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My Lessons Learned

1. Do the right thing

I was always taught by Drake University to do what was right. Professor Dilley told me I had to carry through on my commitment to interview Arthur Andersen. He was right. If I didn’t do what was right, my life would have gone down a different path.

At the end of my career, I had to help our employees get placed and put all my effort in trying to make that happen, even if it was at my own expense. I did it because it was the right thing to do.

2. Listen to your heart

Although Arthur Andersen gave me the lowest offer, I felt it was the place for me. My personality seemed to blend with their corporate culture. So I turned down higher and more attractive offers and went with my heart.

If Susan and I didn’t approve her receiving the drug to prolong her labor, we probably would not have any children today. Even though the drug was not yet approved by the FDA, the risk was worth the reward.

3. Be persistent

I would not take “no” for an answer. My persistence with the U.S. Army Sergeant enabled me to take the CPA exam, as well as take my final examinations in order to be able to graduate.

4. Increases in responsibility don't come without personal sacrifice

Transferring from our roots to a strange city required a lot of personal sacrifice. But as it turned out, this short-term pain enabled us to later attain financial security and a better quality of life.

If you want to grow in an organization, success does not come without personal sacrifice. In my case, it later resulted in a fourth move, this time to St. Louis.

5. Expertise and creativity creates value

In my case, it was retail industry expertise, which enhanced my personal value. Become an expert in your field and your services will be in great demand.

I showed creativity in figuring out how Zale Corporation could adopt the LIFO method of inventory pricing, when it was rarely, if ever used by a retail jewelry chain. When May Company needed a solution to deal with its real estate issue, I assembled a group to figure out a solution that was never used before. Clients relish creativity.

6. Beware of the power of our government

In my first substantive experience in dealing with the IRS, I quickly learned how coercive and powerful the agency can be. Even though the answer may be reasonable, you can’t reason with the IRS. Don’t think that you will always get a fair trial. They have the power and authority to do whatever they want to do. Later, in less than 90 days, our government put one of the world’s most effective and profitable international accounting firms out of business.

7. Learning never ends

No matter what your position or title, life is about continual learning. Take advantage of every opportunity. It will help you stay relevant.

8. A leader in the office should also be a leader in the community

It is important to leverage your office leadership skills to be a leader in the community. This not only helps develop your leadership skills, but also benefits the community. A healthy community enables you to have a healthy business.

9. A common culture is the glue that holds the organization together

If your organization believes in your culture, do not change it. Culture is what bonds people together. Without a common culture, you face disaster.

10. Courage of your convictions, without persistence produces little result

I had the courage to tell our CEO, Jim Wadia, to settle the Andersen Consulting arbitration. I had the courage to tell my leadership partners to pursue a merger with another firm. But I took “NO” for an answer and dropped it. Perhaps if I was more persistent and got others involved, the result would have been different.

11. Don't just complain, take ownership of the problem. 

When our partners were frustrated about how our unit process was working, it was very easy for everyone to complain. Instead we focused on what we could do to make it better and took appropriate action. To settle our legal issue with Anheuser Busch, I could have easily complained how it was not fair, since it was not our fault. Instead, I took ownership of the problem and generated a solution that was good for all.

12. Celebrate success

Celebrate the success of others and the office. Work should be fun and enjoyable by all. Professionals work hard and make many personal sacrifices. Don’t forget to celebrate and enjoy your work. All work and no play is not good.

13. Good teams are more effective than individual stars

No matter how many stars you have in the organization, effective teams can produce greater profitability than individual performers. This is true in business, just as it is in sports.

14. In times of crisis, you find out who are your real friends

When you are going through good times, it seems like everyone wants to be your friend. But in times of crisis, you know who your REAL friends are. It was comforting to have people like John Bachmann and Bert Walker rally and be my side. They showed their true friendship and support. Others, whom I thought were my friends, turned their back on me. We have spoken little since.

15. In crisis, stay positive and focused

No one will be more positive than the person in charge. If that person thinks negatively, it will permeate the organization. Leaders must do everything possible to make sure that the organization can function and weather the storm. They need to give their people hope that they will end up well, whether it is with the organization or someplace else. The cream will rise to the top.