I just deposited a check for two unpaid invoices on a contract I had with one of my clients. I accepted 13.6¢ on the dollar because I was told the alternative was getting nothing at all.
I understand the circumstances that led to this point. I’ve even been there myself. Several years ago, I was forced into a bankruptcy because of a serious illness and the financial problems it created. It was a painful, embarrassing experience caused by forces largely beyond my control. We still live with the consequences of that awful chain of events. So I’m not unsympathetic.
Like this client, my bankruptcy was a last resort. I tried for years to avoid it and was forced to file in spite of my best efforts. I hate that we found ourselves in that situation, as I’m sure my client hates where he finds himself.
This client dug a hole too deep to climb out of. Part of the problem was a health issue, but not all of it. Another part was having a real go-getter in leadership who wasn’t being balanced by someone with a realistic view of what it would take to implement the deals struck by the leader.
I love working with visionary go-getters. Their enthusiasm energizes me. I love setting my sights on an inspiring vision and working hard to achieve challenging goals. But if the visionary captain is the one steering the ship, the vessel is almost guaranteed to run aground. He needs a helmsman who knows the channel – or at least one who can read a map. He needs a first officer who can give him good advice and has the authority to relieve him of duty if he recklessly endangers the ship and its crew. If your go-getter captain is constantly ordering course changes and issuing new directives before the current one is completed, the confusion and chaos will cripple the entire mission and may wreck the ship.
And if the captain is bartering away supplies without regard for what it takes to keep the ship and crew going, he is violating the trust of his office.
I bear no ill will toward our captain. This whole situation has been frustrating and heartbreaking for everyone involved. He and his family are hurting, and it will take years to recover and repair the damage. We are praying for them.
But problems have been created on our end that will not just go away. Some crew members were hard pressed to pay bills because they were depending on the income. Attempts to find out what was going on were met with silence – months of it. Then, out of the blue, we get phone calls from someone we never heard of, who says he has been asked to settle the accounts. We are told the assets of the company have been liquidated and only a little bit of money is left for us – accept it quickly or risk not getting anything. Our request for documentation of assets and liabilities was refused. We are expected to take this new fellow at his word and sign a legal document in which we agree to accept pennies for the dollars we are owed.
On top of that, the document we are being required to sign says, in part, “The terms of this Agreement are … the result of negotiation among the parties. Each party has cooperated in the drafting and preparation of this Agreement.” How can you sign a statement like that when no negotiations were conducted and you never saw the document before it was presented for signing? How can one believer expect another to sign it? Is a document like that even valid under the law?
There once were plenty of dollars to cover what was owed us, but those resources were expended elsewhere. Now commitments that were made are not kept. And I’m just a little fish in this pond. Big-league corporations also were at the table. They were the ones who stocked the supply room, and they didn’t receive everything they were promised in exchange for the supplies.
The saving grace has been that God is faithful and can be trusted to provide when men – even other believers – take advantage of you and prove untrustworthy. And I can’t pretend I’m an innocent injured party. I’m not. I mess up every time I turn around, and God continuously forgives. He tells me I’ve got to forgive too. And I have.
But if there are any visionary go-getters reading this, please hear my plea: Be sure there is someone next to you who has his feet on the ground. Listen to your No. 1’s advice and submit to it in Christ. Don’t allow your vision to run ahead of the team’s ability to keep up and do their jobs well. Don’t barter away so much of what’s in the pantry that you can’t feed your crew before you reach the next port of call. When problems come up, communicate openly, honestly, and often. Don’t expect people to make unreasonable sacrifices just because you have more bright ideas than can possibly be implemented by the dedicated crew that’s working overtime to keep up with you.
And when you make a promise, keep it.
(And for those of you about to forward this post and speculate on who I’m talking about, spend a few moments with Romans 1:28-32 and ponder the company kept by gossips. Those of you wondering why we don’t pursue legal recourse, read 1 Corinthians 6:7.)