When you first start up your business, the chances are you will surround yourself with a team you trust and who you think can deliver what you need. Often they are university friends, colleagues from early on in your a career, even members of your own family. Sometimes there’s one person who takes the lead and brings others in as key employees, or it might be that equity is split between a core team. This feeling of ‘startup-ness’ is often a big draw for people as it is a real chance to ‘be part of something’. And the long hours spent with each other as you all pitch in to launch and run your business, leads to even greater friendships being cemented.
Roll forward 2, 3 and beyond-years: The business is growing and the all-round skills which were so valuable in the early days may seem less-required now as your business changes in shape and size. Whilst you still very much respect the people or person in question, some just don’t seem to have grown at the same rate as the business and you’re drifting apart. Sometimes the catalyst is external investors and this additional pressure exposing any areas where there are gaps. Other times there are much smaller, less obvious signs. Niggling away. Just enough to need you to pause for thought …
5 Signs You Need to Pay Attention to
- Responsibilities & accountabilities are unclear: Their part of the org chart looks more like a plate of spaghetti than resembling a way which accountabilities can be delegated.
- Their role doesn’t really make sense anymore: You hear yourself explaining their responsibilities to someone outside the business and realise you’d never design their job that way if you could start again…
- You get resistance from them on most things: Constructive challenge is good. Particularly if it is from people you trust. However when challenge turns to resistance including – crucially – other new hires, it’s bad news. On first glance they seem fine about these, but then you realise they are actively not helping these people get hired and/ or get on.
- The fire has gone: They’re actively disengaged from any future plans. They don’t come up with the ideas when previously they used to share two-a-penny.They make excuses not to be at meetings and show disinterest in their colleagues and things they used to be a part of.
- The business is taking a hit: last but not least, when all these issues are causing an impact on their teams and performance is suffering. This is the point at which many take action.
Objectivity Will Help You Decide What Is Best For The Business
- Talk to them and find out how they are feeling: Absolutely do not do anything before doing this stage. You never know – it may be something totally unrelated to their work. Find out what are the bits of the role they are still enjoying and what are their thoughts on how things are structured in general? You might find they are feeling starved of interest and involvement and that this kind of conversation is exactly what you need to re-ignite the business passion.
- Be clear on what the business needs are: Then consider whether they align or not. Don’t just put someone in a box on an org chart because ‘they’ve always been there’. And don’t leave them floating in any ‘Director of Special Projects’ type role. It doesn’t fool anyone.
- Could they do something else? Think about what other roles they could do in the business. Or, as is often the case if there are no other roles to be found, maybe you can help with their own off-shoot.
- It might not be as bad as you think: If you choose to take the decision – as many have done – to part ways and release them from the business, take heart that many will have been in the same boat and that it is possible to keep some form of relationship beyond the employment one ending. It just may take a bit of time.
- Treat them fairly: Do cover off your legals and be clear over what your risks are (financial, legal and the impact in the organisation of any changes) and think about what you can do to mitigate them. With individuals, one of the best ways to mitigate risks tends to be treat people with respect, and sometimes that doesn’t always mean following a formal ‘process’. Cash helps this stage too.
- Be normal with them: And by that I mean don’t start adopting the tone and written language of a lawyer as soon as you start to discuss with them the possibility that there may not be a job for them anymore. Put yourself in their shoes and see how you’d like to be treated.
Photo Credit: the scream by Mark Tighe