Paint the town red? As Denis Abrams found, not on Warren Buffett’s dime, you don’t.
In this day and age, what was Benjamin Moore CEO Denis Abrams doing taking his staff on a junket to Bermuda to celebrate their first quarterly sales increase in a dog’s age. Especially when you work for the Sage – which I’m sure is on the Benjamin Moore color palette - of Omaha, who really doesn’t go into for this sort of frou frou. (Benjamin Moore is part of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.)
Okay, taking the gang from New Jersey to Bermuda is pretty small potatoes as far as corporate excess goes. When I was at Genuity, when we were losing about, oh, $1B a year or thereabouts, the sales “winners circle” went on a week-long posh to Hawaii. I never knew whether it was because there weren’t enough sales winners that year, or because they didn’t want to hear a lot of belly aching from the non-sales employees, but that year they brought 50 “normal” employees along for the ride. Hey, I was delighted to go – as was my sister Trish (who doesn’t want a free vacation at a luxe resort on Lanai?) – but it did seem like a crazy extravagance for a company on the eve of destruction.
Hard to figure out where to start with what’s wrong with this Benjamin Moore picture, but let’s start with that big celebration for achieving a quarterly goal.
As anyone who has been even tangentially involved with “the numbers” can tell you, unless you’re completely circling the drain, it’s not all that difficult to pull out enough stops and do enough shucking and jiving with customers to hit the numbers for one, brief shining quarterly moment. Rev up a discount. Move a deal from Point A to Point B. Ask a big customer for a small favor.
All this has been known to happen.
It’s getting the next quarter that’s harder, and the one after that, and the one after that. Stringing those quarters into a year. Stringing a couple of years into a trend.
One point in time shouldn’t make for such a big celebration.
How about something a bit more modest and more inclusive?
Champagne toast. Shut down at 1 on the Friday before a long weekend. Give everyone a free gallon on paint.
Yes, it’s a big accomplishment to make your numbers for the first time in 5 years. But let’s not go overboard.
This all leads to the second 'what’s wrong with this picture’ point:;
In a company that has been running in the red, that’s had layoffs, where there’ve been no raises, it’s really incredibly bad taste, bad judgment, bad juju to take the chosen few off on some posh getaway that “allegedly included a dinner cruise aboard a yacht that some vacation attendees believed was owned by singer Jimmy Buffett.” (No relation to Uncle Warren.)
While the execs were no doubt wasting away in Margaritaville – although, of course, Bermuda is a tad bit more buttoned up than Key West – the rank and file employees were no doubt feeling that they were, metaphorically speaking, stepping on pop-tops back at corporate HQ in New Jersey.
So after 17 years at the helm of Benjamin Moore – ain’t LinkedIn grand? – Abrams is jobless, apparently frog-marched out of the office with dispatch, asking what went wrong.
Seriously? You work for Warren Buffett for over 10 years – BH acquired BM in 2001 – and you weren’t able to figure out that he might not approve of a bring-the-wives-along-on-the-company-tab resort excursion? As much as you might have tried to convince yourself that the trip was merited, maybe even required. As much as you might have been keeping you eyes out for some new paint colors – lots of nice blues and pinks there, as I recall - there’s no way to paint this jaunt as anything other than foolish.
Anyway, Abrams has now fallen into the Bermuda triangle of unemployment. I’m sure he’s not going to starve, but it’s not the way anyone wants to end his career.
What a maroon. (Or, in Benjamin Moore terms, what a pomegranate AF-295.)
Source: Huffington Post.
Labels: business stupidity