Value. Part 4

Love has value.

Young. Romantic. Self. Unrequited. True. Exaggerated. Passing.

In all its forms, love wakes us in the morning and sends us to bed at night. And in between we spend our time trying to find more of it. In the work we do. The places we go. The people we seek approval from. Even when they are ourselves.

Like everything else, love’s value changes based on circumstances.

When things are going well, we become confident and need it less. Confidence means we see ourselves differently. The first step to being seen differently.

Troubled times increase our demand for love. The result is a palpable shift from I love this to I love you. In this economy, interpersonal beats inanimate.

Which matters a lot when you run a business.

A couple of weeks ago I was struck by a Facebook status update on my wall. As the person left for vacation, the update read, ‘Free at last. Free at last.’

What struck me most about this visceral post was that the person owns their own business. Has built it over a number of years into a significant enterprise. Has a lot of people working for them. And wanted desperately to escape for a while. Desperately.

Understandable. This year above all others.

But if this person had asked, I might have suggested that expressing their relief at being set free from their own company in such impassioned terms would probably cause every one of their employees to re-evaluate their own feelings about coming to work.

We determine value in part based on the value systems of others. And if the person who owns the company can’t wait to get out the door, the rest of us will stop and wonder for a moment if maybe they know something we don’t.

As a leader, I can’t define your values. I can only shape the presentation of what is important to me and hope you adopt them yourself. Once I’ve described separation from the company as freedom, it’s hard to reframe long days and short nights as anything other than imprisonment.

It’s a long way from there to loving where you work.

There was a lot about owning and running my own business that I loved, even if the traits that I found lovable ebbed and flowed with the company’s evolution.

Loch Lomond, however, was utterly consistent in the feelings it invoked in me every time we returned. And if you can have an affair with a place, I was openly and willingly unfaithful with that corner of Scotland.

Like all great affairs, it couldn’t last.

In the spring of 2007 we got word that the Club’s owners had changed management. There was no official announcement. Just the rumor mill.

Organizations of all sizes are staggeringly inept at managing announcements of change they think will be unpopular. There is extraordinary value in getting ahead of a story openly and transparently. Your customers and staff are smart people. If you don’t tell them the truth, they’ll get it from somewhere. And if they don’t, they don’t care very much about your organizations. Both are bad scenarios.

We arrived at Loch Lomond in the Fall of 2007 for our twentieth visit, hoping for the best but expecting less. In fact we got substantially worse than that.

The Club had been established on the premise that an international membership would be allowed to stay a limited number of days each year. As the economics of the Club had become more difficult, those restrictions were released and the rapidly expanding group of local members were now treating the place as their local club. The place was jammed, and facilities designed for a limited number of people in an intimate setting were overrun.

The staff tried to keep up, and were embarrassed that they could not. Availability issues meant we had to change rooms four times in five nights. Our guests three. On two evenings we couldn’t get a table for dinner until ten pm. On two others we were chased out by the noise and the crowd at the bar. And as a final straw, Chris’s mother was pushed aside as she tried to walk into the ladies room by a very drunk Scandinavian man wearing a kilt. His justification that he was, “wearing a skirt,” did not help. Nor did the staff's explanation that there was a big wedding upstairs. We were awake til past 2am with the sounds of the celebrations. It seemed a long way from the 15 people that has attended ours.

When we got the flyer under the door about the end of season sale in the Pro Shop, it was clear that the new driving value at Loch Lomond was cash.

In four short days, a nine year long affair had turned into a tawdry fling with a floozy who wanted the money left on the dresser. We fell out of love. And left.

I wrote to the owners. They responded. And we had a series of conversations in which they said the changes were a work in progress. They would report back.

Six months of silence ensued followed by the announcement that the bank had stepped in and taken over the club’s finances. All those years of wondering how the club could make the numbers work had met the credit crunch. A significant operating loss and a debt-ridden balance sheet, meant things would have to change.

We looked at the money we had invested. Looked at our history at the Club. And looked at our most recent experience. Suddenly the picture looked entirely different. And spending more money on annual dues seemed folly.

Regardless of what happened at the Club, we made a decision. We wouldn’t put more money into Loch Lomond under this management team or the bank’s financial stewardship,

It just wasn’t worth it.

We spent eighteen months sitting on the sidelines as the lines were politely but firmly drawn. Member’s Association versus the Bank. We sat on the sidelines, resigned to the fact that our money was lost, our Club was gone, and we would never go back to the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

Until a month ago.