Never Complain, Never Explain
Henry Ford II, the founder’s grandson and Ford Motor’s president or chairman for 34 years, is credited with this saying, though he may have been preceded by Benjamin Disraeli, the 19th century British prime minister. While few of us have Mr. Ford’s money or attitude or Mr. Disraeli’s political philosophy, this advice is nonetheless well worth heeding.
Explanations = Back Pedaling
I have found that when I have to explain anything to my banker, my wife or my vendors, I seem to be backing up.
If I have to explain something, it is generally because something isn’t clear on its face, which means I have failed to make some issue so crystal clear that even a caveman can understand it. Not to confuse my banker, my creditors or my dear wife with cavemen, but if I have to resort to an explanation, I am in a bad place.
If the notes to my financial statements are not so clear then my creditors have to ask questions and I have to explain, which means I am wasting time that could be used to get better pricing, longer terms, market intelligence or just running my business.
If I have to explain to my banker why the existing financial covenants need adjusting, I am backing up. Explaining non-compliance with anything my banker wants makes more work for him. It also makes him start to ask what else is wrong. It distracts him from getting me more money on my credit line. He’ll have to write some report instead of playing golf with me.
If I have to explain to my wife why I’m late for dinner (again) or why my American Express bill has some peculiar charge from QAT Consulting Group (ask Elliot Spitzer), I am going downhill fast.
Definitely Don’t Complain
Complaining is even worse. Your wife and banker may be sympathetic to your plight, but they are only human, and they have a limited amount of patience for people who don’t measure up or can’t deliver.
I always tell folks I have a limited amount of sympathy and patience, and it’s reserved for my children. Try to save whatever sympathy and patience your wife and banker have for really big problems.
In short, try to measure up to their expectations, deliver what you promise and avoid situations that you have to explain.
When has explaining in your life been indicative of larger problems?