Why Firing My Best Designer Was My Smartest Business Decision

3 min read · 6 years ago


Three years ago I decided to start a design firm from my college dorm room. 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 and Brooklyn.

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 did some really amazing work. He was the type of employee who seems irreplaceable — he was personable when interacting with clients and obsessive about design details, and he dedicated so much time to his work for the company. But he was also a stubborn perfectionist who spent too much time on projects and cost the company money as a result. And in our industry, no matter how amazing the work is, lateness is unacceptable.

After speaking with my wife and the other members on our team, I decided to fire my best designer. And over the next few weeks, I saw an increase in our delivery time and project completion rate. The quality wasn’t 110 percent, 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 percent? Because that personable, obsessive, dedicated, stubborn, perfectionist was me.

Why Delegation Is Critical to Your Success

When I started boogie, I was your typical one-man-band. I had to then take care of everything from business development to accounting, project management, design and even coding. Over the years, I’ve been able to relieve these other responsibilities by hiring some awesome people, but it was most difficult for me to let go of designing. And our team suffered because of it.

While certainly the hardest working, I was arguably the worst employee that my company has ever had. I was so busy being a designer that I forgot about the most important job: being the CEO and focusing on 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, and I’ve been able to focus on bringing our team exciting and high-quality projects that we all play a major part in.

If you’re like me, think about letting go of the technician inside you. He or she may be a great writer, web developer, 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.

3 Signs You’re Ready to Fire Yourself

  1. You don’t have enough time to fulfill your duties as a business owner. Growing a startup is not an easy thing. What once started as your love for coding beautiful products has turned to handling finances, human resources, business development and more. As the founder and/or CEO, it’s your duty to ensure the company is growing and your team is happy, among other things. And it’s difficult to fulfill those duties while spending most of your time coding. Attempting to jam-pack your day with work and taking additional work home because “there’s just not enough time in the day” will lead to you underperforming as both the CEO and as the technician (designer, developer, etc.).
  2. You have a team but you’re not getting enough done. Here’s a scenario: There’s a big deadline coming up and it’s crunch time. Instead of doling out responsibilities, you take them on yourself. You rationalize it like this: “By the time I explain this, I could have finished it.” Eventually (when it’s too late) you’re going to realize that you have to delegate in order to continue providing the same value that you’re currently providing, and more. The ability to delegate and be confident in your team is critical to the success of your company. So fire yourself from the day-to-day operations and focus that energy on creating the right processes for your team instead.
  3. You’re not sticking to your goals (or not setting them). I mean, how could you focus on goals? You’re busy working four to five shifts a day. Setting the right goals for your company is essential to ensure consistent growth. More important than settings those goals are the actions you need to take to achieve them. When you notice you’re regularly missing your mark or failing to set goals, that’s a sign that you’re not focused enough on running your business (or you’re focused on too many things at once).

A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s LinkedIn.

Jacques Bastien is a 25-year-old entrepreneur, designer, writer and college professor. He’s the founder of boogie, a social media agency helping brands engage with millennials, as well as the founder of many other startups Authenpic, breadcrumbs, WhatTheFee, etc. In his spare time he writes helpful tips for entrepreneurs at hustlepreneur.co.

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