Any other business
The perfect way to say goodbye as a CEO
10 min read
06 September 2015
Chief executives love to leave on a high note with inspirational, moving and often funny goodbye messages to staff and the outside world.
Natalie Massenet left digital fashion group Net-a-Porter earlier this week with a personal email message to staff.
It was a classic example of how to say goodbye to either staff or customers after you decide to move on. It is, of course, a privilege to be able to say goodbye in this way – to go at a time of your choosing rather than someone else. To go when your reputation is still strong and not shattered.
Here we list some of the best and worst business goodbyes – some are passionate, some are poignant, some are inspirational, funny and bizarre.
(1) Natalie Massenet
As reported by Business Insider UK, this was Massenet’s personal message to staff about her departure:
“After some serious soul searching I have taken the decision to retire from The Net-a-porter Group and to start a new chapter in my life – one where I take the company, the team, the memories, the incredible journey with me in my heart and stand back and position myself in the proud spectator’s box and watch the business flourish and grow independently.
“Now the only thing left to do is to continue in every way to make the world a more stylish place! And that carries on without me. You each have a responsibility to lead by example, to nurture and protect what is good and right in the world, and to remember that our business is here to make people look and feel better so that they too can make a positive impact.
“I hope I have instilled in each of you the values that have blessed me in this life and rewarded me with this extraordinary sense of accomplishment and a confidence that you can break rules and make things work for the better. These are values that I urge you to continue to embody not just in work but in your life. I know you will make me so proud as you and everyone who is associated with this company lives by example. Our company values are there for a reason – they have guided me and I know they will continue to guide you.
“Be the best: Don’t settle for less. Strive to be the best you can be and to live truly with high standards. If you aim for middle of the road then if you succeed that’s exactly where you will be. Always aim higher and higher and that’s where you will go.
“Lead, don’t follow: ok – follow instructions and follow advice, and be collaborative BUT STRIVE TO make a difference. Do this in business, and in your own life. Celebrate individuality. Opportunity finds you when you go looking for it.
“Exceed expectations: at the very least do what you say you’ll do or are expected to do. But no one remembers those things. Add flourish, a thoughtful touch, something unexpected. It can be the tiniest of gestures or details. You will be amazed how far the little extra bit gets you – no matter how massive an undertaking you might have delivered.
(2) Steve Jobs leaving Apple in August 2011
In a letter to the Apple board and community Jobs, who would die of pancreatic cancer two months later, wrote:
“I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.
“I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the board sees fit, as chairman of the board, director and Apple employee.
“As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.
“I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.
“I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.”
(3) Steve Ballmer leaving Microsoft in 2013
Crying and sighing Ballmer, wearing a fluorescent banana coloured polo shirt, stood before a cheering, clapping crowd of Microsoft employees with some shouting out “We Love You! We Love You!”
“Soak it in! You work for the greatest company in the world! Soak it in! And I want to say thank you. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This isn’t about any one person, it’s about a company. A company which is important, forward thinking, that’s innovative, that’s ethical, that hires great people and lets them lead great lives, that helps people around the world realise their full potential.
“It’s my whole professional world. Microsoft is like a fourth child to me. Children do leave the house. In this case I guess I’m leaving the house.
“My last song is one I’ve always wanted to use but it was always deemed inappropriate. No, not that kind of inappropriate!
“I wanted to pick a song that was exactly perfect, that allowed me to say thank you. A song that looked back retrospectively and a song that celebrates the future.
“It’s from one of my favourite movies. A song that talks about what you’ve meant to me and what you’ve done for me.”
With that, crying and clapping he walks off into the crowd high-fiving, fist-pumping and hugging to the sound of “I’ve Had (The Time of my Life)” from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.
(4) Andrew Mason leaving Groupon in 2013
“This is for Groupon employees, but I’m posting it publicly since it will leak anyway.
“People of Groupon,
“After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding – I was fired today. If you’re wondering why…you haven’t been paying attention.
“From controversial metrics in our S1 to our material weakness to two quarters of missing our own expectations and a stock price that’s hovering around one quarter of our listing price, the events of the last year and a half speak for themselves. As CEO, I am accountable.
“You are doing amazing things at Groupon, and you deserve the outside world to give you a second chance. I’m getting in the way of that. A fresh CEO earns you that chance. The board is aligned behind the strategy we’ve shared over the last few months, and I’ve never seen you working together more effectively as a global company – it’s time to give Groupon a relief valve from the public noise.
“For those who are concerned about me, please don’t be – I love Groupon, and I’m terribly proud of what we’ve created. I’m OK with having failed at this part of the journey. If Groupon was Battletoads, it would be like I made it all the way to the Terra Tubes without dying on my first ever play through.
“I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to take the company this far with all of you. I’ll now take some time to decompress (FYI I’m looking for a good fat camp to lose my Groupon 40, if anyone has a suggestion), and then maybe I’ll figure out how to channel this experience into something productive.”