Start Up Central Case
Jocelyn took a deep breath and took another look at the clock. It was 5:45 p.m. and still no Melvin. Start Up Central was running its fifth session in the eight-week Hatchery program from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m., and Melvin was scheduled to facilitate the session. The front door bells jingled and two more keen entrepreneurs entered the collision space for the reception before the session. They hung up their coats and headed toward the coffee and snack station, joining the other entrepreneurs gathered in anticipation of tonight’s session. The event calendar indicated they should expect representatives from 12 early-stage companies, although Jocelyn knew from experience that others might decide to show up at the last minute. Tonight was their practice pitch event and all representatives would get the opportunity to spend three minutes describing their business opportunity to the mock investors in the room and receive feedback on their performance. The entrepreneurs had been generating their business canvases and crafting their pitch decks in the weeks since the Hatchery program had begun. On the final night just three weeks from tonight, they would be pitching their business opportunities to an angel investment crowd in the greater Toronto area.
Back when Start Up Central was just getting off the ground, Jocelyn had led the Hatchery program herself. She was the inaugural executive director of Start Up Central, which was founded by a group of serial entrepreneurs in the Toronto area. The group had put seed money into Start Up Central with a view to developing new entrepreneurs in a boot camp type fashion. Jocelyn herself had built a social marketing company that had been acquired by Forbes four years ago. With a successful experience building and then exiting a startup herself, she found the executive director role filled her desire to give back to the community by connecting new entrepreneurs with the various resources they needed to make their business dreams come true. Building Start Up Central and setting new entrepreneurs up for success was more than a job to Jocelyn, it had become her life’s work.
But there was a reason she had hired Melvin to now shoulder some of the Start Up Central workload. Jocelyn had been at her desk since before 8 a.m. that morning. She had met with their advisory group over lunch, provided input on a panel to the Ontario provincial government about their Young Entrepreneurs program, and placed calls to secure business advisors for the next round of the Hatchery program beginning in the fall. When Jocelyn had decided to bring on an entrepreneur-in-residence (EiR), Melvin had come strongly recommended by one of the advisors on the Start Up Central advisory group. When she had met with him, he exuded confidence and was credible in the EiR role. He had been a serial entrepreneur for 10 years, but was still “relatable” to the new entrepreneur crowd. In Jocelyn’s experience, the distance between start-up hopefuls and some of the successful entrepreneurs in the greater Toronto area was perceived as vast. As well, the travel and commitment schedules of many of the super successful entrepreneurs meant they weren’t available for eight Wednesdays in a row to help with the Hatchery program. Through his EiR role, Melvin was still able to be engaged in his own start-up ventures, but he received a stipend from Start Up Central to act as an advisor one-on-one to the start-up companies in their programs and to attend their events. Jocelyn thought that the $50,000 per year stipend they were paying him was at least enough to get him to show up for the Hatchery program as the lead facilitator.
Jocelyn pushed back her chair and sighed. She stood up and grabbed her suit jacket, prepared to go out and lead tonight’s practice pitch event. She put a smile on her face and tried to leave her frustration with Melvin behind as she went out to greet the budding entrepreneurs.
1. Are there any differences between Melvin as an entrepreneur-in-residence with a stipend as compared to an employee of Start Up Central? Discuss.
2. As Jocelyn, how would you handle Melvin’s absence? How would you ensure that Melvin has clear performance expectations?
3. If this was Melvin’s third unexplained absence as compared to his first, how would you set up a set of steps to ensure performance improvement?
4. Is absence a reason for just cause dismissal? Explain the documentation and steps you would have to take to dismiss Melvin for just cause.