A Sobering Thought

Why you don’t want to double down on a first-time hiring mistake.

Regret “giving away” that Joe DiMaggio rookie card? Investing in that spaghetti farm? Getting married?

We’ve all made a bad decision or two in life. And, hopefully, we learn from our mistakes. But, when it comes to running an auto center, there are many, many times throughout the business’ lifespan that every entrepreneur has said to himself: “If I only knew then what I know now …”

In this first installment of “Lessons Learned,” I am going to give you a word – or two – of advice. Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll learn from my errors and won’t make the same mistakes.

Many, many years ago, a technician who worked for me decided that summer in Florida was not the place to be. He gave me two weeks’ notice and moved back to New York. Subsequently, a longtime family friend had a son who was moving to Florida and needed a job. He was an ASE master tech, with glowing reports from former employers. What could go wrong?

The first five months were great. He performed flawlessly. No returns. Showed up to work when scheduled. Then, the “fun” started.

The tech began to ask me if he could leave a little early for doctors’ appointments, family obligations. Then, the calling in sick started. But as quick as the attendance abnormalities began, they stopped.

That is, until the holiday break.

A newfound friend of the tech was boating down to the Keys, and he was invited for the ride. Evidently, a good time was had by all – including the tech. So much so, he didn’t return to work after the vacation break. As a matter of fact, his family was trying to locate him. No one knew what was going on. Was there an accident? Lost at sea?

No. He was located in a bar. In the Keys. Very drunk. One little thing that the friend of the family forgot to tell me: The tech was a recovering alcoholic. Reportedly, he was attending AA up North and in Florida. The boat trip didn’t do him any favors. Not only did the tech fall off the wagon, he looked like the cart ran him over. He was in bad shape.

But after he sobered up, he quit.

Fast forward: About a year later, the ASE master tech returned to my shop asking for a service position. He explained that he had been attending a local support group for almost a year and that he had his act together. I confirmed and rehired. Again, everything was OK for months. That is, until he came back from lunch one afternoon. Intoxicated.

I fired him on the spot.

Later on, it was conveyed to me by another master ASE tech working for me that the drinking mechanic had an editorial comment regarding his dismissal. Evidently he told everyone in the shop that it was “rude [of me] to fire him.”


Moral of the story: Never hire a friend of the family’s and never rehire an employee. In both cases, it’s just not worth the drama.

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