There comes a time in business — in life — when, if a party you’re dealing with keeps their commitments, you keep yours. Even if it means passing on an apparent opportunity.
I worked for a firm where that was clearly not the rule. A talented and well-liked art director accepted our employment offer and moved his family to Utah to join us. We were happy with his work. A year or so later, another art director showed up, portfolio in hand. Certain Powers That Be liked her and her portfolio well enough to want to fire the previously-hired fellow and hire her in his place. Fortunately, sanity prevailed, and she was simply added to the staff.
To me, whether the new arrival’s work was better was irrelevant. It’s one thing to fire someone for poor performance. But to fire someone because a more attractive candidate presents? Maybe — maybe — that’s good business, but it’s crappy morals. (Call me naive, but I happen to view crappy morals as incompatible with good business. Unfortunately, crappy morals are not de facto incompatible with profitability. I might add that I am neither rich nor in any danger of becoming rich. So what do I know?)
The incumbent art director’s work was skillful, on time, delivered with a cheerful attitude. He had, in short, kept his end of the bargain. Suppose we dumped him because something better came along. Would the newcomer be secure only until someone else with an even better portfolio came along?
When I opened the RESPONSE Agency 17 years ago, I resolved only to fire people who earned the privilege, and only to lay off people due to economic necessity. I had a chance to prove it a few years after opening our doors. On the eve of his hiring a salesperson who had wowed us all, I asked my sales manager, “What will you do if she outsells you?” He admitted to worrying about it. I said, “If she does, congratulations. You will have hired well and proved yourself a great sales manager. Do not compete with your people. As long as you don’t steal from me or become a jerk, your position is secure. No one leapfrogs over you or replaces you.”
It went both ways. At a time when our still-young agency was in financial straits — every agency has such times in its history, though most won’t admit it — I told him I’d understand if he updated his resume. He replied, “You have been loyal to me, and I believe in this company. Instead of updating my resume, I’m going to get us some new clients and save us.”
That is exactly what he did.
As for the art director? Today he works with us. Jeff is a major component of our success. He illustrates and writes, too. Plus, he is a freelancer. If you’re looking for a good one, click here to check him out.