Regardless of the size of your company or how savvy you are about running it, you're going to make mistakes from time to time. Every entrepreneur does.

But once you become aware of a mistake, you're not likely to make it a second time.

Or are you?

Indeed, there's one common mistake many business owners make repeatedly, and while those who operate small or family-owned companies tend to be more susceptible, the phenomenon isn't limited to them.

What is it?

It's this: holding on to underperforming, ill-behaved or even toxic employees far too long. Sometimes business owners do this even when they know these workers are poisoning the company.

Here are four reasons it often happens:

  1. Small companies often have weak or non-existent systems for holding employees accountable or standards to which they are accountable.
  2. HR departments don't exist or lack expertise to recruit and retain the best talent available.
  3. Small-business owners have such heavy demands on their time that they ignore employee issues.
  4. Some owners simply dislike firing people, to such an extent that they defer it endlessly.

As difficult as it is to end someone's employment, it's even more difficult to leave people in roles they don't like or aren't able to handle. You have an obligation to yourself, to your other employees and to your customers or clients to do what's best. It's usually even best, in the long run, for the employee being terminated.

As the business leader, you are obligated to ensure that your company has great people who are performing as they should without exhibiting behaviors that threaten or hinder others from doing performing well, too. Instead of regarding staff as a distraction, recognize that it's one of your key responsibilities.

Once you've learned to meet this responsibility consistently--including the unpleasant but sometimes necessary task of firing--you're well on your way to running a highly functioning company that truly values its greatest asset: its people.