I recently met with the son of a client that I had not spoken to in a couple of years. It was somewhat of a surprise as I frankly did not think I would ever meet with him again as a prospective successor. We had initially been introduced when he was 21, a fresh college graduate and a new employee at my client’s business. Neither he nor my client had taken my advice that he work elsewhere prior to joining the family business. Sonny was newly married and Dad did not want him to struggle as a common law employee; working long hours, being criticized for his size and not being able to travel with the family on vacations.
Admittedly when we last met, I was not very patronizing. In fact, I endeavored to get the young man’s attention to the curse his father had put on him by enabling him to come into the business, carry a bogus title and receive income way above his contribution. I also tried to tell him he was going to be marginalized by the key managers for his lack of accountability and being grossly overweight. Fortunately he was polite to me but unfortunately I could tell that he thought I was nuts to advise him to seek a real job, be paid what he was worth and not go on vacations with his parents. He bought himself a new house, joined the country club and was living large, fundamentally as his dad’s wingman. As his role in the company, his attitude and his dad’s attitude did not change, I stopped pressing to meet with him. Barking at the moon appeared more productive. Then his dad told me he had a seizure while at work and had to take a leave of absence for medical tests. His dad later told me that he was going to a psychologist to work out some issues. I assumed he would be back to work any day but after a year or so I stopped asking, assuming any time he took would help him grow up and he would be back when timing was right.
Then two years later his dad announces that Sonny was back to work and frankly I was shocked to hear he was working in a service role, thinking what happen to the escalator to the executive suit. The dad said Sonny wanted to meet with me and I was curious but not excited to schedule a meeting. To my surprise in walked Sonny, at least 75 pounds lighter than the last time we met, which on a 5’8″ frame was shocking. After exchanging pleasantries he explained that the seizure was really a drug overdose and that he had gone to rehab, failed to complete the program, but then reentered the program where he spent a year in a half working as a janitor for his room and board and at a fast food restaurant to pay his way. He announced loud and clear that he did not like me when he was 22 but remembered everything I said when he was 24 and wanted my council now that he was 26. I thanked him for his candor and affirmed that my job was not to be his friend and I was reluctant to offer answers when questions were not being asked; and back then it was apparent that he had all the answers. I expressed regret that he and his family had to go through the agony of drug dependency but confirmed that otherwise things had not changed; respect must be earned. I acknowledged his physical conditioning but stated that his loss of arrogance and entitlement looked better on him than the loss of 75 pounds.
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