When you’re working in a small business with a small team, every person is a pillar that the business stands on. It can therefore be roof-shattering when, for a host of different reasons, one of your key players decides, or has to, leave the team. It might not be because Jimmy got a better job at a competing firm; it might be because Suzie’s mom got sick and she needs to move to Antarctica for 6 months. Either way, what do you do when an important member of your team leaves? We’ve got tips to cover all your scenarios here.

Key Employee post1. Stay Calm

You’re an entrepreneur. You know: there’s risk involved with any investment. People are sometimes the biggest gamble because they’re flawed… and also, they change. While the company and the positon were a perfect fit last year, perhaps they’ve grown in one direction and the business has grown in another. Without putting a negative spin on it, lean heavily on acceptance. Lean on the resources you’ve used when any other investment has gone awry for a reasons that were out of your control. Entrepreneurial resilience is built in the moments we face challenge.

2. Stay Confident

Even if your employee made it clear it’s not them, it’s you: don't blame yourself. A great employer is proud that he empowered his team and helped them grow. Part of why Jimmy got hired elsewhere is the experience, skills and confidence he got from working with you whether they acknowledge it or not.

3. Stay on the Lookout

Did you know the Greek word crisis translates literally as to sift? Meaning that, when things get shaken up, some things land and are disrupted. But in the process, all the things that aren’t useful, or necessary (like, the out-of-date filing system, or the dysfunctional relationship with your water delivery guy) may need to be updated. Look for chances to build back up from a stronger foundation. Maybe other team members can take on some of their duties. Maybe you can restructure, outsource, or do any number of things that might potentially result in you saving company dollars. Could be a great team building exercise with other team members.

4. Stay Organized

If you’re feeling panicked because your systems are in disarray and you don’t know how you’ll recover because the process for that service, or the interactions with that client, were all in someone’s head: use this as a wake-up call. Life happens in the midst of our responsibilities. Don’t get so bogged down by the day-to-day that you forget to take the time to record and implement appropriate policies and procedures. If something unspeakable happened you’d have what you need have someone new step into any role immediately… including you.

5. Stay United

If your employee has direct contact with your customers, ensure you’re all speaking the same language about why they’re leaving. Ideally, this should be decided upon between you within the same conversation that they give you notice to avoid any confusion or cross over of communication. Have this conversation with the rest of your team to ensure you’re all sharing this language, and come up with a way you can help ease everyone through the transition… including you.

6. Stay Team Human

Regardless of the reasons, it’s never easy for anyone to make the decision to leave. We form deep bonds with the people we work with, and parting ways is hard on everyone. These are people that helped you build your company; people you shared personal and professional triumphs and losses with. Make an effort to stay in touch: keep your doors open and your bridges burn-free. Even if the effort isn’t reciprocated, help them understand you’re happy they made a choice that feels right for them.

Also, be the bigger person and acknowledge their contribution. Help them understand it will be hard to lose them and their work is valued. If they’ve moved on for a different opportunity they consider a success, it’s a success on both sides.

Good luck in your transitions, superstars. 

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