Indicator of Success #15

I'm sure that the vast majority of you have been following the epic saga of Casey Serin. Casey has demonstrated a genuine lack of business acumen, essentially failing every test of intellegence, resolve and leadership along the way.

For those of you unawares, he had been blogging about his mistakes in real estate investing (which lost him millions) against the wills of his wife and was planning to self-publish a book with the help of a partner. When his wife finally had enough, she forced Casey to shut down the blog. His publisher encouraged him to come back, leading to a climax where he left the country, giving his wife only an hour's notice. Finally it seems that sense has returned to him, and he's decided to quit his blogging and his get-rich-quick dreams, and settle down for his wife. Then he notes that after he had made the decision he sent the following letter to his publisher:

M**** , there is going to be no book and no blog. Sorry to do this. But if you are a good person (business aside) you will understand. If don’t stop now I WILL lose my wife. That is not a good trade off for me. This is final. Sorry I don’t want to talk on the phone at this time. Lets wait until tomorrow. This is a hard decision. Thanks for all your help but I am exiting. I DO NOT want the book to be published without me either. Again, I hope you understand. Also our agreement is calling me to do illegal things (putting my digital assets into entities while I am defaulting on all my lenders). I didn’t know it until I had a professional look at it. You probably didn’t know either. Either way, this whole thing is about to cost my my marriage and I must stop NOW. Sorry for the troubles.

Which leads us to the latest indicator of success, the ability to build a consensus. Casey doesn't know why everyone gets mad at him, and then he sends out letter like these to people he considers "partners".

Let me recount a quick story. I had a good friend who was in a stable relationship who ran into a bit of a crisis of faith and no longer felt that he should be sleeping with his Significant Other (SO). He actually felt extremely sure about it and told me that he intended to tell his SO in a few days when they next saw each other. Here's what I wrote to him:

You are unilaterally making a desicion for the two of you. Yes, it's a decision that you are fully allowed to make, but you've already made up your mind on an issue that affects [your SO]. This will probably make him feel like you are dictating the terms of the relationship to [your SO].

This wasn't about whether he needed to change his relationship or not, I won't go into that can of worms. What made his decision so poor was that his SO is a partner in the relationship. And partners don't dictate terms, superiors do. Partners discuss terms. So by dictating some terms of the relationship to his SO, he was essentially asserting himself as superior.

Now that I've told that story, go back and read Casey's e-mail to his "partner" in publishing again. Doesn't it sound a little bit arrogant? He's simply saying "I've made a choice, and you have to abide by my wishes". Then he wraps it in an extra layer of guilt by saying "if you are a good person you'll understand". This isn't the first time that Casey has done this. He has repeatedly, in the past, dictated terms to people he wanted to have as "partners", even his wife. Which is part of the reason that nearly everyone he dealt with eventually turned against him.

What should Casey have done differently? When he realized that he had to kill the blog to save his marriage, his first phone call should have been to the only business partner that he currently has, the publisher. Since the publisher has invested time and effort into this project, he should have got him on the phone and said "M****, this project is destroying my marriage and that's something I can't allow. She wants to get out of the public eye, and I wanted to talk to you about this".

The goal of this conversation is to have M**** (yes, we all know it's Marty) come around to saying "I understand that you need to take the blog down, but since I have already vested time in this deal, let's discuss what we can do to walk away." At this point, Casey can offer a few things, from monetary compensation (although he has supposedly already paid Marty $5,000) to a new contract that promises him a cut of any future book project that tells his story.

But the difference between good leaders and bad leaders is that bad leaders give orders. They hand down directives. They dictate terms. Good leaders build a consensus, so everyone feels valuable, and no one feels like they had a fast one pulled on them.

Biff and I have an exit clause built into our partnership agreement. At an time Biff can come to me and say "I want out", and the clock starts ticking (I have 3 months to pay him for his share of the business as determined by independant appraisers unless we're liquidating, in which case he gets paid when I do). Yet I would never expect that of him. If he really wanted out he'd come to me, discuss it and we'd start thinking of ways to either keep him in and address his concerns, or we'd look into how we would go about his exit in the best way for both of us.

But that same principal applies to our tenants, and (thank God we haven't needed them yet) our contractors. Repeat after me:

"I don't want people to do what I tell them. I want people to do what we agreed together."

4 comments: - $100,000 online in one year said...

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PS Sorry I haven't yet responded to your email. It's tough to decide how much to divulge online but that's no excuse.

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