My Million Dollar Hiring Mistake

Hiring the wrong person can be a costly mistake. The following is the story of how one bad hire cost me over a million dollars in lost revenue.

Like many entrepreneurs, I have had multiple businesses over the years. My first company provided technology consulting services to large corporations. We grew quickly from a three-person startup to having a team of consultants doing roughly $1.5 million in revenue every year.

Our largest client was a Fortune 50 automotive supplier, and we were doing roughly $500k per year from this one account. I was on my way to work one morning when I received an urgent call from their Chief Technology Officer asking me to come to his office right away. I could tell from his voice that this wasn’t good news. 

When I walked into the CTO’s office, I noticed one of my employees sitting in the corner, staring at the floor. The look on his face confirmed my suspicion, this wasn’t good news.

The CTO informed me that my employee had been caught surfing adult-oriented websites while connected to their corporate network. He said that they had a zero-tolerance policy for such behavior. At that point, the CTO called security, and my consultant was ushered out.

That’s when the CTO delivered the rest of the bad news. Not only was my consultant terminated, but our new million-dollar contract was canceled as well. He said that the heads of their legal, human resources, and purchasing departments had made the decision and his hands were tied.

Our two-year, million-dollar contract disappeared because of the actions of one idiot.

My business partners and I spent a lot of time reflecting on the event, trying to determine what went wrong and what lessons could be learned. Did we make a mistake in the hiring process? Did we not train him properly? 

The employee had only been with us for about six months. We hired him specifically for our new million-dollar project; he would be a crucial part of our team working for this client.

During the interview process, it was clear that his technical skills were outstanding. However, we had all noticed some quirks in his personality, but with a project start date quickly approaching, we decided to hire him and get started.

We had multiple problems with questionable time and expense reports in the first few months. Of course, he always had a good excuse, but it made me question our decision to hire him. 

In hindsight, keeping him was a million-dollar mistake.

When hiring a new Funeral Director, the starting point is finding someone who can perform the job correctly. For example, can they make arrangements with a family? Can they embalm? Can they conduct a funeral? And so on.

But growing a team requires more than assembling a group of people who can perform individually. It requires you to build a team that you can trust and who trust each other.

In the case of a Funeral Director, can you trust this person to be caring and compassionate with families? Can you trust them to work well with the rest of your team? Can you trust them to communicate when problems happen, or will they hide issues because they don’t want to look bad?

Here’s a worthwhile exercise…

List the names of your current employees. Then beside each name, score them as either High or Low for Performance and do the same for Trust. For example,

Name Performance? Trust?
Bob Low Low
Sharon High High
Eric High Low
James Low High

We can all agree that Bob (low performance, low trust) is not someone you should keep on your team. They stink at their job, and nobody trusts them. Fire them as soon as possible.

We can also agree that Sharon (high performance, high trust) is a great person to have on your team. But unfortunately, she’s also very rare. If you have someone like that, do whatever you can to keep them.

What do you do with Eric (high performance, low trust)? 

In my experience, that person is often toxic. They’re talented, but nobody likes to work with them because they can’t be trusted. They might be a good short-term solution to a staffing problem, but you can’t build a team around them.

What do you do with James (low performance, high trust)? You trust them to work hard daily, but their performance needs help.

In general, James is someone you should keep and work on improving their performance. 

If they’re a Funeral Director who struggles to make arrangements, my upcoming Consultative Arrangements Course would be a good idea.

If they write bland obituaries, I recommend the training offered by Kitty Sheehan at

In hindsight, the employee who cost me a million-dollar contract was like Eric (high performance, low trust). He was great at his job, but I should have fired him when trust issues arose.

Hiring a bad employee is an expensive mistake.

Keeping a bad employee can cost you millions.

Until next time



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