14 Feb How I Felt When My Most Loyal Employee Resigned
‘Never work with friends or family’ is about the shallowest advice I have ever received. I have done both. And, in the cases, that people didn’t start off as friends or family and stayed around, they definitely turned into just that. I guess that’s partly because of who I am. I don’t like half-assing things. You’re either in or you’re not. But I would mainly say it’s because of the terrific group of people I have been lucky enough to surround myself with.
When Sofie came to her job interview 10 years ago, there were 2 reasons my husband and I decided to hire her as my first employee. First, she knew what she was talking about and had a solid track record as an office manager. Second, when she matter-of-factly mentioned she had been driving to an empty office every day during her ex-boss’ summer vacation just to feed the rabbit, we figured this woman was in the habit of going the extra mile.
And she did. Together we went one million miles. And the road was beautiful and bumpy. We started in a small office space that in later years we lovingly referred to as ‘the shed’. Whenever the phone rang, Sofie jumped up, startled by the exceptional interruption of total silence. It was just her, me and the dog Lucy. One year into our collaboration, the crisis hit. One customer after another cancelled the trainings, they had booked with us. I made Sofie pick up the phone, because I couldn’t deal with it anymore. We were staring at an empty agenda. Time for sales, but the problem was, no client was seeing potential suppliers anymore due to ‘no budget at the moment’. Sofie strapped her mud boots and suggested to organize a ‘road show’. “If we show up at their work with something special, they won’t be able to refuse us”. And that’s just what we did and what probably saved us. Many training companies went down in the time, but not only did we come out, we used the crisis as an opportunity to turn our company and solutions around. And ever since, I felt like an invincible warrior with Sofie by my side.
There are my many reasons I would say we have had a successful and the most amazing collaboration. There was mutual respect for our differences and talents. Sofie was my left brain and the bad cop whenever I needed one. We both had this ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’ mentality. We both like to celebrate, eat and drink. As Belgians, I think food and drinks are the glue for the best relationships. But I think the most amazing thing about Sofie, is that in 10 years, I never ever saw her do even the slightest thing that was not with the best interest of CUTE and myself at heart.
I couldn’t be prouder of everything we accomplished together. Sofie gave me my wings to focus on creativity and innovation and being with our customers, and all the while she was building the foundation for a real company.
So, was there anything I would do differently? Sure, lots of things. Was it all perfect? Well, to be honest, it almost was, but it was real life of course.
In the conversation that she told me she was ready for something new in her life and was resigning, we both cried. I thanked her for everything that she had done although that wasn’t possible, and we said we loved each other. Because if someone devotes 10 years of their life with all their energy, integrity and focus on helping you build the one thing you are most proud of in your life, you can’t help but be a bit unprofessional and say you love them. I also asked her if there was something I should have done differently and should do more or less of with the team. Because they’re amazing and I want to keep everyone as long as I can with us. And she gave me the best advice ever. One we give training on, but it’s like with doctors that don’t do check-ups and meds for themselves either. She advised me to never miss a check-in with a team member, to always put if first, to stay connected. To be is to be related. Yes, even in business.
So, what am I feeling now? Gratitude and a strange sense of excitement for new beginnings. For Sofie, for me, for CUTE. I cannot explain it, because she knows she is always welcome back in the CUTE world. Maybe it’s the new year, that makes me reflective on that change is constant and new opportunities always come with that.
Thank you, Sofie, for 10 amazing years, what we built together and good luck. And see you for after-work drinks.