The companies in these stories are fictitious. Any resemblance to real companies, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
"I dunno, George," Trenton grunted as he finished slicing his drive into the rough between fairways, "Crap! Anyway, I've had the best consultants in. I've talked to everybody on the Executive team, and they all tell me the same thing: 'Sell the company'!"
George Caulder was Trenton Garvey's best friend. Had been since high school. Trent didn't mind sharing secrets with him because George was a Teacher at the local high school, and would never pass on any of what he heard
"There's got to be another way!" George said as he punched a wooden peg into the gouged sod near the front of the tee, balancing his ball carefully on top of it.
Neither of them noticed the glance that one of their impromptu foursome gave his partner. A few weeks earlier Phillip Masters and his longtime friend Walter Jackson had been involved in a heated discussion about the frustrations they had experienced with the companies for which they worked.
"I just can't believe they're so fucking blind!" Walter kicked an overstuffed chair in his frustration, "If you don't think like them, you can't have a good idea! What a load of shit!"
"Nah," Phil mumbled through the foam on his beer glass, "they just don't have to suffer the consequences of their poor decision-making! If somebody was there to kick their asses every time they screwed up, they'd HAVE to make better decisions."
"Maybe we should start a consulting company to do that for them!" Walter laughed, his white teeth gleaming in the midst of his ebony countenance, "We could call it 'Kick Ass Consulting'!"
"Nah," Phil said again, "We'd want a kick-ass name, but in a subdued way, y'know? How many of these pucker butts we work for do you think would hire a firm called 'Kick Ass Consulting'? We need something more reserved, but upbeat, you know?"
"Are you serious about this?" Walter's brow furrowed as he contemplated his red-haired friend.
Phil shrugged, "Not really, but who knows? Some great businesses have come from insane ideas..."
"All right," Walter joked, "That's enough beer for you, dude!"
Phil shrugged, and grinned that infectious grin that was his trademark, "Hey, can't blame a guy for puttin' his brain in gear! And by the way, I've hardly touched the beer!"
"Jesus Christ, George!" Trenton complained as they trudged down the fairway, caddies hauling their carts for them, "The damn company has been around for years! I know my shit! I couldn't have screwed it up that badly! Hell, we're even still profitable, but we're stagnating! The only way we can get new product is to buy other companies. Something's gotta give, but I'm damned if I know what! This last layoff is going to hurt us down the road. We've weeded out everything we can from recruiting, development, sales, and business development, and now we've had to hit support and consulting. We saved some money by sending our support offshore, but the customers complain that they can't understand those people in India, and they're getting really nasty about it!"
"Hey, let 'em complain!" George replied absent-mindedly, as his eyes searched the fairway for his ball, "They've invested a ton in your systems and a little inconvenience with support isn't going to make 'em jump ship. Too much momentum!"
"Maybe so, but I've got a bunch of big software licenses coming up for renewal," Trent griped as he beat the tall grass of the rough looking for his ball, "And a lot of 'em are making noises like they're going somewhere else. It's not like when we started. Hell everybody out there does what we do! We don't have time to invent anything anymore. Our entire development budget is taken up with bug fixing and putting in all the features that our competitors have introduced. It was a hell of a lot easier when we had the market to ourselves, I can tell you!"
Phil gave Walt another grin. Walt grinned back.
"Hey Walt!" Phil called from across the pub, "I've got it!"
"Got what?" Walt didn't have to raise his voice. This time of day there weren't many people in their favorite watering hole. That was why they always took an early lunch.
"The name for our company!" Phil grinned.
"Company? What company?"
"You know," Phil coaxed, "the consulting company we talked about the other day!"
"You're still thinking about that?" Walt chided, "Hell, I thought we were joking!"
"We were, but it kind of stuck with me." Phil said, "I think it would be fun to think it out, as if we were going to do it. Make kind of a game out of it, you know?"
Walt grinned, wiping at his foam mustache with a bar napkin. "Yeah, I guess it would be fun at that! So what did you come up with?"
"Check it out!" Phil handed him a slick new business card.
"'Success, Inc.'" Walt read, "But aren't most consulting firms partnerships or something? By the way how much did you spend to get a process color print job on this? Christ, that's awfully expensive for a game!"
"Most consulting firms are actually corporations," Phil replied, "but they don't advertise it. Companies want a corp-to-corp relationship with their contractors now because of the tax law changes. And no, I didn't spend squat on the cards. Bought some of those 'clean edge' business card forms at the office supply place and designed the logo in Illustrator. Did a little layout work and printed 'em on my photo-quality inkjet!"
"Damn!" Walt exclaimed, "They look professional!"
"Cool, huh?" Phil said smugly, "Oh yeah, I did something else, too!"
He pulled a red file folder from his laptop case and handed it to Walt.
"I tried to think of ten fundamental principles for running a company to ensure long term success," he said as Walt scanned the paper inside the folder, "but I need your input. I think numbers eight and ten are a little weak, and I'm not sure they're really 'fundamental principles'."
"Why ten?" Walt asked absently.
"It's kind of a magic number." Phil said, "Easy to remember, and big enough to hold sigificant content, but not so large that, with a little effort, one couldn't remember what's on a ten-item list."
"Number eight is just a corollary to number four." Walt had always been the more analytical of the two. In fact, it had been the complement of Phil's visionary creativity and Walt's keen analytical mind that had made them such a successful team at Cal Poly where they had done their business studies. Each time one had a project to complete, they'd work together to come up with something that usually blew the profs away!
"Number ten is okay, but I don't think it's fundamental enough." Walt continued, "I think there's a deeper principle under that. Let me look 'em over and I'll give 'em back to you next week. I think we need stronger, more concrete language on a couple of 'em too."
"So what are you going to do?" George asked as his five iron came to rest on his shoulder. The ball hit the slope at the back of the green and rolled back toward the hole.
"Damned if I know!" Trent had cut his losses and chipped out of the rough, but the seven iron shot from the fairway put him smack in the bunker. "I've got maybe two more quarters before the board decides we need new blood, and if I don't come up with something, I guess I'll be pounding the pavement."
"Excuse me, sir!" Phil said on impulse, as he pulled one of his home-made business cards from his wallet, "I... that is, WE, can help!"
Walt's mouth dropped open in astonishment as his buddy handed the card to Trenton.
"I apologize for the intrusion," Phil said, "but I couldn't help but overhear your conversation. You're in a bind. Exactly the kind of bind our firm, Success, Inc., was formed to help companies out of."
Walt tried to get Phil's attention without the others noticing, but Phil studiously ignored him.
"How do you think YOU can help ME, son?" Trent asked skeptically. This kid looked like he was still wet behind the ears.
"It's true that I'm young, sir." Phil admitted, "but I have had the advantage of studying the experiences of some of the finest and some of the worst minds in business. One of the problems you're experiencing is a shortage of fresh thinking. Success, Inc. can show you how to overcome that by the application of a simple principle. We can also show you how to regain your market dominance, not by doing what everyone else does, but by showing everyone else how to best serve your customers."
Trent studied the card, and eyed the young man speculatively. "You'll have thirty minutes to convince me."
He handed the redheaded kid his own card. "Be there at eight AM, Monday morning!"
"No sir." Phil said firmly.
Walt's mouth dropped open again.
"Early Monday morning is one of the worst possible times for making important decisions." Phil lectured, "Tuesday, at 10:30 AM will be much better. You'll have cleared out any remaining cobwebs from the weekend and will be totally focussed on work. Our proposal will require your total concentration, so we will meet after the morning rush of Monday's leftover business, before hunger becomes a factor but not after a meal, so you won't feel drowsy."
Trent stared at the young punk for several long moments. Who the hell did he think he was, anyway! Damn cocksure little prick!
"Monday morning, eight AM or not at all!" Trent leaned into the guy's face. He was a tall, well built man and he knew his size could intimidate.
Unfazed, Phil held his ground. Shrugging his shoulders he said, "Suit yourself. If you change your mind, the number is on the card."
Without another word he strode back to his ball and started his backswing.
Dumbfounded, Trenton raised his voice. "Don't you know how to compromise, boy!"
Phil looked at him coolly. "The reason we will be successful in turning your company around is that we will base our advice on fundamental principles. One compromises on issues, never on principles."
With a clink, his six iron launched the ball and a healthy divot of sod down the fairway. The ball bounced just in front of the pin, struck the pin, then came to rest two feet from the hole.
At a loss for words for the first time in a very long time, Trent turned to George. George raised one eyebrow, then shrugged, as if to say 'Damned if I know!'.
This pipsqueak got under his skin, but the very gutsiness of his actions intrigued Trenton.
"All right, I'll bite." he said, "Ten thirty, Tuesday morning. This had better be GOOD!"
"Yeah!" Phil exclaimed, looking over the revised list of principles, "That's really good! But how do we make them stick to these?"
"Kick their asses!" Walt grinned, "Isn't that how this whole discussion started?"
"Well, maybe," Phil temporized, "but we really need a carrot and stick approach."
"Yeah, you're right." Walt rubbed the close-cropped wool atop his head, "It needs to be something that can be administered pretty quickly as punishment or reward, but it has to be memorable. Traditional incentive systems won't work. We need something visceral, primitive. You know, quick, sharp, and to the point!"
Both friends sipped beer while lost in thought. Suddenly, both snapped their fingers and pointed at each other.
"SEX!" they exploded simultaneously.
"Nah!" Walt made a pushing motion, "It'd never work! We'd have all kinds of lawsuits if we tried that."
"Not if it was clearly spelled out in the contract!" Phil said excitedly, "The trick would be getting them to sign a contract like that."
"Yeah, and the contract would have to be airtight, non-negotiable!" Walt muttered.
A smile spread slowly across Phil's face as he looked devilishly at his friend.
"You're not thinking of... ?!" Walt began, a smile creeping across his own features.
Phil nodded slowly, "... Freddie!"
Their friend Fred Mason was a practicing attorney with several business degrees, and one of the most unconventional minds they had ever encountered. Most thought him a bit of a flake, but while he had outraged judges and opponents alike with his unconventional approach, he had never lost a case. Neither had he ever pled one out.
"I'm going to meet him tomorrow for lunch." Walt said, "I'll see if he wants to play!"
"Okay," Phil was still lost in thought, "now about sex as punishment and reward..."
"Oh that's easy!" laughed Walt, "Kathy!"
In college, Katherine O'Connell had had a reputation as a slut. As the friends knew, however, she was actually quite selective about her bedmates. Once a bedmate was selected however, he (or she) had better be ready for a wild ride! To their knowledge, no one had ever discovered a sexual act that Kathy refused to perform.
When she wasn't working on her reputation, however, Kathy was one of the sharpest students in their classes, and had often collaborated with them on projects, contributing insight and an instinctive knowledge of human behavior that turned theory into reality for them.
"Are you crazy!" Walt exploded when they were finally free of the foursome, "That Cracker Jack card doesn't represent a real company! We've just been playing a game, and now you're acting like we're real consultants! Are you trying to get us arrested or something!"
"Actually," Phil smiled smugly, "That card DOES represent a real company. I got the paperwork back from the state yesterday. I'm CEO. You're CFO, Kathy's VP of Consulting, and Freddie, of course, is the legal department!"
"How did that happen?" Walt gasped, "Last I heard, we were just playing a game!"
"Well, I had a long talk with Freddie, and he assured me that the contract is unassailable." Phil's smile faded as he answered his friend, "And Kathy's in. Freddie filed the incorporation papers a couple of weeks ago."
"You weren't going to tell ME about this?" Walt was getting more than a little hot under the collar.
"Actually, that's what I was going to do today," Phil replied, "but our first customer came along before I got the chance."
"First customer!" Walt exploded, "You crazy bastard! You don't actually think this game we've been playing is going to help a real life company succeed, do you?"
Phil watched his tirade impassively.
"At first, I didn't." He replied, "It WAS just a game! Then Freddie told me, kind of off-handedly, that the contract he made up would actually hold up in court. That got me thinking more seriously. Then Kathy said that to sell it, you'd need a desperate CEO, somebody with nothing left to lose. Well, hell, this economy has produced plenty of those. I just didn't expect to find one so soon!"
"Okay," Walt huffed, "Suppose you DO sell this crazy scheme. Suppose the guy is crazy enough or desperate enough to go for it. What then? You don't actually think you can turn this company around for them, do you?"
"No," Phil looked him in the eye, "but I think WE can. Think about it! We've hashed this out over the last few weeks, and Freddie and Kathy have rounded off the corners and streamlined the process. The only real sticking point is getting a customer on board."
"It's one thing to game board a crazy notion like this, Red," Walt replied, "and something else entirely to do it in real life!"
"You're looking at it all wrong, Walt!" Phil's voice was low and intense, like his gaze, "What if it DOES work? What if we really CAN turn these companies around? Think of all the people who won't get laid off, or the investors who won't lose their shirts! Hell, think of having the job of making companies run the way they should! Wouldn't that be better than crunching numbers for those stuffed shirts you work for now?"
"And what do we do for income while we're waiting for this to pay off?" Walt wasn't giving in that easily.
"Ah! That reminds me!" the redhead pulled a sheaf of papers from his laptop case, "I called in a few favors and put together a hell of a business case, if I do say so myself! All I need is the CFO's signature on the bottom line and we're funded for the first three years of operation! Of course, we'll have to eat beans for a while, but we did enough of that in college! Whaddaya say, bro? Want to stick your neck out with me one more time?"
Walt looked over the papers without responding, dumbfounded that his friend had been able to secure financing for such a hare-brained scheme. Suddenly, though, he found himself contemplating a future where HE called the shots. Where executives jumped to do his bidding, and as a result, their companies ran more smoothly than ever before. 'Well, ' he thought, 'youth is the time for risk-taking!'. One of his professors had told him that. They were all still single, and though they were risking some pretty decent salaries, there were no families to suffer if things went sour.
Without a word, he signed in the blanks over the printed 'Walter Jackson, Chief Financial Officer' and handed the papers back to Phil.
Phil just looked at him with that grin on his face. "What are you giving them to ME for? You're the CFO, and if this isn't finance, I don't know what is!"
Walt slid the papers into his own case and shook his head. "I still think you're crazy, dude, but you need somebody to put some semblance of sanity on your wild-ass schemes, so I guess I'll go along and hold your hand."
"Trenton Garvey," Phil introduced, "This is Katherine O'Connell. She will be the consultant on your case."
Trent couldn't help but look the brunette over. The pseudo-conservative business suit fit just a little snugly on her voluptous figure, and tantalizing glimpses of the inner curve of her breasts peeked through a hint of red lace at the opening of the white, translucent blouse.
"Did you receive the contract I messengered over?" Phil was all business, as Katherine had advised.
"Yeah, I got it. I didn't find it funny." Trent scowled, "You have a lot of nerve wasting my time with some kind of sick joke! The only reason I let you in here was so I could watch your faces as the cops hauled you away!"
As he reached for the phone, the red-headed punk leaned over his desk and spoke in a low, intense voice.
"You have followed conventional wisdom from the day you formed this company, Trenton Garvey." Phil said, "and you've surrounded yourself with people who think like you! It's no wonder your company is failing and you can't figure out what to do about it! What that contract offers you is a chance to do something great! For us to succeed, however, we need to KNOW that you are COMMITTED to our program! We ask you to put your dignity on the line as a sign of that commitment, not your company's money, not your company's stock! We need to know that YOU PERSONALLY are committed! If you are willing to do that, we can help, if not, go ahead and make that call!"
He sat down in one of the guest chairs, and Katherine took his place leaning over the desk. He never saw the startling green of her eyes, since his own were riveted on her cleavage.
"You must also remember," she said, in a throaty, sultry voice, "that we reward good performance the same way we punish poor performance."
She took a deep breath, and another button on her blouse popped free, exposing even more of her luscious breasts.
"So what's it going to be, Trent?" Katherine toyed with the next button down, "How committed are you to the success of your company?"
Through the haze of his lust, Garvey thought that these two must really be crazy, but somewhere in the back of his brain a thought niggled: 'What if they are right? What if they have the answers I need?' Unlike some of the other consultants, they weren't charging by the hour. The contract was clear: His company paid a single, flat fee. If there were cost overruns, Success, Inc. would have to eat them. Granted, the price was not cheap, but it would never go up. For him, though, the price could be very high! On the other hand, if this brown-haired witch was the one administering the punishment, that could be fun too!
"What the hell... !" Trent muttered. The contract amount was well within his budget and his signature authority, and if this didn't work, he could still sell the company.
"You promise that these, these, sex acts will remain private?" He asked, "No one but your company and I will know about them?"
"That's our deal, as spelled out in the contract." Phil interjected as Katherine seated herself on the edge of the desk, 'accidentally' giving Garvey a peek up her skirt. "We take our contracts seriously. You'll also note that WE commit to your success by requesting to be paid at the end of the contract, instead of the beginning. If you don't meet specifically spelled out criteria for success by the end of that period, we don't get a dime."
Trent had forgotten, in his outrage over the 'other' provisions of the contract, that little 'no lose' clause. These people must be pretty damn sure of themselves!
"You can bet your asses that I'll hold you to that little clause!" He said.
"That's fine with us, Mr. Garvey," the red-head said calmly, "as long as you're willing to put YOUR ass on the line to make it happen!"
Trent started a retort, but realized it was just his pride taking a beating. He'd weathered worse and would get through this. In fact, as he thought about it, he started getting a boner over the idea of that little brunette tying him up and punishing him for being such a bad CEO...
The CEO pulled the contract toward him and initialed each of the sheets, then signed the last page. Ms. O'Connell took the contract and left the office. As she closed the door behind her, Phil handed Trent a red presentation folder.
"These are the principles by which you will run your company from now on." Masters said, "On the following pages you will find the reasons for those principles. Commit them to memory, then commit TO them. These are golden. They are your keys to success. By following them you will transition your company from a floundering startup with no clue about how to handle its competition to a mature, profitable enterprise that will be around long after your competitors have folded or been gobbled up by some other company."
Garvey leafed through the pages. Some of the stuff in the list on the first page made sense, but some of it, he snorted at.
"Okay, one and two are obvious, so what?" he scoffed, "Number three will never fly. Four - eh!"
Trent waggled his flattened hand, palm down, fingers outspread, to show his skepticism.
"Five will never get past the board," he continued, "nor will six and seven, eight is hogwash, and nine... If we worked like that we'd never get anything done! Ten... who cares? We don't do anything that affects the environment."
Trent tossed the folder on the desk in dismissal. "If that's the best you've got, you're NEVER going to get paid!"
"Nonetheless," Phil said evenly, pushing the folder back in his direction, "You WILL implement each and every one of these."
Just then, Katherine returned with copies of the signed contract. She gave the original to Phil, handed a copy to Trent, and slid the other copy into her briefcase. The red-head left, leaving the door unlocked.
"Come on, big boy," Katherine said seductively, "Let's get you out of those clothes!"
She smiled up at him as she helped him out of his jacket and tie, then stripped off his shirt, trousers and underwear, leaving him stark naked.
"We'll work on teaching you how to do this for yourself!" the brunette said playfully as she pulled off his socks, "Now be a good CEO and bend over the end of your desk. That's a good boy!"
With a ratcheting series of clicks, she cuffed his ankles to the short legs that supported his desk.
"Hey! What... ?!" he began.
"Now, now!" she chided, "You've been a bad CEO and need to be punished so you'll know what not to do in the future!"
Katherine tapped the copy of the contract that was still on his desk to remind him what he'd committed to. Then she produced a longer set of shackles and proceeded to bind his hands to the legs at the other end of the desk, forcing him to rest his torso on its surface.
"Now," Ms. O'Connell's voice became suddenly harder as she drew a short cat-o'-nine-tails from her bag, "for failing in your duty as CEO, five lashes. For being such a pompous prick that you wouldn't even hire anyone who thought differently than you, ten lashes. For your callous disregard of employees, customers, and investors, a good ass-reaming so you'll have some idea what they felt like in their dealings with you!"
Trent started to protest, but as his mouth opened, Katherine wedged a rubber ball between his teeth and fastened its straps quickly behind his head.
"It's my turn to talk, Mr. Garvey." she said, "YOU need to listen for a change. Not only is this in your contract, but we have the muscle and the legal right to enforce the punishment provisions of your contract any time we feel it's necessary. This particular session is your orientation. In this session we apprise you of the reasons for your company's current state, and point out where YOU went wrong. The punishments we administer will ensure that you do not forget those lessons."
"Now, five lashes for failing in your duty." She stepped back and laid the cat hard across his back.
Katherine had a lot of experience wielding such an implement, and knew just how hard she could swing without cutting flesh. The welts were another matter. They would be a slowly fading reminder of this session for days to come.
Trent was grunting and sweating, biting hard into the rubber of the gag by the time she finished.
"Ten lashes for your insane notion that only your ideas matter, and that anyone who doesn't think like you isn't worth listening to!"
Trenton Garvey was a Vietnam war veteran. He had never been a POW, but he'd been through survival training, and had suffered worse beatings than this, so he couldn't understand why, by the time the tenth lash fell, he was crying like a baby!