The hardest work thing I have ever done – Part I

For those of you who are really in the know about Ripple, you know that I laid off three members of my management team about five weeks ago. Which is to say – almost all of my management team. Why?

Why would I let three people of their caliber get away? All three – passionate, smart, driven and loyal. Really the kind of folks you dream of hiring. All three great friends. All three the kind of person most aspire to be like.

The short version was cost, and the balance of producers with managers. We simply could not support so many managers, so many "departments" with so few people reporting to them. Everyone understood that at some level, and everyone was supportive of the decision, albeit sad  – including the three folks on the losing end of the choice.

But the bigger question I ask is: How did I get here? How did I get to place where I had three people on my team that I could let go? Because we had no particular catastrophe; no big loss in revenues, no big jump in expenses, no one had screwed something up. We just got to an unsustainable place very slowly.

And upon reflection, it was the slowness. Ripple has been around a long time. Those folks had mostly worked here a very long time. And I tend to see people for what they deserve first, and what suits the company second (martyr alert!). That is the part of me that wants to develop people, which is, of course, the really fun part of the job.

Every one them deserved the job they had, the title they enjoyed, the salary they earned. The truth is – had I made a series of earlier hard decisions, I wouldn’t have had one big hard decision later. We never had a need for all of the positions we had, but we had people that belonged in those positions. People I care about a great deal. People I had to look in the eye and fire – for no fault of their own.

Balancing fast growth with stability is a hard thing to do. I think I always understood the challenges of growing quickly- simply that it is a difficult endeavor, and that it requires a lot of energy, planning and effort. But people rarely talk about the downside of growing slowly. That people develop in their careers – and that they deserve to. But that energy has to be absorbed somewhere. Either in smart decisions… or in hard ones.

2 thoughts on “The hardest work thing I have ever done – Part I

  1. Mike, sorry to hear about the big decision. Vascent (vascent.com) recently went through something similar. In the end, the shareholders elected to close down the firm on 11/10/07 after a decade of service.

    I had left a year prior to start another firm — Sherpa Web Studios sherpawebstudios.com. So not all was lost. I retained the “top” clients and employees and am continuing.

    Balancing fast growth with stability is a very hard thing to do. Vascent went through two growth spurts. Our most recent one was in 2006 where we more than doubled in revenue and size. However, 2007 couldn’t continue that energy, people got sloppy, others got greedy, and poor decisions were made.

    If I could grow consistently and steadily at 20%, I would feel success. 16 months into Sherpa, we are on paced for that very target. We have said no to many opportunities, but I think we are doing our current clients a better service by first ensuring we can take care of their needs.

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