Employees Will Leave. Don't Panic!

When I first started hiring people it was all very new and exciting. The company was finally growing after many years of just me working alone. I was looking forward to getting more people on board so we could do more, build better products.

I certainly wasn’t qualified to interview and hire people, but when you run a company by yourself, it’s down to you to hire people. In the first few years of hiring people I honestly never once thought that these people might one day leave. It just never crossed my mind.

The first few people I hired were in a somewhat haphazard fashion. An informal interview, a drink down the pub and that was it. Welcome aboard! A lot of the time I just went with my gut instinct. Thankfully it all worked out. I’ve been very fortunate to have had a succession of great people to help build my business into what it is today.

Anyway, fast forward a few years and the company had grown to around 6 full-time employees, things were going well or so I thought. Then one day Aron said to me “can we have a quick chat?”. Not thinking much of it, I said: “Sure, what’s up?”

He then told me he was leaving and handed me a letter of resignation.

I was calm as I listened to his reasons why, but man it was painful. When you’ve built a small company, it feels like you’re just a bunch of friends building some products, it’s all very personal. Later that evening I remembering thinking “Oh crap, how am I ever going to replace him, what the hell am I going to do now!”. This was swiftly followed by me asking myself, “why would he want to leave? what if other people leave…”, needless to say, this was all rather unsettling.

I got over it, you have too. The business adapted and changed, and things worked out. When someone decides to leave a business, it’s a waste of time trying to convince them to stay, they’ve made up their mind. Don’t offer them more money to stay because if they do stay, they’ll still end up being unhappy and will probably leave in six months anyway. By trying to convince them to stay you’re just deferring the problem.

Sometimes when people leave they just don’t want anything to do with you (or the business), and that’s sad. Perhaps it’s a bit like when lovers break up. I don’t know. I stay in contact with Aron and a few of the others that have left, and I like that.

When someone leaves a business it’s a great time to evaluate things and look at the bigger picture. Don’t automatically rush to hire a replacement. Perhaps the business has changed over time and you’d like to move things in a slightly different direction.

Try to make the best out of what can be a stressful time within any small business and use it to your advantage.

Dan Counsell @dancounsell