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You Bet Your Glass: October 2010

What are you thinking?


October 19, 2010
By Frank Fulton

Topics

Have you ever had one of “those” weeks when everything seemed to tick
you off?  Then, something else happens, the proverbial last straw, that
just leaves you shaking your head and wondering, “How did it ever get
like this?”

Have you ever had one of “those” weeks when everything seemed to tick you off?  Then, something else happens, the proverbial last straw, that just leaves you shaking your head and wondering, “How did it ever get like this?”

 I ran across the same situation at two different companies recently that got me to wondering, “Just what were they thinking?” I imagine it probably went something like this . . .

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 Picture, if you will, the regional general manager of a large multinational company with corporate head offices in some other country.  Head office, whose main focus seems to be in satisfying Wall Street and the investors, and in creating gargantuan bonuses and golden parachutes for a revolving door of CEOs, is demanding more cost reductions from the regional branches. And they want them “right now!” to make the fiscal reporting look better.

 The puppet-like GM is running out of ideas to satisfy demands from head office in order to keep his job. He looked like a hero last year when he “restructured” by getting rid of most of the expensive managers – the ones with all the experience in making the product – and turning the operating reins over to a bunch of junior “up and comers.”

 He had already eliminated an expensive quality control department, hacked customer support services to the bone, and had even eliminated the company social committee and cancelled the annual Christmas party. Membership in the local trade association was dropped, and employees were no longer allowed to attend industry events without direct authorization from head office, if they dared to cross that bridge.

 So, after a few sleepless nights and a lot of cold sweats, a lightning bolt of genius hits the GM! He’d seen other companies do it, so it must be good. He decides, “I’ll fire our receptionist! It doesn’t matter that we pay her peanuts. Besides, she already knows that we don’t really appreciate her anyway. That will show head office how committed I am to cost reduction! I’ll get to keep my job, and it sends a message to all of our customers that we are a truly lean machine.”

 Now, flash forward to yours truly, standing in a tiny locked vestibule at the main entrance of a company I am visiting, with only a phone on the wall and a list of company employees and their extension numbers to greet me. I drop the stuff I am carrying to dig out my reading glasses and dial the extension of the person I have come to meet with. Voice mail. I look up someone else I know in the company and call. More voice mail. I am definitely not amused with the new receptionless system.
 I’m left standing there like a hobo, hoping someone will come through the door, or walk by the entrance on the inside, recognize me and let me in. Upon visiting another company a week later, a very similar situation occurred: phone, voice mail, phone, more voice mail, frustration.

 So, that was my straw.  It took less than two minutes for me to decide that these were companies I didn’t like, and given the chance, I would take my business elsewhere. What ever happened to the axiom “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”?

 Even Wal-Mart has personal greeters at the door serving no other purpose than to make customers feel welcome. They realize that it is a lot easier to take money out of a happy pocket than a disgruntled one. I personally blame Wal-Mart for the destruction of American industry and a yet-to-be-realized collapse of the American economy, but that’s another rant for another day.

 I’ll bet you’ve come across something in our industry that drives you crazy that you’d like to get off your chest. Send it to me, and I’ll see if the editor will allow me to fill this space with more sometime in the future. [Yes – Ed.]


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