For years, I worked with a COO who was much more to me than just a colleague -- we were friends. I was even the best man at his wedding.
When I had to let him go in 2007, it was one of the hardest days ever. But I'd grown to realize that we were just too similar to take 1-800-GOT-JUNK? to the next level. We were both visionaries, not the detail-oriented executives the company needed to turn daydreams into reality.
Letting my friend and COO go was difficult, and firing someone always is. But it's also an essential skill for entrepreneurs. Although it may never be pleasant, there are ways to get through it quickly and set everyone up for success.
Find a better fit
Even if you fear the discomfort of firing someone, remember that keeping bad hires around is expensive. Some estimate it can add up to over $50,000 in direct costs, not to mention the impact it has on team productivity and engagement. So it's crucial to get the wrong people out -- quickly.
It's worth remembering that getting let go is an opportunity to find a better fit somewhere else. My friend and former COO is now an incredibly successful consultant who calls his own shots and is passionate about what he does. We were able to hire the right leader for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, too, who has since set us up for growth.
Think like Nike: just do it
During the hiring phase, taking time to ensure that a candidate is a cultural fit is essential. On the other hand, when it comes to letting someone go, it should be quick -- prolonging the inevitable only makes the costs add up.
Although the firing process should be like ripping off a Band-Aid, it's still important to be respectful -- no one should be surprised they've been fired. Employees should be made aware of problems and given a chance to correct them. It's just good business sense.
Check in with the team
Losing a colleague often makes the people left behind feel insecure and tense, which can strain a positive work environment. And leaders who don't communicate effectively can come across as self-absorbed. Neither options are good for morale.
Managing change properly means taking time to communicate with your team. It can be as simple as regular check-ins, taking questions, and walking people through future plans.
When you take the time to properly let someone go, everyone benefits. Even though I had to fire my best friend, he ended up introducing me to my current COO years later. And, believe it or not, we're still great friends -- we continue to support each other's visions and businesses.
Even if someone didn't end up being the right fit at your company, it doesn't mean that they didn't try their hardest. I like to personally call people after they've been let go to see if I can help as they transition into new opportunities. If you spend time to let someone go properly, they'll feel confident in their new ventures, and the team they've left behind will feel secure. Remember: what goes around comes around.
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