Small firm owners, how’d you leave you last job?


This is to senior staff who have gone out on their own and started a firm. How did you leave you last place of employment? Did you discuss your plans with your boss ahead of time? Was you boss supportive or threatened/annoyed at you for leaving? How far in advance did you have the discussion?

I’m planning to have the discussion ahead of time, but would like to hear how it has gone for others. 

Jan 1, 22 11:59 am

two week notice... nothing less... nothing more.

this isn't a marriage.

Jan 1, 22 3:50 pm  · 
8  · 

The reactions can range from you being immediately fired and escorted out of the building to the other end of the spectrum where the former employer throws you a nice going away party and starts referring their overflow work to your new firm.

To what extent will your new firm compete with your employer's business?  That is really going to influence how the bosses feel about you leaving. 

Jan 3, 22 11:26 am  · 
6  · 

Don't burn bridges. Always worth maintaining a good relationship. A) the old firm may keep you on contract to finish off a few projects where you were very involved ( good money / start up capital ) B) Old Boss might send along small projects that we aren't fit for his office your way ( good money / start up capital ).  It's a mature and healthy way to transition into your own gig. It's normal to have people leave and start or try to start their own firm.

Jan 4, 22 2:45 pm  · 
4  · 
Wood Guy

"Starting a firm" is a bit grandiose, but I had two higher-level employee positions before hanging out my shingle about 8 years ago.

The first was a residential design/build firm where I had held several different roles but for the last few years I was in charge of design and business development, though my boss was chief salesman. I gave my notice and said I'd stay to train my replacement, then reminded them every few weeks for the next six months before I finally cut the cord. I never felt appreciated there and felt some shadenfreude while they struggled for the next few years without me doing all of the things that someone had to do. They ended up closing the design wing, sold the cabinet shop we started and now only do construction. 

At the next place I was operations manager for a start-up high performance building component manufacturer. Three months in it was clear it was not a good fit so I gave my notice. My boss told me he had cancer and would close the company if I left. So I stayed another year, he recovered, and the business continues to be successful.

I'm on relatively good terms with both companies and owners; currently doing a renovation with the first company and have talked with the second company about various projects, though none have happened yet. 

Jan 4, 22 2:59 pm  · 
2  · 

That bit about the boss who had cancer, mad respect Wood Guy.

Jan 4, 22 9:15 pm  · 
Wood Guy

Thank you. There's more to it, of course, but that was the gist. I forgot that I actually stayed on as a part-time consultant until the drafter I had been training was fully up to speed. We put a lot of effort into developing an excellent set of products and the last thing I wanted was to see it fail. I just realized that I didn't want to run a factory.

Jan 5, 22 1:08 pm  · 

As a former business owner… it depends.

If a valued employee wants to strike out on their own, outside my market, I’d be very encouraging, offer guidance and sort of walk them through the behind the scenes ‘running an office’ stuff I wished I would have known. They could feel free to call me anytime and whine as one business owner to another (it can be lonely since you can't whine to employees).

If it’s in my market…. Totally different. If you told me, I’d give you a box and start making client calls to re-assure them my firm will take care of their needs. You are dead to me and I'll undermine you whenever I can. (I'm petty like that :P)  Honestly though, I sort of track their progress and lurk somehow hoping they at least acknowledge my mentoring helped them establish and grow while I take some pride in their success.

Jan 4, 22 8:04 pm  · 
5  ·  2

Is this a satirical response?

Jan 4, 22 10:54 pm  · 
2  · 

Nope. Honestly I valued my employees and understood they had a ceiling at my firm (they couldn't rise higher than me). So, I saw part of my job as mentoring future architects and business leaders. I just think most people dream of being their own boss and I was in a position to at least show them the realistic perspective of what it really takes. Profit forecasting and excel spreadsheets aren't exactly what architect 'wish' they could do for the rest of their lives... lol. But that's pretty much the gig once you become a certain size. I just hoped they appreciated it rather than use this experience to go after my firm as a competitor. If they did, the relationship changed from me being a mentor to an adversary and I wasn't going to continue to help out a competitor.

Jan 5, 22 2:29 pm  · 
1  · 

So you expect them to remember, and acknowledge that you mentored them, but you undermine them (in your own words)? Now, THAT'S petty. Its just a business, chill out.

Jan 11, 22 10:23 pm  · 
2  · 

My experience tracks with the above. in the early start-up days our firm, other firm owners were supportive or at least civil. As we have become more established and had some success here and there, the knives have really come out. I find myself in the former friend zone with a lot of my old employers. It sucks because we are not even a direct competitor with most of them.

Jan 12, 22 7:40 am  · 
1  · 

I appreciate the candid response. This sounds like it would be something similar to my situation. My boss is very hot/cold so difficult to know which way this would go. I would not be a threat to business in the near future (I’ll probably be doing additions and small scale stuff for a while) but leaving any firm can feel like a slap in the face to some bosses, no matter what terms you leave on. 

Jan 11, 22 8:03 pm  · 

Then I would suggest giving at least two weeks notice, but be prepared to leave immediately if that's what they want you to do. If you work through a notice period, be willing to genuinely help them transition your work to other staff. When you announce your departure, make sure you leave that meeting with a clear understanding of, among other things, a) how any unused vacation time and other benefits will be settled, b) if you want to stay in their health plan via COBRA, and c) use of work you did at the firm in your new firm's portfolio.

Jan 11, 22 8:58 pm  · 
4  · 

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