How Not to Hire a Guy Like Me

I promised you after my speeches in Florida that I’d provide you with an audio file so that you could benefit from the advice and war stories just as the audience could. Well, here it is!

The speech is, “How Not to Hire a Guy Like Me,” and this one is from my talk with the CEO Council of Tampa Bay. I want to thank them for graciously allowing me to use this recording.

Click Here to Listen to “How Not to Hire a Guy Like Me”

Do you have any questions or comments? Please share below!

Ten Steps to Keep from Hiring a Guy Like Me

Yesterday I was on the radio with Bernie Marcus, retired founder of The Home Depot. We were on the conservative radio show of Michael Hart, and we talked primarily about job creation and the need for government to interfere less with businesses – particularly the regulations that stifle the growth of small and medium businesses.

Though I don’t have a copy of that show yet to post for you, it made me remember that I do have the audio recording of my recent presentation to the CEO Group of Baltimore. It’s one version of my talk, Ten Steps to Keep from Hiring a Guy Like Me.

I’ve posted it here for your enjoyment and referral. I hope it helps you avoid hiring me or anyone like me in the future.

Baltimore presentation

I’m interested to see what the particular steps are that you extract from my talk. Let me know in the comments below. Please share any questions you have there, too!

Giving Back During Tough Economic Times, Part 3

Have you ever been alone for the holidays? Have you ever felt alone generally?

I imagine we’ve all been there. In my line of work I encounter many CEOs who feel isolated and alone as their businesses crumble around them. They’ve done all they know how, nothing has worked, and people around don’t understand what they’re experiencing. Heavy is the crown and so forth.

That kind of loneliness is crushing, and if I could wish it on no one ever again I would. Unfortunately, I can’t. All I can do is try to lighten the load of loneliness for those experiencing it.

This is an especially important time of year to alleviate the loneliness of others as it’s the time many of us are most reminded of our families, especially those members who may be gone.

One way I give to others is by opening my home to those who could use a place to go, not necessarily for monetary reasons, but because it’s tough to be alone and I can make that better. You can open your home, too. It’s a great way to give back during tough economic times. As holiday meals always have leftovers that go to waste, why not just include more people?

Open your home to the singles in your community: the widow or widower, the divorcee or a person in transition. I’ve named some general titles here, but I’m confident that there are others who don’t fit quite so neatly into these categories – just the new person in the neighborhood or community, a friend who’s more estranged from family than he talks about, or whomever could use the company.

The holidays may be the most poignantly lonely times, but the rest of the year may be even more challenging because those are the days that drag on and pass, especially when one is lonely.

An invitation to a meal with your family, a birthday party or any other occasion is a wonderful way to welcome someone into your home and life. It doesn’t have to be an everyday thing to make someone feel loved and watched out for.

I remember how lost my 36-year-old widowed mother felt by being excluded as a “third wheel” after my father died. Fortunately, she remarried several years later and rebooted her life, but I’ll always remember the look on her face sitting at home alone.

These days, I always invite an old friend of my parents whose husband died a year ago to all of our family affairs. She’s elderly, quiet and sweet, and I know it means a lot to her to be around friendly faces for special occasions, even if they’re not the faces she wants to see the most.

Do what you can to give back by opening your home to others.

Who do you invite and how else do you give back?

Give the CEO’s Thanks

It’s rather conventional this time of year to post about what one is thankful for. And, of course, that’s natural with Thanksgiving only a day away and an assured conversation at your dinner table during which each person takes a turn sharing that for which s/he is thankful.

I’m all in favor of this ritual, because I believe that acknowledging what we have and being grateful for those things hones our focus on that which we value and motivates us to continue working hard to keep them in our lives.

The job of a CEO or president – and many of those around him – can be particularly time consuming and overwhelming, often to the point of distracting him from why he is doing what he does in the first place. As we’ve discussed, seeing the forest through the trees can be a challenge, and with all the components involved in running a business, it’s easy to be distracted.

On more than one occasion – which is to say dozens – I’ve found CEOs cheating on their spouses, supporting girlfriends on company dollars and getting distracted by the shiny things in life.

I dare say these CEOs forgot why they were working so hard and lost sight of the gratitude they felt for what they had and why they had it. 

I encourage everyone, business leader/owner or not, to reflect on those things that CEOs should be grateful for. Consider the following CEO’s Thanks:

“I am grateful for the internal drive I have to build something that affects many people positively and the wherewithal to channel that drive into actionable steps and concrete work. I am grateful for every person who works at my business with me, who challenges me to stay honest and who keeps our business moving in the right direction. I am grateful for those who have had faith in me along the way, who have funded, guided and supported me. I am grateful for my customers and the reasons they’ve found to continue patronizing my business. Most of all, I am grateful for my family, which motives me to work as hard as possible to support them and teach them the lessons I’ve learned as a company leader and without whom profits, success and power would lose meaning.”

While it’s easy to conjure up this Gratitude Attitude at Thanksgiving, I hope you’ll be thankful for your internal drive, employees, customers, mentors and family every day. When we lose sight of all those who make our work possible, we cease working for many of the right reasons, and I’ve seen this lead businesses down the road to crisis and ruin on more than one – or one hundred – occasions.

This Thanksgiving, I remember those things I try to recall every single day that I’m so grateful for:

1. My Wife

2. My Family

3. The Livelihood that allows me to support them

What are you grateful for? Please share in the comments below.

Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Has Emotion Joined the Greece Conspiracy

Did you read my last post on the emotional fluctuations of the stock market as a result of the financial crisis surrounding Greece? Well, the fickle and emotionally volatile market has struck again.

On Thursday morning EST, the Greek Prime Minister announced that he was shelving his controversial referendum plan. Surely his initial inclination to conduct this referendum was to make sure that the people understood – and supported the fact – that their hands would be tied by the rest of Europe if they agreed to accept the plan that had been proposed. My hunch is that the rest of Europe slapped Greece around behind the scenes a bit, and Greece backed down, realizing that the only way to save itself – and potentially the rest of Europe if it went down the toilet – was to accept the plan.

That said, the American market loved that the referendum was off and the plan was on. Once again, faith was renewed in economic recovery. Hooray.

Up and down and up and down. Multiple fluctuations between 1 and 2% day after day and week after week, all because of an emotional reaction to a situation materializing in Greece. 

Market fluctuations are normal, but can’t they reflect the actual state of the economy and business? Must they be tied to the whimsical reactions of our emotions towards the ideas of Greece’s situation? Do you hear the vagueness in that last sentence? That’s because it represents the tenuous connection between our stock market and Greece’s referendum.

Once again, I reiterate: you can’t be as smart as the last person you talked to. It’s not healthy. It’s not safe. 

Take some balancing medication.

Do not allow your plans and your feelings and your actions to oscillate dangerously every time you hear something new. Learn to process information collectively and act on its aggregate.

Our reactions to the situation in Greece and Europe are a roller coaster – and not the fun kind. They’re the kind you get on after too much funnel cake and Coke and that are a little too rickety. Have the emotional maturity to know when not to get on that roller coaster. Watch your friends and strangers get on. Keep your cool and and make wise decisions when faced with crisis all around you.

A Technique for Clearing the Mind and Gaining Larger Perspective

When was the last time you really relaxed and cleared your mind?

They say a long-weekend isn’t really a vacation because it takes at least 3 days to actually relax. That doesn’t mean it takes three days to clear your mind. People do that every day through deep breathing techniques, meditation and the like.

It is to say, however, that even with mind clearing that comes in the day to day, it’s challenging to get that truly big picture perspective all the time – or even often enough.

And I’m a big picture guy! That’s my job: to look at tons of pieces at once and see the bigger trajectory in order to turn a company around.

Yet even so, I am sometimes challenged with seeing the big picture above the pieces – or the forest through the trees, as it were.

That’s why I make efforts to take time off from my central focus of work and grind and work and grind to free my mind – relax – and get some big picture perspective.

One of my favorite retreats is Hilton Head Island, where I can sit for hours on the beach, relaxing my mind. I go very often, and this relaxation brings me to a place of much greater awareness, allowing me to see the bigger picture.

Armed with that clarity, I can then take action towards resolving each of the pieces I saw before, but with the oversight and direction of larger guidance.

Why bring this up now?

Well, after a week abroad relaxation is finally sinking in, and I am enjoying the clarity of mind that only comes with the extended removal of life’s general daily groove and grind.

And it’s marvelous.

What do you do to clear your mind and get that big picture perspective?

The Old Dog May Not Learn New Tricks, But He Can Always Learn New Lessons

As I vacation in Italy, I find myself learning an important lesson – not one that I didn’t tacitly understand before, but one that became more pronounced in my mind over the last few days.

I’ve always said that in the business of turnaround you want to go with the gray-hair or no-hair guy. That means that you want the guy with the experience. People don’t just enter turnaround fresh out of business school. They get experience by being involved in tons of other businesses, transactions, organizations and the like – especially ones that have faced crises and big problems.

But two people (or groups) have taught me a valuable corollary lesson: you’re never too old to learn something new.

The first person who helped me see this was my wife. In preparation for our trip to Italy – a place we try to go often and that we plan on returning to in the future – my wife started studying Italian with a new language program. Though she didn’t have much time before we came, she loved learning it and has already put many of the phrases and much of her vocabulary to good use. And she’s learning tons more every day we’re here.

I was so impressed that in her mid-fifties she started learning a new language. It’s enriching her life, it’s helping ours, and she’s found that the act of learning a new language and subsequently thinking in that language is letting her look at the world – and especially Italy – in different ways.

Now, my lesson of “never too old to learn something new” does not come from her learning Italian at her age – she’s not old at all! It’s me learning that at my age I can still learn new things and gain valuable experiences.

The other place I’ve learned this lesson is from my partners. They’re a great group, but they’re not gray-hair/old-hair people. They’re experienced but far more youthful than I am. That makes me think twice about my favorite saying, since I learn a ton from them and value the incredible work they do. As excellent turnaround professionals, my partners have taught me that there’s always something new to be learned, and you don’t have to be bald or gray to teach the lesson.

So, as I explore Italy, I have a renewed sense of the value of new experiences and new knowledge and the ways those experiences can enrich my life and the lives and businesses of my clients. I may have seen darn near everything under the sun as it relates to turnaround and business, but every star out there is a sun so I suppose there’s a lot left to learn.

What new lessons have you learned?

Honor the Month of April: Become Financially Aware & Reduce Stress

Last month was National Fraud Awareness month. This month is important, too. First, it’s Financial Literacy Month, and second – and I think quite complimentary – it’s Stress Awareness Month.

On top of both of these issues, April 18th is also Tax Day (yes, it’s usually April 15, but due to a Washington DC holiday, we can all enjoy an extra weekend to squirm over our taxes).

As you think about becoming aware of and learning to reduce your stress this month, I want you to also think about the role that finances have in your life – and your stress level.

Most people stress about their finances, and much of that stress, I believe, comes from a lack of awareness about their financial situation and where it’s going.

In business, if you don’t know where you are at every moment financially, you can’t move forward successfully in the long-term.

I think this also holds true in one’s personal affairs, and I have no doubt that with financial knowledge comes a reduction in stress – or, if finances are bad, at least the ability to predict and therefore manage that stress with greater ease.

In honor of both of these months – and taxes coming due – I encourage all of my readers and clients to do a few things this month, both in their businesses and their personal lives.

1. Make a budget or do some financial planning.

This need not be professional consulting with a financial manager (though that’s always nice). Just get a better understanding about how much you’re spending and on what you’re spending it. You never know which areas of your spending could easily be trimmed. Though you may not “need” the extra money you free up, it certainly could be nice to put it towards that vacation you were looking to take, right?

If you don’t know how to make a budget or you need some financial tips, consider financial magazines like Money (by CNN) or Kiplingers. If you are savvy with your financial management and awareness, make sure you’re passing these values along to your children (and/or employees) effectively. If you’re a business owner, consider offering a financial management and planning seminar for your employees.

2. Do something to de-stress yourself.

If you’ve already done your taxes, great, and even if you haven’t, reward yourself with something de-stressing afterwards like a massage, weekend trip or a day off. Becoming aware of our stress is the first step to reducing it, and with reduced stress comes a greater quality of life. Better financial knowledge and management almost always reduce stress.

What will you do to raise financial awareness in your life this month? What will you do to de-stress?

I’m Lee N. Katz and It’s Nice to Meet You

Allow Me to Introduce Myself

My name is Lee N. Katz, and I’ve specialized in turning companies around for more than 25 years. In 1986, I joined Grisanti, Galef & Goldress (GGG), one of the oldest turnaround consulting firms in the United States. In 1997, I became the managing partner.

Throughout my career in crisis management, I’ve served as an interim executive officer and reorganization director for both large and small companies, public and private, with annual revenues from $5 million up to $3 billion. In addition to offering expert-witness testimony regarding business valuations, turnarounds, and plan feasibilities, and I’ve served on court-appointed federal and state receiverships.

I love using my skills to help owners, CEOs and boards of directors prevent crises from happening, but no one ever seems to know a crisis is happening before the roof gets blown off the barn. And that’s when I step in.

In the 70s I worked for First National Bank of Atlanta, eventually directing their asset-based lending in the Atlanta area. I’ve also spent quite a bit of time developing and managing commercial real estate for end users like Wal-Mart, John Wieland Homes, and other private investor groups.  I’ve renegotiated more than $1 billion in real estate leases and handled numerous environmental issues for real estate and corporate manufacturing clients. Sometimes I do this in cooperation with state and national Environmental Protection Agency authorities.

I often serve as a financial advisor to individuals and trusts.

Specialties

People often ask me what I specialize in, so I thought I’d toss the short list your way:

  • Financial Restructuring
  • Bankruptcy and Bankruptcy Restructuring
  • Real Estate Receiverships, both Federal and State
  • Operating Company Receiverships, both Federal and State
  • Restructuring Bank Debt with the FDIC and Successor Banks
  • Asset Liquidations
  • Alternative Restructures to Bankruptcy
  • FDIC Negotiations
  • Corporate Due Diligence
  • Bond Restructuring
  • Financial Advising to Bond Funds
  • Corporate Downsizing

Some Public Recognition

For those of you who are kind enough to be interested, my firm, GGG, has been recognized by the Turnaround Management Association’s (TMA) Atlanta Chapter:

• 2008 Small Company Turnaround of the Year Benton-Ga, Inc. Learn More
• 2004 Non-Profit Company Turnaround of the Year – Life University Inc. Learn More
• 2003 Large Company Turnaround of the Year – P.S. Energy Corp.
• 2002 Large Company Turnaround of the Year – Wyncom Inc. Learn More

So, that’s a bit about me.

Now you know who’s writing this blog. If you have any questions about these things or if there’s anything general that I can answer for you, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments.