Rich’s Guardrails (Part 2) – Zig Zag Principle #58

January 20th, 2012 by Rich Christiansen

 

 

Business GuardrailsI control the finances of my business

I have learned the hard way that every time that I do not keep my finger on the pulse on the finances of my company, it goes into the weeds.  Once, I returned from a vacation in Nepal to find that my partner had obligated us to a bunch of expenses without our having the income to pay for them.  To cover his commitments, he basically sold off our inventory in a fire sale.  He was so proud that he had sold so much product; but he did not bother to look at the bottom line, and we took a huge loss on the items he sold.  He seemed to have forgotten that sales don’t really count for much if they don’t actually make a profit. 

I really do not love doing the finances, but I have learned that no one else is going to manage my money the way I manage it.  I always pay my bills on time, and I always know exactly how much is in my bank account.  I simply do not spend money I do not have, and if I’m not keeping track of my finances I know I could find myself in a position that would force me outside of my guardrails. 

 

I will not make personal guarantees on things that I have no control over

Years ago, I was hired as a young CEO of a small startup company.  I did not have ownership, but I was eager to impress the owners and show that I was in the game.  The company needed a batch of new computers for the employees.  I thought I was demonstrating my commitment by volunteering to sign for the lease on these new computers.  So, I signed a personal guarantee that obligated me to a three-year lease.  Needless to say, the business collapsed along with the rest of the Internet bubble.  Here I was without a job, and I had to pay $800 each month toward these computers.  I brought them home and lined them up in my basement.  They had absolutely no value to me, other than my kids learned great computer skills.  I did fulfill my obligation, but I vowed never to sign a personal guarantee on something over which I do not have complete control.

 

I protect my personal network

One of my guardrails is that I will protect my personal network.  I’ve been offered countless opportunities to get involved in businesses that would have been dependent on tapping into my networks of family and close personal friends.  At times, I would have been looking to them for capital.  At other times, I would have been using them as my primary pool to market to.  For me personally, I’m very protective of my family and friends because I know that they will be very hard to replace if a business goes south.  And, as I consider whether to involve them, I examine the situation by asking a simple question, “What’s the worst that could happen?”

 

I stay focused on my values

I try to always ensure that my business life conforms to my personal beliefs and values.  Obviously, I will not do anything that is illegal or unethical.  For some, that line may be a bit fuzzy, but my guardrail is whether I would ever have to justify or rationalize my actions to my wife or my children (or my mother!). 

Sometimes, my decisions are made by the simple measure of whether an opportunity feels right to me.  Not long ago, I was approached about doing business with an individual who was manufacturing and selling diet products.  The opportunity seemed promising, so I went home and told my wife about it.  Given her experience as a registered nurse, she examined the product and then told me why she felt it was not safe and why she felt this venture wasn’t something I should have my name associated with.  The product was perfectly legal.  But it was not something my wife believed in, so I did not pursue the opportunity.

 

Out-of-Bounds Worksheet

List the people who will be your out of bounds network:

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List the out of bounds markers in your life:

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List four or five things of how you will know when you are out of bounds. Is it a gut feeling, panic, scarcity mindset, etc:

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List the things that you consider to be completely out of bounds in your life:

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Identify exactly where you will change your direction on each zig and zag:

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Have a direct conversation with each member of your out of bounds network. Make sure they clearly understand what your out of bounds markers are and what their responsibility is to keep you within those bounds.

 

 

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