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Monday, October 6, 2014

Be Well Advised

A fellow blogger has shared a transparent request for business advice. I salute him for it. He also revealed a personal quest to find significant meaning and meaning in his work. The piece recently ran as part of the “You’re the Boss” series in the New York Times.

The blog is titled, “My Quest to Create Pride and Joy in Work Runs Into Reality.” That is what caught my attention. The author is Fred Warmbier, who owns Finishing Technology Inc., based outside Cincinnati.

Fred openly admits that he is still on his search for deeper meaning in his work. He acknowledges a “constant need for reinvention” of his business in an ever changing world. A key to his growth as a business leader lies in his commitment to avoid a business mindset that being the business “hero” means always having to figure out solutions himself.

So what was the challenge that interrupted his joy-at-work quest? Fred’s company has a significant client who is having financial problems. Orders placed with Finishing Technology, Inc. have been filled. But payments have stopped. And there is more product waiting to be shipped. So…does Fred ship the goods and trust the customer will recover and pay? Or does he cut his losses now and stop additional shipments? Fred says he fears what most men fear: “I don’t want to look like a fool.” I’m with you, Fred.

This story, and true to life business challenge, puts a couple of things before us. First, it raises a moral/ethical dilemma of caring about others while being a good steward. But it also raises the flag of Help!—a cry most often spoken internally by executives under pressure.

In Chicago, as in many other cities, there are a number of CEO and executive support groups. I can’t imagine being in a high pressure or high demand role in business and NOT seeking out of these groups. So three cheers for the men and women who do, and for Fred’s wisdom in seeking counsel.

Another point to be revealed is that those on the outside can often see things much clearer than those in the midst of a struggle. External perspective is objective and does not have the emotional connection. I’ve seen it happen quite often that when a problem is explained to a peer, that peer is often able to quickly resolve the issue and it can make the problem owner say, “Yes. Of course! What was I thinking???”

As to the solution to Fred’s dilemma, my advice would be twofold. First, neither course is necessarily the bad way to go. If Fred ships product out of kindness and the payment never comes, he can feel deep satisfaction in his desire to help. And he can likely write off the loss in taxes. If he chooses NOT to ship, because it is wise stewardship not to send good money after bad, he acts shrewdly and can likely still write off the loss. Part of the solution would be best handled by a direct phone call with Fred and the other business owner. Maybe even a personal visit. Problems viewed firsthand have a different way of impacting us. As in…do unto others.

But I close with repeating my praise for Fred’s pursuit of outside wisdom. The Bible says, “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.” Prov 15:22 (NLT) Who's on your team?

And why is it I feel like Ann Landers right now?

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays, 4-6 pm on AM 1160 WYLL in Chicago. Check the web for WYLL and the app for AM 1160 to listen live. Or by podcast.

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