Author’s note: This parable can stand on its own or be considered a second part to the Parable of the Gap Analysis, found here.
Tangible fear had fallen on the executives of the company when the business analyst and her manager explained that their strategy to overtake their competition wouldn’t work. To correct course, they had decided to focus on new features in one of their top products; however, losing market share and revenue as they were, their new roadmap would take long enough to be realized that they would be out of business before the company became profitable again. To win the race against time, they would need money—money that just wasn’t there.
The CEO and other executives met with the board of directors to give them the bad news. The only way for the company to stay afloat was a fresh infusion of capital that would allow them to complete their roadmap in the requisite time.
Members of the board argued about what to do next. Some wanted to dissolve the company and divide among themselves and shareholders what profit was left. Others thought they may gain more profit by selling the company. The chairman became more and more uncomfortable as the discussion went on, and then he brought a fist down on the conference table.
The loud thud brought silence to the room.
One at a time, the chairman eyed each of those in attendance. “I founded this company decades ago,” he said evenly. “I put everything I had into getting it started. I will not see it fail. I will not see it dissolved or sold off to the highest bidder, just to be gutted for parts.” The attendees looked at each other. It was true—even though he had founded the company and eventually divested himself of the position of CEO, shareholders had voted time and again to keep him as chairman of the board of directors because of their confidence in his commitment.
He took a deep breath. “I know someone who may be able to help us out of this conundrum.”
As he stepped out into the hallway, he drew his phone out of his suit coat and started tapping and scrolling. Everyone else watched as he left the room; the door closed just as he started talking to someone on the other end of the call. Exchanging glances once again, the board members and executives sat back to wait. What else could they do?
Moments later, the chairman returned. He didn’t bother moving farther into the room. “Everyone break for lunch,” he said. “Not a word of this to anyone else. And don’t discuss it where you can be overheard. We reconvene at 1:00.”
Everyone returned early, anxious to see whom the chairman had called and what would happen.
The door opened, and in came a man they all knew or at least knew about—one who had many connections in the business community and had amassed wealth by making many a wise, strategic, and even farsighted business decision. He was also known as no stranger to risk.
The newcomer surveyed those gathered. “I’ve had an eye on your profits for a while now,” he said. “The outlook has been looking grim. What’s your plan?”
The COO laid out the roadmap and explained how they needed additional funding to make it happen in the required timeframe. The newcomer nodded.
“I believe your ideas will keep the company afloat … for a time. I agree that you currently lack the funds you need to proceed, and I can finance your plan. But that will fail to make the company truly thrive for the long term. During the lunch hour, the chairman and I discussed something more ambitious than what you’ve had in mind.” Then he outlined a plan for the company and their products that the board and the executives could see would demand their most dedicated efforts and push their capacities to the limit.
They could also see it would cost an astoundingly large amount of money.’
“Let me be clear,” said the chairman. “This was my idea, so this is not some takeover. But our friend supports this new direction and believes it will work.”
“And you will get the credit,” added the newcomer. As if to convince the rest, the newcomer took a piece of paper from a nearby notepad, wrote on it, and passed it to the chairman, who stared at the paper a long time. And then he passed it around.
It contained a dollar sign and an enormous figure. “That’s what this will take,” said the investor.
But one board member spoke up. “This doesn’t make sense,” she said. “I can see that this plan will easily cost every bit of this amount. If so, it doesn’t leave room for you to buy any shares and get a return on your investment. What do you get out of this?”
“I don’t ask for a single dime back. I don’t even ask for a place on the board here, let alone the position of chairman.” He glanced around the room as if reading their speculative thoughts. “I don’t need money or prestige. But I do have some terms. For these funds to be available to you, I am to remain an advisor to this group until the plan is complete. You will be free to follow my advice or reject it. However, let it be clear that a rejection of my guidance at any point means a rejection of my investment and my assistance. I assure you though that any departure from not only the chairman’s strategy but also my guidance on tactics will result in failure, and you will be back here having the same conversation you were having before I arrived.”
Then he spread his hands. “You may see this as a monumental risk, but you know what I have done and what I can do. The only prospect of failure comes from choosing not to follow my instructions.”
With a smile, he added, “You are my friends, and I want you to succeed. I believe in what you are trying to do. I will stay with you for as long as it takes for success to come to you. If you stay with me, it will come.”
One of the executives stood up and said with a frown, “You’re requiring too much. Your speech is great and all, but I don’t see any of this as a guarantee—or even all that reassuring.” He turned to the CEO. “I think my future looks better in my own hands, not his. Consider this my resignation.” He picked up his things and left the room.
A board member also stood. “I agree. I will have nothing to do with this. I’ll be selling my shares, even though I won’t get as much for them as I would want with the way things have been going.” She also exited.
“Anyone else?” asked the CEO. No one moved.
The investor looked at the chairman. “You have watched my entire career, and you know that this will work. The only time I have experienced failure is when those who agreed to follow me deviated from the plan afterward. My resources and my experience are proof of what this company can become.”
The chairman, board, and executives mulled this over. They asked the investor some questions, and he was entirely forthright with them, and they could see his earnestness; he did want them and their products to succeed. And it was clear that most of the board and executives knew enough about his career to agree to his terms. “We’re trusting you,” the CEO said.
“Your trust will be proven by whether you do as I say.”
“This isn’t a bulletproof guarantee,” said the CFO with a deep breath, “but it’s as close to a guarantee as we’re going to get.”
After a little more deliberation, the chairman stood and extended his hand. “We’re agreed. We have a plan.”
The investor smiled and grasped it. As they shook on it, he said, “Now the real work begins.”
Photo by websubs on Pixabay
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