Mirror, Mirror: Why Most of Your Hires Are Bad

I wasted $170,000 on bad hires in two years.

My mistakes were many: I hired good people but didn’t define their roles well. Or I hired good coaches who weren’t great employees. Or I failed to ask new coaches, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

Most of the failures were my fault. These are avoidable problems I now know how to solve.

But the biggest mistake I made with staff was the “mirror mistake.” And almost every single Founder makes the same one.

The mirror mistake is this: We try to hire staff who are the same as us.

We try to find carbon copies of ourselves. Here’s why this is a huge mistake:

  • That person doesn’t exist. At best, we find people who are almost as good as we are and then spend the next few years looking over their shoulder to correct their mistakes.
  • We treat our own staff as our future competition: We’re wary of teaching them everything. We don’t shine the spotlight on them. We try to outwork, outcoach or outshine them because we’re scared they’ll eventually leave.
  • We hire for the work we understand instead of the work we don’t. Gym owners hire other coaches. Salon owners hire hairdressers. Accountants hire accountants. But we should really be hiring for lower-value roles first and other roles second. And we should replace ourselves as the primary provider third. Here’s an example: A gym owner hires a new coach. This buys her time to do “the other stuff”—doing the books, setting up marketing and selling memberships. But no one’s ever taught her how to do any of that stuff. Her background is coaching, so she spends time training the new coach, watching the new coach and judging the new coach instead of doing her real work. A gym owner in the Founder Phase should hire a cleaner and someone to do administrative work, and then the owner should learn how to do marketing and sales. Then she can hire another coach to work with her new clients. But this isn’t what usually happens. In most cases, the gym owner duplicates herself in the coaching role and ends up with two salaries and no sales.
  • We think others know what we know. They don’t. There’s no such thing as “common sense.” If you don’t tell them exactly what to do, they have no chance of success.
  • We don’t put our clients’ wants first. If you’re more of a technician than a cheerleader, you’ll probably hire another technician. But is that what your clients really want at 6 a.m.? Not in my experience. Our lack of diversity fails to attract (or keep) new clients.  Before I understood what my best clients actually wanted, I tried to find other technicians like me. But when a trainee coach had to take a 6-a.m. class because of a scheduling emergency, my clients absolutely loved her energy and enthusiasm. And when I did the “Apples” exercise with my best clients, I finally realized that most of them valued enthusiasm over textbook knowledge.


The best person to hire is usually complementary to you: They have an opposite skillset or a different personality. If you’re more left-brained (tactical, analytical, and logical) hiring a right-brained person (empathetic, creative and caring) is a very powerful move.

If you’re a great coach in the Founder Phase, hire someone to replace you in low-value roles so you can coach more. If you’re looking to move into Farmer Phase, hire someone to coach so you can grow the business … but only after the low-value roles are filled by someone else. And in Tinker, use tools like Kolbe to match the perfect person to the perfect role.

We guide you through the hiring process in our RampUp program.

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