"mmm... Not Sure Your Problem Is Succession Planning Quite Yet..."

VERY normally I keep a low profile when it comes to publicly sharing, lets call them "oddities", from either my formal client engagements or from the non-metered "service" engagements.  I've read some peers' postings that were just in poor taste, especially because correlation of recent LinkedIn connections or follows and said posts make it all to easy to regress who the author is airing the dirty laundry of.  I have so much more of my own dirty laundry than can ever be cleaned, I dare not tempt the "golden rule" or "karma running over my dogma" fates...

In this case, I am gonna.  Simply because no one reading this, or is it "no one will read this", would guess who the company is and because this was a prime example of what happens when one or a company (aka a group) get ahead of themselves - to the detrimental facet.

The set, cast, and score played out like this, literally.  I'm walking down a long, brown carpet w/ poo-brown wallpaper barely still clinging on to the walls of the last class b office space in Denver that somehow just couldn't manage to get itself outa 1974 (which was a great year.  Both my birth and the first year Jordan's Cabernet was made of its own grapes), and as I was noting to myself, "Well, these guys certainly didn't get into the financial and commercial corner that they are from spending lavishly on decor, or even carpet for that matter."

I get called into the office of the President and COO of this "professional business services" firm as I walk past.  Now normally when I'm doing what I was there to help do, but via formal engagement (aka paid), my guard is prepared for what I've come to expect from the number 2, 3, or even number 6 in charge.  But since this was being booked in my Quickbook Online instance as "charitable contribution", I really wasn't expecting the usual defensive posture followed by a one on one pontification - which I always am respectful to listen wholeheartedly til the end.  (they go something like this) "Scott, come in here, k!" (never a question mark) "You know what is really wrong with things/this place/the CEO/everyone but me?  Its that the team doesn't know what they don't know and that always leads no one can get shit done around here except for me, (insert the names of the guys top 3 subordinates who have continuously kissed number 2's ass for 3-7 years and never challenge.  Never!  Digression, am sorry.  "... and something about how number 2 has tried this or done that, but ultimately he is only one man, with "absolutely zero resources to make anything really happen."  (get ready this one is almost present in 90% of my last 6 gigs doing turnaround and management consulting)  "Man, Scott, you must see, right?  For someone like me, its death by a thousand paper cuts."

*FYI the above is a synopsis briefly illustrating unfortunately more highly (screw that. grossly) paid "professionals" whom have - or "had" if I'm working for free - really good.  

In this specific case, literally just last Thursday, and in a State other than Colorado mind-you...  In this case, I got pulled into the office of the Pres/COO, and whereby instinctually my guard was half-mass, and my eyeballs had surely already been rolled completely in the back of my head before I even made it through the threshold... 

"Let me ask you, what is it that you think you can do that none of us here can't?"  "In the meeting you asked us (it was their rendition of a weekly - at least I think - exec metrics review meeting) if we met daily to review our "CASH FLOWs" (cash flow report I asked the team specifically.  And, I don't say anything to his rhetorical thingy he was getting ready to pull - power trip that is...) . "Were you asking us that because you don't think we know what a cash flow report is?"  "I know what a P&L is!" (my favorite part of the whole day was that because surely he knew the material and crux difference, right?) . "Or, what?" 

"Why ask such a dumb question to a room full of highly qualified professionals!" (note, no question mark)

After explaining that I most sincerely did not and would not mean to disrespect anyone.  Further, I explained that I only asked as a precursor to the question that I followed with, which was, "may get a copy of the latest?"  (I also asked if it had an AP and AR schedule that included 60/90/120/ and "oh my god who the shits collects money from deadbeat customers around here" days.)

After I told him this, he asks me what I was able to "source out about the company from a simple basic dumb report?"  Before I could answer, which I was actually looking forward to getting his opinion of what he sources from the regular standard financial and operating (sales included) reports, he interrupts with what is now going on my newly created "Wall of "Who Did You Luck Out and Stumble Upon Compromising Photos of Which Board Member to Get Your Job".... (might rethink the title of my new project for the office wall)

"Scott, what is really wrong with this place.  What we really are missing and which has a direct responsibility for us being in this shit storm."  "We have NO SUCCESSION PLAN!"  "There is nothing in place to help us transition leadership or career paths for the staff to grow into."

Number 2, as his nickname i've bestowed also means "shit", is not wrong in being concerned with this fact that the company, in fact, had no career path program, no training for that matter, no plan should the CEO or Board rapidly no longer be at their capacity (death or jail or one-way plane ticket to South America - is what I have actually experienced in the instances Ive been part of a turnaround team.  Hell, the company's staff that were worth a shit already figured out long before most, or before me and the two mistakenly subordinated lenders, and their lawyers ever set foot in the place, left for more fruitful pastures.  YES.  They had the problems that number 2 touched upon, but in the case of this company, the problem of staff betterment, culture, career paths, succession, etc was one that should have been addressed a decade ago back when the founder apparently was poisoned by his fourth wife.

Today, or at least last Thursday, this company had foregone receivership.  The "Special Assets" Team from the two banks were not fighting over who was subordinated to whom, but instead the opposite.  Besides somehow managing to carry a debt to revenue ratio of 12.2:1 and amongst many other really nasty commercial "adversities" piled on it, there were mounting patent infringement lawsuits.  Globally!  And some of these patent holders were the likes of Univision, Shell Oil, and good old MSFT.

Anyway, I babbled.  But I couldnt wait til I was able to document this experience.

People, Your MOM and DAD were right.  There will ALWAYS BE SMARTER PEOPLE THAN YOU.  Don't get discouraged.  Get close to them candidly...  At the same time, when you are discouraged, don't forget THERE WILL ALSO ALWATS BE PEOPLE WHOM ARE NOT SMARTER THAN YOU.  (in fact I'm not convinced some of the people like "number 2" managed to stumble through a portable vortex that carried them from being recycled at the pearly gates to positions in companies I KNOW they could spell if they didnt have a business card in front of them.

Ugh... Sorry I ranted.  But do feel better.