I Almost Said Yes

Posted by Daniel in Finance, Good Business, Jobs, Life, Uncategorized

, , , ,

Last year, in the wake of my lobbying for increased responsibilities in my job, I got what I wanted. I was promoted to being the regional manager for two clinics. It was great, except for the fact that they were physical outliers from the company, and they happen to be two of the worst performing clinics we had. These two clinics were losing money, had burned through a few regional managers over the prior year, and it was up to me to either save them or close them.

After a few visits out to the clinics, talks with the staff, months spent pouring over clinical reports and financials, and new ideas not working, I came to the realization that they needed to close.

I was proud of myself; I had tried things that hadn’t been tried before in our clinics, I had successfully engaged the staff, and we worked hard to turn it around. It just didn’t work; so I approached our CEO and CFO with the closure plan and they saw my point of view and agreed I needed to close the clinics. I was shocked when I was put in charge of closing them, but I stood there projecting confidence, not letting on to the internal struggle I would soon have.

“It’s business,” I had convinced myself. I spent days rehearsing how I would do it. One day, three flights, two clinics, fifteen people.

The first clinic went as I rehearsed, they were sad, but seemingly understood. I bought them lunch, and as I left they actually thanked me for how I did it and how I had treated them. I left and got on a plane to the second clinic. The second clinic didn’t go as well; I got some blowback. One person raised his voice at me, there were tears, and it was all around horrible, but I had planned. I had disconnected from the emotional aspect of laying people off, and as a result, none of it affected me. I kept my posture, I talked some people through their emotions, and I stayed strong.

As I was leaving the clinic, one of the employees stopped me and asked “was it easy?”

This was the one thing for which I hadn’t prepared; someone asking me to emotionally connect and admit that they were more than just numbers.

The scariest thing about all of this, was that I had emotionally disconnected so much that I almost said yes.

Broadcasting Failure

Posted by Daniel in Advice, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Gen-Y, Good Business, Jobs, Life, Uncategorized

, , ,

I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled Why I Hire People Who Fail. Not to spoil it, as I recommend everyone read the article, but the premise is quite simple, “mistakes are the predecessors to innovation and success,” so without mistakes and failures, there can be no innovation or success.

In light of my last post, this article opened my eyes to see that failure is good. Dots started connecting in my head, if failure is good and something I should be proud of then why are my failures not showcased on my resume?

What sort of response would I get if I added a section titled “Failures;” on it I could list a variety of things that would definitely add more insight to who I am than a bland list of prior employers. Besides my failures are way more interesting than my (to date) successes and I know that I have learned more in my failures than in my successes.

What sounds better? Listing the duties of a generic role like “Financial Analyst” or listing where you went wrong and what you learned after stating “Failed at Founding a Social Network for Pets.”

If I were hiring, I know which one would interest me more.

Flawed

Posted by Daniel in Advice, Entrepreneurship, Finance, House, Jobs, Life, Uncategorized

, , , ,

What started out as a personal (pseudo lent related) challenge, became a point of pride; two blog posts a week. I was doing great, but quality content creation not easy, so after a solid six plus months I decided to give myself a break, cutting back to one post a week.

Now I sit here writing my first post in two weeks and I find myself not rusty, but confused. As I intermittently thought about what I might write today I began to feel that I lost my voice, so I started searching; but for what I didn’t know so I kept looking.

In my search I kept coming back to my flaws. “Those who can’t do teach” rings through my head and I freeze. Perhaps this is the phrase that defines me and this blog. I write a ton about entrepreneurship, but out of three businesses I’ve started I let two fail while one sits idly. Additionally, I write a lot about personal finance and yet I still haven’t figured out the timing of my automated billpay system which leads to overdrafts.

I’m definitely flawed. Maybe being flawed is my thing, maybe being flawed is my voice which allows me to stand on my soapbox and be worthy of an audience. I’m not perfect. I’ve fought down credit card debt, I have failed at being an entrepreneur, I’ve been laid off, I’ve been (and still am) house poor, and I might be the only personal finance writer who still overdraws his bank account. But with that said, I know what it’s like. I remember being jobless and staring at thousands in credit card debt, and I’m reminded monthly of how stupid I was when I bought the house I live in, I know it’s a battle because it’s still a battle for me. Business and personal finance are not easy; I’ve been beat down by both of them, but I’m still here trying to learn from my mistakes.

This is a journey and I have no idea where it will lead, but I have faith that the best is yet to come.

The Camel Story / Embrace Being New

Posted by Daniel in Advice, Entrepreneurship, Good Business, Jobs, Life, Uncategorized

, , , , ,

There is a story from the Middle East about three brothers whose father passed away. In his will he left them his all of his camels to be split in the following way, the oldest son would get half of the camels, the middle son would get a third of the camels, and the youngest son would get a ninth of the camels. But there were only 17 camels, and 17 is not divisible by two, three, or nine; the brothers had a problem. They argued and could not come up with a solution; finally they all agreed to go to someone who was a neutral party and had fresh eyes on the situation; an older woman in the village. They presented their problem to her and the woman thought about it for a moment before saying “I hate to see you all fight, so here, take one of my camels.” The brothers now had 18 camels, of which the oldest took his half (nine), the middle took his third (six), and the youngest took his ninth (2). When they were finished they realized they had one camel left over, so to thank the woman they gave the remaining camel to her.

As the new person to the situation the woman did not spend any time focusing on the problem, instead she only saw the solution, and as a result I’m certain she became known as a problem solver.

In our careers, being new too often means that we spend time focusing on “getting acclimated” and “fitting in” when everyone would be better served if we focused on “being new” and “standing out.” As uncomfortable as it can be, only as the new person can we mess up and no one minds, only as the new person can we ask the questions that others are afraid to ask, and only as the new person are we able to see straight through a problem to the solution.

So next time that you are the “new guy” embrace it. Stick your nose where it doesn’t belong, offer to help regardless of if you are asked, and ask whatever question comes to your mind.

Edit: This version corrects an earlier version of the post where the youngest brother got a sixth, which would have given him three, not two camels. Math is hard (doh!).

Money Is A Tool, Not A Goal

Posted by Daniel in Finance, Frugality, Gen-Y, Jobs, Life, Uncategorized

, , , ,

Recently someone asked me what my financial goal was, as in; “how much money do you want to have?”  I was stumped, so I thought about it and said “I don’t have one.”

Admittedly this probably seems hypocritical since I write a blog called Young and Frugal where I have constantly advocated saving and planning, but in all honesty I don’t really have a number. Money isn’t a goal for me, so the concept of a “financial goal” doesn’t mean anything.

On the other hand life goals mean something to me. For instance, a few of my life goals are to live comfortably, travel with my family, and put my kid(s) through college. Of course all of these goals cost money, but money isn’t the goal, and as a result I feel better about my ability to make these things happen.  I have other goals that require tons of money, but money isn’t the goal. I think a lot of times we lose sight of the fact that money is not (and should not be) a goal. Money is a tool to obtain a goal.

Whether your goal is to travel, own a house, or own an island; work for the goal, not for the money.

This Changes Everything

Posted by Daniel in Uncategorized

Disruption, by its very definition, only needs to occur once in order to change everything; destroying the very continuance of life and events with which we have grown comfortable and forcing us to to forge a new path. Disruption in one event changes the future.

Disruption is bigger than history. History occurs everyday, disruption really only occurs a few times in our lifetime; as a result everyone remembers disruption.

Our goal in society seems to be to maintain the status quo when in fact the opposite should be true…we should be trying to disrupt. Only the best innovations disrupt, and they almost always get backlash. When Apple removed the physical keyboard from the phone they disrupted the mobile phone industry, and when JCPenney stopped doing sales in favor of everyday low prices they disrupted the retail industry. Time will tell on JCPenney, just as it did on the iPhone.

Change is good, innovation is better, disruption is best.

What Happened To Generalists?

Posted by Daniel in Entrepreneurship, Finance, Gen-Y, Good Business, Life, Uncategorized

, , , ,

One of my best friends recently called me to tell me he accepted an incredible job. The company found him on LinkedIn, flew him across the country to their headquarters, had a car and driver for him, and offered him a great package with huge upside; it’s an awesome opportunity and I’m extremely excited for him. After I finished talking with him I explained this awesome opportunity to Mary and she excitedly (and half jokingly) asked “Why can’t you find an awesome opportunity like that?”

Without skipping a beat or even giving thought to it, I responded and said “because he has a speciality that he is very good at, I don’t have a specialty, my function is currently in Finance, but my specialty is general business.”

My comment caught me off guard; it just flowed out of my mouth without thought and led me to ask the question: What happened to generalists?

In college we were taught to pick a major, which will turn into a career with a tract we should stay on, which will lead us to success as a CFO, CMO, CPO, or COO, then maybe a CEO. CEO was the pinnacle, but only after we achieved the specialized status of another C level position.

There is something wrong with that; those paths are so specialized how do they learn enough about other areas to become the CEO? A Chief Executive Officer should know a great deal about finance, marketing, operations, hr, and sales; and he should specialize in none of it! The CEO should be a TRUE General Manager of the corporation; and if they are not then you should ask who is running the company?

I recently found a very interesting post from the Harvard Business Review entitled Bring Back the General Manager that hammers this point home. In the post the author discusses exactly what I’m talking about and he makes the shocking statement that “for many chief executives I’ve recently worked with, the first real GM job that they had was CEO!”

I find that quote shocking, but I guess it isn’t that surprising when I think about it. Recently in a conversation with my boss (who is clearly on the CFO track), he talked about how all of us in Finance want to be the CFO; then he saw the look on my face and asked “wait? You don’t want to be the CFO?”

“No,” I responded, “I have no desire to be the CFO; I would be miserable. I will be a CEO.” I don’t know how I’m going to get there yet, but you can bet it’ll be an interesting path.