Leave The Past In The Past, When Old Employees Come Back

A scary thing happened to me today, and ex-employee walked through my door. They didn’t come to my office to ask for a job, or to pick a fight for something that happened several years ago. Instead, he came to say “Thank You”, and to say he never understood why we let him go, but after we did he was forced to pick himself up and go out and fight for the things he believed in.  Since then his son has graduated from High School, he has begun jogging again and found his way back to the church. He was no longer angry, but instead, he was happy that his life was once again on the right track.

After we talked for several minutes, he asked me why he was let go. He explained to me that it has bothered him for years and that I never really answered him when he asked me all those years ago. I felt it was finally time to explain why, and the reasons why might be something that you are facing, or will be facing in the future so follow along closely.

For the purposes of this conversation, we will call this person John. John joined our company as an HVAC mechanic’s helper and had several things going for him and several things going against him.

What John had going for him

1. He was clean, he always cleaned the Jobsite very well and I never had to yell at him about messes left behind.

2. He had a great attitude, John was always cool, calm, and collected. People loved him.

3. He had one of those late-night FM Deejay voices, you know the one.

4. He was always punctual, and even a bit early

5. His uniform was impeccably clean, and so was his truck.

What John had going against him

1. He was not mechanically inclined at all…… I mean not even a little bit.

A lot of you right now are thinking, “Hey! Wait a minute!, anyone can be taught to turn a wrench.”

On the surface, it seems like this guy is actually a great employee that would take a little work to get him up to speed, and you would be right.  There were other things going on in the company.

Things that were not his fault, The very unfortunate thing was that he would have to bear the brunt of my failure. I had failed everyone, my family, my coworkers, and my entire team. I had allowed apathy and laziness to creep into how I was doing business. I had run up debt somewhere in the area of $250,000. I let all the people in my company down by not paying attention to the money. The next thing I had to do was cut payroll, and that meant I had to let people go. So even though he was a great guy, I  let him go. Over the next few weeks, I had to let several people go to get payroll manageable and then I had to cut my paycheck for several months, which strained me and my wife’s relationship.

This is a precautionary tale, I could have avoided this by remaining vigilant and constantly checking the numbers and managing those numbers. This is why you as a company owner have to take making money seriously, it’s a burden we carry.

Everyone has his burden. What counts is how you carry it.

Merle Miller

So, I told him the truth… I had failed him and at the time I wasn’t man enough to admit it. I admit it now and although it is not always the easiest thing to point out your own faults, I laid it all out to him.  I admitted to him the guilt, and shame that I felt for failing. I think at some point we have all felt that before. He could see the emotion in my eyes and hugged me. Yeah, I said it, the guy I fired hugged me and said: “Rob, don’t worry, God puts us where we need to be.” I’m not really a religious guy, but  I could feel that he had forgiven me. Which is more than I could have asked.