Today would have marked exactly 6 months since I started working with Zirtual. Except last Monday, I was laid off along with 400+ other employees. Andrew woke me, like he does every morning and I rolled over to check the time. 7:30am. I started work at 8:30am. However, I saw an email from Maren, our CEO, which was weird for 2 reasons. 1) It was sent over night. 2) It was on my phone. Work email never goes to my phone.
I opened it to find that Zirtual was done. Our last day of employment was the previous Friday, August 7th, they were ceasing operations.
I spent a good 30 minutes just staring at my computer. I had no idea what to do. Our accounts had been shut down. All I wanted to do was email my clients and tell them that I had no idea this was going to happen. I feared them thinking I knew about this and didn’t tell them. I text my VIP client, who’s number I had memorized because of how often we were in contact, and sent emails out to everyone else, also by memory. Immediately 3 of my clients came back to me asking if I thought about working with them independently. I had thought it was over, and maybe I didn’t get through the whole email because of shock and awe. I didn’t know I had that option having signed a noncompete. The fact that they wanted to work with me brought me to tears. I had just lost my job but the support from my clients is what made me cry.
All of us scrambled to connect to find out what was going on. There was no notice of this. We had no idea things were bad. We all left on Friday wishing each other good weekends. We had no idea this was going to happen. My pod, or team, started reaching out to each other on Facebook. We arranged a Google Hangout to talk this over. All of us were shocked. There were quite a few swears thrown around, I might add. We were pissed. We were sitting in a video conference as equals, not managers and employees but as people. Immediately we started to talk about what was next, what we could do, our clients who were interested in working with us. Slowly at first and then all at once, all of the employees came together on Facebook to help each other. It was amazing to see. Given what we did/do for a living, we are a pretty resourceful bunch.
By Thursday, I was able to completely sit back and relax. I had been offered a part time position with my VIP client. I couldn’t help but cry on the phone seeing how generous she was. She didn’t owe me anything and Zirtual wasn’t giving refunds. She was out money, a lot of money actually. It made me feel like I had really done a great job if she was offering this to me. She put me in touch with people to help me get my business off the ground, she offered me options for my future. For that, I will be eternally grateful.
I can see the possibilities in this, at first I was heartbroken, then angry. I’ve come to see that this was for the best. I couldn’t leave and take my clients with me because of the noncompete. If I left Z, I had to find a job doing something else, trying to convince people who knew nothing about me that I was the ONE out of the thousands of VAs out there that they needed. It would have taken a couple years to make real money doing this. Now I have clients who love me, and boy do I love them. I’m already better off than I would have been. This may not have been such a bad thing after all.