There’s very little devoted to the topic of ruining your own success, so rather than join the millions of people trying to make you rich (and themselves), the Czar thought he’d show you business slouches how to really shoot yourself in the foot.
Why would you want a business to fail? We’re not sure, but it’s evident a lot of business owners do. Who are we to question? Either way, we’ve compiled a short list of sure-fire tips for nosing her right into the dirt, and make yourself a true ensign of industry.
Note: a helpful, easy-to-remember glossary of business terms will not be readily found at the end of this page.
- Put as much stress as possible on your call-center people. You’ve probably heard of these people, because in addition to working for you, they deal with your customers directly. Ideally, you know you have customers as well. Anyway, when the customer calls your company’s phone numberto order “goods and services” (as the economists call it), or “stuff” (as you most likely have mentally reduced it to)they talk to your call center representatives (“those phone people”). Because of this, you’ll want to make their jobs, their lives, indeed, their very essence completely miserable. You can do this by changing procedures on them frequently, giving them a 1980s-era ordering system that breaks down anytime someone uses a photocopier elsewhere in the building, rotating new managers on them every month, and as little useful training as possible. Then, order them to increase sales by 35%. These elements are ideal for creating a good customer interaction:
Customer: Hi. I’d like to order a…
Call Rep: Shut up.
- Destroy morale at all costs. One thing to look for is how employees decorate their cubicles (those roofless holding pens, which are as close to a useful workspace as an empty cardboard refrigerator box is a “time machine” to a five-year-old). You can learn a lot about employee morale levels from their cubes. Cat posters are ideal. If an employee has a poster of a basketful of kittens and a “Smile” caption, things are good. If you see an employee with a poster featuring a frightened cat hanging from a branch, with a caption of “Hang In There,” you have a morale problem. If you have an employee displaying a skinned, bloody cat carcass nailed to a wall with a caption of “I Hate This Place,” you’re indeed well on your way… especially if it’s not a poster. Low morale causes turnover, which raises training and recruiting expenses astronomically. Plus, the resultant labor deficit overloads the remaining employees to where they begin quitting. So low morale is a good weapon for destroying your business. The best way to accomplish low morale is to treat your employees like you think they’re imbeciles. Do this by offerring tenth-percent raises, denying training classes, and producing as many restrictive policies as possible… then, balance that with utterly insulting incentives, such as a “You’re the best” certificate printed from PowerPoint clip art on a crummy laser printer, or perhaps a pizza day every third August, and a work-from-home policy which you should promote and advertise like crazy until you cancel it two days before it was supposed to start. Bad morale, you see, produces all sorts of good business-killing results.
Customer: Hi. I’d like to check the status of my order.
Call Rep: Yeah? When I was seven, I wanted to be an astronaut.
- Eliminate, or at least flip, the corporate vision. Once, in ancient times, no one bothered with corporate visions. Life was pretty simple: you opened a business, competed on the strength of your products and services, and reaped huge profits. Then, the whole Quality scam kicked in, and all work stopped so companies could write mission statements. Of course, there’s really only one mission in business: To make enormous piles of cash for the investors. But today, you see all sorts of idiotic fluff-haiku sloganism from companies; ultimately, it’s evident which one was written by the CEO, because it’s blindingly obvious (“To be the leader in our industry”), and which one was done by a committee, since it’s group-think babble (“To develop an efforts-driven matrix ownership, manifesting in career-oriented reward sponsorship and quality focus engineering”), and which were done by the corporate visionary, because it’s some weird Zen koan (“Results. Efforts. Tomorrow. Where do you hear the thunder?”). Start promoting this stuff in your own company, especially at the departmental level, because a great way to stifle ingenuity is to confuse vision with distraction:
Customer: Hi. I’d like to place an order, please.
Call Rep: Uh… I guess we still do that. Let me check.
- Layer management. It’s tough to find work for all those people, right? After all, you just bought another whole company, and at least 60% of them have functions identical to people in your parent company. You can’t fire all of them, frankly, because that would be painfully smart. Well, if you really want to louse things up, start promoting them to middle management. That way, they’ll add rolls of red tape to previously brainless procedures, harmlessly eat up their own time in endless meetings, and work on their resumes, which totally solves the problem. You can even have a couple of them reorganize operations, so that new org charts are handed out with every paycheck. Adding management improves the company’s intellect in the same way adding water improves gasoline:
Customer: Hi. I’d like to place an order, please.
Call Rep: I’d love to, but my manager is shaking his head no.
- Eliminate the human element. Customers like your sales reps. They actually love your receptionist. And they even are impressed by the complaints department. Therefore, you want to eliminate that bond of trust at once. For this, there is no better tool than voice response systems. This is different from voice mail (which is actually useful) by making your customers thoroughly disassociated with their prospective purchase. Typically, the voice response bit involves a perky woman’s voice who talks to you like you’re the idiot. Usually, these give you totally ambiguous choices, so that a customer spends twenty minutes waiting on hold before your one remaining call center rep even gets a chance to answer.
Customer: Hi. I’d like….
Voice Response: Thank you for calling. For vendor purchasing, press 1. For operations buying, press 2. For business sales, press 3. For all other calls, stay on the line. <dial tone>
Could you effectively employ all of these ideas? Yes, and even a math-poor ox like yourself can see how quickly each adds up to your perfect recipe for failure. By using all these methods together, you do create the perfect plan for disaster:
Customer: Hi. I’d like…
Call Rep: Please hold while your call is transferred to our nearest competitor. Thank you, and have a Quality Day.