Posted in Time Management

Making Lists - By L. Burke Files

President of Financial Examinations & Evaluations, Inc.


I know I have to make lists of many things I need to remember to do, because if I do not, I’ll forget.  One of those lists I use regularly is the list I use for traveling.  I have a list of what I need to always bring and those things I should consider bringing.  I also have developed several lists for due diligence applications such as on a person’s background, a company’s background, intellectual property etc...


List are useful for jogging one’s memory or to share with someone else, either as a reader of my Due Diligence book (Due Diligence for the Financial Professional 2nd - shameless plug) or someone in one’s organization that - others should consider looking at this or that item because in the past I, or someone else, found this thing that is on the check list and was important.


From my list for traveling - I’ll be using this a lot in May as I’ll be speaking in Lisbon, New York, Anaheim and Amman - I have the item “cuff links”.  It is a wise thing for my list because I cannot tell you how many times I have had to buy cufflinks while on the road or use paper clamps.  For me, when I am speaking, I prefer to wear a suit and a shirt that uses cufflinks - paper clamps while effective are not so cool.


On a recent trip to visit a client in Playa Del Carmen in Mexico I looked at the list and ignored the entire section on suits.  I was not going to be wearing a tie, a suit, or a shirt that required cufflinks.  So I worked the rest of the list omitting a good deal of “stuff” since I was not going to need it. I was going to be there for a three day meeting with a client who is brilliant and notorious for likening to work hard and play hard.  I arrived read to work and play - almost - as I did not pack a swimsuit.  The cheap suits at the hotel were only about $90.00 almost as much as cheap cufflinks - so we made a run into town for some supplies and a swimsuit from Wal-Mart.


I worked my list and the list did exactly what it was supposed to.  The list had the items I was to bring for a business trip. While I did omit several things, I did not think fully about my client’s work environment.  I worked the list, I did not think, thus the list worked me.


I see the same problems when hires go wrong, I see the same problem when companies are defrauded, I see the same thing when M&A goes sideways - everyone worked their due diligence check list - and stopped thinking.  They, like I, had slipped into check box mentality. 


When we are presented with a list of tasks we slip into the task mode and just get the darn tasks done.  I understand that only too well as it can be a very efficient way of working and there is a reward at the end of the list - and that is of a job well done.


We have all heard the palliatives, “You need to sweat the small stuff”, and “the devil is in the detail” and while these phrases possess some truth, and sweating small stuff and looking for important details is why we use a “comprehensive check list” - it is no replacement for thinking.  Thus, think of a checklist as a good thought list - but not all-inclusive.  No checklist is ever 100% inclusive - NONE.  Times change, circumstance change, and a checklist is always written from a perspective of the past.  The past is for historians, but we live in the present and plan for the future.  The past is a guide not a map.


A client was looking to buy a coin-operated car wash.  The financials of the car wash business were good, it had a long history of solid earnings and was in excellent shape.  Our firm worked the standard business checklist and than drove to the carwash and just looked around.  What we noticed is that the car wash was in a light industrial area.  We made some general inquiries with the neighbors and the city and learned two very important facts.  The major employer in the area was closing it doors in 9 months and the city was going to tear up the street in front of the car wash to replace a sewer line even sooner - severely restricting access to the car wash.  Our client, the buyer, asked the owner if he was aware of these facts, the owner was aware and mentioned that those two pending events was why he was selling.  My client offered about 50% of the asking price and the owner refused.  The owners response was simple, I am sure I’ll find a buyer who is not as thorough as you and I’ll get my full asking price.  And the owner was right.


Use a checklist as a thought list from history - bring the list up to date by asking more questions and looking behind a few more curtains.  Update your lists with what you have learned.


And I’ll remember to take both cufflinks and a swimsuit to Lisbon.


Mr. Files is a published author of five books, in particular "Due Diligence for the Financial Professional, 2nd edition 2010" and "Money and Budgets" other writing and material can be found at .  Mr. Files is an international speaker on these topics. 


FE&E, Inc. is an international investigative firm specializing in, fraud prevention, asset recovery, due diligence, anti money laundering and intellectual property. 


As a financial industry insider for over 30 years he is keenly aware of the type, and accuracy of the information required to make decisions. Mr. Files has been the case manager on fraud investigations ranging from tens of thousands of dollars to over 3 billion.   As an international expert on due diligence and Intellectual Property and Critical Information (IPCI) he is regularly sought for those cases that bedevil the desktop practitioners. 


This article is courtesy of the Top 1% Club and the Top 1% Club Mentor Gail Kasper. For additional information on Gail Kasper, her television appearances and speaking engagements, please visit