My personal motto is this: Patience is a waste of time.

But what do you do when your path is blocked, for whatever reason? Today's newsletter offers concrete suggestions for ensuring that when patience is required, you don't waste time in the interim. (Hint: There are always actions that can be taken now.)


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Charlie Goodrich 

Founder and Principal

Goodrich & Associates
June 2015 Vol. 4 No. 6
In this issue...
Patience Is A Waste Of Time (And What to Do When It Is Required)
Heard on the Street
About Us
Goodrich & Associates
[email protected]
Patience Is A Waste Of Time (And What to Do When It Is Required)

The first company I worked for out of business school was Container Corporation of America. Mobil owned us at the time, for reasons that never made sense to anyone.

Just prior to my arrival, a Mobil executive was sent in to see why the Company's performance had been so poor. The executive soon became CEO of Container, at which point he brought in a guy named Joe Cooper as COO. Joe's marching orders were to get things done quickly, something he accomplished by applying his experience in building pipelines:
  • The shortest distance between two points is always a straight line.
  • If there is a mountain in the way, blow it up.
  • If there is a swamp in the way, fill it.
  • If there is an environmentalist in the way, shoot him. (This was the early 80's.)
I learned a lot from watching Joe, eventually adapting his simple, direct, get-it-done approach into a motto of my own: "Patience is a waste of time." It's served me well over the years.

But what do you do, right now, if you can't blow up the mountain or dispose of the environmentalist? When patience is needed, what then?
  1. Do something else that is on or close to the critical path to achieving your goal. Achieving goals rarely consists of one or two big steps. Typically, goals require several, much smaller actions, many of which can be done in parallel. That means that there are likely many other steps you can work on, even if you can't move forward now as you might like. But, you must know where you want those steps to take you and have a general idea of the types of steps needed.

    Sometimes it's best to think in terms of milestones - way points - on the path to a more broadly defined goal. When I became CFO of the S. S. Pierce Company, a foodservice distributor that Kraft Foods had just acquired, one of my charges was to upgrade the finance function in terms of people, processes and so forth. The Company had four locations with four general managers, each of which had accounting clerks but no controller for support. That needed to change. But, I knew no one would agree to it when I arrived. So I focused initially on other basics, such as making sure invoices were not double-paid, receivables were collected, etc. Eventually, I built trust with the general managers and they saw the need for their own controllers.
  1. Clear the path. If you can't take the actions you'd like to take now, use this time to remove any roadblocks that will be there when you circle back. Do the people in place lack the resources, capabilities or time to get the job done? Are there obstacles that are your responsibility to clear? Are there structural limitations that can be improved upon? What can you do now to smooth the way for the future? Better still, regularly monitor the status of projects and key action items so you can clear the path sooner.
  1. Be persistent. Persistence is not the same as patience. There will always be set backs but the persistent professional continues pressing towards the goal. For example, when I was in the rent a car business, I quickly built a top-notch Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) team. This was the early 90's during a painful recession, so I was able to snag two bright women - one the former manager of pricing analysis for Ford Europe; the other a graduate of GE's finance program. Unfortunately, a year later my boss introduced them at a general manager's meeting as "the corporate babes." To nobody's surprise, they both left shortly thereafter, leaving me to start the team-building process again.
But what if the task is on the critical path and it really does have to happen now? Under those circumstances, patience is deadly and the only answer is to try harder.

For example, at one point I was relocating an accounting office from Boston's Logan Airport to its distant suburbs. I had hired a new workforce, all of whom lived near the new office; they were willing to commute for a while into Boston. The problem was that the guy in corporate responsible for real estate leases had put ours on the back burner. Winter was approaching and most of the new employees had told me they would quit rather than suffer through the commute. After months of non-action on the lease, I called the corporate travel department on a Friday and had the real estate guy's Monday travel plans changed to Boston. He got on the flight without thinking and when he arrived, I had him sign the lease!

The point is simply this: When patience is required, don't waste time in the interim. There are always actions that can be taken now, whether that involves taking other small steps that are on the critical path, removing potential obstacles, or pushing past what may seem to be insurmountable barriers.

Heard on the Street

Recently, there has been an uptick in merger and acquisition announcements by public companies. To minimize mistakes and payouts to aggrieved shareholders, take the advice of Leo E. Strine, Jr., Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court.

His recent Discussion Paper for Harvard Law School's John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics, and Business is titled, "Documenting the Deal: How Quality Control and Candor Can Improve Boardroom Decision-making and Reduce the Litigation Target Zone."

The title is not short and neither is the article at 50 double-spaced pages. But, at least a third is footnotes and it reads quickly and easily. You can read it here.

About Us

Goodrich & Associates is a management consulting firm. We specialize in helping our business clients solve urgent liquidity problems. Our Founder and Principal, Charlie Goodrich, holds an MBA in Finance from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor's Degree in Economics from the University of Virginia, and has over 30 years experience in this area.

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