The Worst Thing About a Startup

The worst thing about a startup is what we’re going through now: having to get rid of someone. It is bad enough when it is clear the person is not a good fit – sure, it will be better for both you and them in the long run, but the timing is never good and it never feels good to go through the process. It is even worse when the person is a reasonable fit but you have to let them go because of cash flow or other indirect reasons. How do you tell them this? “It’s not you, it’s me” seems a little trite for such a life-altering thing. I’m sure in this case the people involved will be able to find something else quickly – maybe something better. I’ve heard the stories from the old days where someone was laid off from SGI and soon found a job at a little startup called eBay (pre-IPO!). I think the people who retained their jobs at SGI were the ones who felt bad in that situation once the friend made their millions. Is that what makes this worse? The feeling that this wouldn’t be happening if the company were successful? If we had made better decisions? If we hadn’t wasted that money earlier on overpriced, ineffective sales people? If we had tried to get that next round of funding earlier? I’ve often heard executives use that as justification for their high salaries – they need to make these high-stress decisions that affect the lives of everyone in the company, and they need to carry that responsibility.

Somehow, though, making that decision cannot be nearly as bad as actually being the person who loses their job.

Anyways, I will hope this is not the first of an ongoing series as I keep finding new “worst things.”


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