Running a business is a long chain of choices that if done right will keep the business healthy and thriving, and if done wrong will crush your business in the end. Many of these choises are very difficult to make – simply because they are not very nice and they affect peoples lives in a negative way.
Last fall I had a very hard choice to make – and the decision I finally landed on costed several employees their jobs.
The background for this was that we had expanded in to several fields that we originally had stayed out of. Our original core business was link building, but at this point Devenia became more and more of a full service agency covering everything from building the website, hosting it to promoting it. We even provided logo design, and corporate design as well . What I thought was that it’s better to provide more services to handle as big part as possible of each of our clients online marketing needs, and several of them did in fact insist on us handling it for them sinse they were tired of dealing with many providers themselves.
By itself, I guess the above idea of being a full-service online marking company was not a bad idea, but it turned out that it did not quite suit our culture. In fact, the whole thing spun out of control very quickly, because we got closer and closer to directly losing money.
The consequences of my poor judgement just got worse and worse for every month, and in the end I found myself occupied with solving internal problems instead of actually bringing more business to the company or developing our system. For every 100 mails I received, 90 of them where internal things. Before this, I had to deal with maybe 10 client-mails a day. At this point it had turned in to a never endig stream of internal stuff ranging from discussions to direct quarrels between employees.
Of course some would now say that what I have described is normal and what you have to expect from a company in growth. I agree – there is nothing unusual about it, but it had a damaging effect on our profits, and it would have crushed us eventually if nothing had been done to rectify the situation.
In early January I realized that I had to make that unpleasant round of calls to the affected staff, and I had to let them go.
The art of hard choices is a very unpleasant path to walk, but it’s very important to realize that running a company is not about being popular – it’s all about profitability and building something solid that have the potential to last.
In the end, it all went pretty OK, and we are more profitable than ever.
What are your experiences? Is there a way to do something like I describe without having to do the really hard choices?