One founder shares how to get past your worries and fears that come with letting someone go, and how to go about it tastefully.
By Kelly Azevedo (Founder, She’s Got Systems)
So, you know when you know. That is, you know when it’s time to move on to better things for your business, whether that means finding a stronger vendor, hiring a new employee (and letting go of the old one) or even firing a client (gulp!).
But often we hang on far too long out of fear, worry and plain old procrastination. Today, I’ve got your back. Because there are three terrible reasons to avoid change and two great ones that you need to remember when it’s time to let go.
EXCUSE #1: “I DON’T WANT TO HURT SOMEONE.”
I get it – I’ve separated from five different assistants in various capacities over the life of my business and it’s hard to do every single time. You worry that you’re saying “you’re not good enough” or “I don’t like you anymore” to the people who have put time and energy to your business for months or even years.
It’s worse if the team members, vendors or clients have become friends in that timeframe (which they very well can be if you actually like your clients and colleagues!). You’re worried that this sends a message that you’re somehow above them, too big for your britches, or maybe you’re worried that you’ll been seen as having impossible standards.
Emotions aside, this is a business decision and the only one you should be concerned about hurting is your business. Because your business is the client here – it has needs and you’re the caretaker. If something or someone isn’t serving the business anymore it’s time to make a change. Period. How that makes them feel or the guilt you take on is a moot point because your business needs to come first.
Acknowledge those fears, but don’t let them hold you back.
EXCUSE #2: “MAYBE IT’LL GET BETTER.”
If you really believed that then you wouldn’t be entertaining the thought of making a change. Quite often the problems have been growing for months, slowly driving you crazy until you just know that it’s time for a change.
I get it. You don’t want to be a perfectionist entrepreneur that no one can get along with and who goes through assistants faster than the devil who wears Prada.
The compromise is a test. You simply state what you need — “Please give confirmation you’re working on this project” or “Please invoice me this week so I know how much time you’ve put in” — and if the other person does not reply within three days, you know it’s time to move on.
Maybe you’ve read “When do you know it’s time to fire?” and you’re wondering if you’re actually going to fire someone over not responding to an email. These small tests are just confirmation that the problem exists. You don’t need to explain why you came to this decision.
Listen: the reasons that you end an agreement are your own. Simply state that the relationship has ended and move on. You don’t need to give a reason, explanation or justification for your decision. See above: the only thing to be concerned about is the health of the business.
EXCUSE #3: “I DON’T WANT TO GET BAD-MOUTHED.”
Here’s the thing that mature adults recognize: there are two or more sides to every story. If a client relationship ends or an assistant leaves, it doesn’t mean that someone is at fault, wrong or even bad at their job. It means that needs change, availability shifts, and not everyone meshes.
Imagine if we felt this way about personal relationships: “What do you mean you’re not still friends with those kids from kindergarten? What are you, defective?” or “Since you didn’t marry the first person you ever dated clearly you’re unreliable and not trustworthy.”
People change, needs change and businesses grow – no one has to be ‘at fault’ when a relationship ends.
I know it’s a very real fear that the person who has your Twitter ID, Facebook page profile and platform is going to stand up and shout out how horrible you were. So instead of firing by avoidance or just ending the contract without a conversation (this goes both ways too), actually have a conversation. Thank the other person or agency for their support and share your decision to move on without inviting a negotiation, debate or argument.
Most of the time, both parties will understand it’s for the best.
Okay — are your excuses for not moving on out of the way yet? Because there are two great reasons why you need to let go:
REASON #1: YOU CAN’T GO HIGHER IF YOU DON’T LET GO.
Imagine a trapeze artist who just keeps swinging and swinging, never to make the leap to the next bar.
Is it scary? Yep. It is necessary? Yep.
In the very basic sense, you can’t fully commit to a new team member when an old one is still hanging around, not doing their job well. While there may be a little overlap, you need to let go of the people and practices that are keeping you from reaching where you want to go.
REASON #2: YOUR BUSINESS IS A UNIT AND WEAK LINKS WILL BREAK THE WHOLE.
In college, I was on a large debate squad that had 20-30 teams producing evidence. If just one team didn’t complete their assignment, the whole squad was weaker. If the quality wasn’t there, then we were all going to fail. We worked together and mentored the younger students, knowing that we could only be as strong as the weakest link.
Your business operates the same way.
If the copywriter doesn’t show up, then your campaign is going to suffer. When the technical VA doesn’t check all the links, sales will suffer. When you don’t show up fully prepared because you’re frustrated or distracted, then the content isn’t as good as it could be. At every turn, you have the ability to turn your business into a well-oiled machine, with working systems and caring team members who are there to serve the client. Weaknesses can’t be coddled for long or your business will suffer in reputation, sales, continuity and trust.
Remember, the business is the top priority – not the feelings of the team member who isn’t well suited for the position, or the company you hired years ago that is no longer serving you well or the client who isn’t a good match for your model. When you serve the business first, you’ll recognize that sometimes it’s just time to let go.
Be honest and answer this question:
What relationship do you need to move on from in your business?
This post previously appeared on Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program.
About the guest blogger: Kelly Azevedo (@krazevedo) is the founder of She’s Got Systems, a custom coaching program that leads clients to get support, documenting and dominating in their fields. She has worked in startup, successful six-figure and million-dollar online businesses, helping owners create the systems to serve their needs.