How I Lost 40% of My Company in Four Hours

By Adam Morris, and EO Portland member and President of West Coast Careers, Oregon

Picture this: It’s early 2013. For about 14 months, my business partner and I have been working to launch West Coast Careers, a sales-recruiting firm specializing in our local market. There are five of us on staff: My partner, me, two recruiters and a young office manager. I’m working 90 hours a week on average and employing every brain cell I can muster. We have a lot on the line, and I’m pushing my team members hard.

One morning, I get a call at 6 a.m. It’s my partner. He wants to meet as soon as possible for coffee. “Dude, we need to talk. Get dressed and get over here,” he says. My heart sinks to my stomach. I’m about to get terrible news of some sort. I arrive nervous and prepared for the worst. My partner tells me he wants to go back to his former employer because his current job isn’t the type of challenge he enjoys. We’re sitting in the coffee shop for three hours, talking through everything. I want him to stay, but he’s determined that it’s his last day.

He eventually sells me his half of the company for pennies on the dollar. I regretted losing him at the time, but I would come to realize how lucky I was to have had an honorable partner. We head to the office. I’m shaken, but our plan is to stay positive and update the team. We start by inviting our office manager into our office for a private discussion … but before we can open our mouths, she bursts into tears and resigns. My partner and I look at each other, bewildered. She tells us she refuses to be fired, grabs her stuff and leaves. I never get the chance to explain; she doesn’t take my calls. I took note. I pushed her too hard.

Hesitant, and still in shock, I approach the two remaining members of my team. I look at my talented recruiter, Lauren, and my loyal brother, Dan, and I say, “We just lost forty-percent of our company. Richard and Jill resigned today. It’s just us now.” Standing there, still in disbelief, it occurs to me that I abandoned the plan and just delivered the worst speech ever. Lauren quietly walks up to me and gives me a hug. Dan tells me, “I’ve got you, bro.” In that moment, I know that we will recover together.

Within a few days, we are all feeling better. Two years later, we are recognized as one of Portland’s fastest-growing companies. Three years later, we are on pace to receive the honor again. But despite our growth and relative success, I still think about that day. It serves as a reminder for one of the most important lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur: To be worthy of loyalty. I had just enough of it on my staff to get me through the hard times. Just a tad less and I could be in a very different place today.

Right now, I have 10 loyal, caring team members, and we are getting ready to launch agencies in Denver and Phoenix. What’s our primary core value for both offices? You’ve guessed it: “Be worthy of loyalty.”

Adam Morris (pictured) is an EO Portland member, as well as the president of West Coast Careers, Oregon, a sales-recruiting agency. Contact Adam at [email protected].

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