Crazy times! An ending, a beginning – and a leap of faith over a canyon so wide I can’t even see the side I’m supposed to be landing on.
So we’ve done it. As every evolving, growing, business needs to, we have crossed a huge employment milestone. We’ve dismissed our first employee.
We took C on in July 2016, back when we were general builders and knew that to grow we needed someone. But who? The very fact of being general made it hard to recruit anyone. Taking on an apprentice wasn’t an option for that exact reason. We knew few people around here and because we didn’t have much money we knew we could only afford to pay our employee minimum wage.
Then we met C, working behind the counter of a local builders’ merchants. I could see he was good with customers, reliable, appeared to work hard. Over the months of being served regularly by him I learned he wanted to do more. It was a case of why not him?
He has been a great employee in many ways. Loyal, steadfast, reliable. He’s been generally very amenable and done most of what we ask. He claimed to be an experienced decorator but it soon turned out he wasn’t, in fact he had little experience in most areas, but after years of working alone it’s probably fair to say D was a control freak and so they were probably well-matched. I am really grateful that our first experience of employment was such a positive one.
The problem is, as we have grown, and as D has evolved, C hasn’t really.
He promised us he would be learning to drive soon, which hasn’t happened.
He is slow and steady, but sometimes sloppy, which has been frustrating.
Last year, as we specialised in bathrooms, we took a gamble on him and paid for him to go on a course. Before it began we spoke about how we didn’t want him to stay on minimum wage forever, we were looking for someone to become an equal member of the team, to work hard and fast with us and to earn decent money once the business was on its feet.
He did well on the course, but his performance since then hasn’t been great. Constant, regular, mistakes. Working so incredibly slow. And no progress whatsover on the driving.
So, after the fourth job in a row where sloppiness caused a major issue, we had a serious talk with him. We gave him a month to improve – to get faster and to get better. Beginners’ mistakes are one thing, not doing what you have been told to do several times is another. He is a fantastic second man, but as a small business we only have room for first men right now, and so on Wednesday, after two more major mistakes, D verbally gave him notice. Contractually we only need to give him a week, but because he’s been so good in other ways he gave him two weeks from Friday – just under two and a half weeks.
I followed it up in writing the next day. It has all been very good-natured, but I know things can change when you’re working your notice so I am a little nervous about the next couple of weeks and I will be glad when he has gone.
He has also always been a little bit weird around me. He worships D, which is fair enough, but often I have arrived on a job and he has ignored me. It’s strange as I am his boss just as much as D is, and it’s frustrating. I don’t want to turn this into a rant about sexism, because it might not be, and some men are weird around women, like the guy I blogged about here, but he has definitely seen D as his boss, not me, which is odd because it’s me who runs the entire business.
On Thursday he was working alone in the yard, filling the skip. I asked him to come and talk to me – clearly I was going to discuss money and what was owed/owing – and he refused, saying he and D had sorted it. I asked him to talk to me three times and every time he looked at me, shook his head and said there was no need, he and D had sorted it all. I even said D doesn’t know about money, how can you have sorted it and he shook his head and said no no, it’s cool. It was strange. Rude. And totally not anything I have ever come across before – I have never in my working life refused a conversation with my boss.
So part of me is glad he is going, because I will definitely feel more comfortable going to sites knowing that he won’t be there.
So, you might be wondering, what are we going to do now? Believe me, much discussion has gone on about how we would cope, and both D and his eldest son, C2, who joined us back in November, felt that C1 has actually been holding us back, slowing us down on jobs and stopping progress. They both feel they will go faster as a twosome, which is crazy!
I wrote here about how one of our suppliers, T, a showroom manager, had been made redundant, and how a couple of months earlier I’d mentioned to D that I thought he would end up working for us at some point.
I’m not sure how we are going to do this, but we’ve recently been talking and I am absolutely of the belief that we NEED him. The business NEEDS him. We cannot afford NOT to take him on.
So, somehow, it will happen. We will let the dust settle after C’s departure and then he will join us – taking over the parts I’m finding hardest, pricing, selling products, project managing. Possibly part time very very initially, but he doesn’t want part time for long and so maybe he does several jobs – sales, ordering products, managing the orders, project managing the job and also mucking in manually where required.
I am in effect doing myself out of a job but that’s fantastic, I’m really not enjoying that side at all. Weirdly, for someone who has never been good at numbers, I am finding the accounting/finance more and more of interest, and so I may go down that avenue.
And if T takes over the things I’m finding hard, and I’m soooooooo slow at, that will free me up to crack on with the things I am best at – thinking big picture, coming up with new ideas, marketing, networking, building us up. Because this business, passionate though I am about it, is only the first of many. There are so many ideas in my head!
And although it seems crazy to be talking about taking on someone expensive when common sense says I should continue doing it and learn the trade, my heart tells me that taking this gigantic, terrifying leap of faith is the best thing we could be doing.