The caller was British. With a hint of Dutch. He owned a smallish ($25mm) company a few hundred miles from me, and needed a CEO and Board Member. He wanted to take the lumber from the woods, bring it to the mills, make logs from it, and sell it. Clearly, it was not a business he understood. It was a romance.
A month later, we met in London, at his beautiful aristocratic home in the heart of the old city. The butler glided through a false door; a bookcase really. For me, a small town kid from Oregon, it was a PBS period piece. I was certain Gwyneth Paltrow was next through the door. It was not to be. This Dutch Baron had purchased a sawmill in the middle of nowhere. He knew nothing about the business, but was a trusting soul. The company was losing its ass. Why?
I traveled to the location, met the managers, lawyers, accountants, and drew a conclusion. The onsite management was cooking the books. I reported this to my Dutch Baron, who was horrified someone would do such a thing, and sought my council. The plan was to confront the Controller, GM, Corporate Council, and do a search for a new CEO. The Dutch Baron thought that was “jolly good”. He liked it so much he invited me to join the Board of Directors.
The Company Controller walked into my office for a meeting we’d set up, brimming with confidence and numbers. Within the hour, I looked at him and said “Why did you do it?” He looked down at his shoes and said it was his boss’s idea, and he thought he could make a little money. He had kids in school. And after all, the Baron was loaded and lived very far away.
The President (GM) was terminated shortly thereafter, unaware of my involvement. He walked into my office one afternoon, extended his hand, and introduced himself. I looked him in the eye and said “You were President of Company X, weren’t you?” He smiled and nodded. I stared unflinchingly into his eyes, and said “I work for the Dutch Baron, am on the Board, and am quite familiar with your work”.
He turned around, and walked out the office door. Eventually, the business failed. We were too late. The losses were too large and capital requirements too big relative to the size of the business.
For most of us, it comes down to trust. Do you believe what you hear? Does it pass the taste test? What does your gut tell you? Did she look you in the eye when she said what she said? Did doubt cross your mind?
These blogs are intentionally apolitical. But the IRS, NSA and Benghazi scandals, and profligate spending cry, demand for answers. It all comes down to trust. Why would a large, bureaucratic hierarchical federal agency focus on one group of applicants who happen to hold certain political views? If you’ve ever dealt with the IRS, you know they operate on stringent rules and chains of command.
If you’ve ever run or been part of an organization where leadership lost the confidence and trust of the organization, you know how it ends. No matter your political stripe, the loss of trust in our government is a national tragedy in the making. A lack of trust quickly moves to a lack of confidence, which equals a slowed business climate.
We should all strive to return trust and confidence in our government, in whatever way we can – whatever our political views may be.
We should never forget our taxes pay for the services the state and federal governments provide. They work for us. Our parents wanted us to have a better life then they had. Noted economists have suggested out real national debt is $60 Trillion. I asked a friend, colleague and noted Economist, how do you pay that back. Their retort? You don’t.