Big Red Car here. Going to be a bit cloudy and gloomy in the ATX today. Hmmm, it is getting close to Memorial Day, the day of historic Austin, Texas flooding.
You are way too young, Grasshopper, to remember the 1981 Memorial Day floods when Shoal Creek was filled to overflowing with wrecked cars. Oh, that was a day.
So, in that spirit, The Boss fielded a call from one of his young CEO buddies. Brilliant guy, truly brilliant. World beater startup and living the life.
Well, until a bit of rain began to fall into his life and he managed to get himself out on the ledge. Oh, you know what I am talking about, Old Sport. THE LEDGE.
The place where your otherwise calm reason abandons you and you begin to contemplate stuff — that, frankly Old Sport, is NOT really going to happen — that is troubling and alarming.
The Boss gets these kind of calls pretty frequently. It is part of being an entrepreneur and it is normal. It is freakin’ normal, sayeth the Big Red Car.
So, once out on THE LEDGE how does one get back? Get off the freakin’ ledge.
Getting a bit of perspective
CEO: “Boss, the whole world is turning to shit. My whole world is turning to shit.”
Boss: “Sorry to interrupt, Old Sport, but before we starting dealing with all things scatological, is anybody dead?
CEO: “Well, no, nobody’s dead.”
Boss: “Anybody injured? Hurt? Get a diagnosis of terminal cancer? Any big illnesses with just letters or funny names?”
CEO: “Well no. Everybody’s doing fine.”
Boss: “Wife got you sleeping on the couch?”
CEO: “No, never been better. Just celebrated our fifth anniversary in Huatulco. That little place you told me about. Wonderful time.”
Boss: “Parental units doing OK? Dad? Mom? How about that brother of yours — he OK?”
CEO: “Hey, Boss, I get where you are going with all of this but believe me, my whole world is turning to shit and you have to help me.”
Boss: “OK, tell me about it and I will help you help yourself. Cause it does not sound to me that your entire life is turning to shit, Old Sport.”
Define the problem
Boss: “So, what the Hell is the problem, brilliant young entrepreneur and CEO? What has got you out on THE LEDGE?”
CEO: “We failed to hit our numbers and I had a troubling conversation with a Boardmember. Remember the guy who went to [Big Red Car says: insert your favorite big MBA business school that deserves a bit of thumping, your choice, enjoy]. He reamed me out pretty damn good. It was a very bad conversation.”
Boss: “Did you, in fact, fail to hit your numbers?”
CEO: “Yes, big time. But there are a lot of reasons for it. I could go on forever.”
Boss: “When did you know you were going to miss and to whom did you communicate it?”
And so the story goes.
You can see where this conversation is headed. It is not difficult to divine, is it?
So here’s the bottom line — every CEO is going to have to deal with disappointment. The first casualty in contact with the marketplace is the plan. Plans are guesses and not very many guesses are good. That is normal.
When you see a problem developing — confess, communicate, correct. It is really just that simple. Do not allow lizards to become dragons.
Develop a bit of an internal checklist — you know that the Big Red Car adores The Checklist Manifesto. Please read it. Please adopt it. Please use it. It will make YOUR life easier and it will improve the results.
DO NOT MAKE A BIG RED CAR BEG. It is unbecoming for a Muscle Car to beg. Believe me, I know. I’m a Big Red Car.
Develop the skill to talk yourself down off THE LEDGE and get back to work
Bit of drama today, Big Red Car? Yes, indeed. Hate it really. So energy consuming and time consuming and, well, you get it.
Make a checklist and learn how to talk yourself down off THE LEDGE by cataloging the environment in which you are operating. Any bodies littering the hallway? No, OK, acknowledge and move on to the next data point.
Confess, communicate, correct.
Pro tip: Get a damn good night’s sleep and don’t let fatigue multiply the size of the problem. Charge those batteries, Old Sport. Trust me, a Big Red Car knows the wisdom of having a fully charged battery before embarking on a long trip.
You are smart, hardworking and will never get those [insert MBA school of your choice] jerks to behave. It is what they do and even that’s OK. When you get to the pay window, even those jerks will love you.
Focus, Grasshopper. You can do it and wandering out on THE LEDGE from time to time is perfectly normal.
But, hey, what the Hell do I know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car.
If you get stuck, call The Boss and he will talk you down off THE LEDGE — he’s spent a lot of time out there himself in 33+years of CEO-ing. Plus, he was a paratrooper and he knows how to jump, if jump you must. Haha, Big Red Car, you crack yourself up.