It’s Nothing Personal, Just Business…or is it? – Chris Berardi
When she was five, she would find old magazines and TV guides around her parents house, pile them into a big red Radio Flyer wagon and resell them to her neighbors on Saturday mornings. Ding Dong! Good Morning! Mr Feeley, opened the door to greet Meghan, stopping at the oak threshold with is moccasin slippers hanging over the edge by an inch, toes curled, Eagles mug in hand, and wearing his wife’s pink bathrobe. With a Rocky Balboa accent, he asked “Whaddya got there Meg?”
“Same as last week, Magazines!”, she replied with bright blue eyes, and a semi toothless smile. She handed him the top copy from her stack, and Mr Feeley scans the cover.
“I already have that issue of Time, it’s last month’s copy”, said Mr. Feeley
“Well how about this one?”, handing him a Sports Illustrated issue with Patrick Ewing on the cover.
“That one is from two months ago!”
“But it’s Patrick Ewing!”, Meg replied.
“Fine, how much?”
“A Dollar”, she said.
“You drive a hard bargain, how about 50 cents, and you keep the Magazine?”
“Sounds good to me!”
Meghan repeated this process with every neighbor on her side of her block, then would wait for her Father’s permission to let her cross the street, and hit up every other neigbor. Some neighbors bought the magazines for a dollar, some just gave her a dollar, and thought it was cute. In any case, she was persistent. She made a killing for a 5 year old, and her brothers despised her ability to stockpile candy from the corner store.
25 years later, the Tall, blue eyed, brown haired woman found herself deeply embedded in similar and lasting relationships with over 130 doctors, all over Philly. Her favorites were from South Philly , off Broad Street, Oregon Ave,, and Passyunk Ave. They were the hard nosed type, tough to crack. Ya know, the kind of guys that still smoke in their office, kick their feet up, and bullshit with anyone that can handle it, knowing full well the implications of their colorful
humor. They are all softies anyhow, or at least Meg made it sound that way. She always kept a good repor, never missed an appointment, and always remained respectful and professional. Meg loved her company, she looked up to her senior reps, and saw their path, and a life with the company that took such good care of them. She honored the culture, mastered her product knowledge and built strategic partnerships, owning the entire Philadelphia territory. At times she was asked to lead national sales calls. She was honored by leaders enterprise wide, and studied by high level Executive riding along with her to get their balls busted in South Philly.
Over the course of 3 years with her company, Meghan climbed to be the Top sales rep in the nation for year ending 2017. In recognition, she was granted a trip to Italy by the President of the company. Flash forward to February of 2018. Every sales rep and manager received an Email advising them to stay home the following workday. Within 24 hours of that Email, sixty-five percent of the workforce was laid off. Meghan was one of them. All senior sales reps kept their jobs as the company changed its focus away from it’s number one drug. Meg, having her best year with the company and on top of the world, was crushed. She was in tears when I saw her, make-up running, let down in the worst way. She believed in her company. She was in shock, never in a million years thinking this was possible. They removed the part of their workforce that made them successful, no innovation or thoughts on repurposing, switching drugs, or doing research on opioid alternatives? All those bright minds, with esprit de corps, washed away.
Now the part that eats away at my soul is the fact that a company that made 13 Billion Dollars last year couldn’t just squeeze enough pennies together to give their sales force a proper send-off. A few weeks severance and the rest of the months pay, and a couple months health benefits? Oh and by the way, we cancelled the trip to Italy that you earned.
“Well….that’s a big FU isn’t it? “, I asked my Dad.
“Yeah, we would never let that happen. Did I ever tell you the story about the Basil Farm?
One couch over My Dad closes his book shut and puts his reading glasses on top of his head. I kicked my feet up and over the armrest of my parents leather loveseat (socks on, shoes off of course) which was too short for me to rest my legs on and look normal. I settled into the shrunken leather couch, cradled for storytime. I mentally prepare myself for another Dad story to hang up next to the “Meaning of Life Story”, the “Life as a Series of Doors” story, and my personal favorite, “Life as a Large Ship” story. As comical as those titles sound, and although he may not believe it, my Dad has an ability to tell short stories that have significant and powerful meaning, often times giving me great perspective and vision.
He was in a monthly meeting for the American Culinary Foundation. This particular meeting started with an offsite tour of a basil farm owned and operated by a Mother and her Son. My Dad a Regional Chef at a successful grocery store chain, and lover of all things horticulture, found himself walking through a greenhouse 3 football fields long, covered with a sea of green basil as far as the eye could see. He asked “Have you ever smelled that much fresh basil before? Imagine the last time you tore a piece of basil and smelled it, and times that by a hundred.”
The young man guided my Dad to the Tilapia tanks, which fertilized the water for the entire Aquaponic system, feeding the basil, which cleaned and filtered the water. My Dad asked the young man who they did business with, and one of the companies named was my Dad’s employer. My Dad was filled with excitement, he had no idea that he was at the epicenter of one of the main basil suppliers to one of his grocery stores! He recounted what the Son said.
“Yea they were really great to us. We had an unfortunate experience when we arrived in one morning last year. The sea of green here was yellow, all plants had perished and all the fish were belly up in the the tanks. A competitor broke in and sabotaged our facility, dumping harsh chemicals into the water, killing everything in sight. When your company was affected by the shortage, they didn’t just switch to another supplier, they showed up with food, catered the entire day for us while we were dealing with the police and the collapse of our dream. They helped us clean up the facility and they paid for the entire re-creation of our equipment, fish, and plants. They paid for everything.” My Dad looked over at me with tears in his eyes, still in awe of what his company was capable of. The thoughtfulness of this really impacted me, and the lesson was so timely.
The one question you might be asking yourself is what does all of this mean? What is the point dude? I look at most corporations in a very cynical fashion. I was a “Stakeholder” in a company with a very progressive culture of empowerment, “care for our own”, and familial values ; and like Part 1, I too have been crushed. I have always wanted to be part of a company that somehow demonstrates the altruism that the company in Part 2 noted. The former is far more abundant than the latter.
For those that are employed by a corporation, I insist that one must have a skeptical, if not pragmatic view on their job. The company may infuse a variety of prophetic and dream-like cultural pieces, and statements, gifts, and ideals ; but this is seduction. It’s kind of like a numbing agent, or brainwashing…watch out for the con and look for the altruism. Company 2 gives me hope.
I used both of these examples to inform the reader that as leaders of industries, we have a choice in how we wish to respond to crises large or small. When the time comes, how will you respond? Who will you be thinking about? Who will your decisions affect?