| Double Take |

One-Man Show

Did my company's future hinge on one talented developer?

Meyer: I made the company into what it is today, and you know that.
Noach: We can't afford to lose you, and that isn't a sustainable business model 



I like to get to work early on Meeting Mondays, get some work done before the meeting marathon starts: 10 a.m. with the software development team; 11:30 with the COO, CMO, and the Big Boss; afternoon with the data science/strategy development guys.

I’m not sure why everyone likes to start the week with meetings. Personally, I would rather get my teeth into actual research and development work first and then do the talking later. (I mean, everyone knows a meeting is really just an excuse for coffee and doughnuts, right?)

There were a whole lot of things on my agenda that week, but as always, unexpected glitches would end up taking most of my time: a stubborn bug, a tweak gone wrong. One of the software developers was working on an enhanced image recognition project that would take our software to the next level — something very welcome considering the competition out there — but it was a complicated process, and releasing something that wasn’t actually ready would backfire badly.

At exactly ten o’clock, I saved my work and headed to the conference room, where the software development team was waiting for me. Asher, Nachi, and Gideon had joined our team during the last year; they were great guys, and talented ones too. They’d taken my product and really hit the ground running, adding features, tweaking, streamlining, and really just bringing our vision — mine and the Big Boss, Mr. Noach Muller’s — to life.

Okay, let me back up here, because I know I tend to do this — living immersed in a tech world sometimes makes you forget that not everyone speaks in code.

I’m CTO of a tech start-up that’s around five years old — and baruch Hashem, very successful. We’ve developed an AI-powered diagnostic tool for health care facilities that doctors use to assess information and make diagnoses. When the company opened up, this was a crazy idea. And while it isn’t as revolutionary anymore, our clientele is happy and growing, and we have a fantastic team that works day in and day out to make the product better and better.

Like now, Asher’s brainstorm with the image processing.

“How’s that coming along?” I asked him, when we’d finished passing the Danishes around (eh, no doughnuts today?).

Asher brought up his files on the large screen behind me, clicking as he demonstrated what he was trying to create, and indicating where things were snagging.

“There, the system didn’t recognize that part of the last image,” Gideon pointed out.

“Linear processing is a whole lot simpler.”

“I know, but when we figure this out, it’s going to take DiagnoWave to the next level. Tzali keeps saying we need an edge, something unique that they can push as a marketing angle.”

I felt a momentary stab of annoyance. Tzali, the CMO, was a great guy, but he knew nothing about product development and seemed to think that IT guys were fix-all magicians who could will products out of thin air. These things take weeks, months, sometimes years. I know he’s great at marketing and the Big Boss loves that, he’s all into branding and marketing these days, but at the end of the day, the product is what needs to sell.

I could predict what would come up at the upcoming leadership team meeting: they’re going to talk about scalability again, toss out phrases like cloud-based solutions so we could grow bigger and provide faster turnaround, and I’d have to sit there and explain that we can’t move too fast, that the product needs to be ready, that the software team needs to handle it.

Oh, well. All part of the job, right?

I pushed the thoughts away to focus on Asher again. Glitches in the system — that’s my thing, that’s what I’m here for.

“Let’s see what we can do here,” I said, leaning forward to take the mouse.


ext thing I knew, an hour had passed and I was running late for the next meeting. Embarrassingly enough, the others kind of expected it by now; it happens most weeks. What can I say, the software development part is just so much more interesting than pontificating strategy and sales.

Honestly, I still haven’t gotten used to these “leadership meetings” with a whole official “team of executives.” It wasn’t so long ago that we were just a two-man band, Mr. Muller running around recruiting investors, and I, the sole employee, sitting in a tiny office doing the research and development for the software.

“I think we should switch the schedule around, meet with you first,” Tzali kibitzed when I arrived.

Moish, the COO, laughed along, but Mr. Muller just gave a close-lipped smile. The cool exterior didn’t fool me; I’ve been working with him for years now, the first few as his one and only employee here at HealthWave Innovations, and I know him probably as well as his family does. He might look unapproachable on the outside, but he’s a softie at heart — a great boss, and yes, a friend, too.

I nodded hello to everyone and took my seat. “You should join our software development meetings sometime, you’d see how fascinating they are,” I told Tzali.

“Fascinating? I’d fall asleep.”

The boss gave a little chuckle at that. I knew Mr. Muller would rather do almost anything rather than have to sit through tech-related discussions; ironically enough, for the owner and CEO of a tech start-up, he knew literally nothing about the technical side of things; he left it all to me. It had always been that way, and I’d built the teams and systems for him: data science and strategy, research and development, helping to fix the bugs and create new updates.

It was his company, but it was my product; we both knew that.

“Agenda?” Mr. Muller said, and we settled down to business.

“I have it here. But first, doughnuts, anyone?” Moish offered, passing around a bakery box. So that’s where the doughnuts were, stashed away for meeting number two. I waved the doughnut box away, a little regretfully — I’d just eaten a Danish.

We dug down to business, Tzali pulling out some reports on clients and numbers and projections for 2024, blah blah blah. My mind drifted; this part just didn’t interest me. I’ve always been a tech kinda guy, creating code for computer programs back in high school, taking my first job in a tech start-up that really gave me solid training in the key skills I’d need in the field.

When AI started exploding, I took a break from my work to do some serious training — and that’s when Noach Muller, entrepreneur and visionary in the health care industry — approached me with an offer.

He wanted to create this AI-integrated health care product, and he was looking for someone to build it from scratch.

I said yes, and somehow, just under six years later, I’m the CTO of a thriving company and still can’t really believe how it all came together.

I’d like to say that DiagnoWave is my own product, but technological skill alone does not a company make. Mr. Muller’s keen business sense, vision, contacts, and marketing savvy were equally vital. It was a product whose time had come.

And the company wasn’t a two-man band for long. Now, we have two data scientists, a UI-UX designer, a software team, sales and marketing department, and a COO.

But my job was still pretty much what it was when I started: taking full responsibility for the research and development of the software; making sure the technical aspects align with the business goals; collaborating on strategy planning; and representing the product externally, whether at conferences and trade shows, or to individual clients.

And I loved every part of it.

Well, maybe not the boring meetings, but they were par for the course, weren’t they?


the end of the meeting, Mr. Muller motioned for me to stay on a minute.

“Meyer, can you stop by my office when you’re done for the day? I want to speak to you about something.”

“Sure,” I said, a little surprised.

It’s not unusual for us to talk; like I said, we’ve established a close relationship, even a friendship, over the years. But this sounded… awfully formal. I wondered what was going on.

I got back to my desk with an hour to go until the next meeting. Unwrapping the sandwich my wife packed for me, I ran through the most recent updates at the company: There was a new marketing campaign about to launch, but that had nothing to do with me. I’d disagreed with Tzali about the pace of certain changes he wanted to implement, maybe that was what Mr. Muller was bothered about? But he knew that I knew the product best, I’d made it; surely he could trust me on this one.

Besides, we’d hashed it out at the meeting, and shelved it for the next week so I could assess what progress we could realistically make….

And everything else going on was pretty routine. A stubborn bug that we’ve been working to fix — but the Big Boss wouldn’t even know about it. Enhancing the program based on feedback and requests from clients, evolving with the market… it was all in a regular week’s work. There was that new hire in the marketing department who wasn’t pulling his weight, but Tzali was handling it.


stayed overtime that day; I often did. Mr. Muller usually left earlier, popping in for a quick good night, thank you very much, as he left.

He knew the hours I kept, though, knew that I was committed to seeing through anything I’d set my mind to do, knew that I wouldn’t leave the office if something needed fixing or finishing — as long as I could help it.

He knew I’d pulled all-nighters too, came in the night after my wife gave birth to review an urgent project, things like that.

I knew he appreciated that this wasn’t just a job for me; it was a passion, a calling. I’d created this product and I was absolutely committed to making it the best it could be, to bringing HealthWave Innovations to the forefront of the market when it came to diagnostic software solutions for health care companies.

Tonight, though, I rushed a little finishing up. I didn’t want to keep Mr. Muller waiting. On the other hand, if this was going to be an uncomfortable meeting, I didn’t want to leave any work to finish afterward.

MR.Muller was still in his office when I knocked on his door — it looked like he’d been waiting for me. His phone was face-down on the desk in front of him and he minimized his screen to give me his full attention.

“Meyer, take a seat, I have something to discuss with you,” he began, rather stiffly, I thought. “How’s everything going?”


“Baruch Hashem, good, good,” I said, playing it safe.

“Excellent.” Mr. Muller cleared his throat. He looked at me, looked up at the ceiling, and then nodded once before launching in.

“So, hard to believe where we’ve come from and where we are today, eh?”

I gave a requisite nod and murmur of agreement.

“Baruch Hashem, we’re in a place that we couldn’t have imagined a few years ago, in many ways thanks to your very hard work. But”—was it my imagination, or was he coloring slightly?—“as the product grows, and the market grows, well, the company has to grow as well.”

Okay. This wasn’t news; we’d been hiring new employees on a regular basis for a couple of years already.

“I’ve been working on recruiting some additional senior members of staff who will play vital roles within the company structure,” Mr. Muller continued. “I’ll also be making some changes to setup, simply because we’ve grown to the point where one person can’t realistically be expected to run so many aspects of the company.”

Here, he gave me a nod and a small smile.

Wait, what did that mean?

“Practically speaking, I’ve hired a new senior software developer to take over direct day-to-day leadership of the software development team, and I’ve been working with our CMO to develop a new process by which external representation can be handled by the marketing team, rather than your own department,” Mr. Muller continued. “I’m also looking to hire a chief strategy officer to take a leading role in the strategic planning of both the company and the product, and to liaise with yourself and the rest of the leadership team to ensure everyone is on the same page. Essentially,” he reassured me, “this will simply free you up to focus on research and development more exclusively, which is, of course, where you’ve always excelled.”


ree me up, my foot.

Essentially, I was being stripped of half my job, half my authority, half my position in the company.

And if he wanted to delegate differently, bring in new blood ؅— why did he do it without speaking to me, discussing the options? After my dedication and devotion, after building his product from the ground up — didn’t I deserve a say? Wasn’t it best for the company if I had a say — discussing what could be delegated, what should be delegated?

I thought about Mr. Muller hiring a senior software developer and I wanted to scream. Actually scream. The boss knew nothing about software development, nothing except what I’d explained to him over the years. How was he hiring someone to siphon my work off to — without consulting me?

I was the one who created the product, I was the one who was bringing Mr. Muller’s own vision to life. How did he think that would happen if he redistributed pieces of my job role to several eager newbies who had never met our product before?

And the time and headache it would be to train in these newbies! We didn’t have time for that, not now, not when we were trying to work on so many upgrades in so little time.

“It’s going to be a disaster,” I complained to my brother, who was also in the tech start-up field. “Everything’s going to suffer, the company, the product…”

“Maybe he just wants you to have more time to focus on the technical leadership, like he said,” Aron suggested. “The company has grown, it makes sense.”

“So I’m punished because I’ve been too successful?” I shook my head. “I don’t know — I feel like… like he doesn’t trust me. He wants my role distributed between several people, and it’s like — wait, what am I even left with?”

“Research and development are big enough,” Aron said reasonably. “And maybe it’s not about trust, maybe he’s just being sensible. You’re playing multiple roles in a growing business, and it’s not how a business should run. He might be worried that you’d leave him someday and he’ll have no one.”

“So stick a clause in a contract or something!” I exploded. “Why is he even thinking like that? I’m not planning on going anywhere, although maybe if he does this, I will.”

Even as I said it, I knew I was just venting. I’d never leave HealthWave, not when I built it from the ground up, not when the product still needs more work, more tweaks, more development. And not when my other option would probably be becoming an IT guy in one of those huge corporations, a cog in the wheel with no real chance to use my own initiative to create something big — like the jobs I’d been half-heartedly looking into before this one came up.

No, I would stay on, but it would be humiliating and frustrating, having to train in new employees to take over a huge amount of my position and endure everyone’s stares and questions and thoughts about why I’ve been demoted, or side-moted, or whatever you want to call it.

And that was just part of it. The bigger worry was what this would do to the company: If Mr. Muller, who’d never touched the tech side of operations before, was starting to give key responsibilities over to random people, what would be with the product we’d worked so hard to build?

Would I be left with the fallout for other people’s mistakes? Would I end up pulling endless more overnights to fix, tweak, help, and update — all without being given the authority to lead the teams I’d built from nothing?

One thing was for sure: My jovial relationship with my boss would never be the same again.

If I could tell Noach Muller one thing, it would be: I built this company from the ground up… how can you take half my job away from me?



The hotel lobby was a hub of conversation: men in suits holding folders and briefcases, walking and talking, stopping at booths and consulting brochures for the next item on the program.

It wasn’t the first time I’d attended this annual convention for CEOs, but maybe because the company had grown so much, the speeches — particularly the ones that focused on team leadership, maintaining cohesion, vision, and mission in a large company with multiple employees — felt more relevant than ever.

We’d just enjoyed a networking breakfast, followed by the keynote address. Now it was workshop time. The first one I’d signed up for was being given by a Mr. Jack Hurst, titled “All the Eggs in Your Basket: How to Structure Your Company to Maximize Results and Minimize Risk.”

It sounded interesting, although our company was still small, didn’t have that much of a structure to it. But we were growing rapidly, and it wasn’t an outrageous prediction to assume we’d double in size within the year, and again next year.

“Good morning, gentlemen, welcome, welcome,” Jack Hurst said. He was one of those polished, young-looking guys who managed to make semi-casual look cool. “Take a seat, let’s see, do we have enough places for everyone? Excellent, that’s it, let’s jump right in.”

He brought up the first slide on the screen, a set of images showing teams at work in different companies. Some looked collaborative, some had one person leading a conference or meeting of some kind.

“Supervisors, team leaders, middle management, department heads, whatever you want to call it,” Hurst pronounced. “Before we start talking about creating effective company structures, and how to best create and manage teams and team leadership, I’d like to go around and hear from you. What are some of your biggest challenges with company structure to date?”

“Bringing in a team leader from the outside,” one man called out.

“Department manager taking too much initiative, or too little.”

“Finding a supervisor with the right skill set, enough knowledge of the field plus the leadership skills.”

I didn’t speak up. HealthWave Innovations was still small, and what can I say? We were lucky. Meyer, my CTO, had been with me from day one; he had all the technical skills plus a great, collaborative leadership style. He really took on everything — research and development of our product, leading the software and data sciences teams, coordinating with sales and marketing, communicating with our clients, representing the company and the product at trade shows… And besides that, in the past year I’d hired a COO and CMO to manage the operations and marketing angles, both of whom were doing excellent work.

Maybe this workshop wasn’t so relevant to me, after all.

“My issue has been a little different,” another man spoke up. I recognized him; his name was Baruch. He had a marketing agency. “I had one main creative director who worked on all our projects, she was kind of the linchpin behind everything that went on in the company. I never actually realized how much we relied on her — we did have many other talented, creative employees — but then she went on maternity leave and decided to take an extended break from work.

“It left a lot of things in shambles, because she’d been the one everyone answered to — the one who spoke to clients for their vision, communicated it to the teams, pulled everything together. We’re still picking up the pieces, and this happened months ago. Now I know better than to hire one person to fill such a crucial, central role — we need to diversify, spread the responsibilities so that the company doesn’t rely on any one person.”

Jack Hurst is nodding very fast. “That’s a really great point, thanks for sharing with us. It’s one of the first fatal flaws I’ll detect when I work with a company on their internal structure. If there is any one person that the company could not manage without — it’s a problem.”

Any one person, the linchpin of the company….

My mind raced.

Meyer. I’d never thought of it this way, but I had this exact setup: one person who created the product from scratch, who knew every detail, every part of the strategy, every line of code. He was the one who handled the software, the strategy, the external representation, pretty much — everything.

How had I not realized we were so reliant on him? And was that really a problem?

So much for not needing this workshop.


hung around for a couple of minutes after the workshop, hoping to catch Jack Hurst for his advice. He didn’t have a second run of the workshop coming up, and I decided to risk being late to my next one — something about “Branding in the Tech Sector” — to have a quick conversation.

“Hey. Noach, is it? Nice to meet you,” Hurst said, glancing at my name tag and then giving me a warm, practiced smile.

“Yes, Noach Muller, HealthWave Innovations.” I cleared my throat. “Thanks for a great workshop. Lots to think about.”

Jack inclined his head.

“I was wondering about what you said, making sure there isn’t any one employee that the company couldn’t function without.” I explained to him how my company worked — how our tech product had been developed from the ground up by one employee, who was now the CTO. “He practically runs the company with me. Maybe even more than me, because he’s completely hands-on and I’m not really involved in the complex technological details. He’s also the one who knows the product best, so he interfaces with clients, works with the marketing team, weighs in on strategy — it really all comes down to his skills and expertise, in the field and in our product.”

“You say he practically runs the company with you. Does he own the company with you? Have any shares or stakes in the business?” Jack asks.

“No, he’s an employee, I’m the company owner. And we have a lot of investors backing the company, so the ownership is already diluted. I wouldn’t be able to offer him shares even if I wanted to.”

“Then yes, I would say having an employee hold that much authority and control in the company is a problem,” Jack said, bluntly. “Think about it — do you have a setup in place if he would leave from one day to the next?”

“I can’t imagine he would do that,” I protested. “Firstly, it’s a great job, with a great salary. Secondly, he’s invested so much in the product, it’s practically his. Besides, Meyer is a good guy, ethical, you know. I consider him a friend. He’d never up and leave me in a lurch.”

“We don’t need to assume the worst of him,” Jack said smoothly. “But even people with every intention of staying in a job sometimes need to leave. What if he decides to move away? What if a health issue comes up and he takes a sudden sick leave?”

Chas v’shalom,” I mumbled.

“Simply put, I’ll reiterate what I said earlier — for a large company to have any one person that they would struggle to exist without, is very, very dangerous. I’ve never seen such a situation end well. Everyone retires someday, and there needs to be a way of replacing him without the company crumbling.”

Retirement? We were talking years and years now. We were still a fledgling company!

And yet — it was true, we were growing, growing faster than even I had imagined, and I had to make sure the company was structured in the optimal way for long-term success.

I went home with a lot to think about.


ver since the conference, I’d been feeling uneasy about the company’s structure. I didn’t want to make drastic changes on the say-so of Jack Hurst, though, so I scheduled a consultation with a business coach I’d used in the past, one who I had a lot of respect for.

He heard me out, and asked a bunch of pointed questions. The more we discussed it, the more I realized Hurst was onto something. Meyer held so many of the keys to the company. There was so much he knew that even I didn’t. It was fine, I trusted him — but it was still a problem.

“It’s not that you distrust him, or that he’s done anything wrong,” stressed Michael, the coach I was consulting with. “Just the opposite — he’s been doing everything right. But that in itself has become a problem.”

We worked together over a couple of sessions to draw up a new plan, one that would involve dividing responsibilities between more people, inserting team leaders, and creating new departments, to distribute things more evenly throughout the company.

“It’s not that you’re taking something away from your CTO, you know,” Michael said. “You’re actually helping him. It’s in his benefit to be able to zone in and focus on his own role, where he really excels, without having to manage sales and strategy and whatever else as well.”


could hear that. But would Meyer?

I decided not to tell him until I’d done some footwork on the hiring end — no point getting him primed for something that might take time to figure out, or might not happen at all if I didn’t find the right candidates.

Still, sooner than I’d imagined, I found myself interviewing Yitzchak Weinstein, a software developer with extensive leadership experience, and a background in the health care field to boot.

By the end of the interview, I was ready to sign him on to lead the software development team directly — freeing Meyer up from the day-to-day details so he could focus on big-picture research and development.

The other major role I was looking to fill was a CSO — chief strategy officer — someone who could take the reins of strategy planning, integrating the business and marketing goals with the technological development strategy, something that Meyer himself had been doing in conjunction with Tzali, our CMO.

I had three interviews set up for the role; chances were one of them would fit the bill.

It was time, I knew, to bite the bullet and speak to Meyer.


fter I asked Meyer to come by my office at the end of the day, I couldn’t focus.

I reminded myself that this wasn’t me versus him; it was me doing what was best for everyone in the company.

Still, I wasn’t sure this wouldn’t be the hardest conversation I’d have as a business owner.

Meyer wasn’t just an employee; he was a friend. In the early days of HealthWave’s existence, we worked together, just the two of us — him on the technology end, me on the business one — pulling all-nighters when we had to create presentations for potential investors, putting heart and soul, sweat and tears, into the fledgling company that we were both so proud of today.

I’d never pulled the boss card on him; I’d never needed to. He was the best employee I could have asked for, doing his job and more, seamlessly moving from solo employee into team leader to basically running the company — and doing it all professionally and effectively.

And now… all the nice speeches about how this change would benefit him didn’t really mean much when you looked at the facts: I was essentially moving him from being involved in every aspect of the company, on a leadership level, to running a single department alongside several other managers.

I felt terrible. But how could I leave things as they were, knowing the risk it posed to our company’s long-term success?

I could only try to explain, and hope he understood that this was a necessary move and not a criticism or attack on him.


started by talking about the company’s growth — something we both couldn’t have imagined a few years back, and credited him for the vital role he played in this growth.

He nodded, looking slightly wary. Oh, no, already?

“It’s time for me to upgrade the company structure, recruit additional senior members of staff, and work on restructuring the current setup,” I said carefully. “The growth means one person simply can’t be expected to handle such a large workload.

“Practically speaking, I’ve hired a new senior software developer to take over direct day-to-day leadership of the software development team, and I’ve been working with our CMO to develop new processes for external representation. I’m also looking to hire a chief strategy officer to take a leading role in the strategic planning; he would liaise with you and the rest of the leadership team to ensure everyone is on the same page.

“Essentially,” I concluded, “this will serve to free you up to focus more exclusively on research and development, which is, of course, where you’ve always excelled.”

I offered him a warm smile. There, the cat was out of the bag, and the Great Reveal had happened. Whew.

Meyer didn’t respond right away. He looked put out. Even hurt.

Well, I guess it was understandable.

“I see,” he said finally. “Is that all?”

“Meyer,” I said. “I don’t want you to understand this the wrong way — let me explain. It’s not about you, or the work you’ve done — I couldn’t have asked for a better employee, a better CTO — you’ve been the bedrock of the company, and I have tremendous hakaras hatov for how you came on board with my vision and brought our product to life. The job is still yours. I’m just shifting the department structure so we don’t have everything fall on your head. It’s in the best interests of — everyone, really.”

“It’s fine, I get it,” Meyer said. His voice, though, was stiff, and he wouldn’t meet my eyes.

He stood up to leave, giving me a tight, unhappy smile. “It’s your company. Your choice.”

I sat at my desk as the door closed behind him, feeling terrible. I had hurt the person who built my company from scratch — but disappointing him was the only way to responsibly keep my business stable, now and in the future.

If I could tell Meyer one thing, it would be: I value what you’ve brought to the company so much, I can’t afford to lose it all if you choose to move on.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 989)

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