An old Proverb states the premise nicely, “Without vision, the people perish.” Or to frame the same principle in the vernacular, “Stand for something, or fall for anything.” We need vision to succeed in Life.
You’ve heard the expression, “Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” An experience last week reminded me of the incongruity of dysfunctional thought patterns, in the face of reality and facts of imminent demise.
While prattling on with the rah-rah nonsense of a used car salesman, the Owner of a roofing company (known to me from prior experience as EGO) wanted me to believe he was ready to manage in a new and better way.
His new CEO is quite fluent in Corporate Speak, which we all know wedges itself into the category of: Talk is Cheap. Between the two of them, the cacophony of their silliness lasted all of 30 minutes.
Glutton for Punishment
For a few months in junior high school, I was the milkman. Literally, it was my responsibility to milk (by hand) four cows morning and night. In the course of that crusade, I developed a three-strike rule.
Kick me once, I understand — maybe I didn’t fully and clearly communicate my intentions. Kick me twice, I understand — maybe my hands were cold, and we needed a little more bag balm to get started.
By the third time, that Cow and I had a Come-to-Jesus session. She needed to understand we were wasting Time and Money. Me dancing around with a milk-stool in one hand and a bucket spilling milk in the other was simply a waste of good dance moves and nutrition. There was a better way.
Five years ago, the owner of the Company in the introduction to this story (EGO) came to me, sans his new, fancy CEO. He had been in business for less than a year. In that short amount of time, he had managed to create chaos.
Having a passion for the young Entrepreneur, I jumped right in and fixed his problem. We installed QuickBooks Desktop software on two computers and networked them together: one acting as a server and one with access.
I had dealt with the effect. Now, I offered insight to the cause of his chaos: no Plan. So, I introduced EGO to the Better Business Plan. In one hour, he had a financial target and the understanding of how to hit the bull’s eye.
After two months, I was asked to go away. EGO believed he had learned all there was to know about Business. That small QuickBooks implementation offered the beginning of order to his chaos and processes for transactions.
On the verge of burnout that fall of 2014, going away was exactly what the Doctor ordered. As I made it back to the office the spring of 2015, I received a call from EGO. He had been scared (threatened) by another accountant with a $120,000 amount due on his Income Tax Returns.
Please, could I take a look he asked? Silly me, I said, “Sure!”
Well, as I envisioned, the “books” were a mess. So, after sorting through the chaos one more time, we had a penny-perfect Balance Sheet and an accurate amount of Net Income to be reported on the Tax Returns.
The correct income Tax for the year ended December 31, 2014, was $22,000.
As soon as the good news was delivered and the Income Tax Returns filed, I was asked to go away again. And, I did. In fact, by the fall of 2015, I was bored with Tax Returns and weary of the Little Juniors. So, I “retired” from the traditional accounting processes performed by a CPA.
Third Time Is the Charm
After taking what I refer to as “my trip through the desert” from the fall of 2015 through early 2018 and having established a platform for providing Virtual CFO services, I noticed EGO was “man about town.”
His name was everywhere. And, his Company was making six-figure donations to a variety of community projects. I was impressed and of the belief he was right in running me off — twice.
Early last week, EGO called once more — with urgency in his voice.
A meeting was scheduled for Friday. Because of what I learned in our short phone conversation, I asked if it was OK to share “Food for Thought” with him and his newly hired CEO. With a tone of excitement, EGO agreed.
Those who know me well understand there is thought preceding everything I do — a thought for every action. In other words: a method to the madness; a rhythm to the motion; and a reason for the season.
As I shared the beginning of a foundation for dynamic communication, by asking a variety of questions, I received push-back from the CEO and nothing from EGO. No answers — only fault-finding with my style.
At first, I thought, “Well that’s par for the course. I’ve been known to scare the living beejeezus out of people with too much, too soon.”
So, I dialed the “food for thought” down a few notches and offered even more ideas for the benefit of EGO and CEO. Ideas: as in real, tangible, SMART solutions to their problems.
Birds of a feather do flock together. EGO managed to hire a CEO with an ego to match his own. So, now, I was receiving email feedback from both of them — in stereo.
Yet, unfazed by feeble minds, I generously shared cloud-based SaaS resources, which would be a much-needed improvement over two, old, locally networked computers with QuickBooks Desktop software.
- Better Business Plan: Begin with the End in Mind
- QuickBooks Online Advanced: Platform for integration with Apps
- Projects: Best new feature of QuickBooks Online
- TSheets: Time, Project, and Employee Management
- Expensify: Receipt Tracking and Expense Management partner of AICPA
- Bill.com: Vendor Management preferred partner of CPA.com of AICPA
- Gusto: HR and Payroll for Multi-state Employment
- Avalara: Excise and Sales Tax Compliance
- Throw a Dart and Hit One: Inventory Management
Wonders Never Cease
Why they didn’t cancel our 10:00 AM, Friday morning meeting is beyond my comprehension of human motivations. In keeping with the teachings of John Wooden and his “unless you’re 15 minutes early, you’re late” mantra, I was at the Company office — on time, at 9:45 AM.
EGO and CEO graced me with their presence at 10:15 AM. They had been visiting with their Banker and the conversation ran long. Purpose of that conversation: refinance $400,000 in Credit Card debt. Can you imagine?!
After five years, I believe the Owner was sincerely glad to see me. His new CEO not so much. In fact, he had to excuse himself to visit the restroom. As the three of us transitioned into the Conference Room, apologies were made for the stacks of paper obliterating any view of the table.
After EGO, CEO, and the Receptionist (whom I had come to know quite well) worked feverishly to clear half the table, we chose our places. EGO sat on the left. I took a seat opposite him. CEO claimed head of the table, to my left.
As always, I came prepared — with blue presentation folder placed neatly under my left arm containing two pockets of clipped, color printed material.
I patiently waited for one of them to start the meeting. After glancing at CEO several times, EGO finally began — with excuses.
Rear-view Mirror or Windshield?
This was just another rendition of their whining that I had endured through three days of emails — same song, more verses.
Both of them chose not to answer the Success Candidate questions, which would have given insight to their thoughts and actions. In addition, their responses would have provided a solid foundation for our time, together.
This one sentence from the last email received from CEO the evening before our meeting speaks volumes. In fact, it is the gist of their thought patterns.
I fully expect that there will be challenges resulting from a “bold-vision” leadership style, but I’m confident that he and I have a communication style that will allow us to absorb those effectively.
Remember my comment about Corporate Speak? Here we have it, in spades.
Well — by now, I had heard enough. Enough whining; enough excuses; enough regurgitation of past mistakes; and enough finger-pointing of blame at those not present at the table. Enough, already!
Do you want to talk about problems — or, do YOU want solutions?
Since I’m a big believer in focusing far into the distance by looking through the windshield when driving, I asked what I genuinely thought to be a simple question, “What is required to build anything of Value?”
My habit of focusing far into the distance was perfected while driving Highway 212 from Billings to Red Lodge for thirteen years. Knowing my passion for work, friends would often ask, “Kim, what do you do for fun?”
My response, “I drive Highway 212.” Great sport in dodging tourists with a paper map held between their eyes and the windshield, farmers moving wide loads of equipment, and deer — lots of deer, everywhere for 60 miles.
If you’ve ever experienced a “deer in the headlights” look, then you understand the response that I received from EGO and CEO — as I asked again, “What must you have to create or construct anything of Value?”
To carry the conversation forward, I replied, “Blueprint. Yet, why use a two-syllable word when a one-syllable word will do. You need a Plan.”
- What are the Vision and Mission statements for your Company?
- Where is your Plan for the year ended December 31, 2019?
- How do you describe your Communication styles?
CEO moved his gaze of hatred from me to the other side of the table and asked, “Are we going to sit here and take this?!”
EGO simply shuffled in his seat. So, I interpreted that as a, “Yes, we are.”
- All we do begins with a Thought.
- We achieve at the Speed of Belief.
- Those who can find a way — those who can’t make excuses.
- The Better Business Plan is the first image of an Income Statement.
- A successful Company is managed from the dashboard of a Balance Sheet.
They never heard the answers, above — the solutions to their problems. CEO tossed the presentation materials in front of him into mine, shoved back from the Conference Table, cursed a blue streak, and left — left the room.
As I was asked to go away for the third and final time, I noticed CEO had even left the building and was pacing the sidewalk up and down the street.
Hookers do that — because they do things for the money. From the very beginning of the email exchanges, CEO felt threatened. Because I refused to massage his ego, he had no use for me as we began our Friday meeting.
Within 30 minutes, the feeling was mutual. After CEO departed, EGO asked, “Why did you have to hurt his feelings?” My reply, “He’s responsible for his feelings — that’s not my responsibility.”
CEO felt that his “job” was threatened. Silly him — because, other than the one-year tutelage under a CPA to be licensed by the State of Montana, I’ve never needed a Job. I’m an Entrepreneur — a Trailblazer extraordinaire.
If a grown man, CEO to boot, can’t control his emotions in a formal setting, what value will he be when Push comes to Shove?
When quizzed more by EGO about my “unwillingness” to work with CEO, graciously, I brought his attention to who left and who was still at the table.
Then, I reminded him of his hiring choice and finished with this comment, “I’ve spent a lifetime working with guys like that — and I know how this will end for YOU.”
What begins twisted, ends twisted.
Serve or Be Served?
Beyond the effect of having no Plan or blueprint for the Future, the cause of dysfunction in this Company is their focus, which is inward, rather than outward. In other words, their vision is skewed — tainted by their egos.
Simply, the owner and his new hire, both, suffer from the Three Evil E’s of Ego, Expectations, and (uncontrolled) Emotions. The effect of this insanity (five years’ worth) are the fires they’re constantly fighting.
The proudly proclaimed “bold-vision” leadership style and consummate nonsense of empty-headed babble serves no worthwhile purpose — other than to feed the egos of narcissists. They are legends in their own minds.
What really tipped CEO back in his chair was when I asked for his statement of purpose — and, then, when he had none, I shared my Mission Statement.
This was written 35 years ago and is the introduction to a lifestyle.
“We” are a team of individuals who, because of the nature of our work, must work together to serve our clients. The combined skill and talent of many are superior to the best intentions of one.
Vision to Succeed
Without a blueprint, nothing of value can be built. You’ve heard about the House built on sand. The same is true of the Company in the story, above.
Without a vision, the people perish. Yet, the good news is that there are great rewards for those individuals who choose to be Conduits of Goodness.
Heaven on earth can be ours — if we choose to have the Vision to Succeed.