JUMP! – Get Unstuck, © 2010, Robert S. Tipton, All Rights Reserved, Alden-Swain Press

Table of Contents Character Summaries

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Chapter 7:

New Members

Thursday: About 11:50 a.m. MST
(Falcon Offices, Loveland)


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Franklin’s secrecy during the past few weeks about their funding crisis meant that by the time the executives heard the details, all they could do was react—and hope if they dared. They were smart. They were dedicated. And they were resourceful. But not one of them could perform magic.

Franklin, for all of his strengths, had one significant flaw. As much as he reinforced the notion that Falcon Families needed to be accountable as they worked to leverage the benefits they received from the foundation, he lived much of his own life as if it were an old-time western movie, where everything turned out okay in the last reel. Unfortunately, “real life” wasn’t “reel life.” Real life required real solutions.

For all of their talking, hand wringing, and mental gymnastics, the group had failed to find workable solutions. Most distressing of all, trust was quickly eroding within the executive team, something that Franklin worried about most of all. He knew the growing lack of belief in each other made the prospects of success all the dimmer.

Joining Jennifer and Franklin on the executive team were Greg Sullivan, Falcon’s CFO, a 12-year veteran of Falcon; Elaine Gustavson, the VP of human resources, a new member with about 18 months of tenure at Falcon; Terrence Kennedy, the VP of client services, a member of a Falcon Family (one of the kids) and a seven-year staff member at Falcon; and Nicole Fargas, the VP of development, another new member of the team—brought in only four months ago with HIGH expectations to create results, and fast.

No one was feeling the pinch more than Nicole, because in the language of non-profits, the term “development” has a different meaning than, say, in a construction company. Development for a non-profit is all about donations, planned giving, annuities, trusts—basically all the activities needed to keep the organization supplied with sufficient, sustainable funding.

In her role as VP of development, Nicole Fargas was the one who was ultimately responsible for ensuring uninterrupted cash flow. Only in her late twenties, the label “prodigy” had been placed on her as a result of her success in development for other non-profits. She was raised in a tough Philadelphia neighborhood—where survival was possible only if you were strong and resilient.

While the results of her efforts were still in question, Nicole’s resolve was not. Described as the ultimate optimist, she had a way of finding the positives in all but the most hopeless situations. Even then, she’d still drag out a cliché, or a quote from a famous person, or even more often a scene from a children’s book or movie, and would use it to tell an uplifting story designed to make the situation more hope-filled.

Elaine Gustavson, the next-newest member of the executive team, was an HR professional with nearly 30 years of experience. Her Midwestern upbringing had instilled a strong work ethic, a belief in people, and a passion for a long-term vision. She had been hopeful that today’s staff meeting would be different from the others she’d endured during the past 18 months since she’d joined Falcon. She’d most recently worked for another non- profit where decisions came quickly, technology was leveraged to support actions, and the organization moved with urgency. Elaine had struggled with her decision to leave her previous employer, but ultimately chose to join the foundation because she believed in its mission.

She’d been personally recruited by Franklin with the intention of instilling a new culture—one of flexibility, decisiveness, and confidence. In the past year and a half, she’d come to realize just how impossible those goals were. Like many executives for whom she’d previously worked, Franklin Falcon knew what he wanted. He claimed to want to fill in some of his blind spots, but his actions betrayed his stated desires. He was fully engaged by his comfort zone and found few opportunities to truly take a different path.

Elaine’s growing frustration with Franklin’s inaction and secrecy was wearing on her. She had been seeing the all-too-familiar signs of organizational failure everywhere around her and was seriously beginning to consider updating her resume. She’d more than once in the past few weeks spent time on the Internet job sites, and she had become more than casually interested in a couple of positions. She loved Colorado and was quite fond of Mr. Falcon, but she’d been beaten down too many times in the past when HR was asked to “wave their magic wands” and fix organizational catastrophes caused by poor leadership decisions.

Even though Elaine and Nicole came from different backgrounds, they had become friends and allies; they shared similar beliefs about what “could and should” be happening and frustrations about what was actually going on. Specifically, today they had believed the two new business additions to the agenda, Ernesto Martinez’s and Marissa Grant’s visits, should have dominated the morning’s conversation. However, even with those major issues looming, the meeting crawled along before they finally got to discussing new business. By this time, it was already after 10 a.m., meaning they had less than an hour to discuss Ernesto’s and Marissa’s visits because Jennifer would absolutely, positively end the meeting at 11 a.m. sharp.

Bizarre! Nicole and Elaine felt like time was standing still, and the actions by the rest of the executive team indicated they thought that by remaining connected to their “normal” routine, things might improve through osmosis or something. In reality, Nicole and Elaine believed the full effects of the Falcon Foundation ceasing to exist might take a few years to completely manifest, but the damage to individual families, to their kids, would be profound and immediate. The two women believed the other members of Falcon’s leadership team weren’t acting in a manner consistent with the crisis in which they found themselves. How could they sit and discuss the equivalent of “which flowers should we plant this spring” when there was a PR-related tsunami looming?

Then Mr. Falcon had shocked them by calling a meeting at 1:30 p.m. After busily working to rearrange their afternoon calendars, the two women were leaving the building to eat lunch together (a habit they’d taken up recently) when they noticed a well-dressed man of about 35 walking slowly into the reception area while brushing the snow off his jacket.

“That’s Ernesto Martinez?” Elaine wondered as she and Nicole stepped out into the growing snowstorm. He looked pretty ordinary to her. Nicole thought he was sort of cute, in a bookish kind of way.
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Table of Contents Character Summaries

JUMP! – Get Unstuck, © 2010, Robert S. Tipton, All Rights Reserved, Alden-Swain Press