Kyle McCann has always prided himself on his ability to make the best of any situation.
When his boss fired him from the job he’d 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 develops payment technology solutions for small and medium-sized businesses in the United States, in June 2017 as a Sales Account Manager.
He was the second employee hired at the startup and took off in his new role, signing several new accounts within his first two weeks on the job.
But then business slowed down — a lot. McCann went weeks without landing a new client. “At first I thought the easiest job in the world was to go up to business owners and say, ‘How can I save you money?'” he tells CNBC Make It. “I was terribly wrong…I quickly realized that I’m not much closer on the field.”
When Austin Mac Nab, the founder and CEO of VizyPay, texted him to drop by his office on a Friday afternoon in late July, McCann knew he was toasted. “I knew exactly what was in store for me to get fired,” he says. “But I decided to go into this meeting with a positive attitude and see what would happen.”
A “hot decision” that changed everything
McCann’s first thought when he walked into the meeting with his boss was how he was going to pay the rent next month.
He and his girlfriend Shannon, who had a temp job at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, had just moved into an apartment in Waukee and “probably couldn’t afford the rent on their 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 was being fired, McCann remained calm and upbeat, thanking his boss for the opportunity, highlighting the positive elements of his VizyPay experience and asking for feedback on his performance.
“He was very humble and didn’t give me many excuses as to why he failed,” says Mac Nab. “He blamed himself that this job wasn’t for him, which not a lot of people do, especially when they get fired.”
Listening to McCann during the meeting, Mac Nab began to question his decision to let the new hire leave the company altogether. “I felt like he was genuine, authentic and hardworking, and my gut instinct ran through this conversation, it was a decision made on the fly,” says Mac Nab. “I was like, ‘I kind of have to keep him, kind of at VizyPay, just not in this job.'”
After Mac Nab fired McCann from his role as account manager, at the end of the meeting he offered him another job that he thought would better suit McCann’s skills and friendly personality: How would he like to be a customer service? instead of representative?
The offer came with a lower salary than what he was earning in his previous position and would be just enough to cover his bills and groceries. McCann went home to discuss it with Shannon first and then, to Mac Nab’s surprise, accepted.
“I had references to other opportunities that paid more, but I saw something special in VizyPay,” says McCann. “I really wanted to stay with the company because I really believed in their vision and the people behind it.”
Five years later, 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 accepted a position as Director of Marketing and Sales Enablement at VizyPay.
McCann often remembers the meeting that got him fired as a pivotal moment in his life that taught him “patience, the definition of grinding out… and believing not just in ideas but in yourself,” he says he.
While you can’t always avoid being fired, Mac Nab and McCann agree that there are a few things you should keep in mind during an exit meeting in order to leave amicably:
- 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 nerve, you could jeopardize a return offer, or your employer could be less willing to negotiate your severance pay or provide a reference for another job.
- Maintain an Attitude of Gratitude: Thank your employer for the opportunity and highlight some of the positive takeaways from the experience.
“You can’t control the actions of others, but having a positive attitude and always being willing to work hard can really open so many doors,” says McCann. “Getting that second chance and being able to prove what I can do… it was unreal and it pushed me to build a career that makes me really, really happy.”
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