Lessons From Bar Fighting

barfightWhile I was in college I spent a summer as a Merchant Seaman on a Great Lakes iron ore carrier. Some of the crew “took me under their wing” and while in port one time invited me to join them on a trip into town.

On the way one of them turned to me and said: “Alan, you have probably never been in a place like this before so here is some advice, If something happens just grab a bar stool and hit the biggest guy you can find and then run like hell.”

It was one of those watershed moments. My brain locked in on the words “if something happens” and my imagination went into overdrive. The day itself proved uneventful although the experience was both bizarre and pathetic.

I have never forgotten that advice. So, as I frequently encounter 10 – call tyrants in my work with funeral homes it comes to mind often.

a 10 – call tyrant is that guy who undermines everything, has an attitude and takes every opportunity to show you disrespect. But since you think he will take 10 calls with him if he leaves you leave him alone while your better staff lose respect for you and your firm and he effectively blocks any effort you make toward progress.

Whether he or she will take 10 calls is not the point. If you were to quantify the damage they do to your firm in morale and financially you could easily afford to lose them. Add to that the emotional toll it takes that is often so severe that the owner hates going into the business.

  • Most of these guys are too old and embittered to start over.
  • If they go to work for your competitor they will only perpetrate their misery there and it may well help your firm
  • They don’t behave the way they do with only you but with everyone so the public generally has their number and the calls they take will also be those sad souls who like to pool their misery together.

Proverbs 22:10 says:

“Cast out the scorner and strife shall cease”

I have given this advice over the years and two of my clients acted on it. I think they would tell you that it was the best thing they ever did. So, pick up your barstool and take him out. Because:

“If you fail to walk in your god – given authority some one will take it away from you and use it against you!”

Death To Tyrants!

By |2018-01-25T20:07:31-04:00March 23rd, 2015|Blog, Leadership, The Creedy Commentary|6 Comments


  1. David Shipper March 23, 2015 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    Great post. I feel the same way about high producing sales people at a cemetery. Allowing them to hold you hostage means you cannot build your operation while they are stI’ll there.
    Replace a high producer w three new people and everyone will not only prosper but they’ll fell a lot better too.

  2. Preston McKee March 24, 2015 at 9:29 am - Reply

    Alan, I remember this from a Selected Under 40 presentation you gave in Miami years ago. You also said that a negative person is like a skunk in your house.
    It doesn’t matter where in you house they are, the whole place just stinks. Not too long after that meeting, I let our firm’s skunky tyrant go. If not the top, it is one of my best day’s work. Not a moment of regret since.

  3. Mike Hays March 24, 2015 at 9:55 am - Reply

    Amen, brother Alan! Leaders can look at human capital the way they look at any other capital asset without losing their souls. No funeral home owner would let a hearse or a lead car “huff and puff” all the way to the cemetery. He/she will take care to maintain the “good working order” of that substantial investment. Human capital, however, is the most substantial investment any firm makes, yet we let people “huff and puff” for months, even years, until a whole staff is poisoned by the fumes. If the least significant vehicle in your motor pool gets beyond repair, you trade it in. I say trade those “10-call tyrants” in on new models and parade your new assets proudly.

  4. Jeff Harbeson March 24, 2015 at 10:33 am - Reply

    Excellent and relevant post Alan. As a funeral home owner we have experienced this exact scenario and reacted in your suggested manner. Not a beat was missed.

  5. Howard Beckham March 24, 2015 at 5:03 pm - Reply

    I learned a long time ago, anyone can be replaced, especially me. This is good advice. If the “valuable” employee will not “repent” (we all have problems from time to time and may feel disaffected and may need to be shaken out of our negative state of mind) it is better to “pluck out that which offends .”
    After the Dutch Uncle talk if a person is still a tyrant….time to end the relationship.
    Everyone will be better off.

  6. Johnny Shi May 18, 2015 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    Dealing with those types of people takes a particular skill set. Unfortunately I think my grandmother is that type of person. She is a really good person but, when it comes to service she is very demanding. I think it has helped me know how to deal with lots of different types of people in the world. I am thankful for those experiences.

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