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Grow Your Business Your Team

What To Do When Your Key Employee Goes 'Charlie Sheen'


The troubles of actor Charlie Sheen in the bright lights of Hollywood and former Dior designer John Galliano on the runways of Paris have shown what can happen when the person largely responsible for a business’ success is suddenly let go.

And there’s a lot that small businesses can learn from their fall from grace, small business consultant Randy Moon said.

“It is every business owner’s responsibility to have a contingency in place,” Moon told BusinessNewsDaily. “It is important to be preemptive.”

Moon, president of Dallas-based RMoon Consulting, said Sheen and Galliano both are good examples of why, as a business owner, it’s imperative to ensure that you don’t have all your eggs in one basket.

“There is a risk in any business when the owner, or any employee, is relied upon too much,” Moon said. “That is why you always have to be thinking about developing new talent.”

Sheen, the star of the hit television show “Two and a Half Men,” came under fire after a pattern of outlandish behavior. CBS eventually canceled the last eight episodes of the season — costing Sheen an estimated $16 million — after he went on a public tirade against the show’s creator. Galliano was fired by fashion giant Christian Dior after more than a decade as its head designer after he was captured on video making anti-Semitic remarks.

Recognizing when a highly skilled employee’s behavior becomes too disruptive is critical, said Jamie Resker, president of Boston-based Employee Solutions.

“There comes a time when their liability outweighs anything they can bring to the table,” she said. “Whether they are disruptive for others to work with, or if they are disruptive to the brand itself.”

An employee might have all the skills in the world, but their bad behavior can have a very negative effect on everyone else they work with, Resker said.

“There are consequences to having that bad apple around,” she said. “It makes the teams they work on 30 to 40 percent less productive.”

Moon advises owners to have a written contingency plan outlining what will be done should something happen – whether it be the firing of a disruptive employee, an employee leaving for another job, serious illness or even death – that leaves a business without its key player.

“Think about who the fill-in is going to be,” Moon said. “Is there someone who can quickly step up? Or, maybe you want to bring in two people for that job.”

Two of Moon’s clients, aging husband-and-wife owners of an auto repair shop in Modesto, Calif., recently put together a contingency plan in case the husband, who was key to the business, became ill and could no longer work.

Moon helped them find an interim substitute, a former manager, who would step up until a permanent replacement could be found. 

Several months later, the owner suffered a heart attack and the contingency plan was put into use.

“Had she not thought of doing that, the business would have been devastated,” Moon said. “Small businesses really do rely heavily on their people, so you don’t want to be caught off-guard by something like this.”