Don’t Kill the Thoroughbred!

You have hired a rainmaker — someone who knows how to create new business. He is doing great. Revenues and profits are going up. Gradually, you’ve let him take on more responsibility.

Then you find out he’s doing something “wrong.” Perhaps he’s coming in late or using the company car for personal reasons or yelling at his employees. You call him into your office and speak to him. He promises to do better. But the complaints persist. What do you do?

Ultimately, that’s up to you. But if I were you, I wouldn’t fire him. I might keep a closer rein on him. But I wouldn’t fire him.

Rainmakers are a rare breed. They have the ability to bring in new business. Whether they are salespeople, marketers, or product producers, they know what it takes to bring people in the door.

To achieve their potential, they must be given space to run — but they must also be managed or they can become impossible to deal with.

They’re like winning thoroughbreds. They may need extra care and sometimes more supervision, but they are worth it.

If you had a prize-winning horse and you found out that it was biting its handlers and bucking its trainers, would you kill the horse? Of course not. You’d find new handlers and trainers if need be.

As you know, I am a cigar smoker. For two years, I’ve been a regular after-work fixture at a cigar bar about a block from my office. I found out about the place because the guy in charge, Joe, did a great job of sponsoring various events to promote his business. And I became a customer because he had a welcoming personality and always made me feel like a king.

One example: Before my seat hit the stool, he’d have an espresso on the bar waiting for me. He refused to take money for it. And I paid him back with lots of cigar purchases.

One day a few months ago, I walked in to find out that Joe had been fired. Hell! I thought Joe owned the place. Apparently not. And apparently the owner felt he was giving away too many free drinks and spending too much money on events.

I talked to the owner. I told him I thought he’d made a serious mistake in letting Joe go. I shared my thoroughbred horse analogy with him. He didn’t get it.

Today, I’ll bet he wishes he had listened. The cigar bar doesn’t do half the business it used to do.

I heard the owner has put the business up for sale. And I heard that Joe is setting up a competing business down the road. I will be surprised if he doesn’t get back most of his old customers.