Home Archives November 2006 The downturn hits home

The downturn hits home

| Print |  Email
Wednesday, November 01, 2006

s_Robin

In the face of a forecast for a slowing economy, the board of Doussard Family Industries (DFI) met recently to review its business plan and see what adjustments were needed to keep the company’s profits secure. As CEO-COO-VP of finance, I decided to adopt the “open book” philosophy of management and share with the group our financial situation in detail.

The DFI board — myself, the operations manager/husband, and the staff, which consists of the old dog and the young dog that really hates the old dog — decided the first order of business needed to address cost cutting. What could be trimmed without hurting productivity or morale?

I started the meeting with the excellent suggestion that the beer outlay could come down a bit. After all, I told the ops manager, the Widmer boys are subsidized pretty heavily by DFI. Ops made a pretty compelling argument that both productivity and morale would significantly sink if the beer line-item was touched by even one red cent, and suggested that the CEO shoe expense should be cut instead.

After all, he argued (and it appeared that both turncoat staffers were on his side), you can only wear one pair of shoes at a time (and, in the case of staff, none), and they last for at least two years. So, really, amortized over a decade, the annual line item should be roughly $12 if you get said shoe items at Payless and not at Nordstrom.

I ignored this short-sighted idea and suggested that staff should cut back on their food bill and whipped out my Atta Boy Index of Affordability, a detailed look at what is spent on their 50-pound bags of food at Costco. The index proved that the cost of staff kibble had gone up, but staff productivity over the same period had really gone south. Staff no longer run or fetch or even move off the kitchen rug, and there has been no corresponding drop in consumption of calories. Ripe for economizing?

The older worker (114 in dog years, a walking EEOC lawsuit) immediately howled age discrimination. In a rare show of staff solidarity, the younger worker added her vote, and we came to a stalemate. Operations also noted that the CEO was on the same calorie/activity down trend. Sensing board revolt, I tabled the cost-cutting discussion and moved on to health care. These costs were spiraling out of control because of an unexpected recent incident when the young staffer bit off a good portion of the older worker’s ear in a brawl on the factory room floor. Speaking of health-care costs, operations said, what is this $200 “dermatology” bill for a facial and “eyebrow work” that is in the CEO discretionary budget? And what, he added, is the CEO discretionary budget, anyway?

Then he started looking down the credit card bills and the checkbook entries and asking ill-informed and, frankly, insulting questions such as why are we paying for Netflix when we don’t watch videos and what was this $300 line item called “school supplies” when we don’t have children? I decided that open book management was too advanced for this group, and that I needed better code words for the checkbook, and moved to adjourn the meeting. Operations had an important meeting with the Widmer brothers (since we were increasing their consulting fee) and the staff was snoring loudly, so it was so seconded.

It is not easy running a small business, even in the best of times. It takes honesty, focus and self-sacrifice to really maximize profits and stay the course. None of which I’m interested in. If the operations manager ever tries to make me live up to that, I will remind him that recent performance evaluations have been, well, let’s just say they’ve been mixed and kindly leave it at that.


— Robin Doussard

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

More Articles

Are millennials reshaping politics in the Pacific Northwest?

News
Wednesday, April 02, 2014

MillennialsThumbA new report explores the impact of millennials on Oregon's business and political climate.


Read more...

Wheel man

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Les Schwab has put a premium on customer service since 1952, when legendary namesake Les Schwab founded the company with one store in Prineville. (Schwab died in 2007.) But if the corporate principles remain essentially the same, the world around this iconic Oregon business has changed dramatically.


Read more...

The solution to youth unemployment

News
Thursday, February 27, 2014
02.27.14 Thumbnail TeenworkBY ERIC FRUITS

Because they have little chance of working for someone else, today’s teens need to be entrepreneurs. But, first, we must teach our teens that entrepreneurship starts small.


Read more...

Powerlist: Meeting perspectives

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

BY BRANDON SAWYER

A conversation about the event-planning industry with sales directors from McMenamins and the Portland Art Museum. 


Read more...

Spreading the wealth

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
HiResBY PAIGE PARKER

A money management firm broadens its reach. 


Read more...

Green your workplace

News
Thursday, April 03, 2014
100Green14logo200oxBY OB STAFF

Learn how to green your workplace and lower your environmental footprint at the office. Oregon Business presents a two-hour "Greening Your Workplace" seminar on May 28th, 2014 at the Nines Hotel in Portland.


Read more...

Banishing oil burners reaps benefits for schools

News
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
04.02.14 thumb co2schoolsBY APRIL STREETER | OB CONTRIBUTOR

Three years ago, PPS set out to begin to convert the 1930s-era boilers from diesel/bunker fuel to cleaner-burning natural gas. Oregon’s largest school district has realized impressive carbon dioxide emissions reductions, setting an example for public and private institutions.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS