We have been in business for over 30 years, providing financial management services, and guidance, to the management teams of privately owned companies. I actually invented the concept and branding for what has become the “Fractional CFO” business. Our carefully selected former CFOs are very good at assessing what is broken, determining what is needed to fix it, and guiding management to get it done. Many of our clients keep us engaged for years because they realize we can help them at any stage in the life of their company.

But sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes the old ways are too deeply ingrained to change. Or the people in place aren’t able to do what is needed. Or management decides the devil they know is better than the devil they don’t know. Sometimes we get it wrong because we misread the signs or took the leaders’ opinions of the problem as 100% accurate when they weren’t. And sometimes it’s a combination of all those factors, and we failed to see that on Day 1. When that happens, we have to acknowledge we made a mistake and step back as gracefully as possible. We’ve had to do that recently. It was painful to admit it, and very hard to look clearly at what went wrong. But this post is not about our screwup, it’s about yours.

What do you do when that happens to you? Whether you run your own company or manage a single division, you’ve run into a wall at some point in your career and had to acknowledge that you missed the mark, couldn’t fix the problem, or maybe fixed the wrong problem. What do you do? Do you tell yourself it’s their fault and you were right – It would have worked if only they’d let you do it your way? Or: if only they’d given you the full story up front, you would have crafted a different solution that would have certainly worked? Or, worst case: they were right all along and your weaknesses are out in the open for all to see (and point to behind your back)?

Or do you look at your part and try to find the lesson to be learned? Every outcome has two possibilities, so it’s been said – it was either a success or a learning opportunity. Lessons that might be available could include:

  • I should have done more homework before crafting a plan of action. I missed some key facts.
  • I should have had Plan B defined before I charged ahead with Plan A. I was too sure of Plan A.
  • I didn’t acknowledge to myself the areas that I’m not as good at as others, and how that applied here.
  • I was driven by the fat compensation I could earn if it got done quickly. I was afraid to lose that.
  • I needed to have a win, any win, to prove my value to myself. And to them.
  • Insert your learning opportunity here: ____________________

What we learned: Some business owners don’t necessarily want reporting accuracy as much as they want to control the story. In those cases we are best bowing out of the picture, which is what we did. Much too late, we later concluded.

Weary of figuring it out yourself? The hardest part of a failed project is usually looking at your part in it, objectively and with the goal of learning how to do it better next time, not beating yourself up about it. This is so in business management just as it is in life’s relationships. In fact we can learn about ourselves from using the same self-analysis approach in any endeavor, any relationship, any outcome good or bad. And that’s the truth.

We can help (the business part). We are Your CFO for Rent.

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