By Maurie Cashman
Setting clear objectives is critical when beginning the process of planning for an ownership transition. I was reminded of this in several conversations I had this week, all of which involved situations in which objectives were vague among parties and resulted in misunderstandings and damage later on. As we discussed last week, creativity and leadership is important in crafting and implementing an ownership plan. That is why we focus heavily on what each partyâ€™s (particularly the current ownerâ€™s) objectives are and make sure to clarify them carefully before moving into the next phase of planning.
Two hunters are off in the woods when suddenly one is holding his chest and falls to the ground. It looks very dire. His friend is in a panic, calls 911 and the operator comes on and says, â€œYes sir, what is your emergency?â€ The hunter says, â€œOh my gosh, I think my friend is dead, what do I do?!â€ The operator remains calm and, urging the hunter to stay calm instructs him, â€œthe first thing I need you to do is to check and make sure heâ€™s really deadâ€. Thereâ€™s a pause and then BAM!!! The hunter comes back on the phone and says, â€œOK, thatâ€™s done, now what?â€
Unless you are Dick Cheney, you may recognize this as an oldie but a goody. However, it is instructional in a number of ways.
First, the hunter that was down was in no condition to control his circumstances and was completely dependent on the decisions of others. What would happen to you, your business and your family if you suddenly went down?
Second, his partner was clearly not prepared to manage the situation effectively (or worse, perhaps he was?). There was no plan to be implemented, he did not know what he should do and he had to rely on the instructions of a stranger, who relied on training that was not specific to the situation and the individuals involved. Would you have a clear plan in place that your advisors understood that you could all follow?
Third, the advisor was forced to provide advice based on the immediate situation and without any preparation for this specific situation with these specific individuals. She provided instructions that seemed perfectly reasonable to her. Do you have advisors that are clear on what your objectives are?
Finally, the results of the partner carrying out the instructions were irrevocable and extremely damaging. There was no going back once they were completed. There was nothing to fix and no time to plan. The bridges were all burned. In a panic situation when people canâ€™t think clearly, BAM, all options are taken away. There is no â€œnow what?â€
This is one of my favorite jokes. It is absurd. It carries a kernel of truth. I donâ€™t want to ruin it by over-analyzing it.
Do you have clear objectives? Donâ€™t let the joke be on you.