My client, Doc, was one of those owners who had multiple advanced degrees, had passed the bar exam just to show he could, and was a financial genius. Although he was not actually a doctor, he had the answer to every question and in every way seemed invincible.
When he invited me for lunch, he said, "Any place you want, my treat."
I said, "If you are trying to pick my brain, it costs more than a fancy lunch."
He said, "Name your price."
Of course, I couldn't resist. When I arrived at the restaurant 15 minutes early, Doc was already there--because that's the kind of guy Doc was. He had his checkbook open. He wrote a check with lots of zeroes. Would this be enough for our meeting?
I said, "Slow down, Doc. What's going on?"
He tore the check out of the checkbook and slapped it down in front of me.
"My kids are not ready to take over my business. I don't know if they ever will be. They are wonderful kids, and I love them very much. But they do not have the guts or the stamina this business requires," Doc said. "I need you to help me figure out how I am going to handle this next stage without disappointing my wife. She knows how I feel about the kids not being ready, yet she's always wanted them to take over someday."
I thought about how hard it was to grow up with a high-achieving, driven (and often absent) individual like Doc, and how I might be doing the kids a favor in the long run, giving them the chance to make their own life that wasn't an extension of their dad.
I said, "Sure, Doc" and asked about the timeline.
"The timeline is today," he replied.
"We just found out my wife has a terminal illness," he explained. "I want us--me--to spend time with her while we can. I know the kids are expecting to run the show while I'm with her. That just can't happen. They will plow it into the ground in under a year."
I nodded because it was true. They would.
"Time is short. I want to leave this meeting today with a plan." He pushed the check closer to me. "Rock, I know I can trust you to give me the best advice."
I was flattered, honored and surprised. Here was a guy who often helped others with their problems, and he was coming to me. We had our lunch and talked, and then we talked some more until the restaurant started prepping for the dinner rush. The waiter asked if we would like to move into one of the side rooms. We did. I called home to say I wasn't sure what time I'd be done. My wife laughed. She knew my conversations with Doc...