Fired from your own company

Entrepreneurs always have funny incidents to share! They are funny to all who are listening to it and it becomes funny even to the entrepreneur in hindsight. But when they are going through the funny incident, it is pretty serious and full of stress and anxiety. One such incident is – “getting fired from your own company”.

The man who really made this popular was Steve Jobs when it happened to him at Apple. Of course over time he did come back to Apple and restore its glory. In the process he did raise himself to a different pedestal as well. But when he was fired from his own firm, life was tough. He had to acknowledge the challenge, accept the reality, handle himself, whip up his entrepreneurial spirits and start again so as to get moving ahead in life. In recent times I came across an article where George Zimmer faced a similar challenge. Here is the write up: http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2013/12/09/george-zimmer-mens-wearhouse/

But the reason why I am writing this is because I had an interaction last week with one of the entrepreneurs in India who is going through a similar turmoil. He seemed surprised on how this could happen! When I shared the above two stories he acknowledged that this situation is actually possible. There are many reasons why it happens:

A more influential co-founder takes over the firm and asks you to leave or informs you about the decision

An outsider who comes in and becomes a stronger voice within the firm thereby establishing himself/herself

A rift between the founders divides the firm and the stronger or smarter one always edges out the other

And many more…

In the case of this young entrepreneur, their friendship was broken as the success grew. But little rifts and petty quarrels were ignored which eventually led to formation of two entities (not literally, but subtly) within the same firm. Over time when bigger decisions needed to be taken, it led to outsiders using this weakness to wedge the firm and eventually get one of the founders (the softer or more emotional one) out of the firm.

While it is a difficult situation for every founder to handle, in most cases they can be avoided or at least made less surprising! A business should be treated as a business and given respect as a separate entity apart from the individual founders. When this is done early, enough transparency can be maintained between the founders on company matters. This leads to a healthy relationship between founders, investors as well as people working closely with the founding team. Even early stage employees start enjoying the business and are clear on how the firm will progress. If this is not done, the business is always seen as an extension of the founding team. If this view persists emotions are bound to play their role, teams are always attached to people and there is always the possibility of factions within the firm. It becomes inevitable. Founders need to keep their enterprise creation efforts separate from their team building efforts. This helps keep emotions at check and enable build a healthy business. And this also reduces the possibility of such surprises, such as getting fired from your own company!

It is not a funny incident once you delve into the details, but learn to laugh at it and move on in life was my advice to this young entrepreneur. If he wanted to handle this problem, it should have been done way early, not now. Worrying over lost opportunity is not an entrepreneurial trait – so accept reality, build resilience and get back on the path to being entrepreneurial. Perseverance to the cause pays in the long term.

After a bit of mentoring, he is now back to the drawing board, trying to build his next start-up! My wishes to him to kick-start and build the enterprise of his dreams again!

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