Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Peaches and Walnuts: An allegory

Luke heard about the new high tech company, “Peach”, that was starting up.  He was among those invited to organizational meetings and the business outlined there and the groundwork already laid was exciting to him.  The potential for great success was evident and the market demand for the product, a new device with huge potential in the education market was going to be amazing.  Not only that, he knew the president of this new start up.  He was known for treating his employees well, sponsoring their further education, allowing much room for their creativity and offering excellent profit-sharing plans.  
He was thrilled at the prospect.  He knew that he had found his dream job: CEO of this new start up.  He loved organizing grand projects.  He loved the feeling that comes from successfully effectuating an outstanding business plan.  He loved the feeling that comes from being the mover and shaker, the MVP as it were, in a business.  He let the president of Peach know that he would be interested in having his resume added to the ones being considered for the position of CEO.
Accordingly his resume was considered and he went through the interview process.  His application made it all the way to the final group of candidates.  But, ultimately, he was not offered the job.
Luke was deeply disappointed but he was undaunted.  He still dreamed of being the mover and shaker in this new business.  He purchased stock in the new company and began attending stockholders meetings.  He wrote to and canvassed the other stockholders, outlining concerns about the business plan most recently outlined by the president of the company and urging that they join him in voting in new members of the board of directors, men and women who he knew would put pressure on the company to hire him on as CEO, or at least, COO.  He was intelligent and persuasive.  Peach was forced to mount a major campaign to contradict the inaccurate information Luke disseminated.   In spite of that, many stockholders responded positively to Luke’s efforts and at the next stockholders meeting wrote in the names of the people he proposed for the board during the voting.  Unfortunately for Luke, however, they were not a majority.
Luke’s application had been rejected and his efforts to gain what he desired through persuasion and campaign had failed.  He was not daunted.  He decided to try embedding himself and his influence in the company.
The company’s new product, the “Peach”, was being released to selected markets.  Luke headed to the company’s New Jersey regional offices, a new market where the Peach had not yet been released but where he knew it would be in great demand.  That office was under the direction of two young recent business school graduates who were setting up the office and awaiting further instructions and training before directing the release of the Peach in the New York/New Jersey market.  
Luke presented himself at that office as the son of the president of Peach and mentioned that he had attended the same university as the two regional managers as an undergraduate himself and that he actually remembered meeting them briefly at a Phi Kappa Phi banquet there.  Over the next few days, by spending hours and hours in their offices making himself helpful and engaging and employing his excellent skills at management and some very clever half-truths he was able to persuade those two young regional managers that the Peach needed to be released under his direction.  Luke was placing his money on the belief that an excellent execution of an important market release would prove to the company how vital and important his skill set and involvement would be to Peach.
The Peach was released in that market with far reaching and ultimately profound and positive effect.  However, to his great disappointment, the president of Peach, rather than being impressed or pleased was the opposite.  He arrived at the regional offices in person, ordered Luke out of them and the two young regional managers were sent off to be store managers in small towns in Nevada where they subsequently spent years training endless numbers of young transient employees and updating their knowledge at regional training seminars, being recognized and supported and eventually promoted as all good employees at Peach are, grateful that they had not been fired.  (Peach really is a good company to work for.)
Nursing his hurt pride and his disappointment over his expulsion from the regional office, Luke took some pride in the fact that he had, in his opinion, been the author of the release of the Peach in that regional market and that its release had, indeed,  drastically affected and improved education and learning in that market.  The Peach quickly became an essential component of education that was in great demand and rapidly became “the only game in town.”
Luke liked the idea that the highly successful release he had masterminded had been his brain child and had thoroughly cowed any competitors.  That sense of control and success was awesome.  He wanted to experience it again.
He flew to Nevada to see if he could enlist the cooperation of the two young managers that he had worked with in New Jersey, but, understandably, they didn’t trust him and refused.
He reviewed his options.  He’d applied for a top position at Peach and had not been hired.  He’d tried political maneuvering to get that position and had failed.  And he’d tried moving in uninvited and, though the success of those efforts had been thrilling they had been short-lived, and he was pretty sure he had permanently alienated the president of the company.  He’d been told in no uncertain terms that he was to stay out of company affairs.
That, he decided, was the clue for his next plan of action.  If he wanted to experience the heady aura of being the admired force behind a successful venture, and he couldn’t do in Peach, he'd do it out of Peach.  Even better, he’d do it against Peach.  He’d launch a competitor.
His new company, “Walnut”, made a huge splash when it launched its new device.  Shinier and faster than the Peach, with louder volume and more sparkles and a harder shell, it also was less expensive.  The cost cutting done to reduce the price resulted in the Walnut being less well made than the Peach; (the calculator app on it often malfunctioned and the device had a tendency to explode after a few years of use) but Luke’s degree in communication and his years of debate team championship and his business degree and experience made his direction of the advertising wildly successful.  There have also been campaigns that mail users coupons for prizes simply for logging certain numbers of hours on the devices that have kept sales strong.  Soon the Walnut was giving the Peach a run for its money.
Luke still runs Walnut.  And the Walnuts are still less expensive than the Peaches and sell well and they still, unfortunately, have that calculator glitch and they still explode.  But they are, incontrovertibly, an exciting device to own and use.
Luke’s resentment about his experience with Peach and the thrill he gets from running a successful company that is totally under his control keep him energized and focused.  Each time he recruits an employee away from Peach his sense of victory is sky high.  Each Walnut he sells is a personal dig at Peach and a reason to celebrate.  (One of his favorite stories to tell is that of the teenage son of one of those two Nevada store managers who used his birthday money to buy a Walnut.)  His dream is control of the market, reducing Peach’s market share to as close to zero as he can, showing Peach its mistake in not hiring him, that he really is the best man to run a company.
Peach and Walnut are still both powerhouses in the marketplace.  Walnut’s stock sells well these days.  Fortunes have been made with it.  
Walnut’s employees give the company mixed reviews.  Luke throws fabulous employee parties but his use of pyramid schemes in the company sales department leaves some employees unhappy.  The health benefits and retirement plans offered are not great.  And some complain that the organization is too top-down and controlling.  But the parties are amazing, often including cruises, and are geared to fostering company pride and camaraderie.  And they do that well.  Luke knows they keep his employees thinking twice before looking somewhere else for work.  When one actually does so, his co-workers generally think he’s foolish to leave.
So Luke lives on, working to live his dream of being the essential, irreplaceable leader, the mover and shaker who totally dominates the market, whose product is in great demand, and who is unquestionably the one who deserves and receives the credit for it.  It’s heady stuff.
Would he go back to Peach if he was offered the CEO position there now?
No, not likely.  He feels like the track he’s on is more likely to give him what he seeks than Peach would and he enjoys the management style that he employs at Walnut, which he knows would be resisted strongly at Peach.
And, of course, the longer you compete against another company the less you wish to be employed by it.  The blow to one’s pride would be nearly unbearable.
Buy out Peach with a hostile takeover?  That would be awesome, thinks Luke, but, unlike when he first started this journey, he’d never want to be employed there.
Luke may not be completely happy.  The rejection at Peach still sticks in his craw and he personally despises the president of Peach for that.  But the thrill of the battle and the sense of control and essentialness that he’s created for himself at Walnut are awesome.  He intends to stay the course.

1 comment:

BrieAnn said...

Well done.