Chairman of the Board
To be a Success; to have a lot of money; to be considered someone worth a damn; someone who gets the respect and the admiration- the love, the cars, the houses, the girls- you've got to be smart and capable and responsible and good looking and wear a suit and possess grooming and be above all driven, capable, intelligent, passionate, forthright, trustworthy, honest, level headed, a team player, a go-getter; someone with flawlessly transparent finesse, from good stock, possessing credentialed academic achievement outmatched only by a broad range of verifiably challenging professional Wins; someone who arrives highly recommended and remains laser-like focused on consistently delivering top notch results in the face of extreme expectations.
All manner of To Be A Success There Is No Second Place Only First Loser type of rhetoric must be pretty much entirely genetically hardwired into the basically default settings of an otherwise deity-only sub-optimal mother board like mind; where this type of Winning Isn't Everything It's the Only Thing thinking is built in and unquestioned and disregarded in Eat My Dust fashion for some other nobody to winnow through and ponder over, worry, whine and whimper about because You, you are the early bird and you are catching the worm, you are arriving early and leaving late; hell, scratch that, Early Birds Don't Get the Worm, they ARE the worm! And worms are eaten god dammit! You don't arrive early and leave late- you don't ever leave! There's no time for leaving, coming and going takes too much time away from productivity, efficiency, advantage, winning! There's simply too much shit to shovel god dammit; and you're just the guy to shovel it, all of it, all the shit; so much shit that the other guy simply couldn't have even conceived it ready or necessary for shoveling; and you're shoveling that hard fought, out of the box, novel, innovative, ground breaking shit, higher and faster and with more density per square dollar than any other god damned guy, or collection of god damned guys, up to and including this very date in all of human history combined; because you do all that shit, all day, everyday, week after month after year after lifetime, with a Winners Ease and a ceaselessly genuine, Sea to Shining Sea extreme like mega-smile on your god damned perpetually gentleman-like, standing up to the red menace type of rigid, jawboney and powerful face.
And that's what it takes. If you're not somebody today, you're inherently confident that you'll be somebody tomorrow or, hell, some other day all together, but it's so certainly going to god damned come to you why even waste a first thought on it; because after all that you are capable of, all of your potential, your track record and your vision, you deserve what's rightfully yours. All you've been is Everything and all you've got to do is more than that. And you're doing it. You've done it. If you want to be Something? You've just got to be the god damned best you can god damned be and at the end of the day if that's better than everyone else's best then you get the Power! You get the women! Your lustrously blonde viking hair is able to be let down while the spoils become yours and yours alone.
And just about all of that turned out to be pretty much entirely horse-shit.
In reality, you just had to do one of two things,
(a) find something that people needed to survive (or, at least thought that they needed to survive, or at least something that you could persuade them that they needed to survive) and cordon it off and put up a really tall fence around it; and then of course guard the ever loving fuck out of that fence,
(b) be willing to tell the guy in (a) whatever the good god damn he wanted to hear.
And the Chairman of the Board was only guy (b) for exactly as long as it took to become guy (a); and it didn't hurt that he was born into a slightly larger pool of guys (c) which was basically the pool of guys that were predominantly the sons of guys (a) and guys (b) and who were pretty much entirely reared by the gentle erosion of opportunity American Dreamt of by the monied class and that had unquestioned access to the best schools, the best friends, the wellest connected attorneys, the most empathetic of doctors, the Englishiest of nannies, the greenest and most fountainiest of lawns, smartest haircuts, most car’d garages &c.
And so it kind of goes without saying that the Chairman of the Board was not only this kind of guy he was also kind of entirely a dick- complete with rumors abound that he was out of touch with the common man, and how could a guy like that ever understand a guy like me, and so on down the line. And it may or may not have been true that he didn't personally feel like that was the case (re: status equalling dick). And when I say that he didn't feel like that was the case, I think that it’s important to mention that I don't mean that he actively didn't feel that way, as in he'd thought about it and concluded that those were not his feelings on the subject of whether or not he was a dick, but rather he'd never considered the subject; as in it never occurred to him that he was anything other than correct, upstanding, righteous, caring, benevolent and kind with a smart suit and a smarter head of hair. Sure, he may have seemed aloof and cold and both comfortable with and kind of weirdly bonery about the ability to flatly upend the destinies of whole constituencies of more or less day laborers with the swipe of a very expensive and probably at least monogrammed pen- people living essentially, as they say, paycheck to paycheck, and more or less on the brink of financial calamity should just about anything out of the ordinary happen; and who would do so- swipe the pen- with the unflinching confidence of a man with a direct line to God’s ears and/or data sets being interpreted by experts with beards having grown well past necklines; who were also sort of exclusively almost also men, mostly white men actually, that had been reared in said same circles of unquestionable expertise by guys (a), (b) and (c) but who had majored in more measurable degree programs like math and science and computer math and engineering science…and:
"If I don't downsize this group then the whole group will be downsized, until frankly there's no size left! And it's my job to run this business and running a business means maximizing profits god dammit and to maximize them at all costs; well, not aIl costs of course, more like low as all possible shit costs, you know what I mean though, a figure of speech and all of that; and I wouldn't be doing the rest of the workers, never mind the customer and the shareholders, any justice by running it [the business] into any type of ground, now would I? The answer is No, not if I had any god damned sense god dammit. Hell, I didn't get to where I am today by relying on another man's sense and I don't plan on starting...".
And of course this being one of his more routine lectures/unquestioned truths he would often end it with a rhetorical question that he would then answer himself before trailing and/or wandering off into some sort of serious looking thought, or onto some other path through some high level office building toward most often where the office admin team routinely housed the snacks; because this kind of guy, (a)'s, answer their own clearly rhetorical self posed questions and usually end the conversation whenever they either run out of their own thoughts, become distracted, or simply collapse into a jelly like self satisfied heap.
The funny thing about this Chairman of the Board though is that in light of his usual ranting about how when times get tough you've got to cut costs to avoid crashing and burning- and since the highest and more importantly the most disposable costs tend to be People related he'd be forced to pretty much fire pretty much every-fucking-one almost entirely and even though these were actual human lives that didn't matter as much as keeping the business afloat in the long term because that was how you keep businesses from like eating total shit, well: he'd done almost exactly that (i.e. ran-business-into-ground), right before he failed miraculously upward, defying the laws of the known universe, like a super well connected Phoenix rising heroically from the ashes of emergency corporate strategy and high-level branding and rebranding sessions into his current position as WaltCo Chairman of the Board.
Back when he was just the CEO of WaltCo, he'd presided over what was at the time a rather profitable, well known, lucrative and growing company that everyone, regardless of whether they liked it or not, relied on for quality at the lowest everyday price.
He'd been brought on at a time of rapid growth and almost limitless opportunity and slowly, over the course of ten or so years, did little but insulate his own power, stifle the career mobility of anyone who appeared promising- out of fear of revolution; and accumulate bonuses in the form of Class A and B shares of common stock- the price of which had remained largely stagnant but, regardless, granted him a not influentially insignificant block of voting rights.
And but in an ironic and rather absurd not so twist of fate- though a widely accepted one, because Like What Can You Do- when he finally did announce his resignation, the knowledge that he would no longer be around, that pretty much anyone, or no one, would fill his seat at the top sent the stock price north almost 300% at one point intraday, before closing the day having doubled.
And as you may have already realized, propelled along with it the net worth of WaltCo’s largest shareholder, the now ex-CEO. For years the markets had attempted to starve him out; but in the end, like most ends of these kind, they ended up having to pay him to leave.
And after he'd left the search began for his replacement. The entire Human Resources department was whipped into a frenzy. All manner of Vice Presidents and Directors alike shifted their emphasis from being 100% about themselves and their careers to being overtly 100% about themselves and their careers- as they shit all over each other trying in some form or another to suck, blow, bribe, murder and coerce their way into, or at least closely aligned with, the position and/or people at/or nearing the now open Top. And all of this went on for the better part of a really long time. And all the while the stores remained open and the merchandise was replenished and no one got raises and medical benefits slowly deteriorated as premiums rose and hours were cut and etc. etc., just like always.
And then a curious thing started happening: without a CEO to remind all of the managers that they had an actual job to do, all of the managers had completely stopped managing anything but their own individual bottom lines; and the people that did the actual work of running and maintaining an actual physical store that provided access to physical things were provided the freedom, that is a de facto platform (in the absence of any impact from a "management" "structure") was enabled, one that allowed for those folks doing the work, to make decisions for themselves, and so they did.
Almost immediately, functional changes were made: soda and candy was moved next to diabetic testing supplies, prepaid phones next to the pseudo-ephedra and plastic sandwich baggies, hypodermic needles and rapid results HIV kits bundled together; and so on down the line. And instead of a punishment for being late, encouragement to be early was provided in the form of daycare options and medical coverage; and overtime wasn't so much eliminated as simply went away, along with the concept of turnover; and believe it or not- profits went UP; and kept going up.
After the first quarter numbers beat analyst expectations, the analysts agreed: fluke.
After the second quarter numbers beat expectations, the analysts scratched their heads.
And after the third and fourth quarter numbers demolished expectations, well, most of the analysts were either reassigned to analyze other sectors or fired all together.
And it went on like this for almost two solid years, with no top leader and a management team voraciously embroiled in a political echo chamber, so that the business itself became a not even so much afterthought; and profits steadily rose until the announcement came, broadcast over all of the major financial news outlets, "WaltCo Names New CEO- Ex-Ceo's Empty Chair", and the markets rallied and the stock rose more on a percentage basis that day than on any other day in the company's entire history; profits rolled in, shareholder value rose and kept rising, workers had work, the management team was left alone to fight with each other over credit and perks and the company had an unyielding new leader, everyone was legitimately happy.
Now, once in charge, the first decision that the new CEO made was to visit some of the highest producing stores in order to see and be seen as they say; and it was a huge marketing success as he allowed people to just sit and talk, without judgement, about what was working and what wasn't, in the stores, their lives, whatever they had on their minds. The chair was a great listener and able to get the employees to relax a little in his company; and this bred an enormous amount of trust...and profits were maximized.
And but in the meantime and in an even weirder twist of fate, though it was the Ex-CEO's chair that received most of the internal credit for WaltCo's turnaround, it was still the Ex-CEO that reaped most of the financial rewards. How? Well, of course, as is pretty obvious to the casual observer, when he'd resigned as CEO he was of course available to serve on the board of directors- which he did based on a unanimous vote of the board members he'd grown close to while he was serving as CEO. It just made sense, what with his lengthy experience at such a high level in the industry, his resume was a natural fit. So that while the board had spent two years searching for his replacement as CEO, he'd been focused on securing the Chairman position for himself, which he did just in time to name his old chair as the new CEO. Needless to say, with such documented success on his Curriculum Vitae as Chairman of the Board that was responsible for Waltco's miraculous turnaround, he was asked to join other boards, to give speeches, attend parties and enjoy all manner of special treatment- rare liquors, ancient wines, exotic trips hunting exclusively extinct animals, jets so private they were invisible etc. and so on.
And lucky for all of the workers and shareholders, the Board only met four times per annum and had about as much actual impact on daily operations as the local prom. And for the first time, among a host of other operational decisions now being made at the local level, each store was able to purchase specialty items that may have otherwise never been considered by the gauntlet like vetting process of the corporate buyers having to pass each item through the prism of What Can This Product Do For My Like Personal Bottom Line.
And one of these purchases happened to be a line of extremely interesting and eventually world changing footwear: a Final Shoelution, if you will. But we'll talk about that offline, or over cocktails, or coffee, or whatever, have my people set something up: love you, mean it.