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  • Writer's pictureNelson

Episode 5: Letting people go

Today's episode Nelson and Liz go over the fears and difficulties of letting an employee go and how to avoid the sense of failure and guilt of the process.

Wed, 3/23 12:26PM • 37:18


job, firing, employee, people, started, verbal warning, pip, person, sat, talk, thinking, week, happened, severance agreement, long, attorney, agents, process, dishonesty, good


Liz Sears, Nelson Barss

Liz Sears 00:01

Welcome to the Business greater than you podcast, where we dive deep into the stories of men and women who have successfully transcended the fragile solopreneur life and built protective teams with better lifestyle and income.

Nelson Barss 00:13

I'm Nelson Barss, the founder and owner of Utah Independent Mortgage Corp.

Liz Sears 00:18

And I'm Liz Sears, founder and co owner of My Utah Agents.

Nelson Barss 00:21

We're excited for you to listen and grow. So please share your comments below. And let's get started.

Liz Sears 00:32

Excited for today's episode, glad to be back. Yeah, not necessarily a fun topic, but definitely a necessary topic if you want to be successful in your business.

Nelson Barss 00:42

Yeah, we're going to talk about letting people go.

Liz Sears 00:44

Yeah. I know it's one of those. It's a tough one. But you know, any good tree that grows gets pruned. Every good garden, the same thing,

Nelson Barss 00:46

Firing? right? Yeah. And I think, honestly, that fear of letting people go might be part of the fear of hiring people in the first place. So I think it's good to talk about it. Get used to the idea, get comfortable with how to do it. And when, right, yeah, so let's dive in. I think first, let's just talk about getting used to that idea of firing someone. And a question for you is, is it a reflection on you as a bad leader? If you have to let someone go?

Liz Sears 01:23

No, it might be a learning opportunity. Sometimes in the exit interview, you can learn some things that maybe you could have been a better leader to begin with. But the one thing that I've learned how to do better, the longer that I've been in business, is to really embrace the fact that I'm doing the best I can with what I know at the time. And so it's not a reflection on me, it's not a reflection on you. It's not a reflection on any of our listeners here if you have to let someone go. It's just part of the process.

Nelson Barss 01:50

Yeah, I think I've held on to people too long, because I didn't want to admit that I made a bad hire.

Liz Sears 01:57

Right, right. Yeah. Cuz then you're like, Oh, I feel dumb.

Nelson Barss 02:00

Yeah. And I'm honestly feeling a little bit sheepish as we started to talk about this. Because since we last recorded, I've had two people that I let go, or one that quit, and one that I let go. And I just remember talking about how successful our hiring process was. And I hired so many people, and they're all still with me. And it was, it was a sense of pride and and to see those two people go was it was really emotional for me. And I felt like a failure in some ways. Yeah.

Liz Sears 02:33

But But ironically, I did the same thing.

Nelson Barss 02:35


Liz Sears 02:36

less than two weeks ago. So we've got some good.

Nelson Barss 02:38

We both got some stories to tell.

Liz Sears 02:40


Nelson Barss 02:41

Yeah. Another question for you. Is it cruel? Is it cruel to fire someone?

Liz Sears 02:46

No, it's definitely not. I think that's where a lot of people get stuck on the firing is they think they're being mean, they think they're being cruel. They think that they're making a decision, that's going to really hurt the other person. And a lot of times, that other person already knows they're not a good fit, they already know that the job description or the job that's being required of them isn't jiving and that they're not doing a good job. And so how awful is it to go to work every single day, and not feel like you're really contributing to go every single day knowing that other people are disappointed in what you're doing. And so firing usually doesn't occur until you've gone through a few steps. But by the time you get to this point, they usually know what's coming. And so it's usually a relief for everybody involved to say, You know what, let's, let's look at the next step where, where you're gonna go and how it's gonna work out,

Nelson Barss 03:34

I would say it's also usually a relief for a lot of other people on the team, too. I've had a couple of cases, I usually am guilty of waiting too long, right? Just ignoring the obvious or hoping I can make it work and coaching up things. And in the end, you know, when I finally have let them let the person go, and they walk out that door. It's like the whole organization can breathe again. Right?

Liz Sears 03:59

Yeah. Cuz how frustrating is it for somebody who's really stepping up and doing the job? Well, and they're watching somebody else not.

Nelson Barss 04:05

Mm hmm.

Liz Sears 04:06

And it gets really hard on the people who are doing a good job

Nelson Barss 04:09

or their picking up the slack? Right?

Liz Sears 04:10


Nelson Barss 04:10

doing their job for them and not getting credit. We're seeing that person get paid and, and seemingly appreciated when they're not doing their job.

Liz Sears 04:20


Nelson Barss 04:21

So I think it's actually kind of cruel, to delay the inevitable too long. It's cruel. And also, I've thought a lot about you know, I've had employees where when I knew it wasn't going to work out, but I was trying to go through the proper processes for a while. Yeah. And the longer I let that go, you know, the worse it was for everyone. And I just wish I had done it sooner in some cases.

Liz Sears 04:49

Yeah. So also watching red signs, like how do you recognize why don't we go there next, how do you recognize when the time is coming and what are the steps that you take?

Nelson Barss 04:58

Well, I guess You know, for me recognizing repeated training, repeated mistakes, there's, I think there's a difference between someone who's unwilling to do a job or unable. Either way, it's probably time to move on. And I guess I would like to point out to that. Before I look to let someone go, I look to move them to a different seat.

Liz Sears 05:22


Nelson Barss 05:22

right. We've had quite a few people who have moved around within the organization and been much more successful and happier and have a very long term outlook with us. But it's kind of the idea from Jim Collins from his Good to Great book, you get the right people on the bus,

Liz Sears 05:37

and then you put them in the right seat,

Nelson Barss 05:39

decide later, what's the right seat, right?

Liz Sears 05:41

You know, it's interesting, when we first opened our brokerage we hired two admin, and we didn't know where they would shine. And so we actually did train them on everything, which is nice, because then they could cover for each other. And then once they started to shine in their own role, or their own expertise, and what they love to do, then we were able to write up unique job descriptions for them. And so as your company grows, and you have more unique job descriptions, in fact, right now we have somebody who is struggling with the role that we had put them into, and we did our leadership meeting last week, we now call it executive team meeting, because we got where our leadership is bigger than just the executive team. That's actually kind of exciting.

Nelson Barss 06:23


Liz Sears 06:24

And, and we were talking about how this guy really, really shines in certain areas and struggles and these other ones. And we're like, What if we created a job where we could capitalize on the strengths and amazing talents and skills that he has, which would be a win for all of us, because it is a role now that we need filled? And it's one where he could shine?

Nelson Barss 06:46

Yeah, awesome, right? And instead of just letting them go, did you involve him at all in the job description? And does

Liz Sears 06:53

not yet. Well, I mean, we we just barely did it last week, but we used his strengths to kind of decide how we want to roll it out or have it look, and then next time when we meet with him, we're gonna share it with him and see if we want to change your ad or if he's even interested, but at least it got our, our brains working around that new role.

Nelson Barss 07:12

Well, that's awesome. Yeah, it's in your your question for me was like, some signs or things that you notice when it's time to move on from someone? You know, it's it's a hard one to quantify. But for me, I keep thinking of the phrase, I just want relationships that work. I don't want to work on relationship right all the time. You know, yeah,

Liz Sears 07:32

those are not the ones that leave you feeling good. At the end of the day, they feeling drained, if you have to work on constantly

Nelson Barss 07:37

And if I'm spending all my time thinking about that, and not my business and not prospecting and growing my team, if I'm draining my energy on conflict and intrapersonal and, you know, constantly fixing problems that this person's already been shown

Liz Sears 07:52

helping them feel good about it.

Nelson Barss 07:53


Liz Sears 07:55

Or it's like a balloon, you know, that you have to like, blow up this balloon. And then as you walk away, it starts to deflate, you have to come back and blow it out. Now you want somebody who's adding it to themselves

Nelson Barss 08:03

I dont want to prop them up. Right? And

Liz Sears 08:05


Nelson Barss 08:06

I've had a few were just I've learned a little bit about my own personality. And they they weren't the right personality for me.

Liz Sears 08:15

Yeah. So sometimes, it's just because your personalities don't fit the job that you need them to do in the way that you interact with that person. It needs to be synergistic. And if it's not, then then that's one reason. Another one for me, as somebody who's just truly incompetent, sometimes you don't learn that until after you bring them on. And you try to train them and train them and train them and they just don't get it.

Nelson Barss 08:37

Right. It's It's so hard. We try so hard to weed that out during the interview process, but sometimes you can't. Sometimes I've had like, first day on the job I knew. This is not going to be good.

Liz Sears 08:49

I remember you telling me about this one. And how long did it end up taking? You knew that first day?

Nelson Barss 08:53

4 months. Yeah,

Liz Sears 08:54

Four months

Nelson Barss 08:55

of trying to work and coach and, and improve and help and as like defeats like knocking my head against the wall. And really what happened was, other members of the team started quitting started turning in their 2 weeks notice.

Liz Sears 09:09

Yeah, and you're like, I would prefer them than you.

Nelson Barss 09:11

Right? And it was, was, it was way too late in the game to do it. But you know, the moment it was done, it was like, Sunshine

Liz Sears 09:20

came out from behind the clouds thongs in the background.

Nelson Barss 09:23

Some other reasons might be I mean, I really have had some cases where there was just dishonesty. Right? So we talked about firing someone for cause you know, fraud.

Liz Sears 09:35

Time theft,

Nelson Barss 09:35

time clock,

Liz Sears 09:36


Nelson Barss 09:37

dishonesty. That's a hard one. I have a my first time I ever fired somebody. I was really young. I was probably 25 years ago.

Liz Sears 09:46


Nelson Barss 09:47

And I didn't even I couldn't even do it. This girl that was clocking in and going out to her car and come back like three hours later.

Liz Sears 09:56

Oh, wow. That's like significant. Not even just like a five minute

Nelson Barss 09:59

and we had documentation of it and so my my boss said, Go, Go get that girl, bring her in, we're going to let her go. So I went, got her, and we sat down, and he's like, you're gonna do it. And so, you know, it was it was supposed to be like, Hey, did you cheat on your time clock? You're fired. Right? And I got to, Hey, did you cheat in time clock? And she said, Yes. And I froze, actually started shaking like I couldn't,

Liz Sears 10:22

like, you just felt cruel.

Nelson Barss 10:23

Yeah. And so my boss is like, you're fired, she just took it over from there. And there's a lot of fear, it's very hard, you know, especially if you're conflict avoidant person to come out and do it that way. Right.

Liz Sears 10:36

I had one, my very first time I ever fired somebody was, ironically, about 25 years ago, too. And I was young at the time, and this person was probably 10-15 years older than me and a single mom. And she kept coming in late. And so twice, I changed her start time. And I said, pretend I didn't, and just try to come in still at 730. And she started coming in, you know, instead of at 745, or 750, which was 15-20 minutes late, she started coming in at 815, or 820, because I'd moved the time, eight o'clock. And then I moved it again to 830. And she did it again. And I'm like she's chronically late. And because I worked for a very large corporation with 1000s and 1000s of employees, you cannot write them up and then not fire on because then you're inconsistent. So yeah, that was a tough one. Because she started to cry and everything. And then that was one of my moments when now as a mom, because I have four kids, I often will talk about how I want to make sure that I teach my kids how to be on time, how to meet their responsibilities, how to do what they're asked how to, you know, complete a job the way that it was assigned. By the way, that's what schools the best for. So when someone complains that I'm never gonna use this subject in real life, like what are you talking about, it's your chance to receive an assignment, get it done the way it was assigned in the timeline that it was given, and then you're paid with a grade, you get to practice real life. Anyways,

Nelson Barss 12:00

parenting tips here, that's great.

Liz Sears 12:02

Yeah, throw a couple of those in. So I want them to learn it from me, not from the, you know, wife, the divorces them cause I have all sons, not from the policeman that arrest them, or the boss that fires them. But unfortunately, we're kind of stuck in that sometimes, because some of our employees were never taught this. And so we have to be the boss that fires them that teaches them

Nelson Barss 12:20

that they're learning, it's even almost compassionate on the way out, right? It's like, yeah, if they didn't suffer that consequence, how would they ever learn?

Liz Sears 12:28

Yeah. And if it's not working for me, then that's okay. And maybe their next boss will be okay with it. Or maybe this will be the lesson they need in order to perform better at their next job.

Nelson Barss 12:38

Yeah. I think the other thing that I just want to point out here is, you don't necessarily have to wait for the employee to decide it's not working.

Liz Sears 12:48


Nelson Barss 12:48

it's okay as the employer to say, Yeah, I don't I don't want to do this anymore. This is, I mean, most of it, I know, in Utah, where we are to now we'll stay, we don't have employment contracts, there's, there's no reason why I can decide that I don't want that person working for me anymore. To be honest, I don't even have to have a reason. Right?

Liz Sears 13:06


Nelson Barss 13:06

we should talk about protecting yourselves as employers and, and ways to prevent things like our unemployment insurance premiums, going up lawsuits and things like that. And we're going to get into that. But I just, I just want to point out, I had an employee that, you know, I could tell where it was going. And if I had waited, it probably would have gone on for a few more weeks until she found a job. And then she would have tried to give me two weeks notice. And I probably wouldn't have needed it. And I would have let her go. And I just had the realization that I don't need to wait for that. I know where it's going to pull her into the office. And like you said, it was a kind of a mutual thing. We both knew it was coming. It wasn't surprised to her. But I fortunately, didn't have to live through that three week period.

Liz Sears 13:49

Yeah, there's a different emotion that goes through your mind and in your heart, when you really, truly embrace this is my company. And some of you out there already have no problem with that. But for a lot of us, sometimes it still feels like it's a full team effort instead of like, I truly am the captain of the ship. And I'm the one who everyone else is depending on to make the good decisions for all of us.

Nelson Barss 14:13

Before we move on one tip I might share, if you are if this idea of having to let someone go is part of what holds you back from actually hiring someone. What I would recommend is maybe build in a probationary period into your job offers and just say it's a 90 day probation, we're going to get started. We're going to work together and we're going to meet at the end of 90 days and decide how to proceed.

Liz Sears 14:36

Yeah, ours we actually do a 30, 60, 90. So when they sit down we say this is what we want you to be proficient at and what we want to accomplish at the 30 day mark, 60 day mark, 90 day mark and we meet ideally, I should say ideally, we meet at each of those points. And even if we don't set up the meeting, we still want them to report on how they did with those you know in an email or or some sort like that and that's been really helpful. I did think of one other reason why to let somebody go is that I had one, just the one that happened in the last couple of weeks is that the job had evolved. And the job had evolved into something that no longer resonated with what she wanted to do and what we needed as a brokerage and, and how that worked. And so going, when we get into the point of how to let somebody go, I'll talk through how that went. But what it kind of boiled down to and talking to her is, as I talked about what it was that we wanted, and she's saying, I really just don't love that I don't want that piece. I was saying, there's nothing wrong with that. It's okay. It's just a job description. And if you don't like it, that's fine. It says nothing about you. It just says that you don't like this job description. That's fine.

Nelson Barss 15:43


Liz Sears 15:43

So sometimes it can be mutual that way as well.

Nelson Barss 15:45

Yeah. And if you don't make it personal, right, I think a lot of we've, I've had some employees leave on really good terms. So we, you know, we just, you know, either that person or I decided it was time to do something different. And it can be really compassionate and really good.

Liz Sears 15:59


Nelson Barss 15:59

All right. So let's talk about

Liz Sears 16:01

How to do it.

Nelson Barss 16:01

Yeah. And, and really how to protect yourself, and go through the right process, so that you don't expose yourself to either, you know, lawsuits, or the dreaded unemployment. And just to be clear, if you have an employee who you let go, and they will file a claim for unemployment insurance benefits that can cost you as an employer, right, not dollar for dollar, but they'll come back and rate you each year on your premium how much you should pay towards the unemployment fund,

Liz Sears 16:33

based on how many claims you've had,

Nelson Barss 16:35

yeah, based on how many people are put on unemployment. So you want to protect that you want to protect, it's almost like a credit rating. As an employer, you want to protect your unemployment picture. And so let's talk about some ways to do that. You've heard of pips?

Liz Sears 16:51

Oh, yes. performance,

Nelson Barss 16:54

performance improvement plans? Yes. So why, what are those? And why would we want to do that.

Liz Sears 16:59

So we use pips a lot in our brokerage. And so we have some minimum expectations that people are supposed to meet, and if ever, that's not occurring, and we meet together, and we've actually found that if we take the approach of performance improvement plan, we actually did this for our agents and our admin, our agents, it's usually just about production. So we actually renamed it to be production improvement plan. And so even though we require it for people who are below the threshold, we offer it to everybody above the threshold as well and just say, we're going to brainstorm together, how to get you up. And then for our admin, and we've had to do it a few times, and in there, it is a performance improvement plan. But we still treat it the same way as though it's a positive experience to say, hey, you know, it's not quite where we need it to be. We all want to be winners here. We all want this to be beneficial. So let's look at what the shortfall is and put our heads together on how to fix it.

Nelson Barss 17:56

I like that you're coming at it with a goal of improvement, right? It's not like, Hey, here's a firing plan.

Liz Sears 18:05

Here's everything you suck. Yeah,

Nelson Barss 18:07

here's a way and you're almost like a cheerleader for them. We want this to work we want you to, to know where you're falling short, and we want to help you get there. And so not all pips turn into letting someone go, right? You can pip someone up or you can pip someone out. But it's a it's a mechanism, right? And what does that look like? And why do you guys do it?

Liz Sears 18:28

So what it looks like is normally what we'll do is we really want to get very clear, we have learned that sometimes we're not clear, sometimes we'll have in our head what it is that we're expecting, and we will think that we've communicated thoroughly enough that they're going to catch that ball run with it. And then as we're going through the PIP and we're saying, okay, these are the expectations we had, there was once in fact, when we had made the whole list and we had the form that we were going to fill out where we put the goals at the bottom, and we sign it. And as we started to talk through the expectations that we had and where they weren't being met. And we received some really great feedback and of the way it was given to me was not clear. I was receiving direction from more than one person. I didn't know who I was supposed to follow. I really wasn't given a deadline. I you know, going back through this, I didn't get that. And so we realized in that moment, we were not in a pip. scenario here. We were in a let's get clear about what's expected scenario, were getting on the same page, not saying you're deficient, and it was a completely different one. We did end up having to do a pip later and we did end up you know, having to let this person go. But that first meeting did make it clear to us that clarity of what we expect is so crucial, especially during the first phases where they're learning how to do the job.

Nelson Barss 19:51

That's awesome. Wow, very helpful. So you're going through this process verbal warning, written warning, final warning. Oftentimes it's on the same topic, right? It's like, okay, you're, you're not getting to work on time. So there's a verbal warning, sometimes you'll still have them sign that they received a verbal warning, right, or you'll document just a note to yourself, hey, I sat down today with so and so I did a verbal warning, later,

Liz Sears 20:17

I do have something to add into that. So we tell them in the interview process, and we also talk about it as we go, that I I'm trying to think my brain just went to five different thoughts and bring it back to what it was. So the process that we do if something's not working out the way we want it, such as me delegating something to them. And, and I'm working out the way that they're doing it. And this process applies to tons of stuff. But basically, it is sitting down with them and saying, This is what occurred, and you talk about how, you know, the job was completed or not completed. And this is what occurred, this is how it impacted me. And this is what I want to see instead. Okay, and then we talked through, you know, what I want to see instead, how are we going to get there, because the way that I thought through my brain might not be the best way to do it, they might have some good ideas. And so talking through that, then makes it really clear to them, okay, this is what I need to fix

Nelson Barss 21:12

this. It's like a worksheet that you guys fill out that has these blanks on it, that you sit down,

Liz Sears 21:16

We talk about it all the time with our agents, with our clients with our team, this is what happened, this is how it impacted me, this is what I want to see. And so and then we also attribute it to the three things. I think I mentioned this in a previous episode that if something's not occurring the way we want, it's either the training, the knowledge, or it's the systems, or it's the support. And so sometimes in these feedbacks, we'll find out that we didn't give enough training or information, or they don't have the right systems in place, maybe they need a better checklist. I mean, maybe they need a different like, software or program. And then the last one support is maybe they just don't have the right support from the team or the leadership or manpower. Sometimes that's what it is.

Nelson Barss 22:01

You know, I'm having this flashback to time when I was an employee. And I was put on a pip. And I was really young. And I think if they had approached it the way you approach it, which was, you know, open minded, maybe we're part of the problem here, right?

Liz Sears 22:16

Yeah. Because a lot of times leadership is part of the problem,

Nelson Barss 22:19

right, usually, honestly, more often than not, it's our own fault that things aren't working out. Right.

Liz Sears 22:24


Nelson Barss 22:24

So giving, giving a fair process to evaluate that together and approaching it like, hey, we want you here. We want this to be better. We want this to work. But I, I remember I worked to the it was this call center, and I was getting in trouble for errors right, I kept having typos and stuff that I was doing, and they would write me up. And I got to the point where I was on final warning. And so I quit, I went found a different job, and I quit. And ironically, they just they just were all over themselves to keep me like No, don't go, we love you. We want you here. I'm like, Are you kidding? I'm on. I'm on final warning here. I'm about to get let go. And so maybe just, you know, word of advice, if you're going to go down that path, you know, unless you're doing it with the right heart. And unless they know that it's an improvement plan. Don't be surprised if they leave. Don't be surprised if they move on. You know, and I guess that's part of the goals is, is to is you either pip them up, like I said, or pip them out.

Liz Sears 23:18

pump them up,

Nelson Barss 23:19

pump them up, pip them out, not pimp them out. Pip them out.

Liz Sears 23:24

Pip. Pip them out.

Nelson Barss 23:25

Yeah. Okay, so we're talking about protecting yourself. So one of the reasons why you do a pip and you document all this stuff is so that you do have all of the documentation about the efforts you went through, and about the reasons why you may have let them go. Because if they go File an unemployment insurance claim, you have an opportunity to defend yourself.

Liz Sears 23:43

And that happened to you right?

Nelson Barss 23:45

It has happened to me. And honestly, the two times it's happened, though, it wasn't it wasn't in this scenario. The other the other way that you might let someone go is just firing them for cause. So let's say you're not doing a pip with somebody,

Liz Sears 23:59

it's for cause like something happened

Nelson Barss 24:01

they do something wrong, right? dishonesty, for example, stealing, time clock dishonesty, those things, there's no reason to drag that out. You can pull them aside, just fire them, just let them go. And twice this year, I've had to do that. And we just kind of sat down and gathered our notes. gathered up, you know, we had a recorded call here or an email here or evidence of what they had done here and there.

Liz Sears 24:25


Nelson Barss 24:25

save that in a file because I knew in a couple weeks, I'm going to get an unemployment claim from this employee who's going to be out there. And it was just very easy to respond to the claim, submit the recordings, submit the proof of what the person did. And then we won the case.

Liz Sears 24:41

Yep. The other thing too is we had to let one of our agents go. Similar situation, it was a dishonesty thing and so it was a very, it ended right here, type situation. And she was of a minority ethnicity and such and so we needed to make sure that we had everything documented, so it couldn't come back as a discrimination. So like the discrimination, things to really be aware of is what's listed in the Constitution that basically can't discriminate against age, gender, religion, ethnicity.

Nelson Barss 25:17

I keep thinking Fair Housing, Equal credit opportunity act. It's pretty, it's pretty clear what you what you should,

Liz Sears 25:25

yeah, well

Nelson Barss 25:26

What are protected classes and things that we shouldn't be discriminating,

Liz Sears 25:28

which obviously, we wouldn't anyways. But this is why you want to keep documented proof. Because if they say you did that, you can say no, it really is like, if anybody had done these things, they would be done.

Nelson Barss 25:40

The other thing that I'm kind of fear is a wrongful termination lawsuit,

Liz Sears 25:45


Nelson Barss 25:46

And one thing that I've used, and I've learned, I have a really good HR partner, they take care of a lot of my benefits, and then they have resources to call. And so I called him once and I said, Hey, I need to fire somebody. And they recommended a severance agreement. They actually had some advice on how to put one together, and I went and got one set up. And a severance agreement can really protect you against the lawsuit angle, because you're having both you and the employee sign,

Liz Sears 26:12

And the employee sign saying they agree to the terms.

Nelson Barss 26:14

Yeah, these are the terms and you're giving some money in exchange for their agreement to not pursue any further damages.

Liz Sears 26:21

Right. And use you glossed right over fast about the HR resource.

Nelson Barss 26:26


Liz Sears 26:26

so many of us, me included, when we were chatting about this podcast, you mentioned that, I was like what? You have an HR reason.

Nelson Barss 26:33


Liz Sears 26:33

Tell me about that.

Nelson Barss 26:34

So yeah, I guess I'll put a plug in for that. I think they're a Utah company Fringe Benefit Analysts. And if you if you need to contact them, just reach out to us on our show notes. Our web webpage is business greater than, right? Business greater than you And you can, you can email us there, and I can get you in touch with them. But they do all of our insurance, and a lot of our benefits. And so they have hotlines they get they helped us with our employee handbook, all of this kind of legal protection as an employer, they do a great job. And so they helped me understand why I might want a severance agreement. And I don't think they actually gave me one, they just recommended to reach out to an attorney and get one drafted up.

Liz Sears 27:24

Nice. And that's another thing too, that I don't think we've talked too much about. But now is a really good time to put that plug in, you've got to have your team as a small business. So having a resource when you have HR questions, and having an attorney on retainer. And so we have we have three different ones that we reach out to depending on what the subject is about, you know, so we have one that has our employee contracts, and we have one that has if there's a real estate issue, actually, maybe we just have to

Nelson Barss 27:50

how much does that cost you you pay them a retainer? Or do they just represent you and you need them or

Liz Sears 27:56

our first one. We've just been working with them long enough that we don't pay retainer, he just builds us monthly, depending on how much we call him. And that has to do with employee contracts. So the one with the dishonesty when we reached out to him, we said we're looking at terminating this agent. And we just want to make sure that we're dotting our eyes and crossing our T's and we're not leaving ourselves open. Because we had him send the termination agreement. And I think it gave us some clout. So then she went through an attorney as well. And we came to an agreement that's working for all of us, which is nice. And then our other one is like if there's something with our buyers or sellers, you know if they have a question that something might come up so she litigates that we wanted an attorney who does litigation. We didn't just want an attorney who's all hypothetical.

Nelson Barss 28:48

Someone's not afraid to go to court.

Liz Sears 28:50


Nelson Barss 28:50

sue somebody or

Liz Sears 28:51

Someone who knows what actually happens in the courtroom, not just what hypothetical in the chat boxes.

Nelson Barss 28:57

Yeah, honest that when you haven't used too many attorneys, obviously, there's been certain moments when I've hired an attorney or sought an attorney's advice. But like with this severance agreement, I don't really know if the severance agreement that I use would necessarily hold up in a courtroom. But I think one of the benefits is that it keeps me out of the courtroom.

Liz Sears 29:19


Nelson Barss 29:20

Right. It's just the employee recognizes, Hey, um, I'm not going to sue you. And I'm signing here to say, I'm not going to sue you. And honestly, I am giving them a severance package, right? I'm giving them something of value though. The last person we let go, I got a month of severance, to give her time to look for another job. And

Liz Sears 29:39

that makes the conversation a lot easier too. Because when you go in and you sit down and you say okay, we've talked about this a couple times before or this is kind of new, but the way that it shifted really quick. So the one that I had just a couple weeks ago I actually sat down and I said our the job has shifted. As you know, it's evolved over the last few months and it it's not being done way that we need, you know, what are your thoughts? And she said, Well, I'll be honest, I've really hated coming to work the last while. And I said, I know I can tell, and I'm so sorry. This is what we need. And so we went back and forth a little bit. And she, we said, Well, why don't you think about it, let us know what you want to do, and came back. And it was awesome. Actually, everybody felt really good about the move that we're making. And it seemed like the good timing, everything. So it's interesting the way that that can happen when it's not necessarily because it was for cause, you know,

Nelson Barss 30:34

just an agreement. Right?

Liz Sears 30:35


Nelson Barss 30:37

And, and it can be, you can be, I tend to try to be overly fair and generous. Just just because, you know, I feel for the, the employee, I know what it's like to be unemployed and to be looking and have

Liz Sears 30:53

an income still coming, right. And that makes it so much easier for them to say, oh, my gosh, I could go find a different job that fits me better, since I don't have to worry about having no money next week for my gas bill.

Nelson Barss 31:04


Liz Sears 31:04


Nelson Barss 31:05

So let me ask you now, I guess the last point I want to touch on, and maybe you have more, but I want to talk about protecting the team morale when something like this happens?

Liz Sears 31:15

Yeah, because a few different things could happen be the gossip wheel, there could be the Oh crap, maybe I'm getting cut,

Nelson Barss 31:21

Maybe I'm next

Liz Sears 31:22

The fear that then starts going through?

Nelson Barss 31:25

You know, there's a lot of gossip probably happening before it ever happens, right? Before you actually let go.

Liz Sears 31:30

If we're goign to be honest

Nelson Barss 31:31

That, you know, the whispers are happening, people are in back corners people are. If you ever see someone standing outside your office, having a conversation with another employee, that's probably or they're on their phone a lot, you know, outside, maybe they're talking to other other people in the office or other potential employers or something like that. But all of that rumor mill is going and I don't think it's I think it's a good idea. And what I've always done is try to soon as it's done, gather everyone together, just just a quick impromptu

Liz Sears 32:04

Oh you knwo what. Do you mind if we pause right here, when it's done, when you sit down with them, especially if it's a for cause termination, it's really good idea to already have their final paycheck cut, and be able to hand them a paper check and lock them out of all of the systems. Because if they're going to be malicious, you don't want to give them the opportunity to be malicious.

Nelson Barss 32:25

Great point. Yeah. Which actually that you got to think about that way ahead of time, right? How many different systems? Do they have different signings? To which ones are the most important ones? How quickly can you turn them off? You know, we've had cases where, while I'm sitting down with this employee delivering the news, our office manager is shutting off system access.

Liz Sears 32:46

That's usually how it needs to happen.

Nelson Barss 32:48

And I've already got her final check, and, and those were the ones that were for cause, right. But as soon as that happened, as soon as, as soon as she was out the door, my my concern was rallying the rest of the troops together. And I wanted to get a little bit of a control on that narrative. I don't know he did this. And he said this, and he didn't like her because of this. And this is why she's gone. And, and she said, that he had already bought, and I wanted to have a chance to own the narrative a little bit myself. And so I twice now I've just gathered a team around, get everyone off their phone calls and just say, Okay, today was so and so's last day. Now you can't share too much. Right? Right over over disclose. But in most cases, it's just great to let them know that it's not the beginning of a whole bunch of firings. Let them know that. Give them a chance to ask questions. A lot of times they'll say, Well, who's gonna who's gonna fill in for her job? And how can I help? And a lot of times you get feedback, like, thank you for bringing us together and being clear about this. Yeah, I just I just love that thought. And I don't know who taught it to me. But it's just the worst thing you could do is just go back in your office and close the door.

Liz Sears 34:00


Nelson Barss 34:01

Let them all wonder what just happened

Liz Sears 34:01

then they all make up stories that are always, you know, more extreme and extravagant than what really happened. You know, one of ours, shortly after we had let an agent go for consistent significant underperformance. And we had set up a review our reviews with our agents are always let's champion what you've done. Well, let's identify what could be done better. Let's put together a plan and get you to the next level. Like it's, it's a positive, awesome experience. So we had set up one of those with an agent only, like a week after we had let somebody go. And we set it up on Friday, and our meeting was like on Monday or Tuesday, and she came into it and like was like, Oh my gosh, you're really not letting me go. I said why? Because like I really was like, losing my mind all weekend long thinking that that's what you had set this meeting up for and trying to figure out what I was going to do instead and I just went Oh, okay, we did not handle it well enough when we explained why and so one of the things we've learned to is to share with them what our process is, if ever somebody is really falling behind, we're gonna have multiple meetings to say, Hey, how can we get this up? And we're going to give you fair warning. And so and I'm like, you've never even had one, why would you jump to that conclusion? And she was like, Well, I just haven't done as much as I wanted to. And we're like, you're good. You're so good.

Nelson Barss 35:20

Cool. Well, anything else? What else do we need to touch on? As far as letting people go?

Liz Sears 35:26

I think kind of the last thing that I'd really like to touch on is just, this is a perfect time to remember the golden rule, you know, do unto others as you'd have them do unto you. So always treat them with dignity, always assume that there's probably a really good reason why they're not showing up the way that you want them to. And that if it's because, you know, training systems or support, maybe it's something you can fix, maybe it's just that the job description isn't a good fit for them. And that's where I love to just come back to. So what it's a frickin job description? If you don't like it? That's fine. There's nothing wrong with you. There's nothing wrong with the job I decided I want done. Maybe we can align it. Or maybe not, maybe you'll be happier somewhere else. And when we can give a severance package, it makes it convenient.

Nelson Barss 36:10

Yeah. Well, I'm just thinking about it. As we're talking about this, the whole process we've been through on these first few episodes where we've talked about, you know, the hiring process, and then the onboarding and the training process. When you get to a point where you have to let someone go, you're inevitably going to notice your own flaws. Where did we go wrong, and you circle back in your improve them and it might take time is not, you're not going to be a master business ownership from day one. Now, this is experience, right? This is gaining knowledge and skill and improving your processes. And part of it is failing,

Liz Sears 36:46


Nelson Barss 36:46


Liz Sears 36:47

Yeah, well, failure is a necessary step on the road to success. Yeah.

Nelson Barss 36:52

Yep. And we've all done it, we will do it more. Right. And hopefully you learn from them and you get better as you go.

Liz Sears 36:59

Well, that's what we're hoping is we're all gonna learn a lot through these podcasts.

Nelson Barss 37:02

Absolutely all we're excited to keep talking. We've got some guests coming up that we're gonna interview and find out how they do it and how they've built a team of their own business greater than them. And so stay tuned for the next episode, and we'll see you then.

Liz Sears 37:15

Alright. Thanks for listening.

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