League business

League business

LeLaurin, Louis A III

The practice of law introduces you to a lot of different kinds of people. I’ve been doing this about 20 years, mostly in the collection business, and I’ve had the pleasure to meet a number of characters during that 20-year period. Texas is full of characters. I met a fellow many years ago named Luther who lives up in the Panhandle of Texas. That’s the far north. We sometimes consider that to be the wrong end of the state. We don’t have much communication with them. But this man’s a hard worker. He’s a rancher. Lives in a little town named Brady. And it gets awfully cold there during the winter. Probably colder than it gets in New York, sort of like Chicago. The wind blows hard, and the snow kind of goes this way instead of this way when it comes down, and the people that live and ranch in that area are tough people. I’ve been fortunate that once in a while Luther will call me and share with me some of his experience. He told me one time about a particularly hard winter, when the livestock were in trouble and he was doing his best trying to stay out of bankruptcy. He was on his way out of the house into the barn, and he looked out and saw a little bird, covered with ice. Its beak had little ice crystals on it. It was obviously in bad shape. So he scooped up the bird, he put it in his pocket, and took it into the barn. He had to do some work so he had to figure out what to do with the bird.

Well, Luther was in the cattle business; and one of the byproducts of the cattle business is there’s a lot of fertilizer around on the ground. And if it’s fresh, it’s warm. So Luther picked up the little bird and stuck it down in a warm place up to its neck, just so the bird could continue to breathe, and he hoped that it would get better. Then Luther went on about his chores. He was working in another part of the barn and he heard the little bird start to sing. The bird was very, very happy. It had been saved from certain extinction. Now, what Luther didn’t count on was that the barn also had a new occupant which was a mean old tomcat. And unbeknownst to Luther while he was working away tending to his livestock, the tomcat discovered the bird. And after a little while, it crossed Luther’s mind that he didn’t hear the bird singing anymore. He went to check on it, and sure enough the bird was gone and cat tracks were visible. Luther thought about it and he said, “You know, I learned some lessons from that. The first lesson was that the one who puts you in it is not always your enemy. The second lesson was, The one that gets you out of it is not always your friend. And the final lesson was, when you’re in it up to your neck, for God’s sake, keep your mouth shut.”

Now, I’m going to disregard the moral of my own story now because I want to make a few remarks about where I think we are and where I think we need to be. A lot of the people in this room have spent a lot of time this year on what we have called the strategic planning process. We’ve talked about it. We’ve written about it, and we’ve done seminars about it here at this meeting and solicited comments. I don’t think it can be overemphasized. We want to be the preeminent source of professional services. We want to promote the highest standards of professionalism and we want to foster economic opportunities for our members, all in service to the credit industry. That’s our mission. That’s our goal for the long term. We’ve done a lot of work this weekend to try to get a running start on putting that mission into action. The Creditors’ Rights Section had a future planning conference, and there were a lot of constructive, enthusiastic ideas that came out of it. The agency section held an excellent series of meetings and workshops emphasizing the development of new business opportunities within our membership and how the various sections relate to each other and the opportunities that they can give to each other.

We are a very forward-looking, opportunity-driven group. We’re beginning to talk about the development of strategic alliances with other business and professional organizations. That has to be a key focus for us in the coming years. To do that, we have to be flexible. We have to be responsive to the needs not only of the markets that we presently serve, but we have to identify the needs of the new groups that we want to bring into this organization. We have to be willing to consider ideas that are beyond the norm, beyond our traditional thinking. If lessors or accountants or bankers with whom we want to do business are meeting in Atlanta in June, I think we should coordinate and schedule a meeting with them. Have a joint meeting. I love the Southern region and the Western region and the New England region and the Midwestern region, and I certainly love the Eastern district, and all of their meetings. But are any of them sacred cows? Can we afford sacred cows? We need to think about that long and hard. A sacred cow is one that has ceased to be productive, one that we’ve loved, one that we’ve honored but one that costs a lot to feed every year.

In the strategic planning process in any organization, the first thing the professionals that you hire to help you with the process will tell you is ground rule number one: There are no sacred cows. Now, I’m not suggesting that any one of our meetings should be changed or eliminated or whatever, but we have to think about all of them, and we have to think about our League goals, our League objectives and how we can best serve them. We cannot be afraid of change. We need to be frank with each other and honest in our goals. And if our goal is the development of economic opportunities for our members and true service to the credit community, then I think we need to evaluate each and every one of our districts, our regions, and our meetings, for we are a national, an international league. We are looked to and respected for our expertise in many, many ways.

We have much to offer the members of the Association of Insolvency Accountants, the Turnaround Managers, the Equipment Lessors Association, the International Council of Shopping Centers, the Building Owners and Managers Association, Commercial Investment Real Estate Institute, the members of Robert Morris Associates, the American Bankers Association, and others. There are a number of associations of professionals whom we can now have as our members who are unaware of us but who each and all have business opportunities with which we can feed our families. But we cannot keep ourselves the best-kept secret in the world and expect them to come to us. We have to go where they are. We have to figure out what they want, and we have to figure out how to deliver that. We must exercise the will to change the way we address business opportunities, recognizing that flexibility and responsiveness are the keys to success. And we must adapt our League to address those qualities. “We” means all of us, the Commercial Law League. It’s not just the Southern district, the Western district, the Eastern district, the Midwestern district, and the New England district. We must look out for our common good, and by promoting ourselves as a national organization, all of us will be better off.

The biggest banks, the biggest finance companies are within a five-mile radius of this facility. Next year, I hope at this meeting we will be able to put together an event to invite representatives of the biggest banks, the biggest equipment lessors, the biggest real property lessors to come, see, hear, touch, and feel who we are. To accomplish that goal, we are going to put together a pilot project in Chicago at the Midwestern district meeting. I’m very excited about it and I’m counting on all of you to be there and to tell your friends in the League who haven’t been to a Midwestern meeting that we are going to do something different. On Friday afternoon, starting with a luncheon, we are going to put on a Commercial Law League party for equipment lessors, commercial real property lessors, accountants, bankers, and other representatives of the new categories of membership that you have told us we want in this organization. We’re going to invite them as our guests. We’re going to get a blockbuster speaker to deliver a luncheon address. After lunch, we’re going to have some educational programs to show them that we are the best at what we do. And we’re going to give our members the opportunity to network with them and to show them everything about us that’s good. It’s that kind of initiative, that kind of bold new thinking, that we must engage in if we are to survive, prosper, and grow as a League. And there are other things going on. There are many, many positive, constructive ideas being talked about as part of our strategic planning process. We are going to new meetings. We’re looking at new venues in which to place advertisements talking about how good you are. We are placing a great deal of emphasis on electronic communication, on the improvement of our web page, ways that we can interface with other organizations to maximize the exposure that each and every one of you has to the credit, commercial, finance world.

Now, I made a promise to my wife and to Joey that my discussion tonight would be short because she likes to dance, and Joey and I need to have another glass of wine. So, ladies and gentlemen, we will have a reception on the second floor following the dancing tonight. Enjoy your desserts and thank you for being gracious hosts. Richard, my convention manager, tells me that I must say everyone here needs to be at Mont Treblant this summer where we will celebrate our successes. And I always do what Richard tells me to do. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you and good night.

Copyright Commercial Law League of America Jan/Feb 1999

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