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Financial losses are often a matter of perspective

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I have a couple of educational stories about things sometimes not being at all as they first appear.

These lessons I’ve learned throughout life but perhaps they teach this in business school. I once worked for the state of Tennessee when construction of Interstate 40 was under way in a near county.

The owner of the construction company doing a section of the road was quite a dapper fellow and showed up about every two weeks to check on progress being made.

He wore a nice suit, shiny shoes and always showed up in a chauffeur-driven Caddy with built in bar in the back and two nice looking ladies which I presumed were secretaries.

Near the completion of the project I happened to be within earshot and overheard the owner telling his foreman “I’ve lost a million dollars on this project.” A million dollars was worth something back in the 1960s.

I immediately thought to myself,  “This poor guy, I guess there goes the nice clothes, chauffeur-driven Caddy and nice looking ladies. The next time I see him, he’ll be driving a beat up Volkswagon and wearing overalls. We may even have to take up a collection for him.”

After the owner left I approached the foreman and told him how bad I felt about the million dollar loss.

Said the foreman “I wouldn’t worry about it too much, he wanted to clear four million but he still made three million.

I stood there kind of dazed, thinking to myself, “Well this is completely different than I had in mind.”

Now when I hear about big companies losing millions, I think about this.

I wonder if they can claim these so called losses on their income tax.

Another time I worked for a power company as a unit operator.

The plants always maintained a three month fuel (coal) reserve in case of an interruption in fuel supplies.

The chairman of the board of directors for our company decided to use up this reserve and that we did right down to trying to burn dirt.

Had an interruption in daily fuel supplies occured we could have all been in the dark.

A year or so later, the chairman of the board again changed, and I guess this gentleman must have been a bit worried about there being no fuel reserve.

The three month reserve was restored during his tenure.

If you were checking their work records without knowing the facts, who would you think did a better job? You may think chairman No. 1 did a great job; look at all the money he saved on fuel costs.

And chairman No. 2, what happened here? Fuel costs rose sharply during his tenure.

In this time when lies, half truths, deception and manipulation are commonplace, one needs to check out the facts as best they can before making decisions.

Sometimes things are different than they appear and some folks are experts at using the aforementioned.

Norman Campbell
Kingston