Beate Chelette | The Women's Code
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You know, you sometimes see things too late. This is how we learn – and a lot of Monday-morning quarterbacking is natural. But there are times when you trust, and you fall because of that trust. And you’re hurt. And you have to move on through that hurt.

It happened to me with an employee.

Just before Christmas 2000, one of my staff began acting differently toward me. Now, she – I’ll call her Lisa — and I had been working together for a few years, but lately Lisa had been making comments about needing a change.

Fine. And while the two of us had had our moments, I would have put my hand in the fire to vouch for her loyalty. Over the years Lisa had developed a strong relationship with my daughter Gina, and we’d welcomed her to our dinner table on special occasions.

Well, I soon learned a big lesson about never again mixing my personal life with my business.

It turns out, things were worse than I’d thought. And to my chagrin, I fired her three days too late. Here’s what happened: Lisa had gotten too involved with a photographer. You know – romance and backstabbing. Just like a bad TV movie. Next thing I knew, I wasn’t receiving payments for invoices I had written on behalf of that photographer. Clients stopped calling me for bookings. It finally dawned on me: My employee had taken my business and set up shop for herself. And, you can guess the next part: Yes, that photographer was her first client.

Not knowing any better, and feeling a sense of utter betrayal, I sued both of them. I know, I know – we often take recourse in the law, when it isn’t always the best thing for us to do. But at that time, I was so hurt, I simply lashed out in the way I thought would be most effective.

It turns out that I ended up fighting the biggest battle of my life. For one year I poured everything into the lawsuit. I pursued it with all the energy I had — and with all of the money that I did not have. I was fueled by anger and by having been wronged. That attitude brings you to the point of no return, when you are so far into things that quitting makes no difference. So I spent hour after hour going through old records and copying paperwork that would help my attorney argue my case.

What I did not know is that both my former employee – and the photographer — were covered under an errors-and-omissions clause in his professional insurance. What I also did not know is that they had two sets of lawyers, courtesy of one of the largest insurance companies in the country. On the other side there was only me and my five-foot firecracker attorney, and I was broke.


By then, it was 2001, and the end of summer was approaching. My European clients had scheduled a significant volume of production business. As soon as the summer was over, I knew that with $500,000 in production volume, I was going to be in good financial shape to survive this fight.

Then the terrible terrorist attacks of September 11th tore into the nation. In addition to the scars that day etched into all our hearts, I lost every single client overnight – and they never came back.

Once again, I had to start over.

We all start over at some point in our lives. Was there a time when you had to do the same, for whatever reason? Let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

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