Putting Things in Perspective


"Dave called and someone almost drowned by the pool today," my wife said as she greeted me at the door. "I heard the word 'almost,'" I quickly responded. The person was fine and the lifeguards at the community pool had done what they are trained and paid to do. But as president of the local pool in my spare time, having a seasonal business in which teenagers, our lifeguards, make life-and-death decisions is something that I dwell on in worried moments.

In fact, the years I have spent in this position, besides teaching me more about running a business than I thought I would ever know, has also produced a much different perspective on what is really important and what's not.

Dave, our vice president and the guy who really has all the ideas (I just get to make decisions like asking somebody to resign), once approached me with "We have a big problem." Actually, he used to approach me a lot with that phrase.

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I finally responded, "If I don't hear the word 'drowned' in the same sentence, it's not a big problem" and that has become something of a private motto of ours. We can surmount all other problems. My other joke is that for the amount of management skill the position requires, I am woefully underpaid for having to come up with these ideas. (I get a free membership each year.)

That's why I've thought that the business I've been in for 15 years, the one that provides my pay check, is really easy.

Covering the accounting and tax profession doesn't usually bring me into contact with important issues. It's not like the daily newspaper world where I had to make the dreaded telephone call "I know your son just died, but can I come over to get a picture?" or interview the parents of a murdered child. No, we just talk about whether products get sold and how they are used. I don't have to spend time getting my courage together to make calls about those topics.

That's why things like the death of Susan Sheridan, one of the most talented people I have ever met, reminded me of what's really important. Outside of the fact that Susan was a friend, her rise to an executive position at Sage Software just before she was discovered to have a brain tumor was truly tragic.

She was talented, tough, compassionate, and more than one person has emailed to agree with my description of her as beloved by the resellers and consultants who she worked with during a career that was concentrated on marketing.

That's why I'll be thinking of her this summer when we spend time at the pool. The volunteers who pour time and effort into keeping this facility open in the face of what seem at time to be impossible odds for part-timer directors do this so we can lounge under the trees with friends or cool off on a hot day.

And what is really more important than that?

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Editor Robert Scott also writes "Consulting Insights," a free, twice-monthly electronic newsletter that addresses issues concerning the consulting and reselling market. It's insight with an attitude. If you want to subscribe, put the following in your browser address line: subscribe.webcpa.com. You can also visit us at www.accountingtechnology.com

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