1975 Office Procedures

If you are old, perhaps, you might remember. It was a better time, a time of absolutes, of structure, of respect.

In 1975 a morning might start, as I walked into my office “Jan, you look absolutely beautiful today”,(you were allowed to say such things then) a cup of hot coffee was waiting on my desk and a wonderful smile from a wonderful person started my day. I loved Jan, (and later Melody, and Rene). They were my secretaries. I know, dirty word! It was not a dirty word in 1975, though.

In 1975 letters were written by a quick call ” take a letter to Acme Steel – tell Carl I want that damned rebar on that site or I will cut his %^%$^ off”   In your “in” box would be a well-worded, properly punctuated letter explaining to Carl that the reinforcing bar was needed immediately and that if not received by Tuesday, he would be found in conflict with 10.2.1 of his contract and charges would accrue against his payable.

In 1975 you could have a blood bath fight and then go to the corner bar and have a beer together and laugh. There was no time for subterfuge. Meetings were infrequent and for specific issues, which were addressed and then adjourned. If you disliked someone enough to complain, you fired them.

In 1975 if you thought that a girl in your office was beautiful you might say “You look beautiful today” she might respond “thanks”. That was it. If there was an unwanted advance she might say “Buzz off” That was it. You had no need to qualify every word. We treated each other as grownups.

In 1975 your boss told you what to do. He didn’t ask your opinion and then interject what might be a “better way of getting there”.

In 1975 you knew who was boss, who was second in charge and who was low man on the totem pole. There was not a discussion about wether that was a logistics problem or if it was a marketing issue.

In 1975 the title “secretary” was not demeaning. They were respected important, sought-after professionals that did things that executives were unable to do as well. The insult that “anybody” could type a letter or check the math on a quarterly report was never thought or uttered. The executive with the best secretary was often the executive that succeeded. (Secretaries were both male and female.) Secretarial work was often the path to an executive position within the company.

In 1975 a person answered the phone. That person wanted you to reach the department or person who you were calling and they spoke to you. Often they recognized your voice. There were no machines to query you and then drop the line.

In 1975 companies were groups of people together to provide a service. They worked together and each had a personal goal, but each, also understood a corporate goal. When the company suffered, each employee worried and considered how best to make it better.

So much has changed. Some is better, some is worse. Perhaps it is time to look into the past and to retrieve the things lost and to bring into the present those with value.

Perhaps it is time to look at all of this failed pandering to manufactured sensibilities and create a workplace where open opinion is welcome and everyone can express themselves. The hurt of an occasional poorly considered remark is far overshadowed by the loss of the joy that is a corporate community with truly open communication and respect for our differences and our personal value.

Scott Cahill

“We only work with friends”

Imagine what your day would be like if you only worked with friends. You would race to the meeting across town, smiling. You would stay late and look forward to a beer before you head home. A sales call would become an opportunity to catch up, a company meeting would become a happy occasion.

A while back, I was sick of those impossible, difficult, never satisfied souls who find a business situation as an opportunity to lord it over those of us who provide service or supply. I started letting them go, slowly, I replaced them with people who I really liked. I changed our companies’ motto to read “We only work with Friends” It was a wonderful change. It made business and life happy and easy, and I remembered why I had so enjoyed what I did, again.

It may seem impossible, it is not. You may have to work on it. You may have to become a friend of someone who you have little in common with. It is valuable and good in so many ways when you go to work and realize, while getting out of your car, that you are happy to be here.

Scott Cahill

Politics and Business

The political arena of our country, from city councils to the presidency is a complex machine that sets the course for our country’s future. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to understand. It seems immobile and beyond our reach. At times it seems corrupt, and, in fact, sometimes it is.

Still, it is real and it is significant to your business and its future. Many of us wade in to the political fray, unprepared and flounder and leave. We are appalled by the lack of caring, by the wholesale rejection of our ideas, of the soulless churning of such a machine. We become defeated and we sit on the sidelines and try not to notice the things that are happening around us.

It is the difficulty and the cost of participation that keeps the gate to the machine. You must push past the pain to gain entrance. Some buy their way in, some gain a foothold through their sweat equity to campaigns and to parties. A few are given access as a birthright. For most of us, the top of the bleachers will be our vantage point.

Still, we matter greatly – and not for our vote – that is, unfortunately, a secondary reality – it is for our word or two, our one issue, well placed our one thing that we can inject into the mechanism that may, just possibly, churn out of the other side of the evolution.

The game is separate from the players and at times the words of the politician sound like the words of a marionette, emanating from behind the black curtain. Indeed, if you come to know the person on the stage, you may see, in their words true separation of the politician and the person. I have seen friends give speeches professing ideals that are completely diverse from their actual beliefs. That is the cost of entrance that they must pay.

How, then, can we bend the machine of politics to serve us and our business? First and foremost we must ask ourselves “is my desire universally advantageous”. If it is not, the effort is without honor and, the machine has a horrible way of spitting out the best laid plans of those who attempt to manipulate for simple gain. (no – not always but usually).

Second, we must ask ourselves if the change is supportable by many who will act to make it an issue. Many issues fall in the fodder that collects under the workings because no one showed up to stand before the great machine and to show themselves. This, too is a gatekeeper to the great machine. It chews on only the germ of the kernel, leaving the chaff to fall into the dirt and drippings beneath the workings.

Last, and most importantly, are we willing to pay the cost in sweat and blood that it takes to stand, naked before the great machine and introduce our thought? It is a heartless, huge, intimidating machine wrought of cold steel with the force of millions driving its gears. Do you dare to confront it and to risk so much for so long to do that thing that you wish? If not – better stay clear of the workings.

A business needs politics and politicians need business. It is a partnership like that of the frog and the scorpion. Feelings and more will be hurt. Money will fall to waste. Well laid plans will evaporate, yet, you must play. Failure and frustration are the cost of admission. Money is only a chip, and everything is in flux with nothing under control and nothing absolute.

If you are lucky enough to find a good person who you believe in, support his campaign. Give time if not money. Be and stay involved. Forget the things that don’t work out and work hard to support the things that really matter. It may be a painful process, but politics drive our nation and business deserves a place at the table.

Scott Cahill

How People Justify Theft from Your Business

 

If you work for a large corporation or a governmental agency, a think tank, or a gas station, chances are very good that you work with thieves.

Theft is a part of life. It is a sickening reality, one that is increasing in frequency and intensity.

Many retail stores have adjusted to consider it just a cost of goods sold, a debit to an asset account of inventory. How sad this is from every point of view. Employees at some retailers are told to not even act against the thieves, who walk out with merchandise unimpeded, perhaps even heckling employees, on their way out the automatic doors, alarms blasting. The management has thusly, potentially, made a thief of the employee, who begins to consider how nice it would be to have a item for free, without consequences.

The result of this failure of our justice system, followed by the failure of the security system, followed, inevitably by the failure of the business, itself, is an odd experience for the honorable. We wrestle to open packages, beg to get a razor from the locked cabinet. If you need a thumb drive, you had better be prepared for a hard road! Ultimately, we all suffer because the collective success of the business is eroded by these actions. It is that collective success that we, the honorable, rely on for our compensation.

My father taught me the importance of honor. As my father said, crooks are not smart people. They steal for many reasons, but they know, at some level, how wrong it is to take something that is not theirs.

This produces a conflict within the thief that must be satisfied. Thieves do not go through life hating themselves for their transgressions. (There is a subconscious effort to self-punish that I will discuss later) They justify their actions.

A thief who is socially exposed will always have worked out the justification early in the process. They are not wrong for stealing. Often it is the fault of the victim.

  • “Like Mr. Smith – that rich old bastard – is going to miss a couple of glasses”
  • “The CEO makes five million a year, and they are worried about a couple of bucks on the company card?”
  • “He got me a lame Christmas present – so I helped myself to a little bonus”
  • “The Saudi-Arabians think the information that I compiled is worth $ 500,000. My own government thinks I am worth $ 65,000. a year.”

Eventually the few remaining threads of honor break down, and theft becomes “ordinary.” They are no longer burdened with the constraints of honor. They are, at last, a real thief. It may start with office supplies, but it will rarely end there. Without a real and valid threat of consequences, it will escalate to the most extreme level that the structure will allow.

Many business people, particularly in the current era of political correctness, would never think of securing areas or valuables, lest they insult someone. They pay for their foolishness.

The honorable accept security. They honor boundaries and they respect secrets. Thieves, once converted, may crave the excitement of the next event. They plan, contrive, and execute, smiling at you, in your office, on their way out the door.

There is an odd, nearly unbelievable thing that happens, too. As a man is converted into a thief, he becomes filled with hate. With every trust he breaks, his hatred grows. It is a hatred for the one who trusted him. It is a hatred for the one who is damaged by his actions. So many of these damaged people, as they are dragged to the waiting police car, or black SUV, are screaming at those who they have betrayed. How odd we men are, that our psyche would develop such a mechanism to protect itself against our own failure of honor!

So, the thief becomes an enemy. He is an enemy of the organization and he is an enemy of the man for whom he works. He reflects a smile and hides his secret. He begins to enjoy the erosion of the collective of which he is a part. He may wish for an end to the ruse, which he may effect by making his behavior more obvious, resulting in his exposure, or he may secretly enjoy the complete ruin of the whole, happy as he removes his box of personal goods from the foreclosed office building. He will go elsewhere, but, he is unchanged, and he will repeat his actions.

It is not a pleasant job, but it is, none the less, the job of the supervisor or manager to find, stop, and prosecute theft from your organization. It is the honorable and faithful in the organization that thieves are stealing from. Everyone’s livelihood is negatively impacted by theft.

The methods of making the repair to an organization that suffers from such problems are varied, and will be covered in a separate writing, but, generally, the most effective methods are statistical oversight, followed by ever-increasing scrutiny of department, area, and ultimately, employee.

If you are the uninitiated, allow me to explain, you will not find the Justice Dept. very willing to help. Few judges feel sorry for the businessman, taking action against the poor, disadvantaged and wronged employee (which is how it shall be portrayed). The success is not one, generally, of wiping out theft. The best that one can do is to push it down the road to a new venue. You must.

Scott Cahill

The Power of Purpose

Always, in every significant endeavor, there must be a motivation. For great deeds, most often it must be a large motivation to overcome the large resistance that such change must always address.

As I have stated in earlier writing, desperation is such a motivator. It insights, in ordinary men, the necessity of purpose that causes action. Such was the case of Patrick Henry who rose from the third row of pews in a little church in Richmond, Va. in 1775 and uttered the words of desperation that set into action one of the most unlikely and improbable acts, resulting in our great nation.

The other motivator, perhaps, is purpose. Purpose causes one to act because he believes that it is his place to do so. It is the thing that makes a man run up a hill to take a machine gun nest. It is the thing that makes a man, like Donald Trump sit in his lush office and look down on Manhattan, and think that he must run for President.

It is a truth that, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is a phrase from physics, yet, as is true of many of these laws, they fit many other things. Rarely is significant change met with little resistance. An insignificant change will garner little resistance, a grand change will elicit a massive countering resistance.

I suppose that purpose and desperation motivating one to action are met with resistance of similar magnitude in relation to the proposed action(change). The difference is not, therefore, in the coordinated resistance, but in the motivation of the actor. Since the resistance is synonymous, and since both incite action, it seems reasonable, then, that they are equal.

Accepting this hypothesis, as I do, I must consider the cost of effort that must be expended vs. the gain of that action. If I am to set out on a path to remedy a fault or to make a stand, I must consider and cement my purpose.

This may seem mechanical to many, but we each do this often, without much thought. Since we do not, often, consider deeply the ramifications of starting a course of action, we sometimes start an action frivolously, then abandon the action when we recognize the level of resistance applied to stop it. That may be why so many set out to make change, then run back to their warm bed with a bloodied nose.

Such failures are expensive and they waste political collateral. We all must only set out on courses of action for which we are compelled to succeed. If we have not a feeling of desperation, nor a feeling of purpose, we are the wrong man for the job, and the machine of destiny will shoot you out of the loser chute into the barrel marked “waste”. You only get to crawl out of that barrel a couple of times, and once out, few wish to take the

ride again.

The reality of such assessment is that some actions are not worthy of the expenditure of effort. This is a valuable consideration, knowing that effort spent is effort lost. We must find that which instills in ourselves purpose or desperation which exceeds the effort of resistance that will be set against us.

Some choose to simply abandon the field of play. They avoid the conflict and the effort of life. They die. Perhaps the years go on, but inside and as their impact on our world diminishes, they digress into nothingness.

It is not just in work – it is in everything. Never stop fighting. Never stop finding challenges and addressing them. Never give up on making things better. Don’t ever stop dreaming.

Scott Cahill

Figure Skating is easy

As we drove back into town from a shopping trip this morning, my wife said “figure skating looks easy, too”. She was responding to my comment that people tend to take over projects that are done well by others, then fail to succeed at them.

In my home town, there are a myriad of these situations. Many festivals, events, and other positive things are taken over by the city, the Chamber of Commerce, and individuals. They die immediately, at times shortly after a sickening effort and result. I was wondering out loud why would someone kill a positive event. I supposed that, perhaps some disliked the feeling of the competent promoter making a buck off of the event. Her answer grounded my thoughts.

 

 

When one does something well, be it event management, governing, planning, or, indeed, figure skating, it looks easy. It is not easy. It just looks easy from the outside when a competent expert is doing it. I remember many contractors getting into dam repairs as a result of my company’s success in this work. It is a difficult and technical thing. Soon, of course, I was left finishing the projects that many of them started, as they found that it was not so easy after all.

 

I can skate. I am not nice to watch when skating. I can pick up my beautiful wife, and I could throw her into the air. I don’t do this – but I could. I could, theoretically, skate along, picking my dear wife off of her feet, spinning her through the air and catching her as she rocketed to the hard ice below, accelerating at 9.8 meters per second per second. I, however, recognizing my own limitations, after considered calculation of probability, prefer not to do this. I love my wife, and my knee is a little tricky and, at times, my lower back hurts.

There are people who do this as a matter of course. They pluck from the ice a scantily clad beauty, toss her effortlessly overhead, and retard her fall, her head stopping four inches from the ice. “I was a little short on the rotation that time – let’s try that one again”

Business is very hard, or, quite easy. The difference is all in the planning and the practice. Almost anyone can try. Those who are poorly prepared will look like me figure skating. After a time they will improve, or they will fail. Those who practice and prepare, get advice and coaching, and enter the ice with support and proper equipment and backing, have a far better chance of doing the quadruple axel. Those who skate out to center ring unprepared will have a sore bottom tomorrow.

Scott Cahill