Jay smiled as he navigated the early morning traffic while talking on the phone with his mom, Mira. She said she took several steps yesterday with her walker, and he understood most of her slowly whispered words. This was good though, because after the stroke, the doctors thought she’d never walk or speak clearly again. He treasured their heartfelt conversations. After his dad died, they had become best friends as they grieved together. She lived alone in her own home for many years thereafter, but those days were over according to her doctors. She couldn’t live in his house because all the bedrooms were on the second floor. There was an excellent assisted-living community just outside the city, but his mom couldn’t afford it. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the chance to tell her his new plan to sell his stock in his software animation company so she’d have all the money she needed.
Suddenly, Jay’s laptop flew from the front seat, smashed into the dashboard, and fell like a rock to the floor of his black Lexus ES. He could smell burnt rubber from the tires as the car screeched to a sudden stop. There couldn’t be more than a couple of inches between his sedan and the stationary SUV directly ahead of him in this terrible traffic jam on the New Jersey Turnpike. His heart was pounding, and he could feel beads of sweat dripping from his brow. That was far too close! He told his mom he was okay and that he’d give her a call tomorrow.
When he finally parked his car in the lot at his office, Jay exhaled a deep breath as the thought about the day ahead. His mind was racing in circles about how he could sell his ownership stake. The company just didn’t have enough working capital, and that was triggering one crisis after another. There were three important projects due by the end of the month, and as the CEO, Jay knew the company only had enough money to complete one of them. He had a meeting tomorrow with Amar, the CFO, and he knew there’d be a host of questions he’d be expected to answer.
He snapped himself back to the moment. He was already forty-five minutes behind schedule, and his first call was only about a half hour away. He rushed to take the elevator, and then headed straight for his office. Just as he was about to pass his assistant’s desk, Kevin, the company’s COO, stepped right in front of him with both hands out. “Woah, woah, slow down a bit,” Kevin said. Jay quickly replied, “I’m sorry Kevin, it’s just that I’ve had a rough morning, and I need to get ready for a call in a few minutes.” Kevin breathed a loud sigh and said, “That’s good because it means you understand when things need to be completed in a time crunch. Let me get right to the point.” He raised his voice so that everyone could hear. “The projects for Jetsets, Carpenter, and NightVision are all due by the end of this month, and I don’t have enough money to pay the programmers to finish all of them. I’m not taking the fall this time for another overdue or cancelled project. Either you tell me tomorrow that you found money somewhere in the budget to finish these projects, or I’m resigning and finding someone to buy my shares.” He quickly turned and stormed down the hallway, muttering obscenities under his breath. Jay slowly looked up and saw everyone staring at him. He put his head back down and quickly entered his office, closing the door behind him.
Jay always had too much to do. He worked late that evening as he did almost every day of the week and weekends. He constantly felt like he hadn’t done enough. As he laid in bed alone that night, he wished his wife Eva was not away on business. He had a hard time suppressing his thoughts about his nightmare morning. He tossed and turned, as the events of the day finally caught up with him. Kevin had been the engine behind the company since it started. Kevin’s dedication, intelligence, and enthusiasm were recognized by everyone at the company and by most of their customers. He felt a pain in his side as he thought about losing Kevin, and his heart sank even more when he realized everyone would think Kevin left because of his failed leadership. It was time for him to leave the company. Maybe someone else really could do a better job than he had. There had to be a path to selling the company, or at least selling some or all of his shares. He would bring this up as the first topic at his meeting with Amar tomorrow morning. Amar was his best hope for finding a solution.
The meeting with Amar started at 9 a.m. sharp, and Jay jumped right into describing the crisis with Kevin. As he spoke, he realized he should have asked about Amar and his family. It was the stress. He just wasn’t being himself. Amar just sat quietly and listened – as always, a rock of calm and reason. When Jay finished, Amar sat quietly for a few minutes before he began, “Jay, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I’ve found someone who is interested in buying 25% of the company.” That brought a smile to Jay’s face, and then Jay asked for the bad news. Amar continued, “I dug deeper into our stockholder agreements over the years. They are a real mess, and they should not have been ignored. As it turns out, although Rick left five years ago, he still owns about 5% of the company. We will need his consent to do anything major, including selling shares of the company.” Jay’s mouth gaped open. He didn’t understand how this was possible. They had not even spoken to Rick in over four years! Jay stuttered as he asked, “How much do you think it will cost to buy out Rick?” Amar sighed, “Probably more than any of us or the company can pay right now.”
Jay rapidly tapped his right foot on the hardwood floor. His face showed deep lines creased in his brow. He slowly stood up, left the room, and walked down a long hallway. He stopped at a large window and just gazed into the distance.