A new corporate ethic called work
: Last week, we went on vacation to a wonderful place we visit every year called Skytop — an oasis of class in the otherwise classless Poconos, where vacationing families share the mountain air with business meetings, whose participants are golfing when they’re not meeting and when they’re doing neither are usually heard around the putting green just yelling into their cell phones at somebody back at the office.
Watching them waste time and money in exercises of corporate idiocy is my vacation favorite sport (since I don’t golf).
I like to observe them after they’ve broken into small work groups with ridiculous assignments, usually carrying huge pieces of paper with simplistic buzzwords scrawled on them: the protoPowerPoint. One day, I saw three of these poor corporate shlubs in the parking lot with a clipboard and a huge piece of cardboard they were supposed to make into something, no doubt as a surefire way to bolster their teamwork. They were procrastinating by talking about the “hip-hop names” they’d been assigned at their corporate event the night before. These three slices of walking Wonder Bread knew and cared jack about hip-hop and were being mocked and probably knew it but wouldn’t admit it to each other because they were trying to be company men and women and this stupid hip-hop thing was clearly the boss’ bad idea. Honesty came later. The next day, we heard three people from this group complaining on the elevator that they had to spend another night at this corporate retreat — instead of going home to their families before the weekend — so everyone could finish their skits. Skits? They shook their heads. So did my wife and I. Skits! What a waste of time and money. What useless idiocy.
I wanted to say, “Excuse me, but could you tell me what company you work for so I can go home right now and short its stock? And so I can make sure I never apply for a job there? And so I can chose not to buy its products because I don’t trust you people to make even the most useless widget?”
But there’s an even bigger problem here. What I witnessed in the Poconos is just one symptom of the disease we are suffering on Wall Street.
We have forgotten what business is all about.
Business is about increasing the future value of your company. Business is about profit, stupid.
Too many companies waste time and money going off to retreats to build teamwork or brainstorm or motivate. If you have to do that, it should tell you that something is seriously wrong. You should not have to train the employees of your company to work together to increase the value of the company. But, of course, everyone does.
And that is because I fear we are losing our collective corporate work ethic.
If, as a manager, you waste time and money with stupid games and skits, you’re telling your staff it’s OK to waste time on this crap when, instead, they should be going home every day asking whether they’ve earned their keep that day, whether they’ve contributed to the profits and future value of the enterprise. You are telling them it’s OK not to focus on profit.
If, as a manager, you tolerate or, worse, encourage and enage in politics, then you tell your staff that they can ignore their prime directive — profit — and play with heads instead.
If you do these things, it’s a short hop to the sins of Enron, Worldcom, Anderson, et al: faking profits instead of earning them.
Simplistic? Of course, this is. So is business.
Business is simply about making money.
When we complicate that, when we try to make it more than it is, when we play self-important games, when we weave tangled webs to deceive ourselves or our employees or our stockholders, then business falls apart and eventually, our customers and our shareholders catch up with us. That is what is happening today. That is why America’s economy is losing value at a frightening pace.
So I want to say to all those poor shlubs in the Poconos and their bosses: Go back to work, damnit. Earn money. Ask yourself with every decision you make and every day you work: Is this the way to earn money? If it’s not, you are wasting your time and my money.
It is time to return to that simple work ethic.
: Nick Denton on the collapse of our economy:
Any honest challenger to Bush — and I’m certainly ruling out Al Gore here — needs to recognize he cannot define the issue of corporate corruption on party lines. Bush administration officials are part of the country club class that took America for a ride in the 1990s; but Democrats were the champions of the discredited new economy, and took its money. A true reformer of corporate America needs to summon the popular rage and bellow: a curse on both your houses.