Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Five Most Hated Words

I once had a boss who, shall we say, lent new meaning to the word “impatient.”

His management style was from the old school – like Charles Dickens old school - and chances are when he asked you a question, he, like a good attorney, already knew the answer.

But if there was one phrase that ignited his temper like no other, it was someone offering the following as a defense for a miscue – “I didn’t think of it.”

When he once assigned a reporter to investigate why so many accidents seemed to be occurring at one intersection, and the completed story did not include quotes from either a local highway official or someone who had been involved in an accident, he heard those five most despised words.

The next assignment for that reporter was a local PTA meeting. And if any of you have ever had the misfortune of sitting through one of those, you would quickly understand what a field demotion that was.

In the six years I have been consulting to the profession, I’m sad to report that I’ve been on the receiving end of that phrase more than once. Unlike my former boss however, I cannot erupt like Mount St. Helen's when I hear it, although believe me, it has been more than tempting.

Case in point.

Prior to the Thanksgiving hiatus I was speaking to a two-partner firm in the Northeast. Both owners were thinking about transitioning from full time in two years. Not only had they done zero planning for succession, they, incredibly, went ahead and signed a SEVEN-year lease. Let me repeat that for emphasis – a seven-year lease.

So, when I scheduled a conference call with them, naturally the question of the ill-advised extension came up.

“Well, we didn’t think it would be a problem. We really didn’t think of it that way.”

So, let me understand this, you want to leave in two years, so whoever would agree to merge in your practice would now be stuck with five years remaining on a lease that they would either have to cover in its entirety or somehow sublet it?

Their stony silence verified the worst – They didn’t think of it.

Sadly, I had no recourse except to recite an after-the-face lecture on the do’s and don’ts of proper succession planning and cross our collective fingers we’d find someone to assume their lease obligation.

Too bad, having them sit through a PTA meeting would have been a far more effective lesson.

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