Exactly 2 years ago today I did one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do in my entire professional life. I had to terminate 60% of my team.
Big corporate players do this all the time. But I was no big corporate player. I was an entrepreneur and had run our business for 17 years as if I was the head of an extended family. The people who worked for my husband and I were almost like my children, even though a few of them were older than me. I cared for them like I care for family.
Not that I had never fired anyone before. I’d certainly had my share of dismissals for reasons ranging from incompetency to dishonesty. But this was different. No one had been untrustworthy, or done anything stupid. These were my people, and I had to let them go.
For some the reason may seem trite, possibly irresponsible: I just was no longer happy doing what I was doing.
I was tired of all the mothering, thinking that I didn’t have just one mortgage to pay for, I had ten. I was tired of doing work that no longer filled my soul, just because I had to meet payroll.
This was more than my overwhelming feeling of responsibility towards my staff. It was also that clients were starting to get on my nerves. There was nothing wrong with them. I just did not enjoy doing the work on a shoestring because the corporate bosses were forever trying to cut back. Or seeing my clients having to play politics and deal with stupid rules just to satisfy higher-ups who had no idea about the realities of the marketplace.
I was sick and tired of it. Or rather I was tired and getting sick.
It was time to make a change.
Very fortunately for me my entire team was very understanding of the situation. True to the community that we had created, they had seen the toll the business had taken on me in the last four years.
My husband and business partner especially was very understanding. Even though I pretty well made the decision to downsize without his input, Heinz supported my decision all the way.
After “the dreaded day” I took a long time to heal from the guilt; I felt like I had made everyone suffer because I hadn’t”t been strong enough. Several weeks later I ran into a former staff member who actually thanked me because she’d had the summer off to to be with her son!
And here I was still grieving… Fortunately five months later we left it all behind and took a true break.
Looking back, it was the very best thing I could have done with what I knew and what I had to work with. That’s all we can ever expect of ourselves: to do the best we can with the time and resources we have in the moment.