Ready, Aim, Fire (The Right Way)

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Brian Scudamore

A business can feel like a family. For years, I had a COO who was much more than just a colleague. We were close friends who spent countless hours together. I was even best man at his wedding.

But in 2007, I had an incredibly hard decision to make: I had to let him go. In the end, we were just too similar: we shared the same vision and goals, but neither of us were the detail-oriented executive who would take 1-800-GOT-JUNK? to a global level.

No one ever wants to talk about firing someone – it’s not a comfortable subject. But it’s an essential skill for entrepreneurs. While it’s never something to look forward to, I’ve found there are a few methods that help lessen the pain of the experience, and set up everyone involved for future success.

Explore the Mutual Benefits

Firing – when done right – can be mutually beneficial. A single bad hire can easily add up to $50,000 in direct costs, negatively impact team engagement, and decrease productivity. So it’s critical to get the wrong people out the door quickly.

Ending a job can be painful but it’s also a chance to find a better fit somewhere else. My friend and former COO now works as a speaker and consultant and enjoys better hours, higher pay, and can take on different projects that he loves. We were also able to hire the right leader for his job, which ensured that O2E Brands was set up for success as it entered a new stage of growth.

Rip Off the Band-Aid – Quickly

There is merit to the “hire slow, fire fast” philosophy. Taking time to ensure there is strong cultural fit with potential employees is integral to our onboarding process. However, when it comes to letting someone go, I employ the opposite strategy: I try to make it a quick and painless for everyone involved.

It’s also important to ensure the employee leaves with their dignity intact. I know that even if someone didn’t end up being the right fit, this 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.

Remember: no one should be surprised to get fired. Employees should be made aware of problems and given a chance to correct them.

Check in with the Team

Losing a colleague can disrupt an office ecosystem: some people may feel vulnerable at having lost a teammate and friend. In a recent survey, one quarter of HR managers cite poor communication as the leading cause of low office morale. To combat that problem, make a point of walking everyone through any future transition plans and check in regularly after big changes.

What Goes Around …

In the end, you get what you give. When you take the time to properly let someone go, everyone benefits. Even though I had to fire my best friend, he introduced 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.

Brian Scudamore is the founder and CEO of O2E (Ordinary to Exceptional) Brands, which includes companies like 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, WOW 1 DAY PAINTING,You Move Me and Shack Shine. Brian is passionate about helping others grow small to medium businesses and corporate culture.

Tweet Brian at @brianscudamore