Virginia Lodge | Crain's Nashville

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Virginia Lodge

Background:  

Providing assistance in industries like health care, retail and manufacturing, FSI is a supply chain and fulfillment company specializing in companies with multiple locations. Based in Nashville, FSI has secured a wide customer base with clients like LifeWay, Lodge Cast Iron and PetSafe. 

The Mistake:

I've made so many mistakes. I think the one mistake that I have unfortunately made multiple times – that I think I’ve finally gotten beyond – was taking my time in firing people.

The worst thing about being a CEO and supervisor is having to fire somebody. Not many of us enjoy doing that. What I had done  too many times, both in government and in business, is when I recognized that someone is not a good fit and can't be mentored into being a good fit, I let it go on too long.

It's important to just take care of it right then and rip off the bandage.  It has never, ever worked when I have delayed it for whatever reason. It's never going to be a good time for that person, and it's never going to be a good time for you.

It's even worse when it's in a small business. You keep thinking that having anybody there at all is better than none because people are stretched so thin. But it is better for that person to go on and find a place where they can be successful, and better for the company because it hurts morale when people see that this person really isn't carrying their weight and people are having to cover them.

When I started in state government as commissioner of human services, there were a couple of key executive staff there who did not understand what we were trying to do. They were either unwilling or unable to get onboard with the progress we wanted to make.

I kept letting it go on, and we worked around them, and it was just the wrong thing to do. We finally let them go and were able to go back and structure things the way it was most efficient for our department, as opposed to a workaround. If there are weak links in the team, it just doesn't work as well.

It's not going to get any easier if you wait two months than if you do it tomorrow.

The Lesson:

I think I have finally learned that it doesn't get any better. When I recognize it now, I initially see if it's what I consider a fatal flaw or if they need some more explanation.

Instead of looking at each individual case, you need to focus on the big picture and see if there is value added. If there's not – and in most of these cases it's not only that there is no value added, but it's detracting – then you recognize it and move forward. It's not going to get any easier if you wait two months than if you do it tomorrow.

I have learned to become much, much clearer in what the job is and what the expectations are, so that there are measurable goals. The person evaluates themselves as they go along. When you go to them and say that it isn't working, it should be apparent to them, or have been for some time, because it hasn't matched with the goals. 

Because of this, the last couple of people that I have had to fire have not been taken by surprise and have seen the writing on the wall, and it makes it easier for them.

Photo courtesy of Peyton Hoge. 

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