Most small business consultations are relatively straightforward. But not every problem is so easily resolved. I’d love to tell you how this last tale has worked out, but it hasn’t yet! As the wise Morpheus said, “I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.” There’s a great deal of resistance, but eventually, the thirsty horse has to drink, right? You’d think so.
What we have is a very small service company of four employees plus the owner, who has been embezzling from himself. He sends most of the company money to his lady-love in another state. Obviously, this creates huge problems. Like any business, this one has bills and payroll responsibilities, but they aren’t being met. His formerly loyal employees find themselves torn between their jobs with no pay, and no jobs. Stress and denial are dangerously high. The owner refuses to listen to reason (he storms off in a huff) and the financial issues are only a symptom of the real problem, which is a lack of personal accountability.
This issue began with seeds planted a year or two ago. A little petty cash here, a loan against a payment there, and money was filtered off. It has blossomed into a bountiful harvest for the lady-love. Last spring, she received a new car. One thing about harvests, though: they’re followed by a freeze.
In the land of my ancestors, there are stories about the daoine maithe, the good people, or the daoine beaga, the little folk. They are some of the faerie spirits that are increasingly active in autumn and spring. They are neutral forces in the balance of good and evil, loosely bound to earth and therefore uniquely qualified to patrol the gateways between realms.
Anyway, because of the latitude, the auld land has two primary seasons, you see: summer and winter. At the end of the harvest, summer is over and winter (says Ned Stark) is coming, precisely at All-Hallow’s Eve. If we’ve been good to the wee folk, they’re good to us. They mark the gateways between realms with fairy rings, so we don’t go blindly stepping into places where dark spirits roam and find ourselves unable to escape. Of course, if we’ve neglected our responsibilities, haven’t done our share, have taken all good things for granted…the little dears aren’t so particular about minding the gates. Dark spirits enter our world for a season, until summer returns. Winter isn’t just a time of literal cold and darkness. It’s a time of death.
At least, those are the stories. Mere tales told to children. Most assuredly. And yet, every tale holds a truth, doesn’t it? Our business owner has taken advantage of those who have helped him. He has misused the resources and business as a means to a greedy, lust-tinged end. If nothing changes, what sort of winter might await that business?
Of course, you would never spend business money without a care. Neither did this business owner; for more than 20 years, he’s handled his business well. But he fell into a trap that awaits any of us, which is a lack of accountability. For the self-employed, especially, this is dangerous. It’s difficult to keep personal and business finances separated. Staying on track, despite temptation, is why people post their workouts on social media.
It’s another form of accountability. Otherwise, the occasional missed workout turns into a week of missed workouts and a weekend junk food binge, and all the effort was for nothing. Do what you need to do to protect yourself and your business. Assign a person to whom you will be accountable – it doesn’t have to be a paid position. Ask a friend or neighbor to let you show them a balance sheet each month, and to call you out if something looks off. Like a weekly weigh-in (or the change of seasons), just knowing what the near-future holds is often enough to keep you honest with yourself.
Before you gaze off into middle-distance, thinking about your business over the past few months, please leave me a comment! Also, don’t keep it to yourself – share with your network and show ’em how smart you are!