It won’t happen to me … again!

My story is kind of weird – at least that is what I thought.  But I’m reliving parts of it through a local company, make that ex-company, here in Utah.  Perhaps it isn’t as weird as I thought.

Utah County is home to two big universities and lots and lots of young talent.  There are some very big companies there, it was the home of WordPerfect, has Novell headquarters as well as  And of course, a ton of previous employees from WordPerfect and Novell have been laid off and have gone on to start their own companies.

One company started fairly recently was Provo Labs, which was an incubator.  You should be familiar with this incubator concept – it has extreme talent dedicated to helping entrepreneurs start up their businesses.  They provide office space and all the goodies (probably even a water cooler to talk over), training, and an environment where entrepreneurs can network with one another and work through start-up issues.

It is a very very exciting environment.

So Provo Labs started … I’m not sure when.  But it ended recently.  Actually, it changed course.  It is no longer an incubator (in the “traditional” sense) but it is continuing to support the companies that it has interest in.  So cool.

How am I reliving my January experience?  Because the 10 or so employees that were just Provo Labs folks, dedicated to the incubatorship, were laid off.  Abruptly. 

So what do you do in a situation like that?  What did they do? More on that a little later :)  I want to bring out a few points here:

1. NO ONE is safe.  Ever.  Usually you are safe if you have “the right last name” … but that isn’t always a guarantee.  Don’t you remember how the employer stress that “Idaho (I was in Idaho at the time) is an at-will state” – this means – we promise you nothing, and can terminate you at any time with NO reason.  How’s that for loyalty?

Don’t get caught up in the illusion that you can work hard, do your job, do your best, and even bring in value and money to the company.  These decisions are made by folks who have a different vision than you do, and even though you are doing an incredible job your function or team can be terminated as part of a strategic reorganization.  No matter how good you are.  And then you may hear “if we had a position for you we’d hire you right away”… ya right.  That is a nice gesture but it doesn’t pay any bills!  Nice gestures don’t pay bills.  Nice gestures, for the guy who just got kicked out on their butt, are empty words.

2. You have to figure out who “Numbero Uno” is.  When I was General Manager for my past employer, they were Numero Uno.  Everything I did was for the company – I wouldn’t go network because I felt that I was cheating on my employer.  And how in the world could the GM, who is creating momentum and excitement with employees, going to work on his own career or other career options?  Wouldn’t that ruin the momentum with the team?  Well, I’ll tell you what I learned.  That momentum worked then for the company, but it did nothing for me once I got laid off.  You need to work on your job security.  Don’t look at your company to provide it.  What are you doing right now to increase your employability?  Aside from any training or educational endeavors (I network with a bunch of guys that are highly trained and educated but are still spending months in a job search) I strongly recommend reading “Never Eat Alone” AND using JibberJobber to build and manage your personal network.

3.  These first two points apply no matter how exciting an opportunity is.  There was a lot of excitement at my old company, and Provo Labs had a ton of excitement and employee loyalty.  But sometimes that just isn’t enough.  Sure my old company is selling the product that we were all jazzed about, and most of these products don’t just die and go away.  But again, if you have been booted out the door, what good is all that excitement?  You may follow the company news for a few months but that don’t pay the bills.  Regardless of how awesome the company is, how exciting the product is and all the rest of that stuff, you have to make sure that you are not getting myopic in your career path.  Keep options open, look for options, create options.

4.  Your excellent team and talent will not provide you job security.  It should, and Good to Great suggests that the great companies will hire excellent talent even if there is not a job for them – for “getting the right person on the bus” is more important than what the company or product is.  But… um, there are only 11 companies on that list that Jim put in his book.  And all CEOs have read the book, and swear they live by it, but when it comes down to it, when it comes to some personal pet project that might cost tens of thousands of dollars or keeping the incredible talent on board, I’m betting they’ll go with their lame pet project.  Talent gets to walk out the door.  Thanks for the book Jim, and thanks for the nod of approval by the CEOs but by golly… you need to watch out for numero uno, because they’ll kick you out the door with a nice smile and good luck.  By the way, good luck doesn’t pay the house payment – I tried that and the bank didn’t care.

I applaud the folks that got laid off from Provo Labs, who are now working in the ex-COO’s basement and working very hard to finish some jobs, get some cash flow, and work on getting more contracts.  I hope they can do it.  I know Phil personally, and keep up on some of their blogs.  If you want to follow a fun developing story, check out his blog.

For the rest of you, go read Never Eat Alone and begin to use the Networking aspect of JibberJobber which will help you weather multiple job changes throughout your career.  If you don’t have multiple changes then you are definitely an exception to what’s going on in the world. And if you don’t think that I’m right, then you haven’t been laid off yet.  Don’t worry, it will happen. provides call center jobs throughout the US.

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