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He ALSO Deserved to be Fired. . .

January 21, 2013

“Rodney, this is Brock. I’m calling you rather than go in and wake up Sam for the third time this morning.”

I was President of RESMARK, a startup software company building a reservation system for the whitewater rafting industry. We were under a crunch to get version 1.0 our software built in time for Confluence, a rafting convention in Salt Lake City.

Brock not only ran one of the biggest rafting companies in the country, he was also my investor and the only source of income for our fledgling company. We had installed an Alpha version of our software in Brock’s offices in Salt Lake City and it was requiring more attention that we had expected to keep it up and running.

RESMARK, like many startups had big goals and dreams and a tiny budget. It didn’t seem tiny to Brock when he had to write the checks every month.

I’d recently brought Sam on as a project manager over Brock’s objections. The hope was that Sam would pick up the organizational aspect the project, and help us free up our developers, and especially our Development Director to focus on writing code. That was the plan.

In addition, Sam and I were to split time in Salt Lake at Brock’s office. We needed one manager in our Orem office, and the other could help hold the hands of the users in Salt Lake. Yeah, that was the plan.

Sam and I had been working on this plan for the past and today, was the first day we were trying it out. I knew there was tension between Sam and Brock, but hoped most of it would be directed at me since it was my decision to hire him. I did not expect Sam to fall asleep. . .three time. . .before lunch.

Brock and I talked a little more about it,

“The last time it was pretty tough to wake him up. It’s kind of freaking out the receptionists. This is your problem. I expect you to fix it.”

Okay, then.

“Say Dave, what would it do to the production schedule if we had to let Sam go?”

“Probably move it up by about a month.”

Double okay, then.

I had to call Sam’s phone twice before he picked up.

“Yeah, I know we agreed that you’d spend the day in Salt Lake, but something’s come up and I need to see you back here in the office. . .yeah, right away.”

Dave and I met with him in my office.

“I’m going to need your office keys. Today, in fact, right now is your last day.”

“Well, I’d like to know what I’m being let go for.”

“What the *&%$ were you thinking!?!”

“I didn’t fall asleep!”

“It doesn’t matter. The client, and our investor THINKS that you did.”

Had he offered any reasonable explanation, it might have been harder to let him go. If he’d owned up to his own actions, and recognized how those actions impacted the rest of his coworkers, we could have had a conversation. But, as it was, he had removed any possibility of salvaging the situation.

We didn’t gain a month in the schedule, but we did ship on time. Brock and his staff were somewhat mollified that Sam was no longer with us. And I learned a valuable lesson. As much as I want to protect my teams, there are times where the only solution is to let someone go.

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