Bad situations rarely improve with elapsed time.
Many years ago, when my business started growing and I was building my team, I hired 5 horrible employees, all with bad attitudes, poor work ethic and questionable morals. 100% MY fault, of course.
During a period of about 8 months, I finally had enough and started firing them, which resulted in the first one going to clients and outright slandering me, requiring an attorney to get involved with a cease and desist, and another taking my client list to a direct competitor and selling them the same services we were offering, again involving an attorney and a lawsuit we eventually won. Yet another was stealing from me, using the company credit card for dinners out and filling her tank with gas. The other two were so incompetent they couldn’t find their asses with both hands in their back pockets.
I look back now and can see where my GROSS stupidity in hiring and managing cost me big. This was 1,000% MY fault, with the biggest mistake not being that I hired them, but that I waited waaaaaaaaaay too long to fire and replace them. I knew I had a village of idiots working for me, but I just didn’t want to address it – so I paid for it in spades. Financially and in enormous personal stress and anxiety.
I see this a lot with clients. There’s someone in their organization they need to fire – to finally say, “Enough,” and make a hard decision, rip the Band-Aid off and deal with it. Of course, it’s much easier to see such cancer in others’ lives and companies and advise them to do what needs to be done than to do it in your OWN life and in your OWN business. But a VERY hard lesson I’ve learned over the 20+ years of running a business is this: sour milk never turns fresh, no matter how much you coddle it, try to incentivize it, ignore it or pair it up with good, fresh milk. It needs to be thrown out fast or it will stink up the entire refrigerator.
I have had several longtime members write to me after coming to a Producers Club meeting, Roadshow or other event, to tell me of finally firing someone – employee and/or client – after enduring years of very destructive and abusive bad behavior. They tell me I helped stiffen their spine, mustering up the resolve to evict that person from their life. They ALL tell me they wished they had done it sooner. I’ve never had anyone say, “I fired that dude and wish I hadn’t.”
I take no pleasure in this “superpower,” of course. It’s still difficult for me to fire people, but I certainly don’t shy away from it anymore, even if it’s going to cause a ruckus with clients or employees. A couple of years ago I had to part ways with a member of the team who clients loved but who was causing irreparable harm internally, losing trust with the entire executive team and causing me a mountain of stress. He had to go. Yes, I got a few nasty e-mails over it from members who did NOT know what was going on behind the scenes and may have talked to him and gotten his side without knowing mine. As a professional I bit my tongue and refrained from airing the dirty laundry about what was really going on, choosing instead to smile and say, “Thank you for your feedback,” but holding firm that I had made the right call.
If you’re running a business correctly, you will need to fire people from time to time. Hopefully, it’s a small percentage of employees and clients who are not a good fit. Know that when you do this, you WILL get pushback. A LOT. You will get criticized and condemned even when you’re 100% right in your decision. Jack Welch, one of the GREATEST leaders and most effective CEOs of our time, earned the name “Neutron Jack” (referring to the neutron bomb that kills everyone but leaves buildings intact) for his insistence that all leaders routinely fire the bottom 10% of their employees. He hated the nickname but knew that if he was to be effective as a CEO, his #1 responsibility was to ensure his organization employed only the best people, not to try to be everyone’s friend.
If you currently find yourself in a situation where you need to fire someone, client or employee, you have a choice to make. Sadly, bad people rarely go away on their own, and you will have to make a decision. The problem will not simply resolve itself if ignored and given time. You are going to have to suffer the consequences of making no decision, which actually IS making a decision, even if it feels like the path of least resistance today. However dreadful the choice, know that the pain is temporary. Ultimately, allowing them to wear you out, mess up your productivity and create more problems IS NOT acceptable. Choose YOU over them.
This Wednesday I’m offering a live workshop where you’ll discover how to stop feeling exhausted overworked running your business and shift into a thriving business owner. I’m going to share how to grow a profitable MSP doing $1 Million+ in revenue. Register for free here.