Discovering a New Inspiration
“I’m not happy Joan and don’t know why. Suddenly running these multiple franchises is not giving me the buzz it used to, and I need to think about what I want to do with my life now. I’m not getting any younger.”
Joan laughed. “I’m a year older than you Beth. Are you telling me I must retire? I’m not at all ready for that. I enjoy the hard work and get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing the business grow particularly seeing you’ve given me a substantial shareholding in it for which I’m grateful. Take whatever time you need to sort your life out and I’ll keep it going for you.”
The two women spent the rest of the day going over Beth’s itinerary and Joan assimilated that work into her own and began to plan to delegate some of the tasks to trusted employees. By late afternoon Beth took her leave to return home to Jay. For the next week she alternated between the cabin and her home as she thought about her future. Then on one of her cabin excursions looking out over the woods and the lake she began to imagine what it would have been like in the era when Europeans began to penetrate the territories of her Cherokee ancestors and as she thought about it the more, she wanted to meet up with people in that nation who may be distantly related to her so she could explore that connection. She was intrigued with the photo of Isaac and Chenoa Henderson from her husband’s ancestry. She didn’t have a picture of her great grandfather and his Cherokee wife. Her family had not been into their ancestry to the extent the Henderson’s had in their carefully maintained listing in the old King James Bible and she wished they had but had the vague impression old Isaac had migrated with the tribe when the US Government forcefully relocated them between 1836 to 1838 to the west in a travesty of justice.
On an impulse next day, she headed south to Tahlequah and after several unsuccessful attempts was finally able to get an appointment with the Deputy Principal Chief of the Cherokee nation. While waiting for her appointment she visited the Tahlequah History Trail and Heritage Centre trying to imagine what it must have been like as the tribes settled in their new location. But the modern version was not what she had been longing for. The Deputy Principal Chief did afford her the courtesy of a brief visit but then delegated to one of his office assistants the task of trying to seek any possible distant relatives among the nation. Of course, Beth did not have sufficient information to make that a possibility and she departed Tahlequah feeling disappointed as she headed back to Jay.
With that attempt at a reconnection with her roots behind her Beth wondered what she could do to deal with the restlessness she’d felt after the death of her last contact with the older generation. Her business interests were not enough to satisfy her now and she realized it was the loss of family that had led her to this depression. She had little contact with her brother and sister who’d migrated for jobs to different parts of the world and were rarely in contact. The only relative she had nearby was her brother-in-law who she didn’t respect and wanted nothing to do with. She realized the closest person to her was Joan Hill, but because of the expanding business their contacts were increasingly brief as they travelled independently. She felt lonely and miserable and now she was moving out of middle age that did not help as she thought one day she’d be all alone in retirement. She headed for her doctor to see what he recommended to get her out of her dark valley of depression.
The doctor put her on a very temporary medication on the understanding she’d stay away from the stress of business for a while and get into a regular routine of physical activity. Not being a lover of medications, she readily agreed. She was comforted to know Joan would take care of everything while her mind and body repaired. Next day she sought the advice of a personal trainer for guidance on a program of physical activity and he in turn referred her to a dietician after quizzing her about her eating habits. The second month into her new life routines she began to feel better about herself and life in general. The thought of eventually having to go back to the stressful work she did in managing a real estate empire filled her with foreboding. She was wealth enough to put that aside if she wanted to and take a dividend from the profits leaving it to Joan to manage. But was that enough? By the third month she was enjoying life too much to go back to the grind and made an appointment to go to Tulsa and meet Joan.
Joan Hill had been worried about her friend, but the businesses had kept her from making a quick trip to see how her friend and mentor was coping with her return to health. Their contacts had been brief, during that time so Joan felt there was a need for concern. When Beth indicated they should meet she felt relieved anticipating Beth would be back in overall charge so she could take a much-needed holiday. She insisted on coming to Jay rather than Beth making a trip to Tulsa and when she arrived was delighted to meet her newly invigorated friend. The two women embraced and headed for a café in town where they could enjoy a coffee break as they caught up.
After initial pleasantries had been completed and they’d enjoyed their coffee break Joan began to unload the current successes and problems. Beth listened patiently and her spirit rebelled at all the work it would require keeping things humming along well. She made a decision.
“Joan I’ve decided to get out of the business one way or another. The choice I’m offering you is to buy me out and if that’s not possible I could still maintain my shares in the business but take only a dividend on those shares but no salary in that I’d not be making a management contribution.”
Joan Hill hadn’t expected this to be the subject of their meeting and sat stunned staring at her friend.
“Beth you’re irreplaceable. You started this business with your husband and built it into the empire it is today. Why would you want to walk away from it now when you’re the driving force that has made this possible? I’ve struggled to keep it together by myself as it’s a big operation now. Perhaps you should think about this a bit more.”
Beth smiled in appreciation and reached across the table to take her friend’s hand. “Joan I really appreciate what you said. You’re the only real friend I have, and I value you even more than my own brother or sister I rarely have communication from. I really want out for the sake of my health but am prepared to work with you in a transitional process to see being the one at the top doesn’t put you in the same position I’m in today. If you agree to take the overall responsibility, I’ll help you in the next few months to work out an administrative structure that delegates even more authority in the various franchises in such a way that there is less pressure. Perhaps we have been going about our administration the wrong way. Perhaps we can make the overall management an examination of key performance indicator reports and choose our franchise managers carefully training them in strategic planning. That way you would only have to read these reports and if they are maintained properly and the business profitable, you’d only have to give intense training to those who are failing behind so this constant round of on-the-spot inspections can be considerably reduced. We have somehow missed what modern top administration consists of but at least we can catch up now. I’ve been studying up to date methods of corporate control for some time now and I think maybe I could take over temporarily while you get up to speed with what I’ve been studying then phase out. What do you say?
Joan nodded soberly. “I can’t visualize what it would be like without you at my side as mentor. Let’s start with me doing some continuing education to come up to speed with the concepts you’re talking about if you’re prepared to take the full load temporarily as you seem to be in excellent physical and mental condition after your break from management. In consultation with you we could move a couple of people I’ve been nurturing to take some of the load while we reengineer our way of administering. Maybe during that interval, you may reconsider selling out as you’ve built up this franchise and deserve to enjoy the fruits of your labour over the years.”
Beth nodded. “OK, but I’m fairly convinced my past business experience has not been good for my future health and want to wind down the kind of involvement I had before and if you have an interest in taking over full control, I’d be willing to take the load temporarily while you do some more top-level continuing business education. We can talk about whether you want me to leave my shares in the corporation if its too much of a stretch to raise the money to buy me out. Perhaps we could consider opening from a private company controlled by both of us to a public stock issue. You would still own a controlling interest if you could consider my shareholding as a proxy vote in any possible annual general meeting under a public issue. Anyway, we can discuss this over time when you’re ready to take over and I hope you give that consideration.”
With some rearrangement of management staff Beth took control again and Joan went into temporary studies. The old drive returned, and Beth began to do some work developing a mind set for a new way of management in the individual franchises. She ran a series of meetings with current franchise managers all in attendance. They’d do it on weekends delegating responsibilities to their best salespeople while they attended, and the ideas began to gel. Sometimes Joan was able to take time off from her studies to attend and gave valuable suggestions.
Beth was beginning to find life returning to the high stress levels that had put her into a vulnerable state and her physical exercise and diet routines took a hit while she engaged herself in exhaustive change management. She missed the positive feelings and good health situation she’d experienced after recovering from her depression and was now more determined than ever to completely exit from management. Joan would find the going less stressful with changes already in motion and had the tools and drive to continue expanding their business. When Joan returned to work full of enthusiasm Beth broke the news to her. She was quitting all responsibility and leaving her real estate empire in the hands of her close friend. Joan finally agreed when unable to persuade Beth to continue with her, but understood it was for her friends best good.
“What are you going to do now Beth? I hope this doesn’t mean I won’t be seeing you anymore. You are like the sister I never had, and I want that closeness to continue.”
Beth sighed. “Thank you for considering me to be your sister. I feel the same and would want to maintain our close relationship. I’ve decided to sell the house in Jay but will retain the cabin by the lake. I’m thinking of moving to Tahlequah. I don’t know if you were aware of this, but both my husband and I have some ancestry connected with the Cherokee nation. I visited there some time ago and while disappointed with that visit because it didn’t give me satisfaction, but I like the area. I’d like to get involved and make a contribution in some way to those people who gave me some of my bloodline. I feel I’d be very happy there.”
Joan whistled in surprise. “I didn’t know Beth. When you get settled, I’ll come and visit with you often now that you’ve accepted me as your sister and will be interested to know what your next venture will be there. Apparently, it won’t be real estate.” She laughed.
Beth laughed happily in return. “No not real estate. I’m thinking of using my wealth to be of some benefit there. Maybe managing a charitable foundation. I’ll consult with the Cherokee Nation political administration there to see if there is anything the US Government is not doing there that could be of help. I’ve got a sizable fortune that could be useful seeing as I have no one to pass it on to.”
Joan looked at her friend with admiration. “You’re a good woman Beth and I feel honoured to call you sister.
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