Add It Up

I started working with an old friend and former colleague early this summer. Jim Parker, the former chief financial officer for Luck Companies, has known me since 1996, and would probably joke that I haven’t learned a whole lot since he first since me out to train hourly quarry workers on company financial statements.

To say that I’m working with Jim is probably a misstatement. Jim is working me over.

Our meetings have been a series of conversations. The conversations have evolved from a series of scribbles (my scribbles) on scraps of paper and napkins to a series of charts and tables in Excel spreadsheets. As he has pushed me to reconstruct my business, Jim has pushed me to focus – and to deepen my focus.

Jim’s last statement as we finished our first conversation proved prescient. “I haven’t looked at any of your financials,” he said, “but my gut says that you’re probably losing money on every job.”

His point was simple. And he was right. My lack of attention on the financial structure, and long-term stability, of Floricane was a problem. And it was one that could be fixed – if I had the discipline to do the right work.

Through effective questions and consistent attention – and a push for accountability – Jim has started to steer me, and the business, in the right direction. We started with a hard look at the foundation – operating costs, expenses, job pricing, contractor costs – and have started to move into bigger questions around job costing and mix. It makes my head hurt. But it’s starting to make sense.

In many ways, Jim is doing the same work as Floricane does when it coaches managers and senior leaders. In our coaching role, our team asks hard questions, and keeps attention focused on the uncomfortable spaces, the spaces where development and growth need to happen.

Initially, it doesn’t feel as if it is ever going to add up – and, then, it does. And you wonder why you never approached work that way before now.