“Of Course It’s Personal!  It’s My $&@*@&() Money!”

I have an acquaintance who spent many years in corporate life.  He had overseas assignments and rose to a very high level on the corporate ladder.  After a family member’s health scare, he decided to take a buyout while relatively young.  I don’t know the particulars, but I’m pretty sure he and his family were more than financially set for life.  After a year of settling down and relaxing, he got bored.  He bought a business in a completely unrelated industry.  He is now about five years into his new venture.

We met about three years ago through a mutual friend.  We talk a few times a year, often trading stories about our businesses.  We had a conversation a few weeks ago that went something like the following:

“Brian, I remember a conversation we had about not taking it personally when you think someone takes advantage of you.  I had a customer promise me ‘the check is in the mail.’  He even sent me a picture of the check.  We’d done business with his company a long time, before me.  We did work for him based on that promise.  Guess what?  The $*#*(#* check never came.  Now, I’m out that money plus the additional stuff we did – the business is gone.  Of course it’s personal!  It’s my $*&$*)(#(  money!  It’s no different than if he held me up at gunpoint and took my wallet.”

Fortunately, the amount of money at stake won’t bankrupt the company; they’ll be just fine.  I’m fairly confident my buddy won’t have a stroke, either.  So this too shall pass.  I did ask him a question: “What would have happened if you were still at XYZ Company?”

He paused a few seconds and said, “Well, I probably wouldn’t have been involved in this decision.  Proportionately, this customer’s issue would have never made it to my desk.  My guess is our credit department wouldn’t have allowed us to ship that second order.”

So I probed a little more: “So there’s a process in place to prevent the company from losing more money?”

He replied, “Yeah, there was.  Why the $*&$*#) don’t I have a process?”

I said, “You do.  You just didn’t follow it.  I was just at a management conference and the key message was, ‘Focus on the process, not the people.  If something goes wrong, fix the process.  Don’t blame the people.’  I then questioned his intelligence for accepting the old “the check is in the mail” line.  I came clean and told him our biggest credit loss ever was a result of me accepting a version of that story from a big customer that went belly up.  I assured him I changed my process after that debacle.

Business is always personal.  Relationships should matter.  However, emotions cloud our judgment when dealing with people.  Adhering to processes can save a lot of heart aches and prevent bad decisions.  We can learn from the process standardization that big companies use.

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