I’ve recently lost both my Mom and Dad. When I went around the family house last night, the quietness hit me, and writing of Mom’s eulogy has got me thinking. Yet standing there in the bathroom, tinged with sadness, I couldn’t help but chuckle. And I’m going to share why. And later on in this newsletter I’ll be sharing something else, something pretty big, that few of you know about me because it’s highly relevant right now…
But first, the story of the tiles… back in the ‘70s when I was barely in my teens, I negotiated with my Mom and Dad to tile the bathroom in return for some money towards a youth hostelling trip. This, my first major DIY project, was going great, I was really proud of my work, that was until my Uncle Terry popped by to see how I was doing…
You see, Uncle Terry was a DIY expert, he’d taken his old 80 year old terraced house and turned it into a veritable palace. We thought that what he didn’t know about DIY wasn’t worth knowing…
He came into the bathroom. The picture in the heading of this email is what he saw. (and yes all my handiwork is still there!)
‘You’ve not fitted them with the ‘Chick pattern’ showing!’ Here is a close-up:Close up of the chicken tile
Have you ever had one of those OMG moments which live with you forever? Well, this was one of mine.
And every tile is the same… only neither I nor my Mom or Dad noticed… and I’d already tiled half the room.
Having exhausted the dictionary’s stock of expletives and a few more, my parents and me consulted… should I carry on, ignoring the chicken, or not. I carried on…
As I fitted every tile, all I could see were chickens, facing left (arguably properly), upside down and facing right, lying on their back or suspended face down. Those bloody chickens still haunt me to this day as I sit or stand in the loo!
The point is once you’ve ever had such a wake up ‘OMG’ moment like that, it can never be reversed, once the cat it out of the bag, it’s out forever. Never again can you look at things in the same way. You’re haunted.
And I’m haunted by some of the things I’m seeing happening in the professions nowadays …
The banks have had a really tough time reputationally in recent years. They got found out for the ‘traders’ they are. Banking is no longer one of the professional pillars of society. Instead they’re the people skulking in the corner of the kitchen at parties. I’m not here to knock the banks, that’s far too easy and cheap a shot, I’m talking about some of the things that are happening in other professions, particularly in my own of insolvency, and in accountancy, where similar things are happening as have happened in the banks. Let me explain…
I’ve just finished reading the book ‘the Wolf of Wall Street’. Incredibly it’s the biography of a real – and totally dispicable – fellow called Jordan Belfort. He was a financial expert who’s probably best summed up by his closing words at the meetings he held to stir up his sales people – ‘now go rip their (sic his clients’) f—ing eyes out’. He’d talk about his staff being the hunter, the clients their prey.
In Jordan’s world, every client was treated as a ‘transaction’ – even though his people – the so called experts – gave the impression there was a real relationship with the client. The purpose of this masquerade was to extract maximum fees from the client regardless of whether what they were selling them was right or wrong for the client. Giving the client the impression the expert cared for their best interests was all part of the game.
Jordan also talked about ‘plausible deniability’ and ‘rationalising, justifying and denying’ to anyone decrying what they were doing … all things it seems to me the professions are doing nowadays to try to best protect their elevated position. How many times have you heard a profession shout down proposals to change how things are done? How many times have you seen sales people within a profession advise on a particular course of action? – are they really the best people to advise?
The problem many people have when taking advice from experts is we live in a highly complex world where there is often no readily visible benchmark to compare advice at the relevant time. And that’s what some accountants and insolvency practitioners are doing right now – feigning an interest in the wellbeing of the client, giving them appalling advice which digs the client into an even bigger hole yet earns the giver of advice maximum fees.
In my blog of recent weeks you will find 3 links to articles I’ve written on this topic, eachdemonstrating the pain felt by real people who have come to me for advice after having been given ‘plausible advice’ from other experts. Please take some time to read these – you may know someone who is in this position right now. You may even have introduced them to the insolvency practitioner.
So why’s this happening?
It’s simple really… for some, doing the right thing has become far less important than lining their own pockets. It comes down to the driving force behind the person.
I’m going to tell you something now that few outside of my profession know. It’s what’s determined what I do and how I do it for the last twenty years…
In the 90s I joined a firm. The role had fantatstic promotion prospects, keep my nose clean and partnership, my main aim in life at that time, was virtually assured. Soon after I joined I found that one of the owners of that business was working with other professionals – bankers, agents, etc – to seize people’s businesses, massively defrauding the rightful owners of those businesses of their livelihoods. The problem for the person in my firm who was heavily involved in this was I had a ‘role model’, and if ever I encountered any sort of problem, I’d ask myself what he would do in those circumstances. And I then did it. For my role model doing the right thing was always more important than doing the thing that makes you most money.
To cut a long story short, I reported the guilty partner to the regulator – not an easy decision despite the fact that my role model happened to be the chair of my regulator’s ethics committee at the time. It was a terrible time for me personally when every sinew of what I was all about was tested – after all I’d come from a working class background and about to break through into the big time. The guilty guy was sacked from the firm and cut a deal with the regulator to accept lesser charges in return for handing his licence back quietly. The whole episode was hushed up and for a while I was shunned by some in the insolvency profession – you see no one likes a whistle blower. For a good many years afterwards people would ring me from insolvency firms around the country asking for my advice on how they should deal with major issues going on in their firm – they knew they could trust me, they knew I’d encountered similar problems.
It’s been a few years since I last saw Roy, my role model – the last time was at the Baggies when I went up him, shook his hand, thanked him for the fact that unlike many of the class of ‘85 I was still working and not living it up on some beach somewhere but that I was so very glad because I could sleep properly at night. Whenever I have seen him in the last 20 years I have always thanked him for having taught me what’s right and what’s wrong. He’s been a father to me in business.
It might be me, but right now I’m not seeing many role models of the calibre of Roy. In fact I see far too many Jordan Belfort type characters.
Do I regret standing firm when it was far easier just to walk away?
Not one bit, you see it’s part of who I am, it’s something they can put on my tombstone when my time comes: ‘He always did the right thing’ will suit me fine.
Here’s a question for you …Are you dealing with a Jordan Belfort or a Roy? Do you know?
Your turn to do some thinking…
– Chartered Accountant, Licensed Insolvency Practitioner, and much much more!
Midlands Business Recovery
Tel 01902 672323