Don’t Worry – People Know

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Recently our industry has seen a lot of shifts. People selling companies, people acquiring companies, companies merging, and sadly… companies falling apart or people within the company disagreeing or parting ways.

I have talked about how out of the 10 times or so I have tried to form a company with friends its only worked out once. I am guessing that is a little below average for most but that’s just from my experience.

I am certainly not discouraged from doing it in the future, in fact I feel much more educated in what to look for in business partners.

Here is the meat of this post. Over my last 7 years I have seen many people split ways and whenever it happens, especially when I am good friends with the parties involved, I always hear about how one side is bashing the other, or how one side is talking shit about the other, or how one side is trying to ruin the others reputation.

The bottom line is people know, or they will know.

I have never in the past (nor will I in the future) talk bad in public about my former business partners. In fact I always always tell people when they ask about the situation that it was my fault it did not work. Usually they are asking because they are thinking about working with them.

I usually always say the same stuff. Just make sure you guys have a FIRM understanding of who is doing what. Make sure you have your legal ducks in order, and especially an exit clause that makes things simple if and when you part ways.

But again back to the point of this article. You can’t worry about what former employee’s and partners say about you. I have done business with some of the worst reputation wise people in the business and they turned out to be ok for what I hired them to do. Likewise I have done business with very recommended individuals and they were shit.

Again People Know. You either bring value or you don’t. It makes little sense to continue a relationship with someone if they no longer bring value. Thats all their is to it.

If you are hesitating on making changes to your company based on what people think. I highly recommend this post by Seth Godin.

Here is a small excerpt:

Every organization worth its salt has at least one guy like this. Someone who knows every technical detail, or has vast expertise in the parliamentary procedure. Perhaps he’s the coot who knows every verse of the Bible or is the only one with a Master’s license. Maybe he’s the guy (the only guy) who can fix that big machine.

And he’s a jerk.

He’s the first one to point out a minor technical glitch and the last guy to want to get on board with a new program. He hazes first-timers and avoids the people who are actually productive. Or he’s the one who can take any metaphor and make it literal, instantly, poking holes in it as he goes.

And of course, he’s the one everyone has to tiptoe around, because they know his technical status can sink their initiative.

I think you should fire this person immediately. Okay, maybe give him exactly one warning.

Its painful to fire people because you think nobody else can do their job, or because its going to be sooo hard to find people to replace them.

Its not.

94 thoughts on “Don’t Worry – People Know

      1. joonlee97

        Protect the needs of your business, but avoid working with the person when possible. Choose projects he or she does not impact. Don’t hurt your own career or your business, but avoidance is an option.

    1. Tool

      Well, it speaks a lot of the person’s character when he or she does that. It’s still best to take the higher ground and let history be the judge.

      1. PattyT12

        Pointing the finger at the other person when a partnership didn’t work out is such a — to say it bluntly — dick move to do. What do you think, Jeremy?

    2. Big Al

      The better person is the one who says the least or nothing at all of why a business relationship ended.

      1. nealcal

        Be pleasant and agreeable as you talk with the other person. They may not be aware of the impact of their words or actions on you. They may be learning about their impact on you for the first time. Or, they may have to consider and confront a pattern in their own interaction with people. Worst case? They may know their impact on you and deny it or try to explain it away. Unfortunately, some difficult people just don’t care. It’s either you end the partnership or know in the long run you’ll be dissed.

  1. Nick Stamoulis

    As a business person, you should always maintain that business is business and sometimes for whatever reason people do not work out. It’s always been my motto to never bash a matter what.

    1. Feeding Frenzy

      That’s a commendable thing to do. It’s like giving the other person a chance to do well in another job or business.

      1. floresparati

        My approach? Show appropriate sympathy for your partner but not empathy. Do not waiver and change your mind. Do not overstate any aspect of his or her performance.

  2. Gautam

    Actually, it’s not just in business, people are the same when it comes to relationships.

    Conclusion, it’s human behavior, one who knows how to control it, will be a better person in all aspects of life.

    1. Runs With Scissors

      I couldn’t agree more. By not saying anything bad about another person you’re essentially giving that person an opportunity to start fresh.

      1. H delacruz

        What if the person you’re offering all these nice intentions doesn’t have the heart to have a fresh start? That is the question I’d love to get answered on this thread.

  3. Kevin

    Business is business! If that person is not doing his or her job I’ll definitely be on a firing mood. But at the same time I would never talk down to a person like that. I just have to tell them like it is.

    I like the new blog look Mr Shoe!

    1. Sanjay

      There should be a limit to the number of chances you can give to someone who repeatedly disappoints or fails to deliver. Keeping a partnership intact may not be the best move in certain situations.

      1. Benito Salvatore

        Perhaps it’s only proper to give a person like that three warnings. The first one to make him realize he’s being annoying, the second to remind him he’s still being annoying and the third and last time to inform him that you’re fed up with his being annoying and it’s time to let him go and be annoying to other people. Thanks for the insightful post, Jeremy.

    2. Tammyexperiments

      Did you know that in the past, late Friday afternoon was considered the optimum time to let someone go? Now, earlier in the day or even the week is deemed appropriate. Some companies that take this approach offer the employee the option of either remaining for the rest of the day or week or leaving immediately with pay for the workday.

    1. Melanie Johnson

      The Social Network comes to mind. It’s a bit sad if tight friendships are ruined because of business-related issues. But then again, perhaps the friendship isn’t that solid to begin with.

      1. SmallBiz Sue

        Running a business can sometimes take its toll on friendships. But it doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t work. There are some businesses that thrived under the leadership of people who have been friends for a long time.

      2. Hans Anders

        Even if you’re friends with each other, there are things best left unsaid when in a business with a partners. Religion, politics and your sex life all fall under the heading of topics to avoid discussing with them. Many people consider these topics very personal and prefer to leave them out of the partnership you’ve established.

        1. EllaineR

          The great thing about working with friends is that you understand each other well to know how to do things seamlessly. The perspective’s a different matter though. Sometimes it takes people from the outside of that circle to recognize opportunities that you and your friend(s) may have missed out.

      3. RedBlack88

        Yeah, it’s a shame how the relationship between those two friends ended up in the courtroom. Nice movie, btw.

    2. Dandundun

      When you make a mistake at work or in a business, which everyone inevitably does at some point, face up to it. Don’t ignore your error or place the blame on others. Take responsibility and come up with a solution to fix your mistake.

  4. Dave Starr

    Great advice here. I’ve been in business or government service longer than a lot of readers here have been alive, and one of the most important things I have learned is, never, ever, bash former employers or the current competition.

    This is one situation where the famous “mother saying’ really rings true … if you can’t say something nice, just say nothing at all …. in the log run this will really pay off for you.

    Also, a tip regarding one of those situations where a guy/gal appears “indsspensible”.

    Resolve for 2011 to find an alternative for his/her lock on the job. Not only becuase s/he may be a real shit who makes work harder than it has to be, but because people leave in a huff or even die on you … plan now to replace the “indispensable man”.

    It will not only make your business stronger, it will likely cause the pain in the ass to learn some people skills and be less of a shit.

    Merry Christmas to all and best wishes for a really great 2011.

    1. sasha_482

      In a way it does entail a certain form of ruthlessness to do that otherwise it’d be extremely difficult.

  5. Nikki Stewart

    Not saying bad about former business partners or employees is a nice thing to do. At the end of the day, it’s up to the others to find out for themselves.

    1. Raul Lago

      Your relationships with your partners are important. Good partnerships can help you establish your business or brand better. They can make going to work everyday enjoyable. Ain’t that right, Shoe?

  6. Bowie

    I agree. It’s much better to let go of people who are not adding more value to the company or acting as bullies for whatever reason. There will always be someone who’ll do a better job.

    1. Dmitrii Anastas

      Remember just one thing: excuses separate the losers from the real champions. If you give a person of this disposition a warning and he listens, keep him on your bandwagon. If he gives you BS, ditch him. It’s that simple. Why make things so complicated?

  7. Austin

    Nice article! Not many would be willing to enter into business partnerships, especially with friends, after they’ve been burned in the past.

    1. Alan Alan

      There’s no way of knowing how a relationship, business or personal, would end up. Part of the risk that’s worth taking since the potential rewards often far outweigh whatever issues that might occur.

  8. New Bee

    I like what you said about not listening to what people say about you or others you’re thinking of working for you. It’s all a matter of perspective. Besides, some things just don’t work out with certain people but it doesn’t mean that they won’t be better off working on something else.

    1. B.Logan

      One of my favorite parts in the book. — “My goal in Purple Cow is to make it clear that it’s safer to be risky –to fortify your desire to do truly amazing things. Once you see that the old ways have nowhere to go but down, it becomes even more imperative to create things worth talking about.”

        1. Fridtjof Salomon

          Difficult people come in every conceivable variety. Some talk constantly and never listen. Others must always have the last word. I just ignore them until they get the message that I don’t want to take their BS.

  9. PokeYerFace

    Why saddle yourself with a partner or employee that’s just slowing the growth of a business, right? Most of the time the only best way forward is to remove existing or potential obstacles.

    1. Rylan Howie

      I think you deliberately missed a word in the title, Shoe. I believe the term you didn’t include was “douche bag.” Well, your best defense against these people is totally and completely ignoring them at all costs. They crave attention and taking it away is what kills them. It’s best not to encourage, not to reason with them, nothing. Ignore, ignore ignore. I know from experience this is easier said than done. Some do listen to warnings but most just cramp up your style.

    2. WhateverWorks

      But sometimes it’s the problems that occur with partners or staff that could give you invaluable feedbacks. It doesn’t automatically solve your problem if you get rid of the people who are causing you trouble. What if they have a point?

      1. Nicole Burns

        That’s true. Ignoring things has its downside. You might miss an opportunity to improve the way you manage your business.

  10. Phoenix

    I agree with shoe and I disagree. As someone who has called someone out and been called out themselves. I can agree that taking the higher road is more civil and respected by others. At the same time. If someone or an institution is continuing to perpetuate harm or fraud. The more people that do not speak up. The more people that will be harmed and how is that civil or good business? Most people when in a ‘fallout’ have their opinions and they are biased… “he screwed me over, she stole from me, he didnt do his part. etc.etc.” For the most part, lack of communication and understanding with a dose of responsibility is to blame. I have seen many times people agree to communicate BEFORE issues arise and yet still DO NOT. I would like to see more mediation than lawsuits and slander, but that would mean both parties admit to a problem and wanting to do something about the issue besides be right. Happy Holidays and May the World replace Anger with Education and Understanding :)

    1. Undercover Affiliate

      Very well said. And so true. There are indeed situations that call for certain parties to speak up.

      1. WanderingMommy

        Being in a business with a partner is just like marriage. A happy marriage is a matter of giving and taking. The husband gives and the wife takes, that is. Seriously, some partners attempt to undermine you and you constantly feel as if you need to watch your back. Best course of action? Show them that you’re better.

    2. Andrew Says So

      Sometimes people don’t learn from their mistakes if they’re not made aware of it. You can only let things go up to a certain extent.

      1. veronica_sm

        Well, you should start out by examining yourself. Are you sure that the other person is really the problem and that you’re not overreacting? Have you always experienced difficulty with the same type of person or actions? Does a pattern exist for you in your interaction with coworkers? Do you recognize that you have hot buttons that are easily pushed? (We all do, you know.) Always start with self-examination to determine that the object of your attention really is a difficult person’s actions.

      2. Ara600_m1

        The Advantages of Sole Proprietorship:

        Easiest and least expensive form of ownership to organize.

        Sole proprietors are in complete control, and within the parameters of the law, may make decisions as they see fit.

        Sole proprietors receive all income generated by the business to keep or reinvest.

        Profits from the business flow-through directly to the owner’s personal tax return.

        The business is easy to dissolve, if desired.

        Catch my drift?

  11. Will O.

    Not speaking ill of others’ is a great thing to do. People would most likely prefer to work with someone who they can trust not to say bad things about them if the business partnership fails.

    1. Heinrich Sture

      Personally, I believe bashing a former colleague after a partnership didn’t work out smoothly is such an unprofessional move. Not burning bridges no matter what happened between the two of you is my philosophy. There might be other suitable opportunities for the both of you in the future and burning the bridge early in the game will just complicate things. Got anything to add here, Jeremy?

  12. Vince

    There’s no way of knowing for sure if people will deliver like you expect them to. I like the idea of letting people go at the earliest signs of problem. That way there’s opportunity to find someone who would be able to contribute more.

  13. Ethan

    It depends on the situation. If the reason’s something that I can let slide then I have no problems keeping my thoughts to myself. But it’s an entirely different thing altogether if what the person did is something that could affect others.

    1. NicMoon

      You know what? Good manners are as important at partnerships as they are anywhere else. Keep this in mind when you are using your cell phone, sending email or attending an office party. Hopefully your colleague will follow your example. Works every time for me.

  14. Richard Pascal

    Let me congratulate you first on your site’s new look, Shoe. Great job on the aesthetics! Anyway, back to business. So you’re talking about the individual who has an over-inflated sense of self-worth, compounded (but not always the case) by a low level of intelligence, behaving ridiculously in front of colleagues no matter how moronic he or she appears? :P

  15. California Dreamin

    There are better things to do than say bad things about people who’ve done something bad to you or your business. As long as the damage done can be easily repaired then it’s pointless to talk about why a partnership ended.

  16. Pangeran

    It’s never that easy to fire a person.
    I’ve been in that situation.
    But to find a replacement does not as hard as we think. :)
    Especially if we contacts our dear friends or simply send our requirement to alumni service of several college or universities.

    1. ExclaimedIdeas

      Guy Kawasaki wrote: et people say goodbye and then get going. This is when leadership counts because any yoyo can run the show in good times. It’s bad times when you separate the men from the boys and the women from the girls.”

  17. Mark Mead

    Your actions would either refute or confirm what others say about you. So it’s best to focus on what you do instead of addressing the negative things your detractors say.

      1. medomoc

        It never hurts to do a good turn for others. I believe in karma and I think if you make others feel good, great things are in store for you in the long run.

  18. Fridtjof Salomon

    I know a guy that fits all of the above. Dealing with difficult people is easier when the person is just generally obnoxious or when the behavior affects more than one person. Dealing with difficult people is much tougher when they are attacking you or undermining your professional contribution. My course of action? Two words. “You’re fired!”

  19. georgeblanco

    No one is indispensable. Knowing that should be enough motivation for people to keep their doing their best.

  20. Manisha Sithembile

    I’ve experienced workplaces in which all sorts of dysfunctional approaches to dealing with a difficult coworker have been tried. Putting an anonymous note in the person’s mailbox is not an option. Placing a can of deodorant on a hygiene-challenged coworker’s desk is not a productive option either.

    1. Bryan Jake T

      Tell me about it. I’ve left a job once because of a difficult boss. A difficult co-worker I could tolerate but not a micromanaging boss who constantly breathed down my neck.

  21. smstudent

    What resonates most here for me is the choice to work with people regardless of what others may say about them. It’s really best to find out first before you believe what you hear, right? You just might find someone that could help bring your business to greater heights.

  22. Bputitout / Putitoutthere

    What sets a business apart from many other work places is that everyone — no matter how difficult your partner is to deal with — must cooperate in order to be productive. Please do share your thoughts on this, Shoe.

  23. Ara600_m1

    Some partners fail to keep commitments. Others criticize anything that they did not create. Difficult partners compete with you for power, privilege and the spotlight.

  24. Robin Sterling

    Once you have dealt with a partner like this, it is best to not become to chummy with them. Have business interaction as necessary but keep them at an arms length at all times.

  25. Dean Saliba

    I went into a venture with a friend a couple of years ago, it was going well until he started to lose inerest in the project. He does this a lot (he blames ADD) so I can’t admit to being too shocked about it.

    We no longer speak as I was left to clear up the mess.

    It will be a long time before I’m ready to trust someone enough to go into business again.

  26. Charles Vincent

    Felix Dennis covers this in his two (excellent) books on ‘How to Get Rich’. A bad employee like this can be like a cancer in the company. Firing them fast is liberating and can produce an immediate, positive bounce.

  27. Buzz

    This is sort of like the don’t burn bridges mentality which is true since even though you may hate someone they may be able to help you in business later on in whatever way even if its an introduction. There are a lot of gems in this post that those who haven’t been in business for a long time should pick up.

  28. loyd

    there is something very similar to buying an already made business and its buying an existing domain, the major problem for new entrepreneurs is when their clients check their WHOIS and find the domain was registred 2 months ago they will think twice before buying any product there.

  29. Doc Sheldon

    Great post, Jeremy. (Love the new theme, BTW)

    I am in agreement with you, for the most part. If a venture doesn’t work out, there is rarely any profit in one partner badmouthing the other. The exception I would make would be if there were deliberate maliciousness involved. At that point, I would go out of my way to make sure others knew, so that they wouldn’t fall into the same trap. However, I think that is rarely the case. More often, it’s simply a matter of differences.

    As Wandering Mommy pointed out, a partnership is very similar to a marriage. Until you’ve taken that big step, you don’t know which of you may rub the other the wrong way. And it’s rarely one-side, in my experience. Everyone doesn’t rinse the sink after brushing, or put the toilet seat down. But communication is the key to working out such differences. If one party is simply unwilling to listen, then you have to pull the trigger.

    I’ve had partnerships go bad, with “unreconcilable differences”, but there was never any malicious intent… simply different concerns, priorities, motivations, etc. I learned something from each one, and was better prepared for the next, as a result. So even when I lost money, it wasn’t a total loss. And I can still have a civil conversation with all of them, which to me, is important. I don’t know what they might have said about me, but at least I know I never said anything derogatory about them.

  30. Quadri Moderni

    It’s much better to let go of people who are not adding more value to the company or acting as bullies for whatever reason. There will always be someone who’ll do a better job.

  31. Jared Lazaro

    Aloha Shoe –
    I stumbled across this when I was looking for something else, but I was compelled to finish reading this. GREAT STUFF.
    When it comes to me helping out other people get more clients, I have 3 Rules that help them suss it out:
    – There’s no reason to do shit you don’t like (why you outsource)
    – There’s no reason to work with people you don’t like (seriously: there’s not)
    – If you are worried about ‘the check’, you are going to break one of the first 2 rules
    This seems to be the reason people keep these toxic people around.
    It’s never worth it. EVER.
    Mahalo for writing this, man. :)
    Cheers and Aloha!

  32. mayline olidan

    Hi, I am really happy I’ve found this information. Nowadays bloggers publish just about gossip and internet stuff and this is actually irritating. A good site with exciting content, that’s what I need. Thanks for making this website, and I will be visiting again.

  33. Bruno

    Good or bad, if it is the TRUTH… Say It!

    No rumors or lies.. just facts.

    Maybe it will prevent someone else from getting screwed.

    Don’t be a wimp!

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