Entrepreneurial Panic

Big Red Car here.  Another day in paradise where the summer extends until, say, well — it never really ends except for our 5-day winters.  On Earth as it is in Texas!

So The Boss is reading about a discussion of “entrepreneurial panic” and had a few thoughts he shared with one of his brilliant CEO clients.  I listened in and here is what they talked about.

It will happen

In the life of every entrepreneur and entrepreneurial endeavor there will come a time that challenges the character of the founder/CEO and the survival of the organization itself.  So, no surprise there, Old Sport.

It will happen and it will happen to you.  [The Big Red Car spreading cheer on a lovely Saturday morning.  Haha, the Big Red Car speaking the truth, ya’ll.  Truth!]

It does not have to be fatal.


Some bouts of entrepreneurial panic will trump or be bigger than others.  It comes in all sizes and the thrust of this blog post is to suggest that you can inoculate yourself against some of these attacks and you can mitigate others if you will act in anticipation of their arrival.  Not all bouts of entrepreneurial panic can be prevented but they can be impacted so that they are not potentially fatal.  Making lizards from dragons?

It is like getting a flu shot.  The Boss is not one to get too fired up about preventive medicine having been healthy as a horse all of his life — well except for that adult onset hepatitis which almost killed him.

Employment matters

One of the biggest causes of entrepreneurial panic is the untimely loss of a critical employee.  This is particularly true when it is a co-founder or “C” level employee.

One of the most fundamental ways to inoculate the organization against such a loss is to enter into a “Basis of Employment” agreement which spells out the terms and conditions under which the employment arrangement is being forged and which includes a clear understanding that the employee will provide a minimum level of notice upon resignation in return for which the employer will provide an agreed upon level of severance in the event of a similar company initiated termination.

Do this while everyone is still in the “puppy love” stage of the relationship when there is an inexhaustible supply of good will.

This is a real world, pragmatic approach to the problem and one that works absent only bad faith on the part of either party.

A Basis of Employment can — should really — also include a clear job description, the first set of objectives, compensation and performance appraisal standards.  It is an “onboarding” document which can anticipate and alleviate a great number of problems.

[Pro tip:  Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives (Basis of Employment, job description, performance appraisal), Values and Culture — it all fits together and you may have to break a sweat to do it right.  But you are planning on being a BIG success, right?  Sweat the details now and don’t let it create panic later.]

It is NOT an employment agreement and it does not change an “at will” employment arrangement, if done correctly.

It is a pain in the butt to do a Basis of Employment document well.  The development of a good form is tedious and tiring.  It will prevent some of the entrepreneurial panic associated with the loss of a critical employment in a moment of crisis.

The Boss has such an exemplar he has developed over 33 years of CEOing and if you want one, just email him and he will send it to you.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway?  I’m just a Big Red Car.  Be nice to someone who does not expect it.  The look of surprise is worth it and we both know you really are a very good person.  Let it shine, ya’ll!