I personally know entrepreneurs who’ve been fired from their own companies. Most of them did not want to be fired; only a few sought a way to make it happen, and I’ve helped both types. Heck, I’ve been both types!
So could it happen to you? Would you want it to happen? If not, you can rest easy as long as you hold 51% of your company and don’t sign any agreements to the contrary.
But the more important question is SHOULD it happen? Or should you ACT like it COULD happen?
Yes, you CAN get fired from your own company.
Truth is, for entrepreneurs, that you can be fired, in one way or another, whether you like it or not. If you’re a bad boss, any of your employees can fire you, in one sense, simply by quitting. If enough of that happens because of your behavior, then you won’t really have a company anymore; you’ll have an expensive problem on your hands, as well as a jerk for boss.
Entrepreneurs who think and act as though they could be fired are more likely to build an excellent company of extraordinary value. If you believed you could be fired, you just might be more of a team-builder, an encourager, a coach; the kind of leader Patrick Lencioni describes in The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive.
In the Entrepreneurial Operating System™ I teach and install in companies, owners have the option of not being on the senior leadership team that runs the company. Some owners want to have a business, but they aren’t good at leading, managing, and holding people accountable. It may take some time to transition, but in such cases, it’s perfectly OK to step away from these roles if you aren’t happy in them.
Should you stick around and be the Visionary?
If your abilities are more suited to it, you may want to take the role of “Visionary” in your company (read here for more details on what visionaries do). The only requirements are that you must indeed be a visionary person, and that you understand the job, want it, and have the capacity to do it.
As a Visionary, you will still have to participate in weekly “Level 10” meetings with your Integrator – the person who will actually run the company – and your senior leadership team. You must show up for the meetings on time, every time, because you still have to lead by example, championing your company’s core values and vision. If you don’t, you need to be fired. Fire yourself before you drag the company down with you.
Your other options
If you’re not up to being a Visionary, you still have options. You can simply be an owner and entrust your company to the hands of your Integrator and senior leadership team. You’re entitled to attend board meetings, and maybe even be Chairman of the Board. You’re entitled to fire top management – even your Integrator – but it’s best if you attend a few meetings with them every quarter to stay on the same page and minimize the odds of needing to fire them. If you take this hands-off role, you have to do just that – keep your hands off. Do NOT drop in and start giving directions and orders to the team. That is your Integrator’s job, and you should do it through him/her.
If you want to be more active, you can take other jobs in the company. You can take a sales job, as long as you submit to the Sales Manager, meet your quotas, and perform like everybody else. You can take an operations job, if you are prepared to meet your performance measurables like everybody else. You could even be the CFO if you’re willing to do the job as well as the best outsider you could hire.
If you owned shares as an angel investor, as I do in several companies, would you not expect that company’s board to hire a top leadership team, adopt the best practices, behave with the utmost integrity, hire the best people for every job, and then lead, manage, and hold them all accountable for results? Of course you would! If you aren’t willing to be held to the same standard, how can you expect anyone who works for you to believe in you — ever? If you don’t want to lead by example, you should fire yourself. Or be ready to be fired!
No matter what job you decide to do – or not do – you must do as well as your best employees, or you’re hurting your company.
If you as an owner aren’t willing to live your company’s core values, to be on a team, to buy into the vision, and be accountable for the roles assigned to your seat in the accountability chart, you are sending the message to the rest of the company that your values and vision aren’t really that important. You are saying, “Do as I say, and not as I do”, and that undermines everything. It creates a cancer in your businesses – insidious, growing, and ultimately fatal.
You must be willing to hold the good of the company above the interests of any one individual, including yourself. If you do this, you’ll have the basic building blocks you need to build an extraordinarily valuable company you’ll never want to sell. And you’ll have the best job ever for the rest of your life!