A news story about a virus currently “spreading explosively” throughout our hemisphere caused me to recall an episode from a few years back.
In 2009, a friend mentioned me to a woman whose surname was exactly the same as the virus. She owned a franchised home health care staffing agency and she had a big problem. Some of the people who had worked for her had posted negative comments about the woman, accusing her of numerous bad practices including racism.
The woman emailed me and we set up a meeting. Before we met, I entered her name on Google. I saw the negative comments from the staffers. I also saw court records of a judgment against her and her husband regarding a dispute over money owed to a country club. My search also revealed a record of her divorce from that husband.
At our meeting, I offered the woman a few suggestions. I told her I could help get the ugly accusations off her Google first page and work with her on addressing the issues that were affecting her business. She did not choose to hire me.
Upon hearing and seeing her name over and over in stories about this virus, I was curious and went to Google again this past weekend. When I entered her name, the first item that came up was a forum post calling her “racist and emotionally abusive” and accusing her of being a drug abuser. Ouch.
The second item that came up was her LinkedIn profile. Third was a personal website which was set up some time after I met with her. (It referred to her agency by a different name.)
I was shocked to see the fourth entry was her obituary. She passed away last September. And still, several months after her death, the first thing one sees after searching her name is the “racist” post.
While I am saddened to learn of her passing at age 50, I find it unfortunate that the damage to her reputation lives on. The lesson: reputation management begins early. Following good business practices from day one and addressing issues as they arise is easier than trying to repair reputation problems after they become critical. Rest in peace.