A Lesson From Bill Simmons: Your Company Will Muddle On Without You

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Nov 5, 2015
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Last Friday, right before the end of the business day, ESPN announced that it was shutting down its very popular website Grantland.

Grantland was a site started by sports author Bill Simmons, and it was purchased by ESPN a few years ago and Bill came over to ESPN to continue to run it successfully. Bill Simmons is an exceptional writer, and assembled a great writing team, and Grantland was a blog I read every day.

This is from ESPN on the announcement of shutting down Grantland:

Grantland distinguished itself with quality writing, smart ideas, original thinking and fun. We are grateful to those who made it so. Bill Simmons was passionately committed to the site and proved to be an outstanding editor with a real eye for talent. Thanks to all the other writers, editors and staff who worked very hard to create content with an identifiable sensibility and consistent intelligence and quality.”

So, what happened?

When talented people leave, the company goes on

Bill Simmons was let go by ESPN in May. Bill had creative differences with ESPN executives.

This happens with great talent and management. One is trying to make great art. One is trying to make great money. Those two things often times don’t travel on a parallel path.

Since his leaving, many of the great writers and editors that he brought onboard at Grantland, and stayed at Grantland, left ESPN, either to follow Bill to his new projects, or to other media outlets. These were really talented people, who worked at Grantland because of Bill Simmons.

But remember: You are not Bill Simmons!

In my career in HR, I’ve seen a ton of talented people decide to leave companies I was working at, and they truly believed the company couldn’t go on without them. In every single case the company did go on, and usually prospered. You see, very few us are a Bill Simmons.

Bill left Grantland, and it failed.  Some would say, he was Grantland, or Grantland was him, but either way, the site could not live without him.

The world needs all kinds of workers

You probably don’t have one employee in your entire company that is that important that if they left the company would fail to go on without them. Most of us are in similar situations. Your executives know this as well, even if they won’t admit it.

The organization will live on without them. It’s a tough pill for us all to swallow, but it’s 99.99 percent true in almost all cases.

Remember: We are not Bill Simmons!

Which is to say, you don’t have a defining discernable talent that is unique enough to carry or bring down a company. That’s OK! The world needs ditch diggers, and lawyers, and accountants, and developers, and clerks, and trash collectors, etc.

It sucks to replaceable, but, it’s just a fact of life for almost all of us.

Bill Simmons couldn’t be replaced. That’s might be the ultimate job performance review you could ever have — I’m so f***ing good at my job, if I leave this place will fall apart.

We all want to believe we are that person, but we aren’t!

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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