Archive for August, 2008

One of the three female executives on the senior leadership team has decided to leave the company. She will be participating in the global search for her replacement so I believe it was her choice to leave and she is not being forced out. It will be interesting to see if the current trend of bringing in white males from North America will continue.

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A Pleasant Surprise

K and I went to small dinner party at Tom and Sheila’s house last night. Tom and Sheila are our neighbors who live directly behind our house. They were hosting a dinner in honor of their houseguest, Jane, who is in town to attend the Obama acceptance speech tonight at Invesco field. After dinner Sheila gave K a ticket to see Obama. K is so happy. He tried to volunteer for the DNC but his work schedule didn’t mix well with their needs. Tom and Sheila have been volunteering and have hosted out of town volunteers so they were given several tickets. Unfortunately, I will be watching the event at home.

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An American Tragedy

I received an email from a colleague of mine who was laid off two months ago. It was a tale of woes. X is a 62 year old white handicapped female. She has been unable to find full time work in our industry and is waiting to start a part time job working eight hours a week. Since she is handicapped she wants a position that will enable her to work from home. Most potential employers are seeking a person who can call on customers and not a back office person. X had $10,000 in her 401k but has spent the money on attorney fees to clear up an issue with her husband who is confined to a mental institution. X has no other savings but is collecting unemployment. She has filed for a company pension and social security disability but it will be several weeks before payments will arrive. X has no money. She is a diabetic and has a six-month supply of insulin. She’s afraid she will not have money for the drug co-pay when she needs insulin. Since she has refinanced her home numerous times there is no equity left and probably owes more on the house than it is worth. On her most recent refinance an escrow account was not set up and she is now in arrears on her taxes. The local tax authority is sending collection letters. She has also missed this month’s house payment. To make matters worse X has been subsidizing her daughter and son in law’s household to the tune of $1,500 per month. X had been buying food, paying for cell phones, paying the electric bill and her son in laws $650 truck payment. Now that the subsidy has stopped the cell phones have been turned off for non-payment, the electric will soon be shut off and the truck is being repossessed. Knowing her position with the company I would guess that X was making $90,000 to $110,000 a year plus bonus before she was laid off.

I have mixed feelings about this situation. I fell sorry for her current financial situation and the mess that her life has become. I know it is difficult to find another position at her previous salary without a college education. I know she faces an additional challenge because she uses a motorized cart and wheel chair. However, how does a 62-year-old person only have $10,000 saved when they have been making good money for years? I’ve had many conversations with X over the years and she has always lived check to check. When bonuses were paid she would spend the money in a week. She took lavish vacations with her daughter, son in law and two grandchildren. X enabled her daughter to live beyond her means by subsidizing her household and now that house of cards if falling too. The company has been laying off people since inception when it was burdened with over a billion dollars in debt. Countless peers have been booted out the door before X so why didn’t she prepare herself financially? Why didn’t X take this as a sign to save some money and force her daughter to live within their means? Her mentally disabled husband’s mother left a trust that takes care of his expenses so X can’t blame him (the trust will not support X). How is it that X never learned fiscal responsibility? Was she chasing the American dream or just trying to keep up with the Joneses?


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Back to work

 I returned to work yesterday after two weeks of vacation and I only had 658 emails.  About 500 of those emails did not impact me or require any action so I deleted them.  I had a 6:30 a.m. conference call so I spent most of morning reading email. 

Thankfully, I still have a job.  There were a lot of changes while I was away.  Here’s a recap of the most important.


A new VP of Global Sales Operation was hired off the street.  The domestic sales channel was reorganized into three divisions instead of two.


An entire department was dissolved.  The group was thanked for “their strategic and meaningful contributions” and “recognized for their tireless efforts”.   This is corporate speak for thanks for working long hours but you didn’t deliver on your objectives.  We’re letting you go but are publicly thanking you so you don’t sue the company.


A group of strategic domestic accounts has also been dissolved and absorbed into local territory leadership.  The worker bees have been kept in place but their leadership positions have been eliminated.


The next phase of the project I’ve been working on since May (in addition to my normal duties) has been delayed.  The VP who started the project is no longer in charge.  I now report to newly hired VP of Global Sales Operations.  The official line is that the project is highly valuable and the deployment will continue under the new VP.  Time will tell on this one.  All of the pending project conference calls have been cancelled.  Not a good sign.


I only reported to the previous VP for three months.  She is considered a rising star known for producing results. I wonder if the reorganization project is failing.  It would be shame to see her let go.  She is one of few remaining female VPs.  All but one of the numerous VPs hired since we went private have been white males that have previously worked for the same set of companies. 

Change is constant, change is good?


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The Friendly Skies…

K and I left P-town at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning after dropping the realtor and the waiter off at the wharf to catch the ferry. Traffic was heavy and was at a complete standstill several times. We crept down the road for miles and miles at one point. We were not concerned since out flight did not leave until 5 p.m. We stopped for lunch in Duxbury and finally made it to the airport around 2. That’s when the hell started. United had dropped our non-stop flight a few weeks before and routed us through Chicago. K was using the automated check in at the premier counter. The system would not process our itinerary and instructed us to call an agent. K talked to an agent on the phone for twenty minutes. Our flight was Boston was delayed and hour so we would miss our connection in Chicago. The agent told K we could not check bags. Unfortunately, the two bags we had would not fit in the overhead compartment. The agent finally got the system to accept our bags and then the call was cut off. K was really upset. He managed to flag down the only agent working the first class/business/premier check in counter. It took her while to understand the issue and assured us it would be worked out. Forty-five minutes later we were getting our tickets, our bags were being checked and our upgrades to business were secured. The agent hands K the tickets and we are about to leave the counter when I notice that K’s ticket has the wrong name. The agent checked in the wrong passenger (same last name, different first name). We started the process over. This time it only took twenty minutes. The agent thanked us for our patience and gave us each two five hundred-mile upgrades for future trips. I felt sorry for all the people in line behind us. Thankfully another agent had come over to assist the other passengers.

The flight left Boston after 6. When we arrived in Chicago our next flight was scheduled to leave in twenty minutes. Thankfully, the flight to Denver was leaving at the next gate and was delayed. After the flight was boarded the pilot announces that there will be a departure delay due to a mechanical issue. Half hour later the pilot informs the passengers that the fix did not work and the mechanics need to take a part off another 777 to fix our plane. The flight attendants start in the in-flight entertainment and announce they will do a beverage service. The movies start but only first and business gets the beverage service. An hour later a flight attendant announces that passengers can get off the plane for food and beverages. Many passengers leave the plane and go to the McDonald’s next to the gate. The plane is finally repaired and we leave for Denver almost three hours late. K and I arrived home at 1 a.m. exhausted.

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P-town Part 6

P-town was so much fun. The town was brimming with excitement from all the carnival activities. The parade was a lot fun. It was a great vacation until the travel hell home (more on that later). It was good to hook up with old friends and meet a few new ones. Being able to forget about work for two weeks was wonderful. However, K and the realtor often worked before and after going to the beach. We had fantastic dinners at local restaurants and cooked a few great meals at the house too. I can’t wait to go back next year.

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Becoming a Landlord

It looks like K and I will not be buying a BMW.  He wanted a 3 series and I wanted a 6 series.  We didn’t discuss it in detail and the idea seemed to fade away.  Instead of spending a lot of money on a depreciating asset we have tentatively decided to buy property in P-town.  The realtor is crunching the numbers and investigating the market.  We have identified a potential property in the west end.  We will be partners with the real estate agent in an LLC and rent out the property.  I’m a little shocked at the prospect that this may actually happen.  Of course it all depends on the numbers.  It will be a nice tax write off for us.  I wonder if we will change our minds once we’re back at home away from the magic of Cape Cod?

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It’s carnival week in P-town and the beautiful boys are arriving in droves.  The theme is Wild, Wild West!  Last night we saw many cowboy hats along with a few guys wearing g-strings and chaps.  This morning while having breakfast we saw a young man walking rapidly down the street wearing tan chaps, a black g-string with his t-shirt tucked in the back of his chaps to cover his butt.  He quickly entered a neighboring condo.  He was doing the walk of shame that we all have done some time in our life.


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Spin Doctors at Work

Recently our interim CEO appoited by the private equity owners addressed the troops on a global multimedia conference call.  He basically stated that every thing the prior leadership had done was wrong.  All of our acquisitions were failures, our sales compensation plan was not structured correctly and we offered too many products.  I came away from this call stunned.   If everything we had been doing was wrong how did the company survive for seven years before private equity came to our rescue?  How did we pay off over a billion dollars in debt and then accumulate over a billion dollars in cash?  How did we to get to be number 1 or 2 in almost every global market that we compete in?  How did we win market share from our competitors?  How did we survive?  I came to the conclusion that the private equity spin doctors were fast at work.  The new leadership needs to convince the associates that the old way was wrong and the new business plan will fix everything.  Fewer products, fewer product codes, simpler tracking systems, new compensations plans and fewer employees.  Will I be able to hang on for another forty two months until retirement, or, will I be cast aside like so many others before me?

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The other night K went dancing with one of the lawyers from D.C. at the A House.  They were given safe sex kits as they left.  Each kit contained information on HIV testing and counseling, the local needle exchange program, two life savers, a small tube of lube, and two condoms with Marc Jacobs wrappers on them.  In addition to designing his own clothing line and being creative director for Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs has put a designer name on condoms.  Undoubtedly, it was done to promote the Marc Jacobs store in P-town.  So the next time you’re in P-town about to engage in a romantic encounter you can pull out your Marc Jacobs condom and protect yourself in style.  I’m sure all of the fashionistas will want condoms by Marc Jacobs.  I wonder if they will be advertised in Vogue?

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