Work and eating elephants

Yesterday was kind of a bad day. After this many years of living, working, raising a family, etc., I should recognize the signs of fatigue and proceed with caution. But even when I am tired, work must go on. Unfortunately the people around me do not always seem to get the memo that they too must do their jobs so projects can progress.

I’m in the midst of a complicated client project issue that has a lot of players, moving parts, and differences of opinions. And I, as leader of this merry band, should be be tactful and diplomatic in navigating the meetings, intense discussions, and fragile egos involved while keeping the work moving forward and on schedule. Honestly, I think I would rather be at home trying to herd the fluffbuckets.

One of the team yesterday offered up that “how do you eat and elephant?” cliche when I opened this continuation (from Monday) meeting with an announcement that we needed to make some final decisions to move forward and meet a firm deadline set by others higher up the food chain than all of us. My retort was something akin to “we are long past masticating the damn elephant! The elephant has been put through the Vitamix and we are nearing the point of drinking it through a straw, so can we please just make f–king decisions and get busy with the actual work?”

Okay, I didn’t swear out loud, but it was there inside my head. We were precisely 2 minutes into a meeting and I lost my patience and had a verbal foot-stomping tantrum. In a client’s office and meeting with the client’s staff that had clamored to work on this project with me. I had been warned by the powers that hired me that it would be a rough go at times with the appointed group. My chilly retort to a joking statement had the effect of turning down the thermostat to sub-zero temperatures. I guess it was effective, because in another 2 hours we had hammered out the foundational basics that had stalled forward progress during prior meetings and endless email threads. Not everyone got precisely what they wanted, but everyone got something and was able to go away satisfied that their concerns were heard and validated. What I found most irritating about this group that most of what had stalled progress and delayed me a week could be edited, added to, or deleted after the program is put in place. But in order for me to move forward, I needed 2 areas/descriptions pared down from over 2000 to 250 or less (per the higher ups who hired me for this work).

Working with this group reminds me why I would not want to return to a larger corporate environment on a permanent basis. The layers of management and traditional corporate structure is not a good fit for me and a big part of why I chose smaller firms.

Going forward, elephants are metaphorically banned food, off any and all menus. Just thinking about and recapping that meeting here causes a headache and the beginning of an eye twitch.

Yesterday I also had a meeting with a small start-up seeking some cost effective accounting help starting in 2016. That was kind of refreshing and scary at the same time. The principals involved are young, hip, cool, very smart guys, and yet they are not well versed in the actual running of a business. For the last 2 years they have been paying their CPA firm to manage their books and finances, and at CPA rates it’s been a huge amount of money. I was actually referred to them by their attorney and know their CPA by reputation. I was careful to stay completely neutral about what I think about him.

It would be a fairly simple, straightforward engagement. However, there are some basic decisions that need to made immediately – like what accounting software they want to use, how they want to proceed with time and billing, where the separation between what their contracted accounting does (everything except taxes) and what their CPA does (taxes) – and they are not sure what they want to do, how to proceed, wanted to discuss the pros and cons of various packages down to the most granular level. The program their CPA uses is common for larger firms, but far more than they need. I tried to answer their questions about accounting software in as much detail as I could without actually having the program open and running in front of me. Hopefully our meeting helped define the steps they need to address before engaging an accounting service or staff member. I like working with bright people, and I could see myself accepting this engagement, but not so much that I am willing to lower my billing rate or the minimum hours I will bill each month. Slowly I am learning how to prioritize work and not donate my time.

So goes the life of the independent consultant. I am getting into the groove of workflow, and no 2 days are ever alike. There are some business decisions looming large and to be explored in another post. I will say that today is already a better day with regard to mood and overall attitude. Amazing what an adequate amount of sleep can do for one’s outlook.

Happy Thursday everyone.

4 thoughts on “Work and eating elephants

  1. LOL! Welcome to the consulting/contractor world. Sometimes the clients (or their staff) need a kick in the butt. I’m scheduled to deliver a kicking tomorrow. Never fun and always best to not actually swear out loud! Good to hear that you are minimizing donating time. 🙂

    • I’m MOSTLY liking it. There are moments in many days when I roll my eyes – sometimes literally – at the things that are said to me because I am an independent contractor.

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