Well, That Sucked: Laying Off Half the Company

Company retreat, 2016

Company retreat, 2016

I always wanna be honest with you, dear reader, and let you see how running a lil’ consulting shop goes. It’s been fun sharing a lot of our happy growing moments along the way. This one, though, is a lot less fun to share.

Yesterday, we had to let go of Angie, Doug, and Jessica.

The background: we basically sell emergency room services for SQL Server, and we’ve consistently been backlogged with work. In early 2015, we figured that me doing sales was holding the company back. If we hired a salesperson, we believed we’d be able to acquire more customers faster, and sell more work to past customers. So we hired Jessica, and staffed up on consultants.

This year, we’ve learned that a salesperson can’t really bring in more emergency room work (seems obvious in retrospect, but we were hoping for followup work), so I had to make a tough decision. I had to right-size the company back to where we’re regularly busy, maybe even turning some work away, just to make sure that we’re profitable overall. The training side of the business is still doing really well, and the company overall isn’t in trouble – but it would have been soon.

I’m bummed out, obviously, because it’s a failure on my part. These people are my friends, and I wanted to build a place where they could thrive for the rest of their working careers if they so chose. I’d always heard it’s tough to bridge the chasm between a 3-FTE consulting shop and a 10-FTE one, and now I really understand why.

Wanna keep in touch with them? Here’s their emails:

  • Angie Rudduck in Portland, Oregon – if you’re looking for an incredibly upbeat, fast-learning junior DBA or SQL Server support person, I’d highly recommend Angie. She did a great job streamlining our backup/recovery/CHECKDB education process.
  • Doug Lane in Cedar Rapids, Iowa – want to make your SQL Server faster, fast? Doug has been doing high end performance tuning for the last few years, and he’d be a huge asset to any SQL Server shop that needs a DBA who can build bridges between developers and SQL Server.
  • Jessica Connors in Chicago, Illinois – in the database world, salespeople often have a reputation for being slimy, but Jessica is totally different. She listens to your pains and matches you up with the right relief. She was a pleasure to work with.
Previous Post
New SQL Server First Responder Kit for 2016-07
Next Post
Announcing Dell DBA Days 2016: The SQL

44 Comments. Leave new

  • Very sad news. Best of luck to Angie, Doug and Jessica. They are talented (or you’d never have hired them), so they’ll prosper.

  • Dang, that’s a real shame! It’s a really tough thing to have to do. Hope folks get snapped up quickly.

    Someone local going through start-up has had similar issues, especially around the sales area. Might be worth a read: https://medium.com/@warrenof/hiring-people-is-a-mistake-but-dont-do-it-all-yourself-ca1e895481c2#.qcujhk4sk

  • David Alcock
    July 19, 2016 7:17 am

    A very honest and insightful post and of course what a shame to read! I’m sure the guys will be inundated with best of luck messages and certainly offers.

    • David – thanks, man. Yeah, as brilliant as all three of them are, they’re going to be fine. It just hurts that they’ve left our team and our chat room.

  • You are a class act, thanks for your honesty. It is critical the company stays alive. I am a good example of your company’s exists. I started as a JR DBA back in 2012, I can honestly say with confidence reading the blogs everyday purchasing “The Everything Bundle” has advanced my DBA skills to mid-level. I look forward in enjoying more years of reading blogs and viewing training videos.

  • I can’t believe you let Doug go but kept Richie… 😉

  • I think a lot of your readers respect you way more for your honesty and your no filler approach, as well as your vast knowledge of SQL Server. I know that you made the best long term decision for all involved. I know that everyone will be fine and things will only get better.

  • For Doug and Jessica if you are ever tempted to live in Minneapolis, I work for a great company here called Solution Design Group. We have a small team of Database consultants and it’s an awesome place to work. Plus if you like craft beer, we have loads of new breweries. Cheers!

  • richard clarke
    July 19, 2016 10:54 am

    Without a doubt, the very worst part of running your own company when you’re forced to do something like that

  • Philllip Imbesi
    July 19, 2016 11:13 am

    Tough break, but the bridges aren’t burnt. Who knows what will happen down the line.

  • Wow, that must have been one of the worst professional decisions you’ve had to make. I wish nothing but the best for all of them, and of course your company too sir.

  • I am sad 🙁 Best wishes to all impacted. You will be missed (including Office Hours)!

  • I tried to pick-up Jessica during an Office Hours once… with SQL. “What would be the results of this query in your database – Select phone from employee where emp_name=’Jessica Connors’;” (Obviously, if that returned any results, your DB would need some normalizing.) Anyway, the result was “PERMISSION DENIED”… lol

    All of those folks will be missed. 🙁 Best of luck…

    • Tim – yeah, I remember that. Generally speaking, you probably wanna hold off on that kind of “query” with your professional coworkers, heh. That’s best suited for folks you meet outside of a professional environment. 😉

  • Damn, losing what would be a dream job is hard. I had the same problem back when 9/11 hit as I was the last one hired and contracts got cancelled or put off.

    As bad as I felt, there were a lot of people worse off. Good luck, D, J and A. With this kind of experience you’ll be invaluable to someone.

  • There are thousands of businesses who went out of business because they didn’t take action early enough. I’ve been laid off twice in my life and it sucked both times. However, I did manage to land on my feet both times and my severance turned into a bonus. I hope that can happen for them too. I wish your firm and them the best!

  • David Nemeth
    July 19, 2016 12:16 pm

    Sad, and well put. Though you might want to change your avatar.

  • Too bad, sorry for you and them.

    One thing I would like to question is why companies nowadays use the term “laid off” when they essentially mean fired. A layoff happens when you are temporarily short on work, and you give some people a little unpaid vacation. When there is no intention of keeping the job open specifically for them, then they are being fired. “Let go,” if you think that softens the blow.

    • Roy – layoff actually means permanent, too (not making that up, it’s in dictionaries.)

    • I believe it’s the implication of the terms. Fired implies the person did something wrong. Laid off says they did nothing wrong, but rather the needs of the business changed and thus their position was no longer needed.

      I had it happen to me earlier this year. The needs of business often change, Positions are eliminated, or are not bringing in the revenue needed. I understand enough about business to know it isn’t anything personal, just needing to keep the business going. I have no ill will toward my former employer, still think they do good work.

      • Robert – yeah, exactly. Fired generally means the person is at fault, and laid off means the company is at fault. (This was definitely our fault.)

  • Sorry to hear but as others have commented Angie, Doug, and Jessica are all talented will land softy.

  • The drum beat of making payroll every two weeks can be tough, I’ve lost many night’s sleep trying to come up with the money, now we have a credit line and paying off our debt while the going is good. We notice for example works slacks off in December and early June, people thinking about Xmas parties and summer vacations and not on your proposal. Don’t lose hope to rehire them. I’ve reached out to Jessica since I am looking for a Salesperson for IT Impact.

    • Juan – you would absolutely love working with Jessica, and I can’t recommend her highly enough. She’s phenomenal. I hope my loss is your gain!

  • Hey Brent,
    I’m sure that the team will go on and do more great things, and being an ‘Alumni’ of Brent Ozar Unlimited will set them up in good stead.
    Sometimes the ‘hard’ decisions are ‘hard’ because they are really difficult to implement and execute, even though the decision and outcome is obvious and there are no other real options. I believe that this is something you’ll have thought about deeply, and I’m sorry you’ve had to do take this action, and I’m sure you’ll do all you can to help them. I’ve been through the same: I had to lay off a team member from DR a few years ago, and, although it was the right thing to do, I hated it. I’m glad to say that he used it as an opportunity to go and do great things and he probably earns more than I do now, lol!

    I was a one woman band, then a two-person band, and then we hired a third person. Then, I went back to one. At first, it was a terrible situation and I felt so much failure and fear of the future and I had lost friends. Now, I’m expanding back to two. I learned that, sometimes, you can get more friendship in unexpected places and, now I’m a bit stronger, I am doing my best to be that ‘unexpected friend’ to other people now.

    I’m remaining true to Business Intelligence and its implementation in Azure, and finding partners and extending my network along the way. It’s hard going from 1, to 2, to 10. However, if my story is anything to go by, you’ll grow again; perhaps in a different direction than you originally thought. It’s all part of the blast of owning your own consultancy.

    Summary: you are all awesome and you’ll all keep being awesome. My best to you all.
    -Jen Stirrup

    • Jen – thanks so much for the kind words, and it means a lot to me. It’s gotta be tricky in the BI space too – the projects are big, and I bet they’re unpredictable as all get out. I wish you the best of luck and hope to catch up with you again soon.

  • I’m very sad for everyone involved. Here’s hoping that people are smart enough to snap up Jessica, Doug, and Angie ASAP.

  • I will miss them in the coming webcasts… Jessica’s cheery smile and voice, Doug’s sure-fire delivery of excellent performance advice, and Angie’s enthusiastic problem-solving and occasional stand-in as question-wrangler. Best of luck to them and to the company; BOULTD is an excellent community resource and we want to see it remain viable & prosperous for years to come.

  • Such sad news for anyone being let go, especially when you know they have talent, knowledge and are great to work with.

    Wishing Angie, Doug, and Jessica all the best in their future endeavors. I’m sure, Brent, that your job just got a whole lot tougher without them.

    Keep up the great work guys, as this site or more to the point, what you stand for, is awesome as it has had a huge impact in people like me that want to know more about SQL.

  • Yeah – redundancies suck. Sometimes you need to take gambles in business and sometimes they don’t pay off. Hopefully everyone learned some great things and are now more employable as a result.

    I think it’s great that you are able to provide such great references for the people you have had to let go and that you are able to circulate them so widely. The sales person sounded perfect for Redgate but sadly we’ve just filled what vacancies we had. (Also, our US office is in Pasadena.)

    I’m sure anyone who has worked with the famous Brent Ozar will be snapped up pretty quick!

  • About six years ago our IT team was called into a meeting with HR and told our main business had decided to merge their group level IT with our smaller business unit IT. My team leader and manager both got laid off, a developer forced into early retirement, and another guy decided to leave rather than move. Two other people got transferred completely out of IT. It was a worry what the future held for me at the time but it actually gave me the opportunity to become a proper full time DBA rather than a support developer who was also the unofficial “accidental DBA”. I took the view that it’s now or never!

    I know they may not think it at the moment but this could actually be their big break as they’ve all got worked for Brent Ozar on their employment record now which is going to open doors for them big time. Best of luck to all.

  • So sad to hear this news from you Brent. That must have been a really ‘tough’ day at the office 🙁 I have liked, shared and learnt so much from all at BrentO.com. As they say when one door closes another one opens. For Angie, Doug and Jessica I envisage many such doors opening for them. Hey how many ppl have ‘worked @ BrentO’ on their resume? AND Brent what an awesome way to treat your staff & your friends: “These people are my friends, and I wanted to build a place where they could thrive for the rest of their working careers if they so chose”. Wishing everyone at BrentO & Angie, Doug and Jessica every success for the future! 🙂

  • Kenneth AMBROSE
    July 20, 2016 12:33 pm

    I sympathize greatly with all concerned.

    Probably the main reason I backed away from “management” job responsibilities in my career and never looked back, was my discomfort with having to turn down applicants and release current employees (except for the goofball that brought an illegal pistol into the workplace and was showing it off. I had no compunctions about releasing him).

  • My sympathies to Angie Rudduck, Doug Lane & Jessica Connors. It always sucks to be the first ones to go when times are tough – but with a referee like Brent on your CV, that should certainly work in your favour.
    The downside of Brent reducing the numbers in the company and suggesting that it is better to “…turn away work…” is that, usually, such a plan never happens. When work is coming your way – nobody turns it away and those who do the slog are expected to do more and more until the inevitable burn-out.

    I hope that doesn’t happen because organisations lose good people due to expecting too much too often. It doesn’t help when you have clients who want someone else working on their site because of silly, pathetic excuses that have nothing to do with technical skills. When you run out of people to assist is when your business will suffer.

    Chin-up and remember to turn away that extra work if it means flogging a willing horse.

    • Matt – no, we definitely turn away work. We don’t accept after-hours or weekend gigs. The consultants set their working hours (typically 8 or 9am starts in their time zone) and that’s it. No working late to deal with multiple clients.

      There’s a downside to that, obviously – we don’t make as much hay when the sun shines – but since I’m a consultant here too, I’m not budging on that rule. 😀

      • Glad to hear it.

        (…and I will not start on the consultant jokes about starting at the crack of noon 🙂 )

  • Claudia Coleman
    July 21, 2016 1:03 am

    Just wanted to say how much I appreciate your candor and honesty. It’s these situations that make it so tough to do the right thing for your business and still act with integrity and honor with employees. It occurred to me that your influence and thought leadership goes way beyond SQL Server my friend!

  • I “knew” Doug at most from the three, I especially liked his humor and his easy (or loose) approach to things (not sure for wording, I’m not native English speaker). When hearing him, he always seemed so confident, and thorough. I wish all the best for him and to Jessica & Angie. And, of course, all the best to Brent Ozar Unlimited!

  • Sorry to hear this.

    Hope everything will be ok soon for both Angie, Doug, Jessica and the rest of course.