Jeremiah Green | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Jeremiah Green


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The Mistake:

I used to run a large food-service business. Early in my career, we hired this guy who seemed very talented. He had a good resume; he was very smart; he was very well-spoken. Ultimately, however, he tried to steal the company, steal things from the company and create divides within the company. When we terminated him, he also tried to steal our clients. It was messy.

People started coming to me, saying, "He was speaking poorly about you and the management team." He was also hoarding information; he was trying to be the gatekeeper. His personal business expenses started to spiral out of control. 

The problem is with people like that, it creeps up on you slowly. It's like death by papercuts. There's one little thing, and you let it go, and another little thing, and you let it go. And all of a sudden you have all these papercuts and you're bleeding to death.

We wanted to grow really badly, and sometimes you get stars in your eyes and you want to rush things.

The one thing that I remember was giving him too much latitude early. He was sort of an executive-level guy, and we didn’t do enough background checking. When we did, we found that he was terminated from almost every job he’d had. That was a big wake-up call for me. People tell you who they are over time. But in this instance, we didn’t do a good enough job checking his background and seeing that his story checked out.

The Lesson:

The first thing is, I didn't vet him well enough. And the second thing is, we wanted to grow really badly, and sometimes you get stars in your eyes and you want to rush things, you want to move quickly. And that was a big mistake; it really burned me.

I have learned that hiring executives requires a process, time and vetting. I wouldn’t suggest doing this with everybody that you hire, but I would do it with key hires. It doesn't pay to be lenient with folks who are in that level of position. Now I have implemented a management by objective system — a program that creates unambiguous, key work objectives for folks and numerical goals attached to those objectives. So there is clarity between the organization and the employee.

Follow Jeremiah Green on Twitter at @JeremiahBBGreen.

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