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Where’s My Check?

Robert Feol explores the ‘new’ way of doing business, taught by some of his ‘colleagues’ in the industry!

2009 was  a rough year for me.  Really rough.  It’s not worth getting into, really. I wrote a great 1000 page, very descriptive and detailed tale of how this took place for this article, but for the sake of brevity/space,  I’ll summarize the story for you in one sentence, 2009 as follows:

On January 4th 2009, my income from the wholesale real estate company I built for 3 years went to zero, unexpectedly– found myself with about 200k of unexpected debt from this – got to spend 12 months figuring out how to rebuild years of work by myself.

The end.

Now, I know that this is probably the best bedtime story you have EVER heard.  Grimm brothers, look out!  Here comes something really interesting! Be sure to tell your kids this at bedtime – insomniac children will surely be put to sleep by this, as well as spouses and rowdy domestic pets, including reptiles.

I have no doubt the movie will be made at some point into the future – think The Pursuit Of Happiness, with me as Will Smith and my dog ‘Little Fat’ as his son Jaden Christopher Syre Smith.  I will say that ‘Little Fat’ and myself combined do not have an ounce of the acting talent that these incredible actors possess, but I digress.  The year ended.  And that is good.

Now, some interesting thing happened in 2009, and while there were many things that happened, I will point out the following two as being of critical importance to this essay:

1) I found myself surrounded by a harvest of friends I did not know previously existed.

2) I found myself having to invest substantial monies into infrastructure, specifically to rebuild the infrastructure I had already paid for such as websites, media, etc.

Again, not interesting, no?  I am sure you have heard such common stories before.  Robert Feol had to write some checks he didn’t want to.  Who cares?  But, here is where I discovered an interesting behavior I had never known existed before –a possible scientific discovery noteworthy of the journal Nature, I will admit – but I discovered something  I call the ‘Where’s My Check?’ syndrome.

And I want to explain how you can observe this in your own life.

The ‘where’s my check?’ syndrome usually comes when people who have been fortunate enough to receive some type of monetary compensation from you, usually as a result from on ongoing relationship you have with them(say, for example, a contractor), begin to develop a sense of entitlement.  You give them some work, they do a good job.  So you give them more.  At some point, you have a relationship where you are essentially making an investment in them.  Perhaps employee, perhaps contractor, perhaps consultant.  Perhaps you are paying a fee to your media group for a radio show.  But for the purpose of this treatise you have paid someone consistently for about a year, and paid them an income which they would not have had otherwise should you not have seen value in their work and wanted it to continue in an ongoing capacity that you viewed as mutually beneficial.

Now, the year may end.  Suppose it does.  You review expenses and realize that, maybe you have been investing money in a resource that hasn’t provided the same output for your input.   Things have gotten out of balance with your investments in people.  You view them as a resource, but now you see them as a different kind of resource.

A resource that has….perhaps…taken you for granted?  Especially after so many checks that have been written unquestioned.  You just paid and paid and paid.  And finally, you decide – ‘enough …now I will consolidate my finances and stop spending money where it is not getting a solid return on investment.   I will cut expenses.  Thank you for all your hard work, and hopefully we can work together in the future.’

What happens next?

Everybody comes a runnin’.

‘Where’s my check?’, they scream. ‘I need this to pay my rent!!!!!’

Of course you do.  My investment in you paid your rent while you spent less and less time attenuating to the reason why I invested in you in the first place, and whether you were taking payments and doing less of a quality job or just outright plotting behind my back and stealing, or WORSE, committing a conspiracy to defraud, we all know that YOU really were not doing the right things.  And now you got busted – and you are sad that your finances are beginning to collapse as your friends disappear.  Perhaps you are getting your…just desserts?

Yet my thoughts at this time juncture are as follows…

Why wouldn’t you be looking for your check?  Sorry it’s gone.  But, the fact that you can’t pay your rent or mortgage isn’t my concern, honestly.  It’s yours and you should have considered that, before I saw you as an expense that needed to be excised, or got fed up with your constant and never ending sea of excuses, spins, and lies.

Too harsh?  In 2009 I used to think so, but now I am not so sure about that.  The necessity of performance and results has overshadowed any compassionate obligation I once felt for those who were simply nice to me.

This was solidified when a recent media relationship I had, an account manager specifically, who tried to renew my contract(already at the top of the rate card) and sent me a contract renewal with a 23% increase without notice, telling me to sign because other people had ‘lined up’ for my spot, and that I could easily be replaced.

Now, I get that.  On a major Memphis station, AM talk radio – I get it.  Many advertisers want to be there.  I am surely replaceable.

But, ratings DO count.  And, what I didn’t tell you is that I took my show on this station, where I do all the programming myself out of the pool of national speaking talent for REIA groups(not easy to do), from a 30 minute show which was preempted most of the time with a 1400 person average listener base to a show which had an average 5000+ person average listener base in the same time slot, same year – in less than 12 months.

I tripled the listener base for my program in one year.

UNHEARD OF in AM radio.

Yet, as I tried to syndicate between multiple local stations, programming couldn’t be bothered to assist.  It was an inconvenience.

Ok, again – I get it.  There are bigger fish to fry for the programming division of radio stations, and my show is not a priority.  No problem!  I’ll take my show to the two hour slot where the president/general manager of the station has spoken assisting me with national syndication.  Just move to another station, quietly.   The fact that, from a production standpoint, the new station is half the cost is only a bonus.

Can you guess what happened?

They came a runnin’.

Now this time, not only were they asking ‘where’s my check?’, but they were – get this – threatening me that I would never be broadcast on their station again.  That I would be burning bridges.  So I better stay on for another 2 years. OR ELSE.

The last straw came when I switched to paying by check from credit card auto debit.  Having paid faithfully for 12 months, when I wanted to walk in a check, I got – not lying here – no less than 4 calls and 3 emails a day from the account manager asking where the commission, um I mean payment, was.  Evidently, people needed to get paid.  Which brings me to the topic of this article, which talks about this interesting idea of entitlement.  If I enter into a relationship with you AND pay you faithfully, can I not faithfully give you notice AND stop without hassle?

I guess not.

Now, I don’t know most of you readers but I have written faithfully for you for the past year.  And it is on this extremely professional not that I let you know my 2010 philosophy has changed from my 2009 one of personal growth and real estate development/personal financial freedom to more genuinely reflect and emulate the attitudes, actions, and behavior of so many of my colleagues in the industry.

I have simplified my philosophy, and it is now this: