When someone quits

Say, you’ve hired just over 60 people in your company’s history. Today, you’re at 50 and still hiring.

The first loss could be the most difficult. You had to let your very first employee go due to poor performance.

Each subsequent firing can hurt your soul a little less. You then learned to couch things in mind in terms of what would help the rest of the team when you were confronted with the shocked look on the face of anyone who’s just been told she/he is no longer got a job.

Then, when you were perhaps a dozen people, a brilliant programmer of yours sat you (the founders) down one morning and said she was quitting. Initially, you could be stunned. You can’t fire us! Losing her would put us in a bind, as you had a product to build and competitors to stay ahead of.

Then she told us his reason: “I’ve been dreaming of starting my own company, and a friend and I have finally decided to do it.” That could change everything.

Not only you could no longer bring yourself to try to persuade her to stay, but also no longer wanted her to stay. How could you encourage someone to not do the very thing that you did that had brought so much success?

After you say goodbyes, and she started her startup, you may realize that in a way this was exactly the kind of employee you wanted: entrepreneurial, hungry.

It seemed to be part of your DNA, because nearly every one of the other employees who have quit since did so to build something: a school, a startup, a team.

It occurred to me that if we wanted to cultivate a company that rewarded the kind of thinking that leads to breakthroughs, we’d have to understand that some of your employees would be driven enough to eventually want to do their own thing. And that had to be all right with you.

Now, do not misunderstand what I am saying. I’m not saying that I want your employees to start companies and quit. What I am saying is that you should not distressed when an employee has a side project. Nor you will be mad if after a couple of years of working with you (and hopefully learning a lot!) she says, “I’m turning my side project into a company.” In fact, I think it’s inevitable.

If the reason you’re quitting has something to do with the company or environment you’ve built, then I want to talk about it, make things right.

You hire carefully and hate to lose great people. But if the reason they’re quitting has something to do with a dream they want to build, then there’s no discussion necessary.

Other than, perhaps, “How can we help?”

We have a program on handling Quits. Please let us know if you want more information.

Suresh Shah, M.D., Pathfinders Enterprise

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