When Your Best Team Member Quits

business development business growth business resilience business strategy business sustainability ceo employee retention employee turnover entrepreneurial challenges entrepreneurial mindset female founders founder hiring strategy leadership leadership challenges leadership mindset leadership skills managing change organizational change small business leadership staffing solutions successful entrepreneurship team building team leadership team management team management skills Mar 04, 2024


In this week's episode of Leadership is Feminine, Kris Plachy dives into the tough reality of losing key team members unexpectedly in your growing business. She acknowledges the emotional toll it takes and provides insightful guidance on how to navigate these challenging moments.

Throughout the episode, Kris emphasizes the inevitability of change in business and the importance of being prepared for it. She encourages listeners to maintain a proactive hiring strategy and always be on the lookout for new talent, even during periods of stability. Kris also urges her audience not to take departures personally, emphasizing that employees won't have the same level of attachment to the business as the founder or CEO.

Kris skillfully addresses the emotional reactions that may arise when faced with unexpected turnover, reminding her audience that they possess the knowledge and capability to handle these challenges. She highlights the need for developing systems and infrastructure to support the hiring process.

An important takeaway from the episode is Kris's belief that despite the setbacks, female founders in leadership roles are fully capable of overcoming obstacles. She urges them not to give up when faced with employee departures, reinforcing the message that they have the strength and resources to persevere.

“We have to have line of sight into our business and know what our mitigation plans are if anybody quits. We have to have a hiring strategy that invites us to always be hiring. Always be nurturing your next best hire. Always be looking for them.”

Key Takeaways From This Episode

  1. Challenges of Losing Key Team Members: The feelings that come up, but also, the need to handle immediate business needs.
  2. Understanding the nature of business and team dynamics: The reality of employee turnover and being proactive in hiring and nurturing talent.
  3. Overcoming Emotional Reactions and Mindset Shifts: Replacing emotional reactions with a proactive mindset.
  4. Challenging the Belief in the Permanence of a Great Team: Cultivating the mindset of always being prepared for change.
  5. The Necessity of Investing in Understanding Team-Building and Leadership: Embracing employee turnover as an inevitable part of business.
  6. Moving Forward and Seeking Help: Emphasizing the availability of resources and support for handling these challenges

Contact Information and Recommended Resources

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Well, hello, welcome to Leadership is Feminine. I'm so glad you're here. We're going to talk about a real problem. It's very real. Are you ready?

You built this gorgeous business. You worked tirelessly with me, or someone else, or by yourself. And you built an amazing team and everything was perfect. And you were finally starting to like not have to be in the weeds as much and like a little extra time and you were starting to feel like the gift of all of the hard work. And then your favorite employee quit unexpectedly or a bunch of people quit unexpectedly. Something happened. People just...

And there's no path. Like, one's moving here, the other one's husband got transferred to Jamaica, the other one is this, the other one is, you know, just doesn't want to work anymore. There's no common, "I hate you, I don't want to work for you anymore." It just all happened.

And you're sitting there now with your head in your hands, like, "I don't, I don't know if I can do this again. I don't know if I have this in me to do this again." I get it. And I also want to acknowledge that's real. Like, that's legit running a company. You're not alone. That's not a you thing. That's a thing.

And it happens in big companies and little companies. Problem is, is in smaller companies. We feel it harder. And so then the question becomes, "What do I do? Do I just go back in and start running it again? What do I do? I thought, I thought I wasn't supposed to do that. Now I'm like a big CEO. I'm a founder. I'm like, I have people. I'm not supposed to do this. I don't know. What do I do?" And I think that we have to kind of break this down. Right?

So before we get to what you maybe could do. Let's just talk about what's happening. The first thing I always ask a client when they get to a call and they say this to me, which this happens like all of a sudden, like, you know, I mean, I work with people who, most of my clients have at the most 25, 30 people on their team. Some of them have really big teams, but not all, right? So like you lose four people on a team of 16. Ouch. Like, you feel that it doesn't even matter what role they're in. You just feel that. And so does the rest of the team, right?

So we first just have to sort of be like, okay, yeah. Ouch. This, we didn't see this coming. And the first order of business is what needs to be handled today. Like what do we have to get through? And I know you know that, but I need to remind you, you can do this. And I think that the problem this hits so hard, there's a couple reasons. The first reason it hits so hard is you take it personally because we run smaller companies. We tend to feel like this relationship with people. We feel a lot of loyalty. Maybe we think they do too, you know, all those things.

And then we're sort of go through this process of being reminded of like, "Oh, I had a job here. This isn't their company. They don't have the same relationship with my business as I do." No one ever will. And even if they loved working with me, and for me, and in this company, nobody probably is forever except for you. And so the challenge when we have a great team, and if you've worked with me in the past, you will have heard me say, if everything's amazing on your team right now, let's just have a minute.

Let's just be like, "Oh, this is good." Let's just be happy that it's good. Because at any given moment, it may not be. And that is part of the deal that you made when you decided to start a business.

Now, the part of the business that I know you sort of relish in these moments is when it was just you and like two people and you guys didn't need all these people and so much could be done and you don't have to rely on a whole huge team. I know there's that moment where you're like, "God, I just wish it was this," right? I get it.

But the belief that somehow, once you have a great team, you're going to have them forever, that's a lie. And a lot of us, I think, get lulled into this belief, even though logically I know you don't believe it. I know that when I say it, you're like, "Yeah, I know". But there is this part of you. I think it's almost like a, it's almost like your nervous system and your sort of visceral system sort of like, as soon as you have all these pieces and parts filled and everybody's kind of doing their thing and you don't have to do some of the stuff you used to do and you've got, right? But it's like, there's this part of you that just sort of. Oh, eases into this. As you should.

However, change is always around the corner. And as leaders, we have to be prepared for change. We have to have line of sight into our business and know what our mitigation plans are if anybody quits. We have to have a hiring strategy that invites us to always be hiring. Always be nurturing your next best hire. Always be looking for them. Always.

Even if you said to me, "But Kris, it's so good right now. I have an amazing C suite," even right? You've built this team of people. Maybe you have vice presidents and you have managers. You have all these people. You're like, "No, listen, these people are my people. Like we are so happy. Everybody's happy. We just had the best Christmas party. We just had the best year together. Like we are so happy. Everything's great."

Yes. And I want you to love this time. And you know how I know you can love it more? You can keep your eyes open because change is around the corner. You have to always be the custodian for the business for as long as we remain active in it.

So if you built a gorgeous team once, guess what? I know you can do it again. And, not so subtle plug, if you had worked with me, you would have the process in place for replacing all those positions and you would be able to do so quickly.

I just had someone just recently lose a couple people very, very much like boom, boom, boom. But do you know what? Within two weeks, boom, boom, boom. She had three new great candidates. I think she decided to hire all of them. She lost two, hired three. Why? Job descriptions done. Job duties clear. Onboarding much clearer than it was before.

Once you have that, it's not like it was. It's just like when you first started making money, I want you to like go back to that. Like when you first thought, "Oh, I'm going to make money selling the thing I want to sell". Right? Like what a lunatic idea that you had. And yet you decided to do it. Do you remember that?

And you made some money. And then like, maybe you made money like two or three months in a row. And then you didn't make any. And you were like, "Wait, I have to keep making money. Money doesn't just keep getting made. I have to keep making money." Right. And then you keep building the business and keep building the business and keep making money.

So now if I talk to you as the founder of a million dollar plus business, I wouldn't, you wouldn't say to me, "Oh my God, you are not going to believe this. I have to keep, I have to keep making money. Oh, I don't know if I can keep doing." I know you don't say that. You might say that about a lot of other things, like, you know, I, if you're my kind of client, you're not talking about your money like that. You're like, "Listen to me. I can make money hiring a new team."

Now, listen, now we're pushing it, right? But that's the same thing. When you decide you're going to run this gorgeous business and build it and serve all these people and make this dent in the world, you're always going to be hiring people. You're always going to be losing people. The bigger your team gets, the more people you'll lose. The bigger your team gets, the more people you guys are going to have to hire.

Now, do you have to do all those hires? No. Do you have to absorb all this personal angst when people quit? A hundred percent no. I just talked to a client yesterday. Five people quit in the month of January. Just freaking out, understandably.

I'm like, "Okay, but you're not hiring those people, right?" And then we sort of work through it. She's like, "No, I'm not doing that."

She's got someone else handling that. I'm like, "Well, that's good to know".

She's like, "I'm just afraid we won't be able to fulfill all of our contract work."

I'm like, "Okay. Have you put it on a schedule? Have you looked at it?" Well, it's been pouring rain. They work outside. They haven't even had to hardly work in January. Like, okay, so that's not really a problem. That's just something you want to be worried about. You have time to hire. Let's not be worried. Let's just get to work. You know what to do.

That part of you that wants to have a little bit of a tantrum that says, "This is too hard. I don't want to do this again." That part of you is old news. That's the version of you who didn't know how to do it. That's the version of you who had to figure it all out. That's the version of you who had no infrastructure, no systems, no practices, no clue.

My hope for you is that version of you isn't really you. You're just kind of, it's just a habit to go back to her. Like, "Ugh, people. I have to figure the people part out." Of course you do. Just like you have to find clients, and customers, and make products, and deliver them. Part of the deal. Never changes.

I think for a lot of entrepreneurs, that's, you know, why I try and yell from the rooftops. So, you know, if you know someone who's a female founder, will you please invite them to listen to this podcast? I just, even if no one, if they never hire me, I do believe that having this voice, having these ideas in their brain will help them.

Because I do think we have a really interesting, a lot of entrepreneurs, and I see this in a lot of the space that I sort of touch. A lot of entrepreneurs spend a lot of their time figuring out how to make money, how to get customers and how to make money. How to get customers and how to make money.

And listen, until you have a provable business model, you need to do that. If you don't have a business model that is able to generate consistent revenue, then you do have to figure out what that is. I agree. Because you can't design a team around a business that doesn't make money.

But because we overemphasize becoming these very successful, highfalutin, making tons of money entrepreneurs, we're not emphasizing the leadership skill required to sustain it.

And so I've watched quite a few people really face challenges when they didn't invest in understanding how to build a team. And that's why they get to these moments where everybody quits. And they're like, "I can't, I don't know how to do this. I really don't know if I can do this again. I don't know."

And to me, that sentence is so inane. What do you mean you can't do this again? That is what you do when you're leading a business that's generating three, four, five, eight, 12, 15 million dollars, you know what you are? You are the captain. You are the person who has to identify and staff the team. Can you imagine a football coach? "Oh, I can't believe I have to recruit new players."

What are you talking about? Of course you do. We know- and that's so obvious, right, for football. So obvious for a sports team. Yeah. Right. You're like a high school. "Oh, I can't believe we have to bring new people in." Yes, you do. Because you're going to graduate seniors.

People leave. People don't stay. You do. It's your company. You don't leave. Everybody else probably will. I'm really sorry if that bums you out. But it's the truth, mama. Which is why you can't build your whole business around one person. You know that, right? That's another podcast. You have to get this part or you will just suffer all the time.

I know I've used this analogy before. It's like, "Oh, I can't believe I have to brush my teeth again." Yes, we do brush our teeth because we like to have non stinky face.

So if you're faced with this moment, let's not indulge the tantrum. Let's not indulge all the fears that you have that you can't do this again and you don't have this in you and this is too much. How about we just remember this is part of the deal and if it was about revenue, you would figure it out. If it was about marketing, you would figure it out. If it was about a product not working anymore, you would figure it out.

You know what you're going to do right now? You're going to figure it out. Because you know why? Because you can. Because you have. And because, if you don't feel like you can do it on your own, you could call me. Because I could help you. So you're not alone. So I don't buy that. You're only alone, and you're going to only be frustrated and suffer, if you choose to do it by yourself and without resources and help.

But otherwise, let's frickin go. You have a promise to deliver on and that gorgeous business that you created, it wants you. It wants you to do this and it doesn't want you to give up because four people quit. That isn't a good enough reason. Don't do that. Okay.

All right. I'll talk to you next week. If you come back again.

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