Why Firing our Best Designer Grew Our Agency by 50%
Three years ago, in my college dorm room, I decided to start a design firm. Since then, we’ve grown to become boogie, a design-driven social media agency with a team of eight working out of two offices in Albany NY and Brooklyn NY.
As with any business, we’ve had our ups and downs, but one of the most memorable moments of my career was when I had to fire my company’s best designer.
He was our lead designer and he did some really amazing work. He has led most of our design projects and is the type of employee who seems irreplaceable– he was personable when interacting with clients, he was obsessive about design details, and he dedicated so much time to his work for the company. But- my lead designer was stubborn, he was a perfectionist and spent obsessive amounts of time on most projects which wound up costing the company tons. He was well aware that his work was better than most because clients asked for him by name to work on their projects.
But, his work was ALWAYS late. And in our industry no matter how amazing the work is- lateness is unacceptable!
So although he was a great designer, he wasn’t the best person to lead our design team. I spent a few days thinking about this and I decided to take him out one evening and have a chat. We spoke about the growth of the business and talked about his role. After what seemed like hours of back and forth conversation, we agreed that he could and would do better at his job by prioritizing and managing his time better.
I took his word and moved on from the situation because I did not want to even think about firing my best designer.
A few weeks later I found that we were losing clients because work was still being submitted late.
I lost sleep for a few nights wracking my brain to figure out what to do with my designer. I had a real dilemma on my hands. Having him here was hurting us more than it was benefiting us.
A few days later, after consulting a few people that I trust, my wife and the other members on our team, I decided to fire my best designer…
Over the next few weeks, I saw an increase in our delivery time, and project completion rate– the quality wasn’t 110% as it was when he was with us but it was still up there. Best of all? I was finally able to get some sleep at night.
So why did firing my best designer help grow boogie’s revenue by almost 50%?
Because that personable, obsessive, dedicated, stubborn, perfectionist was ME.
When I started boogie, I was your typical one-man-band. I had to learn and then take care of everything from business development, accounting, project management, design, and coding. Over the years, I’ve been able to relieve these other responsibilities by hiring employees but it was most difficult for me to let go of being a designer.
And our team suffered because of it.
While the hardest working, I was arguably the worst employee that my company has had. I was so busy being a designer that I forgot about the most important job-being the CEO. From business development, developing relationships, overseeing projects, etc. Firing myself as a designer allowed me to really focus on Boogie’s bottom-line and continue working towards our goals.
The outcome? We hired a few other people to take over the design position. I’ve been able to focus on bringing our team exciting and high quality projects that we all play a major part in.
So if you’re like me, think about letting go of the technician that’s inside you. He or she may be a great writer, a web developer, a video producer, or a designer, but that person won’t be able to balance the technical work while focusing on growing the business. Failing to hire someone to replace you may be the one thing hindering your growth and success.
Have you had to fire yourself before? Do you think you need to fire yourself? I’d love to hear all about it.