Beware of the Grandiose Plan

About a month ago I started working on a business plan for a new venture. When I start one of those things, I usually examine all my archives for useful examples. I have reviewed or written hundreds of them, so the examination usually takes a bit of time. But that is usually time well spent, as I get to reminisce about past transactions, and what was good and bad about each. I have always loved a good history lesson.

Unfortunately, I suffer from one of the worst cases of self diagnosed “tangential attention syndrome” there is – I can concentrate on a subject for days on end, but pondering outlying possibilities always gets the best of me. I wind up researching some fringe subject matter that doesn’t contribute directly to the task at hand, but instead only satisfies my own curiosity. This time was no different.

I was comparing two successful (from a capital raising standpoint) private placement memoranda that I had written some years ago, to a couple I had received for potential investment in. There were distinct differences. My plans are always based on facts, and they read like facts – I’m an accountant for goodness sakes. But these other plans I was looking at read much more like fiction – they were loaded with speculation, innuendo, pomp and circumstance. Then I recalled who the presenters were, and I remembered that they were exactly the same. For lack of a better term, they were full of shit. They acted invincible – their plans, ideas, and persona beyond reproach.

They were narcissistic.

A narcissistic person is one who possesses a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, according to MentalHealth.com. It is the grandiosity that strikes me, and that is where my thought process diverged.

I pondered this idea for several weeks, and finally realized there might be something more to it. I thought that finding a cure for narcissistic personality disorder could be a very lucrative endeavor. Figuring out how to make people less full of themselves, and more attune to the feelings and reactions of others, would work wonders for a number of industries (including but not limited to the Hollywood set). In fact, this cure could have interesting implications for training CEOs and CFOs on how to present to analysts and investors. Take off the diamond studded crown, and forget about the Harvard MBA talk – just tell the story like it is instead of viewing the communication as a palm-pressing endeavor devoid of any need for facts.

But alas, I am not a psychologist, and considering that narcissistic personality disorder is an extremely difficult mental trait to treat, I doubt I am going to get published anytime soon. Nonetheless, I can tell you that there are some ways you can treat yourself when dealing with the typeset. First, avoid those whose plans seem too good to be true. Look for facts to back everything up. If someone acts incredulous when you ask pointed questions about their plan, head for the exit. They don’t have the answers, because those answers are only in their own minds. Be critical, bordering on cynicism. If you don’t understand the concept, and the person you inquire to begins treating you like a dummy, it is time for you to close your checkbook.

In business, there should be little room for the type more interested in impressing their audience, and getting their butts kissed for being purportedly brilliant. I would rather worship the cash flow statement, and simply thank the executors for their time after the fact. I closed the door on the grand crap slinging long ago.

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