on the other hand, doesn't get paid to make the hard decisions, so he lets problems simmer instead of resolving them.

In either case, you have ceased to be the operator of your business and fallen into a trap of convenience--letting Sam handle too many of the tasks that really are your responsibility and, in so doing, passing control of your business over to someone who doesn't have your passion, skills, or desires.

In an even worse case, your lack of management lets Sam drain your company funds through mismanagement or outright theft and the end result is the same--Sam is gone, your company's reputation suffers, and the growth and success of recent months or years is lost.

In any case, when you lose Sam for whatever reason, the effects and fallout will take a long time to sort out. Your business will, at the very least, shrink considerably if it doesn't fail outright. 

Don't hire a Sam. Hire one, two, or even a score of people to do what you'd ask Sam to do, but clearly delineate the systems and processes that are to be followed while they discharge their duties. Just like we learned in Civics class all those years ago, your company needs checks and balances to ensure that it only grows but prospers--and never depend on one individual as the sole creator or person responsible for every task or action. Not even you!

Isn't that why you needed to hire someone in the first place?

Published on: Apr 17, 2018