What's The Margin?

As a Chief Financial Officer (“CFO”), this is usually one of the first questions I ask when one of our account executives tells me they just landed a new project. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint) I am a person who asks very pointed questions that require very actionable answers.

When I joined our business almost two and a half years ago, it was in critical shape. Our credit line was fully extended, we had unprofitable locations, and I needed to make drastic changes quickly. This required lots of hours and no time for vacations.

Even though the economy continued to erode, my team and I managed to find creative ways to reduce costs and improve our financial margin. However, I still felt that I needed to be available twenty-four hours a day. If you are on an airplane with me, I am the person that the flight attendant is challenging to turn off their cell phone.

In the midst of all this activity at work, a stirring was happening in my heart: I needed to leave a legacy.

I have a many passions: following Christ, to someday have a successful marriage, learning all that I can, pouring my life into young leaders, providing hope for those who are in prison, and using my talents to help special needs children. I sit on the boards for a few not-for-profits and for-profit organizations. There are many days where I leave my house at 6AM and don’t return till 10PM.

Now as a leader I am asking myself “What’s the ‘margin’ in my personal life?” I know that as a CFO, a for-profit business thrives by having a strong profit margin. Likewise, a human being thrives by a different type of margin— a kind of “space” that allows time for reflection and renewal. A person without enough downtime is like a company with too little margin in its Profit and Loss statement: stressed and vulnerable to failure.

As a leader, when you’re overloaded by activity, you can only think of yourself. You’re in survival mode, just trying to make it through another day. And that limits your usefulness in all areas of your life!

When you have no downtime (or what we CFO’s call “margin”) in your life and an incredible opportunity falls in your lap, your first response isn’t joy. Your first response is, “Oh, no! Another thing to do! Sorry, I’d like to do that, but I'm just too busy.”
We end up resenting the great opportunities people brings into our lives. You don’t have to live on overload. You don’t have to live in survival mode. Begin today to build a buffer around your schedule. Then enjoy the benefits of margin!

My question to you is “What’s the margin on Project You?”