On a ride home from my parents, my wife and I were recounting the various different jobs I had growing up. I mowed lawns, shoveled snow, babysat, tutored, and the list goes on. The one job that I liked the absolute least, was working at a nursery and greenhouse. The work day was 7:30 AM to 6:00 PM with Wednesdays off. An unfortunate basketball-related ankle injury kept my career there to a mere 14 working days (wink wink) 🙂
On one of those days the owner, an elderly gentleman named Joe asked me to drive him around to give some estimates for landscaping work. Joe had an enormous gray Cadillac that drove like a boat. I was probably 19 at the time and the task was equal parts nerve-wracking and fun.
Joe’s clientele were the uber wealthy and each gated driveway I drove up was more impressive than the last. It sure as heck beat hauling sod all day. The last driveway of the day fed out to a very blind turn. Joe leaned forward, waited and then yelled “shoot!” I inched forward slowly to get a better look just as a black SUV came barreling around the curve. I floored it and that big ol’ boat jetted forward just in time to miss a massive collision. As we continued to speed away, adrenaline pumping, Joe yelled at me “when I say shoot…you shoot!”
That moment was seared into my memory. I learned a lesson about ambiguity and communication. Joe had left that driveway a million times before and knew the drill. I was on day four of a job I basically hated and was a relatively new driver to boot. An old man yelling “shoot” at me was not received as floor the car or your life might be over.
I do my best to best to carry the “when I say shoot, you shoot” mentality. There is no room for ambiguity in financial advice and clear communication is king. Last year, in the haste of wanting to respond to an email I said, “if you buy the truck now, you may just have to wait a little longer to buy the house.” The response back from the client was perfect, “Thanks, Brian. We just want to make sure we understand what you mean by “a little longer?”
I thought to myself, “Come on Brian. When I say shoot, you shoot!” I responded, “A little longer would mean 4 to 6 months if you are ok with that?” To which they were.
In most circumstances, of big or little consequence, being specific and pointed is the best approach. Save the waffling answer for whether you want Italian or Chinese for dinner tonight.