EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

Unfortunately for all of you, my wife bought me a book once when we were on vacation about the whale ship Essex. No need to go into all the details here, but the short story is that the ship was rammed by a whale and began to sink.

Being a devoted sailor, I have certainly read other novels about what happens when the ship goes down. These tales of survival tend to be real page turners for me. (Perhaps in my last life I was a sailor on a square rigged ship.)

Anyway, the mentality of someone about to abandon ship and how they feel afterwards as they attempt to survive has parallels with the process we all go through when we leave jobs in corporate America.

Ah, the mother ship with the coffee machine and cafeteria was all so comfortable. Okay, it’s true. Being on board a large vessel, as opposed to being cast adrift in a much smaller one is an easy choice, which brings me to remind those of you who have heard this before and to tell those of you who are new to my line of sailor’s reasoning that one always STEPS UP into a lifeboat. The meaning of this is that one never abandons ship until the last possible moment.

No matter how bad you might think it is where you are right now if things are winding down, your best strategy is to bear with it. Once you have committed yourself mentally to getting into the lifeboat AT SOME POINT, you will find that much of the stress you feel about your current set of circumstances will ease. No need to rush things.

The next part of your thinking is what you will need to take with you or have in the lifeboat. Sure it isn’t as capacious as the world headquarters of a large corporation, but you would be surprised how inexpensively you can furnish that home office with all the navigation and support tools you need to conduct a proper search. Hey, you could be in that lifeboat for a while these days, and without a powerful computer and a laser printer, you are going to be hard pressed to look and feel as corporate as you need to be. And, while you have time at the office, don’t forget to get copies of reports or studies you have done that you might need for your portfolio. I am not suggesting you take anything confidential, but merely things you will need to prepare and/or refine your resume.

Our financial conservatism gets in the way of our success from time to time. Putting off the commitment of funds until the last minute, cutting corners, etc., will all be detrimental over the NEAR term to what you need to accomplish.

And, don’t forget about your survival clothing. Check out those grown-up clothes you have been wearing to the office and decide what looks nice when the waves are breaking over your head in the storm ahead. Once you are in the lifeboat hanging on for dear life is no time to be looking for new foul weather gear. You need to look as well as act the part of a senior financial executive, and with so many firms on business casual these days, that old wardrobe may need some additions.

Of most concern when I talk to members is that we all can tend to get carried away with our lifeboat mentality. Our need to squeeze a dime and get 11 cents is part and parcel of who we are as financial officers.

Not knowing when you will be “rescued” can certainly make you crazy. But unlike those poor souls who were cast adrift in days of yore, you can add to your provisions if you need to.

If you are bleeding cash, or think you will be, now is the time to evaluate your financial assets and see what you will need to do. If you are one of the lucky few who have a lot of equity in your house, you may be able to refinance it at some point in the next several months, especially if you have a working spouse.

Putting the whole family on severely reduced rations is certainly a valid approach to making your cash last longer, but don’t get carried away. While you are focused on the bottom line, you can be CAUSING yourself additional stress by stressing out everyone else.

So there you have it, a short primer on abandoning ship and dealing with a lifeboat mentality.

Regards, Matt

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