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A minute with….power of understanding

March 31, 2014

I am a sucker for reading 'a minute with' 'last word' 'a coffee with…': newspaper articles, typically full page, with a dozen or so questions to some successful business or sports person. Some responses are blatantly self aggrandizing; but normally there is something that can be taken away from such articles (and things more than 'don't like him' or 'he seems nice'.

This blog is written follow if one such article, in which a partner in an accountancy practice was asked, inter alia, Give us a tip which you think is invaluable to anyone in life or business?

His answer was:

Understanding why whoever you are dealing with is doing what they are doing. If you can do this, it will help you to better advise them.

Very true, words, well worth remembering. I had a big and unusual example of this early in my time as a partner. The chairman and main shareholder of a large private company asked my audit partner, who led our relationship, if he could meet me, the new tax partner on his account. I was given a difficult problem,cod how to extract funds tax efficiently, particularly for his brother, a co-shareholder, who had benevolent intentions for the money. Some years back, my predecessor partner had failed to solve the problem, but I took on the challenge, and came up with a workable solution. I met the chairman again, and went through the detail; he focussed on the areas of doubt, and as a result he asked me to go to leading Counsel. I did, and Counsel concurred with my thoughts. I saw him again, and this time he felt that the stamp duty cost was too significant, and could I try to reduce it. I did, or rather my colleagues did, told the client, suggested we move on to implementation, and…was promptly sacked. The chairman was furious with me: he really didn't want his brother frittering away the company's well earned money on a charitable mission.

Based on this, I think the answer to the question should be: Seek to understand, try to understand: we are all different, and whilst this was an extreme example, most people have complexities, irrationalities, and secrets.

A final thing on this blog: the audit partner concerned, a senior partner in my firm at that time, long since retired, was excellent with me. He was very self critical: he knew the perversity of the chairman, knew that the chairman didn't approve of his brother's aims, but didn't perceive that the chairman would ultimately not proceed, if we solved the problem. I thought it was a big measure of the man that he apologises to me sincerely for not warning me of potential trickery.

Of course, there are some things which can't be understood, such as my wife:



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