I was making moves to the top at the missteps of others.
In walks lesson six and that is never disrespect your authority when managing other people’s money. The head of the sales department that had been taking funds from other people for his own business ventures on the dime of the company. When the majority owner of the company discovered this, it was game over for him and game on for me. I was making moves to the top at the missteps of others. I say missteps because it was not me making moves it was others trying to do less and expecting more. The next person to leave the company was the very person that told the CEO to promote me higher in the company. This person I respected as she was one of the original three to take the company to the next level, but unfortunately with each maternity leave her job became less and less relevant as others (including myself) took over her role in the company to the point people were asking what she did anymore. When no one could answer the question and the company continued to struggle financially she was let go, but not without a handsome severance package that I recommended to the CEO. I know to this day she blames me for her departure, but it was a good business decision. Lesson seven is that if you cannot separate personal relations from business you will not be able to fire people when it is the best thing for the company.
This promotion would land me in the position of overseeing the sales and marketing departments for all the companies, but most importantly access to the CEO at a time the company needed a dose of reality and honesty as to its financial condition. The second highest cost center to a company under payroll is sales and marketing, so when I started asking questions about the budget is when the biggest lesson of all happened. Lesson eight, do not allow pushback from the CFO to stop your quest for information necessary to make a business decision. Pushback from a CFO that was covering up a company that was headed for bankruptcy if no one stepped in to stop the bleeding. This was no time for optimism as the reality was it was time for a realist to tell the CEO what he needed to hear if he had any hope of saving any of the companies. Had it not been for the Great Recession, I do believe the companies would have survived with a positive bottom line and the owners would have never known the true potential with all the weaknesses of the company (people and non-viable business ventures). I am not an accountant, but it does not take an accountant to see where expenses could have been cut years ago, and where sustainability accounting policies and procedures should have been put into practice for not only the market correction but in general as good business practices. Lesson nine was to grow a set of balls and tell the CEO what he needed to hear.
I guess those business degrees were good for something because it was very easy to recognize that the companies were in financial distress and if something was not done quickly, we were months away from closing our doors. This is when I knew the pavement had to meet the road and I had to discuss this with the majority owner of the company because his business decisions did not match the bleak financials of the company and I needed to find out why. Did he have an endless supply of capital infusion or did he not see the writing on the wall. The regulators were closing in on all mortgage brokers with fines greater than sustainable to stay in business, lending for homebuilders and developers were drying up and banks were universally pulling back.
“Take everything you learned from your journey and do not make the same mistakes”
My final lesson (lesson ten) in my journey to the top was that when you are the last man/woman standing you have become the leader. Now you take everything you learned from your journey and do not make the same mistakes you experienced while taking this journey. You are now the example that everyone else will learn from.