Posts Tagged ‘Puget Sound Business Journal’

Price of Friendship

September 26, 2014

Over the years, I have been approached by family and friends to loan money.  Being generous in nature, I usually have made the loan.  Typically there was a signed legal document. In rare circumstances, I relied solely on the personal integrity of the borrower.  To date, not a single one of those people has ever repaid the loan made.  

Most recently, and the prompt of this post, is the story of J’Amy Owens.  If you Google her name, you will find countless hits noting her as a “retail guru”, a “Diva of Retail” and currently a “Meat Activist” and the CEO of a publicly traded company, Bill the Butcher.  She once graced the cover of Inc. Magazine under the headline “Sales Guru to the Stars”.  Even such illustrious credentials does not preclude one from being a deadbeat.

With the same Google search you will also find numerous mentions of her name in association with lawsuits between business partners, former business partners and former spouses.  There is even a lengthy report on RipoffReport from a retail consulting customer who describes being “ripped off” by J’Amy Owens.

The fact that past and ongoing relationships with J’Amy Owens seem to result in some sort of legal action being taken against her should have been a warning to me.  However, my relationship and loan to J’Amy predates her string of legal troubles.  In fact, it was at the start of these many legal battles that she called me pleading for a loan to pay her attorneys.  I viewed her as both a friend and someone who has always managed to earn a good living and therefore likely to be able to repay the debt.  So I foolishly wrote 2 checks, each in the amount of $25,000 to her law firm for her benefit.

To be fair, she did repay a total of $10,000 of the $50,000 loaned.  She has never failed to acknowledge the debt, in fact, I have dozens of effusive emails with expressions of gratitude and indebtedness such as these:

Everyone got paid (783k!) before you, my gracious highness of patience.

I want you to make money on this loan, and not feel bad, so please do NOT think I am going to do anyrhing but pay you WHATEVER YOU WANT.”

“I am seriously past due with you on all accounts and would like to meet over a bottle of something wonderful (my treat) and give you an update.

Your investment (loan of grace and mercy) is ridiculously embarrassingly- in- the- rears at this point but you should know that even though it is diliquent, it is NOT something needing writng off…….as I am occassionally pitiful but NOT a diliquent.”

Yes, she lives in a lovely apartment according to this Jolkona article.  Yes, she is proudly the CEO of a publicly traded company, Bill the Butcher, as you can see in this YouTube video– yet despite these emails and many more in the same vein, she still owes me $40,000 plus reasonable interest totally about $66,000.  When I actively began contacting her to set up a repayment plan, her silence has been deafening.  Emails ignored.  Facebook messages ignored.  LinkedIn message ignored.  Phone calls to her cell phone ignored.  Snail mail letter ignored.  Letter hand delivered via a process server from my attorney also ignored.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy reason for sharing this is to serve as a warning to others – NEVER loan money to family or friends.  You are not doing them a favor, no matter how much it seems true in the immediate.  No matter how grateful they seem at the time, repaying a debt is never a high priority and from my experience – it doesn’t happen.  Even if you have a signed, legal agreement; do you want to be in the position of suing a loved one?  Even a good job and a so called ethical reputation are no guarantee of repayment.  If you feel moved to “loan” money to those you love and value, consider it a gift.  Make it clear up front that it is a gift and never mention it again.  That’s the only hope of preserving a relationship.

As for me, I’ve learned all too well the high price of friendship. 

Women to Watch

July 20, 2011

On Friday, the Puget Sound Business Journal sponsored a breakfast event called Women to Watch at the Washington Athletic Club in downtown Seattle.  Featured on the panel were 4 inspiring professional women; Phyllis Campbell, Jean Floten, Mimi Kirsch and Angie Lepley moderated by Patti Payne, an impressive woman in her own right.

A few days before, I had a conversation with Mimi Kirsch about mentors.  Mimi had asked a small group of very successful women we share in common if we had mentors and if so, who.  I was surprised to hear most of them say “No, not in the way one thinks of mentors.”  Gee, I thought it was just me!

I’ve never had a mentor in the sense of an agreed upon relationship.  That doesn’t mean no one has had influence in my life and career.  Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with some very talented and ethical professionals.  Each has been a teacher for me, often without even realizing the impact they were making.

Periodically, I will get asked to serve as a mentor – usually someone not currently in my immediate circle.  While flattered, I always decline.  I don’t believe it is possible to mentor someone – or be mentored by someone  you don’t have contact with on a regular and ongoing basis. 

You can be inspired by someone from a distance, a person whose story you read, saw on television or a speaker you’ve heard, but mentoring is a much more in-depth process.

If you think you want or need a mentor, how do you find one?  A number of people offer services as a “coach” – even I do paid business coaching.  That works for some people, but there is another, less expensive option.

Look around you.  Who do you work with on a daily basis?  Are you part of an industry association or trade group?  Who are your neighbors?  Your fellow church members?  Do you belong to business or civic groups?  A hiking club?  Any place you interact with others on an ongoing basis can be be harboring a “mentor”.

You can learn from anyone you have a chance to observe and talk to regularly.

The person doesn’t have to be the head of a company or a public figure.   I learned most of what I know about managing people from a couple of great bosses I worked for back when I was a secretary.  We never had a “mentor/men-tee” relationship – I simply had the chance to work closely with them and I learned from the experience.  Over the years, I had the chance to ask questions to gain insights and understanding of their decision process.

Oh, and for the record – all my influential bosses were men.  Each of the women on the panel Friday said their career mentors were also men.   Don’t let gender bias get in the way of your career growth.  Great mentors come in all types, from all backgrounds and do not always occupy positions above yours.  

Seek inspiration from high-profile, public figures or those such as the 4 women on the Puget Sound Business Journal panel last week but look in your current circle for the unofficial mentors who can help you chart your path to success.

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