“What’s that?” I asked Paddy as he placed a crinkled sheet of paper on the table and put his coffee cup on top of it.
“Some notes,” he said, “I want to talk to you about your five careers.”
“I didn’t realize I’d had five careers,” I responded.
“Well,” Paddy said, moving his coffee cup and smoothing the paper, “that’s why I made some notes. I’ve got a bunch of questions; and the first is whether you agree that you’ve had five careers.”
“You’ll have to tell me what you think they are,” I told him.
“Well,” Paddy went on, “let’s take them one at a time. You spent, what, forty years or so working in accounting departments and with accounting firms, right?”
“Yes,” I acknowledged.
“So that’s clearly one career,” Paddy said.
“Agreed,” I said, realizing where he was going with this. “So the other so-called careers would overlap with accounting.”
“Yes,” Paddy assented, “but I think you actually had four other careers. Can we check them out?”
“Sure, “I encouraged him, “what’s first?”
“How much writing have you done?” Paddy asked.
“15 books and about 400 columns,” I told him.
“There you go,” he gloated. “That’s a writing career. And how many times were you on radio and TV?”
“Over 4,000 times on radio and over 300 times on TV,” I said.
“Number three!” he exclaimed, “That’s enough to qualify for a broadcasting career.”
And I’m sure you’ll agree that you had a career as a business manager for high-profile people,” he went on.
“No,” I argued, “that was part of my accounting career.”
“I guess you have a point there,” Paddy gave in, “four then.”
“I’m only at three,” I said.
“You spent at least nine or ten years as a full-time executive coach,” Paddy pointed out. “That’s four.”
“OK,” I conceded, “but why the sheet of paper? Where is this going?”
“I told you,” Paddy said consulting his paper, “I’ve got questions for you.”
“What else is new,” I observed.
“As a group, who were your favourite clients, and why?” he asked.
“As a group, CEOs,” I answered. “They knew when they needed help and didn’t mind that they did; and they never hesitated to challenge me. Also, because of their broad range of interests and experience almost all of them were extremely interesting people. They also tended to be open-minded”
“That’s a surprise,” Paddy said, “I would have thought your favourites would have been entertainers or hockey players.”
“Entertainers would be a close second to the CEOs,” I said, “they’re similar in a couple of ways. Entertainers are really business people; and the vast majority that I dealt with were sophisticated and very interesting folks. I was never bored when dealing with either CEOs or entertainers.”
“Again, as a group,” he went on, “who were the most difficult?”
“Doctors, closely followed by hockey players,” I said.
“Another surprise,” Paddy said, “why were doctors difficult.”
“I’m only half kidding when I say this,” I told him, “but I think whatever genes produce brilliant medical skills also prevent the development of business and financial skills. There were exceptions, but as a group doctors were the worst money managers imaginable. Another problem was that most, and again I caution you, not all, but most of the doctors I dealt with seemed to feel intellectually superior; and that’s a tough characteristic for an advisor to be up against.”
“What about hockey players?” Paddy prodded.
“Let me put it to you this way,” I said. “Back when I had over 50 NHL players as clients, every Monday during the season I had to set aside time to talk guys out of putting money into hare-brained schemes, and sometimes outright scams, that they were introduced to in bars over the weekend.”
“Were there any exceptions?” Paddy inquired.
“Oh lots,” I was happy to be able to say. “For example, Glenn Hall, Dave Dryden, and Norm Ullman are among the most intelligent and sensible people I know.”
“Was Anne Murray a smart cookie?” Paddy asked, deftly shifting gears.
“She was, indeed; and I expect she still is,” I answered.
“Could you pick a best client ever?” paddy asked.
“No,” I responded, “there’d be a few tied for first place.”
“What about the worst,” was his next question, “same thing?
“Nope,” I said, “the worst client I ever had was a prominent Toronto lawyer. Fortunately he wasn’t a client for very long.”
“And the problem was?” Paddy urged.
“First,” I said, “he held back information I needed in order to appropriately advise him. Then he got upset because I wouldn’t aid and abet him in a tax evasion scheme. Next, he wouldn’t pay his bill; and finally, he’s probably still bad-mouthing me in Toronto business circles.”
“So he’s still around,” Paddy reacted. “Would I know his name if you gave it to me, which I know you won’t?”
“You might; and I won’t,” I said. “If you Googled him you’d probably get a million references.”
“What about executive coaching,” Paddy asked, “what part of coaching did you like best?”
“That’s real easy,” I assured him. “As a matter of fact, of all the things I’ve ever done professionally, what I enjoyed the most, and by a wide margin, was teaching public speaking.”
“Why?” asked Paddy?
“Because,” I replied, “it’s what I do best.”
“I’ve got more questions, here,” Paddy said turning over his paper.”
“They’ll have to wait until next week,” I told him, “I’ve got to hit the road.”
“They’ll wait,” Paddy said, as I left.