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My Biggest Mistake: Didn’t do an employee check

March 21, 2011 |  8:46 am

Consultants, self-help gurus and moms agree: Mistakes are how we learn. Small business owners tell us their biggest error. Here is this week's:

--Business owner: Jonathan Nowling, Roseville, Calif.

--Company: Rock Hill Lavender

--What I did: Fail to fully investigate a new employee

--Background: We make and manufacture bath, beauty and other products out of lavender and lavender essential oil. One of our main products is a lavender dog shampoo.

--The mistake: Not doing an employment history check on an employee. We found that the employee who came to work for us owned her own company and just wanted to learn about a handful of our products for her company. After she left we found out that she was selling a product that was very similar to one of our products.

--What I learned: Now we have a lawyer who drew up a contract that we have all our employees sign, as well as the printers who make our labels and any outside vendors. It states that the information they’re using is our property and it’s to be used for that particular job only -- and we spell out the job in our contract.

Have you made a mistake from which other small business owners can learn? Please tell us about it at

-- Sharon Bernstein