To Be Respect-able. There was an old house across the… | by Adam Pearson | Jul, 2024

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There was an old house across the street from the salmon hatchery, behind the library’s two-story concrete parking structure, just on the other side of Napa Auto Parts.

The house had horizontal light blue siding and if you walked down the side of the house, along the concrete driveway, around to the back, you’d come to a wheelchair ramp that led up to the back door.

The house had a grass field in the backyard with a dense row of bushes at the far end.

Homeless folks used to sleep in those bushes, back before the city police started cracking down on vagrancy.

If you climbed through the bushes, on the other side you’d come out into a big apartment complex.

I walked up the ramp three times a week because I had a part-time accounting job with the company that owned the house.

The accounting office was in the back and my desk faced the back wall.

There was a window over my desk that I could see out of.

When it rained, I saw how the rainwater gathered into muddy puddles on the lawn.

When it was sunny, I saw little birds dancing around in the green field, pecking at the ground, looking for worms.

Occasionally, but not often, I saw the company’s president walking up the ramp to the back door.

He didn’t come in much because he lived in another city.

When he did make the trip, it was usually for one of two reasons.

He either felt obligated to show his face so the office staff wouldn’t forget about him, or he wanted to cajole me into cooking the books.

As such, I dreaded seeing him.

This was about 13 years ago.

We were 3 years into our chocolate business.

I had just started drawing a $1,500-a-month salary from the company and I was doing accounting work to make ends meet.

I didn’t have kids yet and my wife and I had just moved to Washington state from San Diego eight months earlier.

The president had recently run a previous accountant out of the company, and I stepped into the role.

I was sitting at my desk crunching numbers one day, early in my tenure, when I saw the fellow, let’s call him Gene, coming up to the back door.

He walked in and as soon as he came in, he popped his head into my office and asked me to come meet with him.

His office was in an old bedroom that had been emptied and furnished with a wooden desk.

There was a closet with the sliding doors removed behind the desk and Gene left the place all cluttered with paperwork.

He had a few black filing cabinets up against the wall with stacks of paper on them.

The lightbulbs in the room were burned out and hadn’t been replaced.

It was a rainy day and not much natural light was coming in through his window.

The room was dim.

He leaned back into his old office chair and put his feet up on the desk.

He always wore brown Birkenstocks with thick grey woolen socks.

I am certainly not a fashionista and in no way am I qualified to pass judgment on style choices.

Speaking pragmatically though, this choice of footwear seemed questionable, because it always rains in the northwest and his grey socks were soaking wet.

Moisture oozed from his socks down onto the desk and formed a small lagoon around his feet.

He didn’t seem to notice, and I didn’t point it out.

“How are you settling into your work Adam?” asked Gene.

I was standing because the room didn’t have chairs for visitors.

“Pretty well. It all makes sense. I’m just closing the month now. I’ll have financial statements for you soon,” I said.

“Adam, I always want to show at least $300k per month in revenue. If I don’t hit that number, the owners get mad and threaten to fire me. Did we get there last month?” he asked.

I shook my head.

“No Gene. We were at $270k last month,” I said.

He took his feet down off the desk and leaned forward in his chair.

“Anything we can do to get that number up? Can we pull back some revenue from this month? Can we reallocate some revenue from the prior month? Anything?” he asked.

I shook my head again.

“We can’t Gene. It wouldn’t be right. It is what it is,” I said.

Gene was bald with grey hair around the outside of his head and had a very light beige complexion.

When I told him we couldn’t change the numbers, his beige skin gradually became dark cherry red, and he trembled in his seat.

“You know I’m your boss, right?” he asked.

“Yes, of course. Well, you and the owners. All of you are my bosses,” I said.

“But you answer to me on a daily basis, right? And I have the authority to fire you. You understand that, right?”

“Yes, that’s true,” I said.

He nodded slowly and raised his eyebrows, attempting to transmit a threat without coming right out and saying it.

“So, can we do anything about the numbers?” he asked.

I shook my head again.

“We can’t. I’m sorry,” I said.

“Get out of here,” he snapped at me, pointing towards the door.

For the next several months, the company honestly hit Gene’s precious $300k a month number and I didn’t see or hear from Gene during that entire period.

But then the company had another down month and Gene showed up.

He once more pressured me into fudging the numbers.

Again, I refused.

We were in his dark office.

It was raining outside, and the light bulbs still hadn’t been replaced.

He was leaning forward onto his desk with his arms crossed in front of him.

His face was already dark crimson.

His jowls were wavering.

“Adam, what do I have to do to get you to respect my authority? I’m the president of the company for God’s sake,” he said.

“I know Gene. I’m not going to do anything dishonest though,” I said.

“But do you respect my authority here?” he asked.

“You’re the president. You have certain authorities. No doubt about that,” I said.

“But do you respect me?” he asked.

Ouch. Tough question.

How to answer?

“Right now, not very much Gene,” I said.

The rain was falling outside.

We stared each other in the eyes.

“What can I do to earn your respect? Would a raise make you more cooperative?”

He winked at me.

It was a bribe.

I shook my head.

I did a lot of headshaking around Gene.

“If you want me to respect you Gene, you only need to do one thing,” I said.

He smiled because he thought I was going to name the terms by which he could purchase my loyalty.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Be respectable,” I said.

He frowned and then slammed the palms of both of his hands down on the table.

“Get out of here right now!” he shouted.

I left.

A few days later I spoke with the owners of the company and recommended they search for a new president.

They took my advice, and I had the honor of firing Gene on his last day.

I remember these conversations so clearly because, in them, I accidentally stumbled upon a very useful word construction.

In many cases, you can discover how to achieve a certain outcome by simply adding the -able suffix to the word that describes what you want.

Want respect?

Be respectable.

Want love?

Be lovable.

Want God to bless you?

Be blessable.

Want honor?

Be honorable.

You get the point.

The crux of this word construction is that you must act like a person who is worthy of receiving that which you desire.

To wrap up the story, I helped find the president who replaced Gene and the new president is still with the company to this day.

The business is alive and doing well, so much so that they don’t have to operate out of an old house anymore.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day.


Click here for wonderful chocolate made with pure Nacional cacao.

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