Posted on Sep 22, 2014
September Members’ Perspective: Biggest Business Blunder

Jay Smith / William V. Macgill

Hiring against my gut, multiple times.  I learned to trust my instincts, and hire experts to help fine tune those instincts when it comes to hiring.

Darrin Shallcross / Shallcross Financial Planning

Having five partners. I would only choose a partner for a success plan and not for ongoing business purposes.

Judy Hogel / Chicago Family Business Council

I was in a hurry and forgot to make the payroll deposit. Unfortunately, I didn’t find out about it until the following week when the bank called me to say the account was overdrawn. The hardest thing for me was telling my husband, I knew I let him down. What I learned from it: I always made the deposit on Wednesday and verified that it was in the bank on Friday before payroll. The jewel that came out of it was about a year later when I had a problem with our office staff making mistakes and covering them up vs. owning them and learning from them, I thought that if I shared my biggest mistake with them then just maybe we could all start to share and learn from each other. It worked and became a “Celebrate your Mistakes” Friday lunch and an opportunity to learn and grow from each other’s experience.

Sean Hoffman / Nuance Solutions

At an interview for my first job I had to do a sales pitch. I totally froze at the get go. I asked to be excused to gather my wits, did so, and then came back and did OK. Later on I learned that doing that and composing myself got me the job.  I learned to just do the best you can and things will work out OK.

Jackie Bone / Bone Roofing Supply

My biggest blunder was becoming too much like “friends” with my employees. I was always afraid of making an employee upset, when I was really only holding them responsible for their own actions.

Mary Koonce / Cal's Electrical Services

Early in my career at Cal’s, Mr. Mather from Hal Mather and Sons called our office, I did not know it was Mr. Mather as he did not announce himself. He said he had a question about an invoice. I smirked back “well you know our motto, ‘If we don’t shock you, our bills will.’” Mr. Mather then asked to speak to Sal.  We really did not do much business with Hal Mather & Son after that. Lesson: Always remain professional with everyone you’re talking to.

Michael Anderson / The Evanston Group

We tried to expand our business, hiring sales people, recruiters, moving to bigger offices, etc. without first building the foundations of effective hiring and managing processes.  We learned the hard way.  Life has been kinder to us since then.

Nirel Inman / Chicago Glue & Machine Company

Violated a legal agreement by not understanding the details and I learned that everything is fixable. You pay a price but you keep moving forward.

Jim Armbruster / ATMI Precast

I am very good at starting businesses, but there was no exit strategy. Every time I would share with others ownership, they put no capital in, nor were they significant in the business growth. I am almost 68 years old and I have spent the last seven years fending off partners and almost losing control of the companies. The lesson learned is that it is OK to share, I would not change that, but make sure there is a fixed ability to buy them out so you maintain control. Having the company buy back their stock is not necessarily the answer as it may dilute your stock below control.

Mary Deibert / Kiara

By not preparing for a presentation – I thought I could “wing” it….happened when I was 21 years old and I have never done it since.

Brent Ogle

Not letting go of a bad apple employee when I should of. I didn’t feel right about him shortly after I agreed to hire him and instead of trusting my gut, I decided to give the employee another chance.  The employee ended up burning me big time.  He faked a back injury and we spent way too much money dealing with it.  He also caused another good production employee to leave due to his behavior.  He was a bad apple and I should have trusted my gut and cut ties early on.

Donna McCaleb / Noland Sales

The biggest blunder was knowing we were in financial trouble and allowing my business partner to convince me to wait three months before following thru on cuts that needed to be made. I learned that my opinion matters and that this is my company too. If the ship goes down, we all go down.

Guy Ockerlund / Ox Box

50/50 ownership with a nonparticipating family member. Participating members should always own controlling interest.

Janet Nitti / Isola Imports

My personal biggest business blunder was not stepping up to the best of my capabilities just to eliminate arguments at home.

Brian McIlwee / McIlwee Millwork

Never fight any lawsuit on principle.  Settle and get out from under any legal fight.  It drains too much time, money, and energy and you never win.

Sharon Wong / NOW Food Group

My role as a Director created a team blunder. We purchased a distribution company & allowed them to continue with their management team and loses for several years. They focused on sales, not profits. We had to change management and focus. We started controlling the financials, salary and bonuses based on profitability. With a focused new President and team, the company was able to pay off $10MIL debt to our company and become profitable.

Chris Prestegaard / American Chartered Bank

Extended a loan to someone which on paper had a nice business, but had a feeling in my gut the owner was of poor character. Character is the most important thing!

Heiko Mitzkus / Vaxcel International

I once kicked a customer who I was supporting through a supplier negotiation under the table in that negotiation with a supplier. He started to side with the supplier, and I had not read his and the supplier’s signals (in particular, body language). I learned to pay more attention to non-verbal communication in stressful situations.

Deanna Salo / Cray Kaiser Ltd.

I am horrible with names but remember EVERYONE’S faces.  When meeting someone new, I say their name ten times in my head in my (weak) attempt to remember their names.

Tim Watson / Modernfold Chicago

I was speaking poorly of an employee to another employee. We were in agreement in their shortcomings, but I learned that as an owner, I can’t complain and must be professional and positive. I can’t expect employees to act that way if I don’t model it myself.

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