Plan B, C, D…
I truly believe in having more than one way out of the room. In fact, I would never have succeeded with my last acquisition had I relied on a single path. The key is to be thorough and objective about identifying and ranking all alternatives by taking into account their likely outcomes—economic and otherwise—the requisite efforts in terms of cost, time and what you may give up in the process. You’ll then know whether to press forward or regroup.
Acknowledge the Worst-Case Scenario
Like many other entrepreneurs, I’ve tripped over my share of stumbling blocks along the way. But I hadn’t experienced a situation where I wasn’t able to negotiate an acceptable outcome. That is, until someone said no and really meant it, which forced me to come face-to-face with the worst-case scenario that I had refused to acknowledge as even possible. Since then I’ve learned to appreciate the clarity that comes from that form of intellectual and emotional surrender.
Don’t Blame the Attorney
Emotions can run high and hot when a deal is on the table, particularly when the other side makes unreasonable demands or stretches the boundaries in some other way. While opposing counsel may behave in a manner that it so outrageous or so infuriating that it takes every last ounce of self-control to not do something that puts you in handcuffs, don’t lose sight of the fact that your anger should be with the puppeteer rather than the puppet. Our advisors do our bidding. It’s therefore up to us, as principals, to establish their ethical and behavioral limits, both for our own sake and because these limits convey our professional standards and values to the people on the other side of the table.
Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should
Every decision we make involves choosing between at least two alternatives, even when one of these is doing nothing at all—which, as a mentoring board member often reminded me, is an action in and of itself, as long as it’s intended. Moreover, many decisions boil down to choices between what’s right and what’s easy. The problem with easy, however, is how we rationalize it: We convince ourselves that we’re really not straying from the straight and narrow, which may indeed be true. For that first shortcut. But what of the next one, or the one after that? And what’s to become of us—not to mention those to whom we have a moral responsibility—when we finally realize that the series of decisions we’ve made over time have led our company so far astray, there’s no good pathway back? It’s certainly good to be king: the pay, power, prestige and perks. Make it last by adopting as your mantra—and asking your staff to adopt it as well—the simple heading above: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Epilogue excerpt from Practical Finance: A Straightforward Guide to Personal and Entrepreneurial Finance