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Having work agreements in the absence of signed documents as evidence

Quang Hoang

CEO at Plato

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Problem

The mentee and the co-founder of their company had a verbal agreement that the mentee would be taking on a co-founder role as the replacement for another co-founder who had left. He took the Co-founder's word for it and the agreement was not formalized in writing. The Co-founder is now pushing back when mentee asks about the status of his new role and the equity he had promised to him. He has concerns about exercising authority over the other engineers as his position is not officially declared. Another problem is that his visa with the company is about to expire and he thinks this takes away his leverage. He is now thinking of moving to another company.

Actions taken

My main advice to my mentee was to stay positive, use a softer approach and continue pursuing his objective through an honest and open communication with the Co-founder. First, I pointed out to him the positive developments happening with their company like they have a good number of satisfied clients to date and they have been making decent profit for close to six months already. They are also launching a new product- an operational platform - within the month, and a good number of prospective clients are looking forward to it. Second, I told him that his technical capability as being the main developer of the company's products gave him leverage in this situation. With the other engineer resigning within a week's time, the company was left with him as the only full time developer they could rely on and it would be a big loss to the company if he left. Furthermore, the Co-founder was not a technical person but was very much aware of the good performance of the company so far and the nice feedback they are receiving from customers. Third, I shared to him my experiences with founding and managing a start-up and we identified similarities in the steps their company and Plato had gone through. I advised him to set up a one-on-one with the Co-founder to discuss his vision for their company, the prospects of going to the next level, and the great possibilities the future holds for them. So far the company is doing great, has a decent growth track and has the opportunity to scale up. However, this vision can only be achieved if the two of them will really trust each other and work in partnership to reach the next level. Lessons learned The main lesson is that in any work environment, it is a very important that pertinent agreements and documents are complete and fully signed out. In the absence of a signed formal document, an honest and open communication is essential so that understanding and leveling of expectation can be attained by the concerned parties. It always pays to examine the situation to understand how you can use your levers to achieve your objectives without losing the company's long term goals from your view. Ultimately, having a strong relationship of trust and confidence among the leadership will define the company's future stability and success. .


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Quang Hoang

CEO at Plato


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