Decision Making

When (and Why) Should You Fire Someone?

Firing someone for the first time is to this day one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. 

It’s one of those things that every agency owner has to go through at one point or another. 

And it’s never easy. 

The way I see it, there are two reasons to fire an employee:

One is performance-related. 

To be honest, this one can get complicated to work through. While it’s out of the scope for this article, I recorded a podcast with more thoughts and details that you can listen to here:

And the other reason to fire someone is based on culture.

Your company’s culture is a critical factor in scaling an agency that can stand the test of time.

And you are its guardian. 

That doesn’t mean going for drinks after work or playing table tennis at the office.

It means that it’s your job and your responsibility as the founder/CEO to foster, protect and maintain it as you grow.

And, like a king that oversees the borders of its kingdom, the first step to guard it is to decide who enters and who doesn’t.

What you can do to prevent having to fire employees:

Ideally, every individual that comes into your organization should embrace and add to your company’s culture.

You know… ideally. But you and I know that won’t happen.

There are a couple of things you can to filter people out during the hiring process, but it’s no guarantee you’ll get it right 100% of the time.

What’s worked for us:

Again, when I say this is what’s worked for us, I don’t mean we’ve found “the perfect solution.” 

There still had been (and will be) situations where we face this issue. But it has helped minimize the number of times this happens. 


What should you do when an employee doesn’t fit your culture?

I get it…

I get it can be tempting to keep an employee that just KILLS it in their role, no matter if they don’t fit the culture or even if they negatively impact it.

But after seven years of running a business (plus dozens of experiences with firing people), I’m telling you, it’s NEVER worth it.

In fact, you will actually lose more money in the long term by keeping them.

When someone repeatedly does not live up to the company’s values, and you don’t do something about it, you are thus tolerating AND accepting that behavior.

You’re telling the rest of the team that it’s okay to be toxic.

You’re telling them that short term revenue is more important. 

In short, it means your values don’t matter at all; they are just something you wrote on a piece of paper and forgot about.

When that happens, toxicity will begin to slowly spread to the rest of your company like a virus — from that one person to the rest. 

Look, I don’t like telling people what they should or shouldn’t do. You’re ultimately the one who makes the decision.

But I’m making an exception here: 

Don’t do it. 

Don’t put an employee’s performance above your company’s core values.

I did it many times. And it slowed us down a ton long-term. 

Now, maybe you tell yourself things like:

“But they bring us so much revenue.”

“But we will lose clients if they leave.”

“But we can’t find someone as good as them.”

“But, but, but…”

Look, I’ve told myself all the excuses in the book. And what I’ve found is this:

The stories we tell ourselves about what will happen if they leave or why we are justified in keeping them are just that, stories.

You can and you will find a replacement.

When should you fire someone?

Look, I’m not saying you should go and fire someone the moment they do one little thing that’s not aligned with your business’ culture.

Everyone makes mistakes. Have a conversation with them about it. Give your employees the opportunity to learn from them.

Hell, I know that even I’m not perfect…

There have been times when I didn’t live up to Jakt’s core values.

That’s why it’s not just you who was to keep everyone accountable as the owner. All members of the team also need to play that role too.

But accountability starts at the top.

So you have to be the one setting the example.

If someone’s repeatedly offending your culture, and it’s clear it’s negatively affecting people, then you know what’s your role as the guardian.

But firing based on culture should not be rocket science.

If you implement clear expectations for culture from day one and have regular check-ins and reviews to give feedback, there shouldn’t be much of a problem.

And if someone fails to live up to the company’s core values, you can talk with them and keep an eye on their progress.

Even more, ask yourself if they have the potential to change.

If you believe that’s not going to happen, well, then they don’t fit in the business.

And that’s not to say they are bad people.

It might just be that the rules you established were not the right fit for them. 

You’re actually doing them a disservice by keeping them.

Because if it’s not working for the company, it’s probably not working for them either.

You see…

The more time you debate on the decision, the longer your business suffers and the longer they are not taking an opportunity elsewhere where they do FIT in with the culture.

So you’re screwing your team, your business, and even yourself in the process.

As the founder/CEO, you get to dictate the rules of the game.

I don’t want to compare it to a dictatorship. It isn’t.

But the thing is, you are the one who has the final say on whether someone gets to stay or not.

If you believe someone in your team is negatively impacting your culture, you decide if they stay or not.

And so… you’re the one who decides if the ship pivots and corrects course or sinks.

3 Takeaways on firing when there’s no culture fit:

  • As the CEO, you have to be the guardian of the culture. It falls on you to monitor your employees, see how they perform, and watch if they are a negative influence on the company.
  • Don’t put an employee’s performance above your company’s core values. Toxicity will spread to the rest of the team. 
  • The stories you tell yourself are just that, stories. If an employee’s not the right fit, you’re not doing them a favor by keeping them. If it’s not working for the company, it’s probably also not working for them either.


What an Agency Owner Needs to Know About Money

I grew up living the so-called American Dream. But the cold-hearted truth is that this “Dream” is less about reality and more about appearance. It’s less about being and more about showing

We want to look like we have money, but we HATE openly talking about it. My parents didn’t even tell me they had taken student loans for my college or how they worked! 

Money and personal finance were sources of incredibly high stress on my household, but we couldn’t let others know –that was taboo!

Something wasn’t right. I didn’t want to have the same relationship with money my parents had, nor the tension and arguments that came with it. 

I wanted to educate myself financially, learn about money management, and understand money –not fear it or endure its pressing stress.

One thing I started to uncover is that money doesn’t have to be such a closeted subject. 

There’s a clear resistance to openly discussing anything even slightly related to money –both in our personal lives and in business.   

And we need to overcome it.

That’s why we now share our financials statements every month at my company Jakt: to help other companies in the same position as we once were and to make an active effort to start a conversation about money. 

Not talking about it skews our understanding of money and inevitably gets us in trouble later in life.

We live in an economic system that promotes overspending and undersaving. 

We are taught from a very early age that it’s ok to spend money you don’t have to impress other people. But keeping up with that external facade of having money can get very expensive. 

And that’s a problem that follows you no matter how large your income gets —10% of individuals making over $100k/year say they still can’t make ends meet. 

People don’t like to talk about how much money they make, or how much they spend on things, or their real net worth: if you have $10K in credit card debt and $1K in your bank account, yes, you have a negative net worth. 

Most people don’t even have the most basic knowledge about how money works. Rather, we are taught to use credit cards, borrow money and live a blind fantasy taking out unnecessary loans. 

69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings and 78% of full-time workers live paycheck to paycheck. 

Yet most of us live above our means and don’t really know how interest rates work and how quickly we can go under. 

Instead of facing the reality that we have a negative net worth, we kid ourselves into thinking we’re well off and own “assets.” When, in reality, we’re one big walking liability. 

By the way, if you are unsure, an asset produces money and gives you a return. That $1,200 jacket you just bought is not an asset –even if repeating “but I’ll wear it a hundred times” or but it’s 70% off! helps you sleep at night. 

And when our expenses rise and reach a breaking point, what do we do?

We use credit and high-interest loans… anything that will allow us to maintain our fabricated image for just a bit longer

I’ve seen countless people spend money on credit cards like it was free money. 

There’s no blue genie behind it with unlimited funds, I promise. They don’t understand for a second that, when you carry the balance, the $10,000 watch they bought actually cost them $12,000 after the card company charged their interest.

And it’s not just about being in financial trouble. When you owe money to someone –a bank, a family member –you no longer have control. 

You’ve lost control of your money, yourself, and your freedom.

Instead of ignoring your personal finances, spending unnecessary money every month, and putting what you can’t afford on your credit card, look at your balance right in the face and don’t shy away from it. 

It’s a reality check and you might not like the answer –but it’s better now than later. 

Breaking out from the money taboo

We fear money. We’ve been told it is not polite to ask questions about other people’s finances –you should mind your own business, right?

But the truth is, it is okay to talk about it. 

Money is just a tool. Nothing more, nothing less.

And this tool allows us to fairly exchange value, keep (ours and other) businesses running, and advance as a society. 

Life and business are just one big game, and money helps us play it: from hiring employees, renting office space, to purchasing products and services we need. 

The problem is when you tie how many zeros your bank account has to your self-worth. You are attaching an emotional element to money –and that leads to showing off to people that you have money (even if you really don’t).

Your self-worth does not depend on how much money you dropped on a Gucci belt. Nothing will change, well, other than the skyrocketing credit card debt you owe the bank. 

Flaunting and trying to keep up with the Joneses will only lead you into financial trouble. 

Either you use money or it uses you.

Linking your happiness and well-being to the immediate gratification from material objects is a very short-sighted play. Americans between the ages of 55-64 (just inches away from retirement) have a jaw-dropping average net worth of only $45,447 –and plenty of them are still in debt. 

Considering that we now live longer than ever and Social Security does not account for that, the future looks bleak for many. 

When you retire at 65 (and you still have 20-30 years to live), what money are you going to live with? The government can’t and won’t take care of you –you have to care of yourself. 

For some (and I’d say many), the problem is not that they didn’t make enough throughout their life. It’s that their relationship with money was so messed up that they simply threw it down the drain with unnecessary purchases and high-interest debt. 

You don’t want to retire at 60 (or 70, or 80!) after decades of working and have zero dollars in your pocket or negative net worth.

Emotionally overspending will keep freedom –doing things by choice, not because you have to– the dream that always remained a dream.

Money doesn’t have to be a taboo or the root of all evil. 

But we are hesitant to talk about it, we don’t educate ourselves on how to manage it, and we care more about other people’s opinions than being financially responsible. 

But money itself, away from personal attachments and preconceptions, is just a tool! 

And by keeping it close to our hearts and not discussing it openly, we are making it extremely hard for others to rewire their relationship with it.

Money is meant to be used and multiplied, but as long as you let money control you and you don’t know how to use it, it will use you and you’ll never be free. 

Instead, shift your mindset towards money as an approachable tool that lets you keep playing the game and help more people. 

Building a Business

When Should You Invest in Marketing for your Company’s Brand?

When I started Jakt out of my bedroom in NYC, there were plenty of things I didn’t know about running a business. 

I had previous entrepreneurial experience, but this was my first attempt at running a full-blown, service-based company with employees, etc. 

It was a big (and challenging) step for me. 

There were also things I didn’t know that I didn’t know. 

I mean… how could I? I was just figuring things out as I went along. 

I don’t believe in mistakes. But I do believe in lessons –and in learning from them. Jakt is now a $4M/year business but, looking back, I wish I knew certain things. 

One of those was when (and why) you should invest in marketing for your company’s brand. 

Is marketing worth your time in the beginning?

During Jakt’s early years, I was extremely focused on serving our customers. Which meant I would spend a large share of my time doing production work.

And any time I could find outside of that would go into selling or gradually working on the business. 

That’s what made sense to me, right?

These were the activities with the highest short-term ROI. I needed to find new clients or I wouldn’t make payroll next month. I needed to work on the business so that we could eventually scale and fire myself.

So I get it. I really do. 

I understand why many business owners just focus on that when they’re starting up. When you’re scrambling to survive, it can seem too far-fetched to think about anything else.

When Should You Invest in Marketing for your Company’s Brand?

Building your company’s brand

One area that I really didn’t focus much back then was content marketing and brand building. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. The Jakt brand definitely grew over time. As we signed more and more clients and helped solved bigger issues, we started to make a name for ourselves.

But I can’t help to think how much further along we’d be if we had started earlier.

If we just had invested in creating content that showed our expertise, grew the brand and laid the foundation for SEO which pays off massively over time. 

The truth is, in the early days…

It’s hard to justify spending time and money on content.

“Why would I spend money and time on something that doesn’t have an immediate ROI?” I thought.

You see…

I was worried about making sure we’d get through the next weeks and months. I truly believed that I couldn’t afford to think about the long term as much.

The power of compounding.

Here’s the thing:

Just like working “on the business” compounds over time, so does content and brand building.

You won’t see the impact today, or this week, or this month, or maybe not even this year.

And that can lead you to ignore it when you’re not in a secure financial position. But its effects on your brand over time are worth it in my opinion. 

When Should You Invest in Marketing for your Company's Brand?

How to get started with content creation:

I’ve taken this lesson to heart. And I’m now applying it to all my future business ventures. 

While it’s not directly related to any specific company of mine, my personal brand is an example of this. 

I’ve built a 24/7 personal brand machine that requires a small fraction of my time. Articles like this one are adding value to both my own and my companies’ brand.

With Polpo Group, I’m investing in cash-flow generating businesses. Moving forward, one of the priorities is to build up the company brand from the jump. We’ll work on that way earlier than I did with Jakt.

Your brand is an asset.

While growing your brand, you’re creating an asset that can run without you.

So, if you ever want to sell or step away, you’ve added value to it. And it will keep on paying over time. 

Eventually, your content and your brand will really be out there. Which will then lead to additional inbound interest, other opportunities, higher closing rates, etc. 

The more you put out (that is quality) over long periods of time, the more you’ll get out of this whole thing. 

Now, you don’t have to go all out tomorrow and start cranking up blog posts as your life depends on it.

You’re playing the long game here. So don’t stop selling and working on the business just yet. 

But define a strategy. Start slow. Be consistent. And let it compound over time. 

When Should You Invest in Marketing for your Company's Brand?

Found this valuable?

This article comes from a series I call “Wish I Knew,” which I write for members. 

As the name implies, these are valuable lessons that I’ve learned throughout my journey as an agency owner and CEO.

They are the type of things that I would’ve loved to know back in the day. And they would’ve helped me grow my business quicker and with fewer “oh, fuck me” moments.

I have plenty of others nuggets that I’ll be sharing on my community for business owners that run service-based companies. 

If you run an agency and want more insights like this every week, you can join us here.