“Sometimes I have a difficulty talking to people who don’t race sailboats.” – Bruno Gianelli
That was one of my favorite lines from The West Wing, a show where the dialogue was so good and the characters so unbelievably quick-witted that it made you feel like an idiot. In the scene, President Bartlet was upset that campaign advisor Bruno Gianelli was polling about something the President considered to be irrelevant. With Barlet understandably confused at the above statement, Bruno explained:
“I have difficulty sometimes talking to people who don’t race sailboats. When I was a teenager, I crewed Larchmont to Nassau on a 58-foot sloop called Cantice. There was a little piece of kelp that was stuck to the hull, and even though it was little, you don’t want anything stuck to the hull. So, I take a boat hook on a pole and I stick it in the water and I try to get the kelp off, when seven guys start screaming at me, right? ‘Cause now the pole is causing more drag than the kelp was. See, what you gotta do is you gotta drop it in and let the water lift it out in a windmill motion. Drop it in, and let the water take it by the kelp and lift it out. In, and out. In, and out, till you got it. […] If you think that I’m going to miss even one opportunity to pick up half-a-mile boat speed, you’re absolutely out of your mind. When it costs us nothing, when we give up nothing! You’re out of your mind.”
I think we’ve all had times where we felt Bruno’s frustration. Whether we are trying to get someone to do something for themselves or for another person…sometimes it can be difficult to motivate them. And sometimes it does not seem to matter how logical the thought process is or how minimal the effort involved – they just won’t listen.
Since so much of my business is advisory, this is something I run into a fair bit. Occasionally it will be the clients themselves who are the issue. Some people are set in their ways and don’t want to change things. While self-destructive, it is inherent to human nature. Constancy and stability can sometimes give the illusion of security, even though the terms are far from synonymous.
Thankfully though, this is the less common – and more easily remedied – situation, since business people and entrepreneurs tend to be more open to change and adjustment.
What is more unforgivable (and far more common unfortunately) is when I see the work of other accountants where there was clearly no effort to identify “kelp” in the client’s business or finances.
- Is their marketing budget sufficient and effectively allotted?
- Are they overly leveraged?
- Are resources and capital properly allocated?
- Are they missing any tax deductions that they should be taking?
- What business processes or other areas could be modified to save them money?
- And many, many more.
These are all important questions that accountants should be considering and discussing with their clients. But more often than not it seems that they are just keeping the status quo and plugging in the same numbers every year. In any industry, true professionals can’t do that. I can’t do that. I won’t do that! I am always digging to find ways for businesses to run more profitably or to get any deduction/credit possible.
Sometimes these are be big changes and sometimes they can be quite inconsequential. But if your accountant doesn’t want to put in the extra work when it costs you nothing, when you give up nothing – they’re out of their minds. (Thank you, Bruno.)
If you’d like to discuss getting some kelp off of your financial situation, give me a call
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Great post, Micah. I love the kelp analogy. Business is a lot like a race. Any type of waste will slow you down and threaten your survival and success. Thanks for this reminder.
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