- My Jobs, Pre-College
- My Jobs, College
- My Jobs, Graduate School
- My Jobs, Introduction to the Real World
- My Jobs, Second Job a Winner
- My Jobs, Working for a Maniac
If you recall, in the last post there were two major players (other than me) including:
- Maniac — The crazed boss I worked for.
- Rude — The other General Manager (same level as Maniac) that had been rude to me from day one and whom I didn’t like one bit.
At this point, things were humming along for me career-wise. My little $30 million business was turning the corner and it looked like we’d make it off the chopping block. And, as things often do, once all was nice and quiet, everything changed.
One day the entire department was called into a conference room. They announced:
- No one was being fired.
- The division was reorganizing under the two General Managers above (what they each were responsible for shifted.)
- I was now responsible for the biggest chunk of our business — $500 million in sales or so — reporting to Rude. (Yikes!!!! I was ready to die!!!!)
- I now had five people reporting to me (instead of one).
Wow. What a stunner. I didn’t know whether to be happy that I was “promoted” (no pay increase, mind you) to manage more business or whether to shoot myself because I was working for Rude. I remember going into Maniac’s office after the announcements and he recalled our dinner a few months earlier where I said I never wanted to work with/for Rude. He said not to worry, that everything would be ok. Yeah, right. Easy for him to say. He wasn’t the one being thrown to the shark.
Then a funny thing happened: Rude took me under his wing. We started working together and actually clicked. We thought much the same and I saw that he actually was a good manager to his people (the ones under his leadership.) I started to learn from him and even grew to like him. He turned out to be a great boss — probably among the top five I’ve had in my career.
I worked in this position for a couple years under Rude and it was among the most successful times in my career. Our business grew tremendously, we received national awards as a company, I received a national award for business leadership, I got a couple raises and some stock awards, and everything was humming right along. It was almost too perfect. I think you know what’s coming up next…
The division had lost money two years ago and broken even the last year. Now corporate was demanding a big profit number from us. They were touting our success to Wall Street/the media as the growth engine for the whole company. We had to make our numbers since not only did our division depend on it, the company as a whole depended on it as well.
We were given an unattainable profit figure for the current fiscal year. There was no way we could make it (it was about 15 times more than we made the previous year) running the business as normal (we could have made five times more, but that wasn’t enough.) So the only way we could hope to make it was to throw the Hail Mary pass. We concocted a very aggressive promotion for the last couple months of our fiscal year. There were deep discounts to get our customers to buy, buy, buy. Yet, there were limits on how much they could buy so we didn’t take a financial bath. It was all thought out and planned to a “T”. The program was put together and given to the sales department. Our hopes were now in their hands.
As the fiscal year closed out, our sales were even stronger than we hoped. It looked like we were going to make our numbers based on what we knew was sold overall (assuming the deep discounts were only a portion of the total sales.) I was already counting my lucrative bonus. Then the you-know-what hit the fan. The final numbers came in and we found out that virtually 100% of our sales were sold with the deep discount. We ended the year losing several million dollars. Our division was crushed as was the company (not bankrupt or anywhere close to it — but the stock took a big hit.) Heads needed to roll.
And they did. But surprisingly, they rolled in a direction we couldn’t have expected. It was almost a random roll. The president of our division was “reassigned” to an out-of-sight job at corporate headquarters. Ok, he was in charge, he should have taken a hit. But then, the VP of Sales, the guy who had sold us and our profit down the river, was not impacted at all. Nothing changed for him. Strange indeed. Maniac “left to pursue other opportunities” (for those of you who don’t know corporate-speak, that means he was fired.) Strange again, he didn’t have anything to do with the problems. Both Rude and I took a hit in our favor with the corporate offices (since we managed the biggest parts of the business), but we remained in place — for now.
In a short period of time, a new General Manger was brought in. Rude left shortly after that for a new company. Another General Manager and a VP were brought in. No one I had worked for was left. I was reassigned to a $40 million business and two employees. A year after hitting the top of my game, I was back to managing an “oh-by-the-way” business.
I started looking to make a job change and we’ll cover that in the next post in this series. For now, let’s review what I learned in this job:
- Luck plays a role, again. Once again we see the benefits of good luck (being assigned to a big business, getting a good boss, etc.) and bad luck (the profit directive, how the program was executed, etc.) in the career process. This is a theme we’ll see over and over again.
- Sometimes what you think is a change for the worse is actually a change for the better. This was the second time in my career that I had been assigned a new boss, dreaded working for him, and then found out he was really a great guy and a good mentor. And this wouldn’t be the last time it happened to me either. So I guess I can say “don’t judge a book by its cover (or reputation.)”
- Business is rough. What a roller coaster ride I had been on for three years. These were the best of times and the worst of times. Welcome to the world of business.
- It was a great experience. Despite the fact that it didn’t go as I expected, I felt my time in this job was well worth it. Why? Because it taught me many valuable lessons, gave me some great experience, helped me amass some amazing accomplishments, and, ultimately, prepared me for the next phase of my career — a jump that was much more than I could have expected without this experience. No, I didn’t leave happy. But I left having moved my career along dramatically and accomplishing much more than even I had expected from myself.
When this series continues, I’ll tell you about how I found and accepted a new job, only to have my dream job offered to me a couple months later. Stay tuned.