What I’ve Learned in 35 Years

I turned 35 in August, and as a result of the recent sale of DOYLES, I’ve had some time to reflect on my life as I prepare to pen a memoir.  My success has been mirrored by much failure, however, what I’ve learned in the process is invaluable.

Life has taught me that…

1.) We hurt the ones we love the most and vice versa

2.) You don’t know who you are married to until you divorce them

3.) Business partnerships are a bad idea and seldom work

4.) Religion is the most divisive topic known to all mankind

5.) A man with an ego is like a baby with a bomb – God help me

6.) We learn more from children than we teach them

7.) Life is too short and death too permanent

8.) Attitude is the key to happiness

9.) Love is an action not a feeling

10.) I love myself

Surprisingly this wasn’t a premeditated list.  I’m sure I could come up with many more of life’s lessons, but I like the flow of the first 10 that came to mind.  Life can be hard, and can deliver a crippling blow when you least expect it, or even when you most expect it.  Nevertheless, tomorrow brings the promise of hope and a future.

Enlightened in Egypt?

Just returned from a whirlwind trip to the Middle East and Europe.  I’m amazed every time by how true Mark Twain’s words are when he said that “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”  I sat in a hotel in Egypt a few days after our ambassador was killed and discussed religion with two Muslims.  Whatever your slant, my opinion remains that there is a large amount of ignorance all over the World to culture and religious convictions.  It’s been my experience that most Christians don’t really know what they believe or why, and most Muslims all the same.  We (the whole World) typically believe what we are taught to believe by those who have influence over us as children and young adults.  It’s very rare for a Jew to convert to Islam, or a Mormon to convert to Hinduism, etc.  Nevertheless, Christianity has approximately 2 billion followers, and Islam, 1.5 billion respectively, but what I find most interesting is that both Christianity and Islam were born of Judaism, which has only 14 million followers.  I don’t know if there is any significance to that fact, but it certainly has my attention.

You’re In My Office

After selling DOYLES, I have felt like a fish out of water.  I’m working a lot of hours, and don’t feel all that productive, however, I’m beginning to have some fun.  After waiting a few weeks waiting for an office space, I finally got one, and they even put my name on the door.  That was late last week.  I went in yesterday to find a laptop, docking station, office supplies, etc., neatly organized on the desk.  I was beginning to think that someone actually cared that I was there.  I then noticed a name and phone number on a single sheet of paper laying next to the keyboard.  It wasn’t my name.  I begin to think something was wrong, so I called the number on the sheet of paper, and was informed that the computer and other supplies were for someone else.  As I walked out, and back to my mobile office (my car,) I realized they had even replaced my name on the door.  Couldn’t help but laugh.  Good news is I’m not much for being in an office.

Calm Down

I met with a couple of bankers yesterday to discuss refinancing some real estate I own.  After a few minutes of pleasantries, I shared my experiences with lenders, which have been less than ideal.  The elder of the two gentlemen humbly said, “you need to calm down.”  He was right.

First Day on the Job

Today was my first day on the job for my new employer.  I felt like a stranger.   I was asked by a senior manager to explain my role, and I struggled to articulate it.  There was an awkward tension in the room to start, but things smoothed out, and we had a progressive conversation.  The company is much larger than any company I’ve ever owned or run, and it’s full of smart people.  A colleague of mine told me today that business development guys don’t really do anything.  I hope that’s not true.

Post Closing Reflection

Last Friday, June 29th, the sale of DOYLES was finalized, and I for the first time in a long time, am now an employee and not an employer.  The transaction had mechanical challenges that I have experienced in previous deals, but this one was very different.  I was very emotional throughout the process and took everything personal.  Family legacy, personal promises, insecurity, and fear of the unknown all weighed heavy on my heart.  I kept having reminding myself to stay humble and calm, and it was never easy.  Ultimately, it has all worked out, and I’m beginning to feel relieved.  Most of all, I am grateful.

Looking Back

My Father, Doyle Henderson, died on September 21st, 2005.  A few days later I called a meeting with approximately a dozen employees to let them know that they would keep their jobs through the balance of the year, and during that time, I would determine the fate of the company.  Over the next three years, the company experienced exponential growth, made multiple acquisitions, employed hundreds of people all over Texas, and won many fans along the way.  We treated our employees well, serviced our customers with conviction, and paid our vendors on time.

A few months after a highly strategic acquisition (mid 2008,) we were in trouble, and didn’t event know it.  We were in a vacuum.  Our cost structure was too high, and our backlog, AR, and sales were all shrinking.  When we began to realize we needed to act, we had burned through millions and discovered our inventory was highly overvalued.  Our credit was cut off, and tough times were imminent.

The past few years have been very taxing on many.  We’ve lost good employees, let stakeholders down, stretched vendors, and have made many mistakes along the way.  However, I’m proud of what we have accomplished, and am truly grateful to have shared the experience with so many people along the way.

Today, the name DOYLES still humbly stands for what matters most; doing the right thing.

Dropping off the table

Been a tough couple of years, but starting to realize that what “they” say is true…”what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.”  Life throws some big 12 to 6 curve balls, and they’re hard to hit, even if you know they’re coming.  Good news is, I was always a good fastball hitter, and I know I’ll get a few of those now and again, and the next one I see, I’m taking for a ride.

Stop Emailing and Pick up the Phone

When did it become OK to use email as a substitute for human interaction. Call me old fashion, but I feel that if I have something to communicate, other than facts, email just doesn’t cut it. It never fails that if and when I have attempted to communicate sensitive issues via email, the recipient interprets my “tone of voice” differently than I had intended. Then you spend more time trying to explain what you really meant, and things worsen.

Don’t get me wrong, email is a great way to quickly and conveniently exchange contact information, documents, and scheduling syncs, it just doesn’t replace picking up the phone and calling the person you need to speak to.

Of course there are exceptions, i.e. time zone differences, language barriers, and case building, but for the most part, there’s just no alternative to a phone call.

No One is and Expert

I read an article today by a well known journalist, who cited and referred to those he interviewed as “experts.” After reading the article, it was obvious that those who he referred to as experts were nothing near. It made me wonder who actually determines who is an expert in their field.

In my limited number of years on this great planet, and even fewer as a card carrying adult, I can tell you that I have realized, or at least formed the opinion that, no one is really any smarter than anyone else (Stephen Hawking, and the likes excluded.) There are definitely those who are more knowledgeable in certain disciplines, but very few experts.

Additionally, expertise is not immune to failure or bad decision making either. I may be digressing from what I’d hoped was going to be my point, so bringing it back home, let me say this.

Beware of one who refers to themselves as an expert. Don’t be intimidated by those who others refer to as experts, and finally, always be prepared to verify any ideas, concepts, or theories expressed by an “expert.”