Humor me for a moment and take this short quiz:
If all four answers are yes, you might want to get that resume put together: chances are your company isn't long for this economy.
I was thinking about this after talking to Victor Tsao, the founder of Linksys, about his recent announced acquisition by networking giant Cisco. Seems that Tsao bonded to John Chambers because of their mutual penny-pinching: both executive teams (at least nowadays) have an affinity of flying in coach-class seats and staying in cheap motels. While that wasn't the only thing the two CEOs bonded on, it definitely eased the way for the acquisition.
(If you would like to read my take on the Linsksys/Cisco deal, check out this link for a column I wrote for VARBusiness last week.)
Surely, those wild ride days of the late 1990s are over: we live in more sober times and many of us are lucky to still have jobs in this industry. I know many friends who have decades of experience and are looking for work after several months. But perhaps this new corporate lifestyle is a good thing. It could weed out all that waste. Just look at AOL Time Warner as a case in point: what's a few billion dollars between mega-titans? Does anybody really feel sorry for Steve Case and Ted Turner?
Corporate dishonesty is not new. Sure, Enron, Worldcom, and others continue to gather headlines about how much nonsense was produced by their collective accounting and finance departments, coming soon to the nearest science fiction writers convention. But companies have been stealing, polluting, and lying about their businesses since the dawn of time. What troubles me is that these lessons of honesty aren't necessarily learned all that well by corporations: they are only as honest as their weakest manager, or next P&L statement. All it takes is one bad apple to bend the rules a bit, and the whole house is soon taking money from the till. And if that bad apple is the head cheese (sorry) and knowingly cooks the books, there isn't too much the worker bees can do about it. But perhaps we are beginning to see some kind of corporate Darwinism here: the survival of the (at least more) honest. I certainly hope so.
Corporate honesty is a refreshing change and a change for the better. How much of it is around in corporate America today is a hard thing to pin down, but I bet honesty is making a comeback. After all, many of the dishonest corporations are out of business, or out of most of their businesses, as of late.
One of the things I am glad to see leaving the corporate landscape of the late 90s is this sense of entitlement and free spending that the dot coms brought to the table. I was just as guilty as the next at strom.com: there are plenty of expense-account fancy meals in my past, and I remember throwing a particularly nice dinner for my clients and friends in celebration of my fifth year in business at one Interop show. (Although when I was a consultant, I always flew coach. I just couldn't bring myself to charging my clients for being in a nicer seat.)
In the meantime, if you want to talk to me, you can find me at the back of the plane.
Speaking of travel, I have a bunch of trips planned for April so perhaps we can meet up. Next Tuesday I'll be in Arlington, Virginia at the Secure E-Gov conference, participating on a couple of panels with fed CIOs. The following week I'll be giving the opening keynote at Daly Computers' annual conference in Baltimore. And I'll also be attending Cisco's partner conference and judging the Networld+Interop Best of Show awards, both taking place in Las Vegas on separate weeks. You can track me down and get copies of my speeches here.
Entire contents copyright 2003 by David Strom, Inc.
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