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

Table of Contents Character Summaries


Chapter 6:

The Foundation is Cracking

Thursday: Exactly 9:00 a.m. MST
(Falcon Boardroom, Loveland)

Jennifer Boyle was leading Falcon’s weekly senior staff meeting, which took place every Thursday morning from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.—like clockwork. They’d had the same agenda for years, and almost everyone felt comfortable in the routine. Elaine and Nicole, the two newest members of the executive team, believed most of the staff meeting time was so unproductive that watching the fish swim in the lobby tank would be more interesting and beneficial.

However, they would never think to challenge “Mr. Falcon,” so they instead endured the weekly meetings with as sincere a smile as they could muster. Everyone loved Franklin, but he could be the most exasperating person at times.

“Mr. Falcon, we’re expecting Ernesto Martinez today,” reported Jennifer. The fact she still referred to him as “Mr. Falcon” was indicative of his old- fashioned adherence to the formalities of the past. “He should be here just about the time our meeting is wrapping up.”

Jennifer’s voice was tired, yet it contained a trace of nostalgic expectation. She had been on staff at Falcon for more than 20 years, beginning her career as a case manager and helping those who had been selected as Falcon Families to continue to be successful in their lives, in their studies, in their growth as a family, and in their service to others. One of her cases included Ernesto Martinez’s family, who had emigrated from Oaxaca, Mexico, where their ancestors had spent centuries scraping together simple, dignified lives.

Jennifer reflected for a moment upon Ernesto, a quiet, “scary-smart” young man with a huge capacity to serve others. Ernesto had a knack for understanding the big picture while at the same time seeing how the tiny pieces of things fit together. He’d excelled at MIT in theoretical physics and was viewed as an international expert in his field of study. Jennifer wasn’t sure about the word “quantum,” but Ernesto certainly seemed to have a strong handle on what it entailed.

For just a moment, Jennifer wished she’d never left the ranks of case managers, where the real work of Falcon was done. She was now executive director of the foundation and one of Franklin’s most trusted advisors. She felt the debilitating weight of the responsibilities she had—now more than ever.

“That’s marvelous!” Franklin gushed. “It’s always a treat for us to have the chance to see one of our kids again.”

Franklin always referred to members of Falcon Families as kids. Parents, children, it mattered not to him; they were still “his kids.” The smiles around the table showed that everyone agreed. It truly was one of their joys as a leadership team to have one of Falcon’s kids visit. They were proud of their kids and were not afraid to express it.

“And then . . . tomorrow. We’re expecting a ‘visit’ by The Grant Report, and Marissa Grant has requested to interview you, Mr. Falcon.” Just the mention of the name caused the air to be sucked out of the room. No sound. No movement, other than eyes darting from one person to another along the long, rectangular, Formica-topped conference table. Marissa Grant? Oh, my. She never took the time to tell the whole story; instead, she’d made a name for herself by developing sensational headlines based upon sketchy facts and then adding graphic images that captivated audiences.

If Marissa Grant was on the trail of the developing story at the foundation, the executive team’s efforts to keep a lid on things weren’t working. Marissa was a disrespectful, ego-driven muckraker. Nothing good could come from meeting with her.

Breaking the silence, Franklin spoke to everyone, “We need to remember our agreement here—to keep the content of our conversations confidential. And let’s not forget our proud history. Our reputation is spotless, and our track record of success is unblemished. We’ve weathered some significant storms in the past, and no doubt we’ll make it through this one as well.”

The team exchanged looks—skepticism, fear, defeat, paranoia; virtually every negative emotion was on full display. Hope? Not present. Franklin had just the day before shared the full dimension of the spot in which the foundation found itself. Before that, only three people knew the details: the chief financial officer, Jo, and himself.

While the executive team now understood the size and scope of the problem, they still had difficulty coming to grips with how it all happened. Because of some bad decisions, incredibly bad timing on a couple of events, and the actions of a small number of unscrupulous individuals, the rug had been pulled out from under Falcon’s funding. Throw into the mix one of the most significant financial meltdowns in history, and disaster seemed imminent. Unemployment was skyrocketing, home foreclosures were commonplace, and the government’s ability to serve was severely hampered by far lower-than-expected tax revenue.

The needs of their kids were accelerating at unprecedented rates, and the sources of funds were evaporating like free beer at a fraternity mixer. Falcon was hemorrhaging cash and found itself about 72 hours away from defaulting on its quarterly obligations to health care providers, colleges and universities, and the myriad other service providers subsidized by Falcon. Never in their history had they missed a payment. Making matters worse, Franklin (on his own) had decided to mortgage most of their hard assets in an attempt to keep the cash flowing.

Their $80 million shortfall in funding was a massive hole. The implications were even more significant: Not only would Franklin’s personal reputation be destroyed, the foundation was likely to fail—and the future for hundreds of families would be put into peril.

The timing of Marrisa’s visit couldn’t have been worse if she’d planned it, which, of course, she had. Exquisitely.

“Perfect,” thought Jennifer.

Sure enough, as had happened every Thursday for years, at exactly 11 a.m. Franklin asked Jennifer to adjourn the weekly staff meeting. The team closed their binders and moved their chairs back. But just as everyone was standing, it was as if he’d tasered the entire executive team because they were stunned by what they heard.

“Please be back here no later than 1:30 p.m. I’d like for you to meet Ernesto Martinez and to hear about his survival journey from him directly. Maybe he’s got a pearl or two of wisdom to share with us. Clear your calendars for the afternoon. Nothing is more important than this. Thank you.”

Franklin never called spontaneous executive meetings. Ever. Unless ideas had been suggested at least 72 hours in advance, had gone through a rigorous “agenda planning session,” had been vetted thoroughly, and then placed on everyone’s calendar at least a day ahead, the items just weren’t discussed. He was a firm believer in preparation and process.

An extemporaneous meeting? Maybe some things were changing.

Table of Contents Character Summaries

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