Aug 29, 2020

If you want to care, be ready to get wounded. If you want to reach for the skies, be ready to fall flat on your face. If you want to fight for something, get ready to get hit.

Last week was THE low point of my working life. I let people go.

Two years ago, I left the corporate world with dreams of creating something special. I started with a company of one. After a few months we became three and I realized my calling, to create as many jobs as possible. We got lucky and through a movie-like turn of events and we got integrated into another company of 98 people. My dream of creating a lot of jobs suddenly got accelerated. I went for a goal: 1,000 employees in 7 years. And we were on-track. 98 grew to 160. Business soared. And this year, I had an incredibly good feeling that we will hit 220 – 225. I started thinking, maybe 1,000 jobs in 7 years is too low a target.

And then COVID happened in March. And after 5 months of trying to hold on to everyone, it was clear we could not anymore when the government reported a -16.5% GDP drop.

It was heart-wrenching for me. My head and my heart knew that I lost. Instead of adding jobs, we were now responsible for adding even more unemployment. And the sad thing is, as heart-breaking as it was for me, it was probably even more heart-breaking for those who were let go. They were good people and did not deserve to suddenly lose their jobs. But it was needed to save the jobs of the rest.

Imagine going to work one day, thinking it was just another normal day – and within the day having to tell your family that you are now unemployed. The anxiety of not having a paycheck during these times is immense. And the inevitable question of, “Am I not good enough?” will always be there. My prayers go out to those retrenched – and even though we tried to help them with whatever we could, it does not change the fact that we hurt their lives.

And one big thing that I realized from all these, is that those retrenched are not even the ones who were most hurt. The employees that were kept aboard felt the most pain. A small company like ours is like a family. And if you were not retrenched you will feel a combination of sadness, anger, and even guilt. While those retrenched can choose to immediately move on to the next phase – those left behind will find it harder to do so.

And of course, there is the never-ending anxiety for those left in the company. Anxiety that this retrenchment may not be the last one. Everything that happens in the company now has a cloud of “Is this being done because we are going to retrench again?”. And it doesn”t even matter how many times I say “We are not planning for another round; we will do everything to avoid another one. We have a plan and we will be fine for as long as we all work together on delivering the plan.” There is no more trust – and this is very painful because we have worked so hard to build a trusting organization. Even the retrenchment decision was made to take care of the organization. It is like getting bitten by a snake on the leg. And the only way to save the person, was to cut-off the leg.

A few days after the actual retrenchment, I messaged one of my mentors. I told him “For each person I had to let go, I will find a way to hire 10 more in their place in the future.” To which he replied, “Why do you dream so low? Why do you have too little faith? You should be dreaming of someday hiring thousands.”

And I was instantly reminded that though this battle has been lost, the war is not over until I say it is.

If you want to care, be ready to get wounded. If you want to reach for the skies, be ready to fall flat on your face. If you want to fight for something, get ready to get hit.

And then after you are wounded, after you fall flat in your face, after you get hit – dust yourself, get back up, and go at it again.

Aug 29, 2020

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