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How can I fire my boss for poor performance?

This week, we saw Men's Wearhouse fire founder George Zimmer.  Which begs the question, how do I fire the entrepreneur that started the business for poor performance?

The founder of a software company believes the company can grow revenue 200% a year organically, funded by profits, without a sales and marketing process.  Unfortunately, although not surprisingly, the strategy has failed the last two years.  It's time to change course, but he's too stubborn.

Any recommendations?

Answers

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

It comes down to ownership. If the founder owns 100%, you cannot do anything. However, if the organization is shareholder owned and you are able to convince enough shareholders, a change is possible. Just realize when you take action there can only be one of two possible outcomes -
1) Shareholders agree. They oust the CEO and you probably will be promoted.
2) Shareholders disagree. The CEO feels you are no longer a trusted Advisor, and you are gone.
Be sure that your beliefs are based on fact and not opinion. As CFO, you have the double edged responsibility to be an Advisor/Confidant of the CEO, but also protect the interests of the shareholders.
Good luck.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Alternatives to firing owner, is a) buy him out, b) fire yourself and set up a different shop that is different enough not to win in litigation.

Brad Luke
Title: SVP
Company: Software as a service
(SVP, Software as a service) |

Yes, these are too very likely outcomes. You bring up a good point, a person needs to separate fact from opinion.

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: CEO & COO
Company: Treasury Careers
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO & COO, Treasury Careers) |

Let's take this down a notch. Let's assume your boss is not the CEO. A slippery slope to be sure. You can become involved in cross-functional initiatives where you can "shine" for senior management in projects that do not include your boss. You need to "unwind" your professional brand from that of your boss. You may be able to "take out" your boss by having others "see the light" that you are more valuable than this person.Easier said than done, but it can be done. Just be ready to leave if you want to pursue any sort of aggressive strategy along these lines.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

This can only work in an environment which is large and open enough (number of employees/managerial levels as well as management style) to support it.

For many (80% of all businesses are at least in the SMB space) it just isn't feasible.

Andrew Nussbaum
Title: Director of Finance and Adminstration
Company: **--**--**
(Director of Finance and Adminstration, **--**--**) |

In the case of some organizations, the founder/ boss is not the owner, but an employee... however, then responsibility falls to the Board to realize the ineffectiveness of this leader.
I recently left a company with this exact problem - however, the BoD is unable/ unwilling to confront the leader and force the necessary change.
This leads to employee dissatisfaction, excessive turnover, and the business suffering (revenue, growth, staff cohesiveness, etc).
It is VERY frustrating when nothing can be done!
Good luck Anonymous CFO (I was in very similar position to yours --- the resolution was all on my part unfortunately).

Anonymous
(SVP) |

You are spot on with what happens when the CEO is not preforming. If a CEO is not preforming and it is unlikely they will improve their performance the issue should be dealt with sooner than later. The longer it goes on the more the company's performance will suffer.

Topic Expert
Dana Price
Title: Vice President, M&A
Company: McGraw Hill Education
(Vice President, M&A, McGraw Hill Education) |

Be sure you want to take on that battle. Sometimes it's just easier to seek employment elsewhere.

Atul Kumar Agarwal
Title: CFO
Company: Retail Company
(CFO, Retail Company) |

A very pertinent question. Most of the CFOs who know the business well in addition to numbers, have the capability of judging the CEO and a mechanism should be created for bringing a CFO at par with the CEO and not report into her. I know of CFOs who have board positions and who report into the CEO are frustrated as there is a dysfunctional relation ship between them. The frustration increases where there is no mechanism of escalation especially when the CEO is a founder. But one thing to be kept in mind, if the CEO is the investor, then she has a better gut feel of business and financial risk which the CFO may not have and hence the CFO must be careful and should do homework and research before arriving at any conclusion.
A very debatable discussion but extremely pertinent in current day scenario where the CFO role is constantly dynamic and emerging.

Anonymous
(CFO) |

Thanks to all that have contributed to this discussion.

Regis, the founders own 100% of the company, but promised key employees, including myself, ownership by the end of 2012 as part of our employment agreement. We are now six months beyond the deadline and still have no ownership.

Wayne, the owners were offered $35 million to sell 51% of the company, but turned down the offer last fall. They refuse to sell as they fail to see the benefit of leveraging outside capital to grow the business. Perhaps a failure on my part to present an absolutely compelling argument that access to capital determines growth rate. But then again, they refuse to decide on growth rate, as well as revenue, cash and profit targets.

Ernie, the founder turns to me to get things done when his co-founder fails to act. I end up driving many of the cross-functional initiatives. The cofounder is responsible for sales and marketing, yet I’ve driven the initiative to go global, reaching out to U.S. Commercial Services to identify global channel partners and foreign government bid opportunities. Now, I’m involved in leading global marketing activities, which requires expertise well beyond the role of the CFO.

Atul, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The entire organization is dysfunctional. There currently is no board, so there is no mechanism to elevate key issues. I've made introductions locally to form an advisory board, but the founders have yet to act.

I would have to agree with Dana, as disappointing an option as it is, to seek employment elsewhere. It’s unfortunate that the company lacks the leadership to take a truly exceptional product and service to the marketplace. It’s a true disappointment for the technical team that has given so much to develop and vet the products and service offerings.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Anonymous -

Sad situation. BTW, unless the promise is in writing, it's worthless (hence your 6 months behind, and you'll be 6 years behind in getting an ownership %).

And Dana's or my last suggestion (start up a slightly different - non-dysfunctional competitor) seems the only way out unless you enjoy the aggravation.

Good luck!

Brad Luke
Title: SVP
Company: Software as a service
(SVP, Software as a service) |

I agree on your assessment that an employment change is a good idea. If the ownership is not diversified and the board is none functional I would suggest moving on to other pastures. Good luck.

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

He is the boss, right? Do you have an ownership stake? If so, you can voice your opinion correspondingly. If not, it is time to go somewhere else.

Anonymous
(Consulting CFO and Business Operations Advisor) |

I've got this going on now at one of my shops. (So totally anon)

The answer we're trying with a 100% owner is;
-Confront the person with the issues *constructively*, over time.
-Argue that your interests are aligned, and that they've done good in getting to where you are.
-Suggest that they be more visionary, and let the implementation be done by the people who lack vision but were hired to be operational.
The jury is still out on this, but the right questions are being asked.

This can go two ways. In the past, I've had success with it. It can turn into a bad thing, however. If the latter happens, well, you did your duty in trying to take the org to the next level. Not every attempt you take in life is successful, but every time you fail to try, you fail, so totally worth the attempt.

Good luck!

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