Julie Felss Masino | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Julie Felss Masino

Background:  

Sprinkles Cupcakes is a cupcake bakery chain with 17 locations nationwide.

The Mistake:

At 25, I worked at J.Crew and as an assistant merchandiser. I had gotten a great review so I thought everything was going well. But one morning I got called into a conference room with two people I didn’t know, two from HR. They said, "We're laying you off. Here's your severance package."

I was absolutely shocked. I wasn’t the only one … there were about 60 other people. I had only been there about seven months, and even though I was doing really well, I was much more expendable at that time. But I was completely unprofessional, a hot mess. I badgered them quite a bit about it — "How could this happen?"

I eventually signed the paperwork then went to the restroom and was in there about 45 minutes before they sent one of my friends to get me and remove me from the premises. Absolutely embarrassing and awful. I thought, "What am I going to do?" I lived in Manhattan; I had moved there after college and didn’t want to go back to Ohio.

But the next morning I decided, "OK. I can fix this. I'm going to do my resume. I’ll find a new job and figure this out." It was also the classic turning point: How do I leverage the things that I've learned here as well as my education to take a step in a different direction? And that's what I did. Within four weeks I had five other job offers. I took a job at Coach and my career moved forward from there.

So many times in business you can forget that people are your greatest asset and that kindness gets you far.

The Lesson:

Be kind. It has given me such empathy for the times when, unfortunately, I have to sit on the other side of that table with people. I've been there a few times in my career and it's never easy.

It's always one of those things that troubles me the most. It's really humbled me to put myself in that person's shoes because I have been in their shoes. Kindness is one of the biggest things that I've learned.

So many times in business you can forget that people are your greatest asset and that kindness gets you far — in business and in life. It has given me that sense of empathy, so I can truly try and be as gentle and as fair in the situation as I can be. Respectful.

Follow Julie Felss Masino on Twitter at @jfelss.

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