You CAN’T do it alone

His wife was a week away from giving birth, she was unemployed and I had to lay him off because I didn’t see the obvious.

It was 2009 and I was the CEO of a small software company and we were starting to feel the effects of the banking crisis. Our top customer was a bank and they were slowing their spend, reducing their team and that was hurting my business.

I thought, like many inexperienced younger CEOs, that it was my responsibility to shoulder and shield. Shoulder the weight of the crisis and shield the team from the reality. The opposite is true. By keeping anything from the team it robbed them of their ability to make any decisions — especially about their own future.

When I finally explained our situation to the team it was too late to save 7 employees, including the soon-to-be father. After the dust settled and the wounds were healing, the remaining company took me to task for not letting them be a part of the solution. They were there for a reason. They believed. They just needed to be included in the good and the bad.

Laying people off because of something out of your control is one thing. Doing it because you didn’t adjust is something completely different. It took me until that day in 2009 to realize that business is not a solo mission.