©2019 by Mark Lipton

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  • Mark Lipton

Into The Woods!

My daughter is from that generation: The one where all needs their are met and problems all solved by pressing a button! They have no need to wonder, ponder nor figure out anything, because Siri or Alexa are there to answer every question.


So when she called me Friday afternoon and told me that she had a flat tire, I was sure our Father’s Day weekend camping trip was cancelled. “Siri change my tire” was not a recognized command and I didn’t believe that my daughter was going to be able to figure this out on her own.


I should have been a more confident parent!


I asked her what her plan was. “Well, I’m at a gas station now and I put money in the machine to put the air in, and I’ve got the cap off the valve stem (ok….she said “air thingy” but a father can edit a bit).”


I was impressed! If you had asked me 5 minutes earlier whether or not she can refill a flat tire I would have put her car-knowledge at the “I put the key in and it goes!” level.


I was thrilled that she was safe of course and happy that our camping weekend would not be cancelled.


We LOVE our time camping. Miranda (Buck Wheat as I currently call her) and I have been disappearing into the woods every summer since she was around five (she’s 21 now). Hiking, canoeing, fresh air, drinking water from natural springs, building the camp and fire: We love it all!


For me, my favorite time is at night by the fire. Something about the flames or the peace or both that always leads to our best conversations. From the tears in kindergarten after Matthew called her “Pickle-Face” to the tears junior year in college when some other “Matthew” didn’t call her at all, something about that time by the fire gets us talking!


This weekend was no exception.


I guess the boys in her life have been showing appropriate interest because we did not spend all our time talking about them. What came out of that void was a really adult conversation about decision-making.


Not surprisingly, I learned that decision-making is a different process for an adult man than it is for an “almost-adult" girl! My daughter doesn’t so much make decisions as she just reacts to whatever she sees right in front of her. Many will say (as SHE did), that that IS decision-making.


I don’t agree.


Think of your life as a highway. Imagine how easy it would be to get everywhere if your car was the only car on the road! You could go as fast as you like and you’d never have to honk your horn while thinking (or shouting): “What an idiot that dude is!” On some of the straighter roads, you could even get some sleep!


Sadly though, we have to share the road. Cars, bikes, potholes, trucks, road-kill and more are like your life problems: When traveling down a road, they are all issues that are best dealt with from a distance.


My daughter’s way of making decisions has her looking at the road right in front of her car and reacting to what she sees. That doesn't leave a lot of time for thinking! At 70 MPH, your problems come at you faster than you realize.

Imagine you’re driving down the road and in front of you is a 1000-pound moose (that’s about what they weigh btw, I Googled it!).


If you’re only looking at the road right in front of you, you are about to find out, “What’s the last thing to go through a moose’s mind when he hits your car?” (It’s his ass for those that don’t know the joke.)


I like to look further down the road when I drive. I notice that moose when he’s still a mile up the road. What’s the difference? Well, with all that time to respond, at the very least…one less dead moose by the side of the road!


As an independent paint retailer, it’s best to run your stores that same way: with your eyes as far down the road as possible!


A small business can get into trouble when it makes decisions too “close in.” For example: buying on promotion. I like to buy on promotion BUT ONLY was part of a larger plan that I have already figured out. I’ve decided that the inventory that’s right for my two stores is $300K. If I’m at $300K and my largest vendor offers me a promotion, I pass.


I don’t let any discount opportunity get my total inventory value higher than the amount I know I can fund! When I look far enough down the road I can see that NO discount is worth getting, if I can’t pay the invoice!


Similarly, I make my decisions for new accounts and credit we offer them, from a distance. The “close in” decision has you offering credit to people or individuals based on their ability to pay and OF COURSE that still applies. But down the road you will need to have cash on hand to cover the new credit you issue people: you can’t give more credit than you have the ability to finance or cover yourself. No account is worth having if it harms your ability to pay on time or at all!


These are just two examples but I like them because they illustrate the point: keep you eyes far down the road!


During a quiet and contemplative time with just me and my spreadsheets is when I like to make my big decisions. I’ve got my bank statements, balance sheet, inventory figures and anything else I need. It’s in THAT setting that I want to be making my important decisions. Trouble is still far off! When the moose is under your bumper, it's too late!

Trying to explain my decision-making tendencies to my daughter the other night I used a similar example to the one above. She said, “So when a promotion gets offered to you, you decide not to take the deal! How is that different than what I’m doing?”


She missed the point! I need to make my examples with her more about boys and less about paint.


You could say as she did that what happened was I got offered a promotion and didn't take it. But what REALLY happened was that months earlier I decided it was not in my best interest to let my inventory get over $300K. So when a promo comes around and my inventory is already in the $300K range, then in-fact months earlier I had decided not to participate in the promo.


It's that distance from my decisions that keeps me safe.


Longer views give you more time to make your choice and that’s always in your best interest. So eyes up AND down…. the road! There’s a moose out there and you’re better off slowly driving around him than quickly barreling through him!


It was Father's Day....look who got a free meal....and a really nice care package!!