People who Leave; and People Who Stay

I remember every staff member who has ever resigned from my businesses. That may sound like hyperbole but I believe it’s true. It hurts to have someone leave.

I have never understood, as an entrepreneur, the idea that you leave the place where you work. Of course I understand people whose lives careen off the road and who, therefore, have to make unforeseen decisions: to return to another city or to change career paths entirely.

But people who have signed up to do a job, I have always felt, need to make it work. If it’s not good they need to find a different way to do it so that it is. This, after all, is your life and you are in control.

Of course I understand that I am in a unique position having never applied for a job or been for a job interview. Every day of my working life has been in a company I have founded. Perhaps this is why the “will to leave” mystifies me.

I suppose this is something that runs deep in me. I am always the last one to give up hope – in work or in my personal life. Since many people see me as a cynic and someone perpetually pointing out things that could go wrong, this surprises them. Perhaps they mistake my determination for stubbornness. In fact it is far more to do with the simple idea that there is always another way; options unexplored; a reason to believe.

I’ll get back to employee departures in a moment. But I should say a little more on this strand here.

I have seen my share of hopeless situations in my life: company’s on the brink of bankruptcy; projects with impossible deadlines, hopelessly broken and irredeemably off course; personal relationships burned to a cinder with the fire of anger and frustration.

But I think the difference between someone who wins and someone who loses in life is the ability to see through the immediate hardships regardless of how impossible they may be. Let me say that again: regardless of how impossible.

And impossible comes in many forms. It is, in the end, a feeling that you cannot and will not succeed no matter what you try. The ability to face that head on and keep going separates the good from the great.

Which brings me back to staff. I see a lot of people who leave businesses because they encounter hardship in one form or the other. Sometimes for a sustained period. Opportunity abounds, there is greener grass everywhere, and so they move on.

Which is their choice, and, to the extent that they are leaving my company, my own fault.

But I realise in thinking about this now that my hurt stems, at least in part, from the mismatch between my hope and their pessimism. Whatever is wrong we can improve. Giving up is giving up on a chance to learn and grow into a place of discomfort and through it.

This probably means I am likely to go down with the proverbial ship in all spheres of my life. When others have pressed self-destruct I have departed reluctantly, kicking and screaming, and with an abiding sense that if I’d just had another hour. Another day. Another year. That everything would have been better.

And you know what? In almost all cases where I’ve found that extra time, it has been.