#85 The Purpose of A Business (2004)

All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day

In my foolishly mismanaged career, I've worked for really small and really monstrous companies.  The difference between small companies and large companies is, mostly, money.  The little companies don’t have much, big companies have a lot.  Otherwise, the little companies do the same, stupid things that drive sane people insane in the bloated, brain-dead humongous companies.  Money allows the big guys to get by with more stupidity, but stupidity is its own reward and you never want to sell short the capacity of really small companies to shoot themselves in the foot. 

Take bureaucracy, for example.  You’d think that little companies would, by nature, avoid designing useless accounting practices, stuffing offices with purposeless middle managers, and putting layers of interference between the people who do work and the people who are expecting to have work done.  You’d be wrong.  Far too many small companies are influenced by the management practices of the biggest, least efficient role models.  Small company managers suffer the delusion that their purpose in the company is to live a life of leisure and uselessness.  Once they can afford a couple of employees, they shuffle off responsibility and critical functions to those minimally paid employees, under the hallucination that employees are motivated to do a better job than the idiots who own the business.  That might work until the employees realize that they are being taken for granted, used and abused, and they adopt the “I don’t give a shit” attitude of their employer.  One thing about crappy jobs, there is always another one.

That’s the odd thing about management’s attitude.  When a store owner, company executive, or business owner manages to kill the golden goose, there isn’t another similar job around the corner for them.  You’d think they’d be more concerned about keeping their good thing alive, but they’re not, apparently, that bright.  It’s true that dumb asses flock together and it’s also true that the “good ‘ole boy” network hangs pretty tightly, but the preponderance of jobs available in the good ‘ole US of A are minimum wage.  There‘s no shortage of ex-execs holding on to the remains of their severance packages, shipping fancy resumes to uninterested personnel departments, and hoping another ship will come in before they have to look for real work.  Another ship that they can help sink, once they’re safely accommodated in a padded chair behind a loading dock-sized desk.  

I’ve written about this before, but it is true that some companies seem to go out of their way to hire execs who have failed before.  The fantastic “logic” often spouted is that a failed exec will have learned something valuable about the experience of failure that will somehow translate into success for the moronic fools who give the failed exec another chance.  I suppose these idiots bet on losing horses with the same logic. 

No, most execs don’t learn anything from their failures, except how to do less work, make fewer decisions, and to attract as little attention as possible.  Of course, those were the skills that took them up the corporate ladder, initially, so they must be mission-critical skills in any business. 

Or the real deal may be that leadership is overrated, under-realized, and grossly over-paid.  Several companies, in the early stages of the latest economic crash, relieved themselves of CEOs, CFOs, directors, and other bloated titles without function and found that there was no need to re-fill those positions.  They simply saved the cash, spent it on their corporate functions, or distributed the money among people who actually did work and performed tasks that needed performing.  I’ll admit that this is a rare company, but, since I’m a firm believer that “99% of everything is crap,” any bit of rational thought is encouraging.

June 2004

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