Don't be afraid to lose a key employee

Almost every startup goes through tough times. Sometimes it is related to a lack of clients, sometimes a lack of investments, but almost always its team is ready for these challenges. It is rare that young companies are ready for the other type of challenge - loss of a key employee. One of our clients had that kind of a situation recently. When the project fell on hard times, its CTO(Chief Technical Officer) left the company. The non-technical founder of the startup was left alone in the middle of a critical stage of the software development process.


Be prepared. To minimize that kind of situations’ influence and for more order in your technical startup, you should follow these simple rules.

  1. Document everything.

    Good documentation should contain not only your product business logic description but also a list of technologies used with their versions specified, links and credential details for all third party services with purpose descriptions included and descriptions of all key elements of your software (like servers, security systems, etc.). It is good to have a typical onboarding plan for every position in your team with a list of duties. A description of technical and management standards that you follow in your company is crucial.

  2. Delegate key employees’ tasks.

    To free a valuable top managers’ time and to prepare a substitute for them (just in case), you should delegate tasks of higher rank employees to lower ranking team members (or employees from other departments).

  3. Involve independent experts.

    It is very helpful to stay in touch with independent professionals in business areas which you are not an expert. In our case study we fulfilled this role. Before the CTO left our client we had been providing the required pace of work in the project. Even though none of our engineers became a CTO after our client’s CTO left, we successfully continued software development, provided management and communication for several months which resulted in stable results and progress to show to investors until a new CTO was hired.

Every company (startup) founder should remember that loss of a key employee (even if it is a technical co-founder) does not mean that the project will fail. It is possible to keep your project stable during several months until you find a replacement for that role in the company by just following these simple steps to prepare a good foundation.

Written by
Bogdan K.

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