By way of background for this letter: In 1974, at the age of 29, I started a computer leasing company that over the next 16 years grew into one of the biggest computer leasing companies in the U.S. with offices nationwide and with two offices in Japan. The company had over $2 billion in assets and its success came not from me but from a large group of dedicated, outstanding employees.
However in 1990, when I was 45, this computer leasing company was suddenly on the verge of collapse and for several reasons. Most notably because we had never built an automated back office capable of tracking the millions of computer assets we leased, nor capable of generating accurate financial data in high volume, necessary to run a business this size.
We owed our bankers over $100 million and at the behest of our Board of Directors, brought in Sigoloff & Associates, a preeminent corporate resurrection firm, to assist me and to assist those dedicated employees who stayed on, to fight the enormous battle that confronted us.
Wall Street had so little confidence in our firm that our stock sold off to near zero, as investors assumed our company would go bankrupt. This was one of the most stressful times in my life and the hours were long and intense and the ugly surprises I received were many. But ultimately we saved the company and got it back on its feet.
Dear Reader: I hope today’s letter written by me at age 67 to me at age 45 in 1990, will offer you some valuable lessons as well.
Never in your career have you tackled anything so difficult, but as a result you are going to learn some valuable lessons that will last you for the rest of your life. Here are some of those lessons:
1) Depend upon the employees. For although you are the Founder, Chairman and CEO, they know their jobs better than anyone else and if you will give them the respect and latitude they deserve, they will solve these seemingly overwhelming problems.
2) Communicate candidly and often. If you keep everyone posted, making sure everything is honestly stated; you will build trust and make people feel they are valued members of the team.
3) Make those creditors threatening to sue part of the team as well. They have a right to be angry, but they also have a wealth of knowledge to share and by calming them, they will realize that if the company goes under, in part from their litigation, it only hurts them. In the end, no-one will sue and their support will help resurrect the company.
4) Live with faith and gratitude and exude confidence. Everyone will take their cue from you and if you believe in the cause and offer encouragement, it will lift everyone’s spirits.
5) The best is yet to come in your career. From this horrific experience, you will seek a wiser path and begin extensive reading of Gandhi and other profound thinkers. In 1994, after 20 years with the company, you will leave, for by then you will have a popular radio show, and then you will write a weekly column for a national magazine and a weekly newspaper column and subsequently host a website and blogs..
You don’t know what a website and blogs are because they don’t exist in 1990, but you will use them to help others, which in turn will bring you great satisfaction. So smile and as best you can, relax and make the most of this 1990 great opportunity to grow.