by Robert G. Trepanier
December 9, 2009
I sat pouring over the latest company reports that Michelle, my secretary, had placed on my desk a few minutes before. The reports were astounding. In fact, they stank. They were the pits - well, not quite, but almost. Morale amongst the workers was down. The corporate execs in the branch offices and the subsidiaries decided to operate by their own definitions of the rules, cutting themselves off from the authority of the main office. Oh, they give us token service. They accept our payment plans and our mottoes. And they follow our directives after we fire a few for disciplinary problems.
But these new reports were disturbing. Here we are, one of the top Fortune 500 companies, a leader among leaders, and we can't get our leaders to cooperate with us. In fact, some of them has gone so far as to form alliances with our competitors - which, as you might guess, cheapens the reliability, quality, and exclusivity of our product.
At the last few board meetings, I made sure to emphasize the gravity of the situation and that drastic measures should be taken to correct these violations before we went bankrupt and fell victims to mergers and take-overs. Many who sat in these meetings agreed with me - but never enough to change the vote. The CEO usually got his way and of his non-support would say "You're right, Manny, as usual. I understand and appreciate your concern. I agree that something has to be done, but it just isn't time yet."
It was hard to argue with Mr. Solomonson. Not only was he the CEO, he was also the owner of the company. He had started the company from scratch, and built upon it and made it the thriving enterprise it is today. The future prospects of it could only expand the marketing and demand of a worthwhile product.
I should introduce myself, I guess. My name is Manny. I am Senior Vice President of Marketing and Human Resources. I attended the best schools and left the ivy halls, Ph.D. in hand. I've been with the company since it's conception, it seems; and yet, sometimes I feel as if I just started yesterday. I'm normally dressed in a three-piece suit, power tie, and can be stern enough to keep Madison Avenue on its toes.
Yet it bothered me that I couldn't keep the employees of my own company loyal and committed. We offered the best in employment, health, and retirement packages, as well as moral support and a quality working environment. I knew Mr. Solomonson wouldn't be doing cartwheels of joy over this report. In this dog-eat-dog world, we were covering ourselves with steak sauce and advertising "free lunches".
I picked up he phone and pressed Michelle's extension number. "Michelle, I'd like copies of the reports for the last six months, this date last year, and this date five years ago. Thanks." I already knew what they would tell me, but I wanted the specific numbers to include in my next report.
As Michelle brought in the folders, she said "Sir, Mr. Solomonson would like to see you right away."
I didn't have to ask if he had seen the reports. He had, more than likely, received and read the reports before I got in to work this morning.
I straightened up my desk and then went to see what Mr. Solomonson wanted.
Mr. Solomonson's office was on the top floor. It was comfortable, but not a den, so to speak. It was designed to put people at ease, but not to put them to sleep.
Beth, Mr. Solomonson's office manager, was hard at work transcribing a lot of squiggly lines into words that could be understood by all - and not need a Rosetta stone or interpreter to decode it.
"Beth, Mr. Solomonson wants to see me?"
Startled, she spun around from her keyboard to look at me. "You shouldn't sneak up on a person like that! Yes he does. I'll tell him you're here." Having said that, she picked up the phone, punched a few buttons and said, "Manny's here." As she replaced the receiver on its cradle, she added to me, "You can go right on in."
I walked into the CEO's office and waited just inside the door. The Man was on the phone, apparently giving advice and instructions, and by the tone of his voice, the instructions were not what the caller wanted to hear, "…no, you listen to me for a change. We did it your way last time…It didn't work, did it…this time you'll do it my way…Well, that is a good idea, but not this time…"
I noticed a stack of reports on his desk and was almost certain that they were copies identical to the ones that I had just finished reading.
"…to know that you understand exactly what we are trying to accomplish here. You do? Great! Until next week. Good-bye Jerry."
He set the phone down and looked at me.
"Come right in, Manny. You don't have to wait. Sit right down. You've seen the new reports? What do you think we should do?"
I had been waiting for this. Maybe this time we could do something that would get these execs and subsidiaries to toe the line-or-else! Or else what? Or else we would eliminate them. They needed to be taught a lesson.
"I was just finishing when you sent for me. I requested some back copies of statistics and was just starting to research…"
"You know you'll find things haven't been improving a whole lot."
"I assumed that would be the case. I wanted the particulars, though, for my report to the next board meeting."
He placed his elbows on the big mahogany desk and eased his chin into his cupped hands as he looked intensely at me and asked again, "What do you think we should do?"
I pretended to think for moment, and returning his gaze, I replied, "I think we need to go to them in person, bring in the auditors and the franchise contracts as well as their job descriptions and make them accountable for their actions. It's time to kick some butt!"
"How will that help? Wouldn't it make them hate us all the more?"
"There is that. But it would show them that we mean business. Things have been getting pretty lax lately. We've got to DO something! It seems like all we do is just sit around on our hands, while these people are getting away with murder…!"
Still holding my gaze, he responded thoughtfully and quietly, "Yes. We've got to do something, don't we."
I had worked with him long enough to know that he wasn't as baffled by this situation as it seemed. What I didn't know was what his solution would be, or if he would accept mine. He was quiet for a while, sighed, and then said, "This is what I think we should do. To be more specific, this is what I think you should do. I think you should go and visit these people…"
"And ride up in the limo. I can walk right in and tell them to get out their books and charters and tell them that they are going to be audited. I can tell them how they should be doing their jobs. Boy, will that teach them a lesson. I can bring Mr. Fieldstein with me in case law suits are in order. I can get the executive Suite at the Holiday Inn."
I stopped abruptly. He was shaking his head at me and said in a sad, quiet voice, "No. That is not how it will be done. I want you to go there and live with them. I am making arrangements for you to stay with a young couple I know. You will be at an inn, but it won't be the Holiday one.
"As corporate Vice President?"
"You will get a job with the company as a stock boy and begin to work your way up in the company."
"I want you not only to talk about the rules and policies of our company, but I want you to live them. I want you to prove that they are an attainable goal…that it is an honorable goal. There will be those in the corporate structure who are going to do their best to degrade you, and try their best to nullify your efforts. It won't be easy, but you will get to see the struggle and the joy of what it's like to work for our company. You'll have some adjusting to do. You won't be a Senior Vice President or have authority. You will have that position waiting for you when you return, though. How about it? Will you do it?"
"Yes, Sir. I'll do it. When should I start?"
"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." Galatians 4:4,5 NKJV
"Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name, Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us'." Matthew 1:23 NKJV
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