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BC Business: Tales from the Front

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Business is a very important part of our culture. It’s personal. Why it works or doesn’t work depends on people more than anything else. In BC Business, the new Culture feature, we seek articles that tell personal business stories describing the experiences from which lessons are learned. BC Business is more personal than technical and a source for professional observation.

In March I wrote Requiem for the May Company. It reported on the closing of a once highly successful, 85+ year-old company. I did my best to be matter of fact and fair, although I must admit I had mixed feelings about the news of its demise. My personal experience had been polemic, extremely rewarding to the absolute pits. I eliminated the libelous comments from my first draft but be assured that the first draft is where the libel occurs. Editors look for that kind of thing.

GSMICSince “Requiem” appeared, I have been amazed that comments continue, numerous of them in private emails. Many have ripped into individuals and dripped with angst. But the interesting thing is that all of the commentary has acknowledged the George S. May International Company with reverence. The company is held in esteem while some of its management has been vilified.

On the professional network LinkedIn you will find my profile as well as those of many editors and contributors to Blogcritics. I sent a link for “Requiem” to many former May company colleagues. I am now connecting to people who traveled the country as road-warriors, as we are referred to, dealing with what I called “small business” owners and families.

My term “small-business” drew this reply. “Hey, it ain’t just ‘small’ business,’” a colleague wrote. “The May company’s original model actually created household names.” The company “did work early on in Microsoft, in Harley-Davidson, in Starbucks, in Wal-Mart, in McDonalds, in United Parcel Service, in SouthWest Airlines & so many more that Americans use daily.”

There are people I would like to hear from such as Kerry Sam Jacobs, the company’s last president and George S. May’s granddaughter. I am also looking forward to hearing from Donald Fletcher, now a college professor who famously grew the May company with Edward Sielsky, who has commented on “Requiem”.

“Who is responsible for the demise of a once great company? The Board of Directors has no one to blame but themselves. Throughout the 90’s there was tremendous growth. At that time we put a lot of effort into quality. Don Fletcher and I insisted on it,” Sielsky wrote. “Around 2000, the board and Dottie Campbell and Sam Jacobs became so accustomed to profits and dividends the likes of which they had never seen before, I believed they came to believe that the company was invincible, profits were automatic and anybody could manage it. In other words, we (basically Fletcher and I) made it look easy. I reminded them every chance I got that it was really a very fragile balance and any changes must be carefully considered.”

Ed Sielsky is not selling a book. He is telling the kind of personal business story that is in the fabric of our culture that deserves to be told and published in BC business. I encourage your submissions and will look forward to working with you as your editor in publishing your personal business stories.

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About Tommy Mack

Tommy Mack began his career in broadcasting and is a US Army graduate of the Defense Information School. He worked in Army Public and Command Information and earned a BS in Liberal Studies from the State University of New York, Albany. A marketing communications executive, Tommy became a business management consultant for a major international consulting company and its affiliates before establishing Tommy Mack Organization, a business consulting practice specializing in organization and communications management. A professional writer and blogger, he writes about politics, business, and culture.
  • Antown

    During the 2008 crisis, many large companies have failed. Oddly survived small and medium-sized companies, which had a fraction of borrowed funds. I think that the title company plays a very important role in business development. The main thing is that you do. What would you undertake, you should do it better than others.

  • http://blogcritics.org/culture/article/bc-business-tales-from-the-front/ Victor Seabaugh

    As someone involved in the operation at the end, I think I have a pretty good idea why the company fell. The companies we were sent to were becoming more tiny. I was sent to several $500,000 per year companies. Our rates were $275 per hour plus travel. On the third day we invoiced for the first two days, and it was at least $12,000. For the past few years the economy has killed all but the strongest businesses. In the past, it was easy to make a big splash on the first day, but the people who are still in business have ran them pretty well, so there isn’t much low hanging fruit from the standpoint of quick, useful recommendations we can make on day one or two. In a well managed company it takes more digging and analysis to come up recommendations for change. This makes it hard to justify the $12,000 invoice. In addition, our management was resistant to modernizing it’s own practices. People these days aren’t as naive as they were 85 years ago. They see right through the “theator” of our opening calls. They disliked all of our forms requiring a signature. More free hours didn’t always make them happy enough to write a glowing closing letter and they resented the idea that we would just camp out at their place until we got our positive closing letter. During the last year of operation, GSM had phony focus groups, supposedly to solve our customer satisfaction problems. The truth of the matter was that upper management wasn’t really interested in our ideas to fix the problems. The focus groups were intended to “fix” us and get us to adhere to their outdated business model more closely. As a business consultant, I know how to get to the bottom of a “game”, and I basically got them to admit they weren’t interested in changing, and that we were in the focus group to “be” changed. It’s ironic that a company whose service was “changing” businesses was itself so resistant to change. I could obviously write pages of text about the demise of GSM, but I think these were the primary reasons.

  • live

    After global financial crisis many companies discharged so many employers, and level of joblessness has increased! what to do to these people now? Many of them start thinking about your own SMALL business! If small-business will have 50% of all GDP, then whole image of global state of business will be more stable! What do you think about it?