I was once held hostage—by an employee.

I was in the first weeks of my new tree-removal business and had hired an arborist to assemble and run the crew. He quickly saw that I couldn't survive without him—“You know business, not tree removal,” he indelicately pointed out—and demanded an increase in salary. I couldn't afford him, so he jumped ship for a more lucrative position. And I shut down the business.

Mine was a situation familiar to many entrepreneurs. But could I have avoided it?


While empowering employees is key to retaining them, surrendering too much may come back to bite you. Heed the warning signs and keep equilibrium in your business.

Warning Sign No. 1: Beware the business driven by something other than your own core competence

As my mutinous employee pointed out, I don't know how to remove trees. That means I can't assess the quality of my product, or jump in and do the work should the crew fall ill or, more likely, leave. In my case, that was a key weakness; the crew does the work and is also the face of the company.

Does this mean you can't run a business unless you're an expert in every facet of its operations? Of course not. But be mindful of your vulnerabilities.

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Dan Lazar is founder of Monkeysuit, a market research firm that specializes in video gaming and other entertainment industries.

LinkedIn: Dan Lazar