A Blog Mainly About Food

If by "mainly" you mean "sometimes"

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

And the House is Restless

(apologies to those who are not co-workers, the first part of this will be boring-ish. But you'll get to read my business rant, so stick it out)

Oooh! Tensions in the office are high. We've been losing people left and right, and now the CEO/President sent a memo cancelling our office Christmas Party and postponing bonuses (bonii?) until January. Oh yeah, times have been tight at the office, what with our completely incompetent handling of a warehouse upgrade (coupled with the integration of a friggin' foreign warehouse at the same time). We're going to lose money, your perseverance will be rewarded, we're seeing the light, blah blah blah blah blah.

Here's what should have been done at the very start of this process: We should have hired a professional warehouse consultant firm at the outset, and not given management of training and transition to a junior level employee who commands little respect and most likely gained the position/promotion by being the annoying partisan sycophant that she is. (Don't know who I'm talking about? Feel free to ask). Oh yeah, NOW you hire a new person with warehouse experience to oversee everything. Great work.

It seems logical to me that a technological upgrade of the sort that we embarked on in February requires up-front know-how--an initial outlay of cash for consultants to train employees and implement systems smoothly. We moved from a second or third generation warehouse management system to a sixth. An analogy: imagine moving from MS DOS to Windows with no guidance except a basic understanding of how the system is supposed to work. Add on a few more dimensions of complexity because you have hundreds of employees making the same jump at once and maybe, just maybe you have a fair analogue for what the office went through this past winter. It seems to me a smart business man would plan for the worst contingency--especially because we run a client-based fulfillment service. That means cash up front, yes. But I'm sure the hundreds of hours spent shelling out dough trying to mop up the mess is much more.

I still am befuddled by business practices I've encountered in the real world. There are really only two substantive assets that a non-industrial based business has: physical holdings and brain power. Think of it this way: Toyota has TONS of assets in actual "things". They could subsist on selling cars alone, with few upgrades, for some time. But a non-material producing company doesn't have much save for the buildings it owns and the brainpower of its employees. Companies like this are media, software companies--anything outside of the manufacturing world. Now, no employer is going to like it if the office gets trashed from no cleaning or upkeep, right? So if brainpower is the only other asset, it seems logical to me that employee satisfaction should be a primary concern of any business. Of course, corporations don't look at things that way, mainly because the willing pool of replacements for lost assets (in this case, employees) is often ample. Which is why smaller companies are nice. They don't have the necessary outreach/visibility/capital to lose staff willy-nilly. In publishing, Pearson/Longman/Penguin/Prentice Hall is a great example of the corporate. You think--what an awesome job, I'm working for Penguin! Well, I've met a bunch of people who work for them and only one has ever been happy. Even he was looking for work at a smaller press when I met him. Everything about the Pearson conglomerate is über-corporate, mired in red tape, and the employees are pretty much unhappy, from what I can tell.

Now, I work for a small company edging on corporate. So though we have some of the same issues as a big corp (poor vertical communication, mistreatment of some entry level employees) we get some of the problems of a small company as well (cash crunches, hiring freezes, that kind of thing.) It's a fascinating and frustrating place to work. I've learned a lot about business while I've been here. But like many others, I am feeling a bit of the old strain. The office is totally restless today. That company wide memo? Not something that would happen in a big corporation--totally a small office move. Its probably ruffled some feathers, not that this hasn't been coming for a while. But the feeling of stress in the office is unpleasant right now. I think I need a smoke.