Kyle McCann has always prided himself on his ability to make the best of any situation.
So when his boss fired him from the job he started just eight weeks earlier, McCann held back tears and decided to focus on the bright side.
McCann, then 26, joined VizyPay, a Waukee, Iowa-based startup that designs payment technology solutions for small and medium-sized businesses across the United States, as a sales account manager in June 201[ads1]7.
He was the second employee hired at the start-up and hit the ground running in his new role, signing several new accounts in his first two weeks on the job.
But then business slowed down – a lot. McCann went several weeks without signing a new client. “At first I thought it was going to be the easiest job in the world, to go to business owners and say, ‘How can I save you money?'” he tells CNBC Make It. “I was horribly wrong … I quickly realized that I’m not much closer out on the field.”
So when Austin MacNab, founder and CEO of VizyPay, texted him on a Friday afternoon in late July to drop by his office, McCann knew he was toast. I knew exactly what was coming, that I was fired, he says. “But I decided to go into that meeting with a positive attitude and see what would happen.”
A “hot-of-the-moment decision” that changed everything
McCann’s first thought going into the meeting with his boss was how he was going to pay next month’s rent.
He and his girlfriend, Shannon, who was working a temp job at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, had just moved into an apartment in Waukee and “probably couldn’t afford the rent on her salary alone,” he says. “But I tried to remind myself that everything happens for a reason … I was definitely scared, but tried not to worry too much.”
Even after Mac Nab told him he would be fired, McCann remained calm and upbeat, thanking his boss for the opportunity, highlighting the positive elements of his experience at VizyPay and asking for feedback on his performance.
“He was very humble and didn’t give me a bunch of excuses for why he failed,” says MacNab. “He held himself accountable to the fact that this job wasn’t for him, which not many people do, especially when they get fired.”
MacNab listened to McCann during the meeting, and began to question his decision to let the recent hire leave the company entirely. “I felt he was genuine, authentic and hard-working, and my gut instinct kicked in during that conversation, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision,” says MacNab. “I thought, ‘I have to keep him somehow, somehow at VizyPay, just not in this job’.”
So, after MacNab fired McCann from his account manager role, he offered him another job at the end of the meeting that he thought might be a better fit for McCann’s skills and friendly personality: How would he like to be a customer service representative instead?
The offer came with a lower salary than what he had in his previous role, and would be just enough to cover bills and groceries. McCann went home to talk to Shannon first and then accepted, much to MacNab’s surprise.
“I had leads on other opportunities that paid more, but I saw something special in VizyPay,” says McCann. “I was eager to stay with the company because I truly believed in their vision and the people behind it.”
Fast forward five years and McCann, now 31, is still working at VizyPay — he recently celebrated his one-year anniversary as the company’s director of operational strategy, and the company now has 91 employees. He and Shannon are married, and she recently took a job as VizyPay’s director of marketing and sales.
McCann often reflects on the meeting in which he was fired as a defining moment in his life that taught him “patience, the definition of grinding it out … and believing in not just ideas, but yourself,” he says.
While you can’t always avoid getting fired, MacNab and McCann agree that there are a few things to keep in mind during an exit meeting to leave on good terms:
- Don’t be defensive: Ask for feedback and see where you could have improved in the role.
- Keep your emotions in check: If you lose your temper, you may jeopardize a return offer, or your employer may be less receptive to negotiating severance pay or providing a reference for another job.
- Maintain an Attitude of Gratitude: Thank your employer for the opportunity and highlight some of the positive things you got from the experience.
“You can’t control other people’s actions, but having a positive attitude and always being willing to put in the hard work can really open so many doors,” says McCann. “Getting that second chance and being able to prove what I can do … it’s been unreal and has led me to build a career that makes me really, really happy.”
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