An engagement I had with a client recently came to an abrupt end…

The owner of this business had asked me to be forthright in telling him if I thought he was a part of some of the company’s problems. I believed that as a leader – despite running a reasonably successful business – he was the reason why the company despite success, could not achieve their full potential. Stuck at $10 million sales when $20 million was well within their scope.

When I shared this fact with him – perhaps a little too forcefully – it was not well received!

His response was – he wasn’t interested in knowing what his weaknesses were as part of a SWOT analysis that we had started working on. He said to me he had built the company and that he “owned the chandeliers”. “Owning the chandeliers “- I suppose could translate as meaning   – the company – which he had started more than 30 years ago was “built on his back” and he could run the company the way he wanted to.

This same type of mentality  “I own the chandeliers” caught my attention in a letter a successful business owner recently sent his employees.

Here’s the section of the letter he wrote to his employees that caught my eye:

This is the business owners – “The Back Story

“This back story is often neglected and overshadowed by what you see and hear. Sure, you see me park my Mercedes outside. You saw my big home at last year’s Christmas party. I’m sure all these flashy icons of luxury conjure up some idealized thoughts about my life. However, what you don’t see is the back story.

I started this company 12 years ago. At that time, I lived in a 300 square foot studio apartment for 3 years. My entire living space was converted into an office so I could put forth 100% effort into building a company, which by the way, would eventually employ you.

My diet consisted of Ramen Pride noodles because every dollar I spent went back into this company. I drove a rusty Toyota Corolla with a defective transmission. I didn’t have time to date. Often times, I stayed home on weekends, while my friends went out drinking and partying. In fact, I was married to my business — hard work, discipline, and sacrifice.

Meanwhile, my friends got jobs. They worked 40 hours a week and made a modest $50K a year and spent every dime they earned. They drove flashy cars and lived in expensive homes and wore fancy designer clothes. Instead of hitting Nordstroms for the latest hot fashion item, I was trolling through the Goodwill store extracting any clothing item that didn’t look like it was birthed in the 70’s.

My friends refinanced their mortgages and lived a life of luxury. I, however, did not. I put my time, my money, and my life into a business — with a vision that eventually, some day, I too, will be able to afford these luxuries my friends supposedly had.

Tell the rest of the story

I don’t have a problem with this gentleman’s message so far – that we should not forget the sacrifices that any successful person has made by hard work, discipline and delayed gratification.

So far so good – but this is where I start to have a problem with this guy’s letter when he says further on in his “open letter”…

“So, while you physically arrive at the office at 9 am, mentally check in at about noon, and then leave at 5 pm, I don’t. There is no “off” button for me. When you leave the office, you are done and you have a weekend all to yourself. I unfortunately do not have the freedom. I eat, ****, and breathe this company every minute of the day. There is no rest. There is no weekend. There is no happy hour. Every day this business is attached to me like a 1 day old baby. 

What’s the problem with this and “I own the chandeliers mentality”?

First of all I find his tone paternalistic, patronizing and yes even insulting.

He has 14 employees – if they only “mentally check-in by noon” – who has the problem?

Maybe he does – this implies his employees lack motivation – perhaps he should ask the question why his employees are like that. Maybe it’s a lot to do with his self-centered management style and values.

I played golf yesterday with a lovely man who had loyally worked for the company for 40 years in quite a senior position. He took one day off work in 40 years and when the chips were down and the company heading for bankruptcy he was given a weeks notice.

Conclusion – tell the rest of the story!

Unless you are a sole practitioner – the success any of us has achieved has been due to hard work and sacrifice and maybe a little luck – but we could never have done whatever we have achieved – without the support of those who gave us the breaks and the team who also worked hard with us!