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Corporate Entrepreneurs?: 'Whatever you say, J.B.'

A Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie story by Greg Swann

J.B. said, "Our new entrepreneurial policy of taking the corporate initiative is sure to shake up the industry. Right, C.F.?"

"Right, J.B."

You can learn a lot by talking to people on airplanes. Between New York and Washington, J.B. and C.F. regaled me with all the new strategic policy initiatives of corporate gamesmanship. Back home we used to call it BSing, but hardly anyone in the Midwest knows how to interact. At least not as well as J.B. (renowned author of 'Good Enough for Government Work').

"Entrepreneurship," he said. "That's the new thrust of corporate policy. We're moving from a basically rear-guard reaction to the Far East toward an overt, active posture of taking up the initiative. The new Organization Man is an entrepreneur."

I said: "I thought an entrepreneur is someone who is not an Organization Man..."

"Well," J.B. conceded, "that may have been the old way of thinking of things. But we've actively initiated a strategic new policy of promoting self-responsibility in our management groups - "

"Self-responsibility in groups?"

"Yes. We've replaced the outmoded Cover Your Own Assets policy with strategic entrepreneurship: Carry Your Own Weight. Right, C.F.?"

C.F., a thin, bespectacled monolith of entrepreneurial vigor, said, "Right, J.B."

"And what will that do?"

"Well, sink or swim," said J.B. "The American Way. No more molly-coddling of weak, ineffective management. From now on, it's decisive, active, strategic corporate initiatives or you're off the plane without a golden parachute."

I said: "Results...?"

"Well..." J.B. gave me a tolerant glance. "These things are not easy to measure, especially so early in a new initiative. But take C.F., here." C.F. polished his nails on his lapel. "In a little less than six months, he's completely modernized his entire operation. He's brought his group into the Information Age. The forefront of technology. Office Automation, the wave of the future."

I asked, "What did you do, C.F.?"

"Samasonic," he replied demurely.

"I'm sorry..."

"Samasonic. Electronic pencil sharpeners. Top of the line, but I took up the initiative and got them for a song."

"And you can bet that I was more than a little taken aback," said J.B. "I mean no consultation, no committee, no progress reports. Old C.F. just went out and bought them. All on his own initiative. Now that's what I call corporate entrepreneurship!"

"You must be proud, C.F."

"Well, he ought to be! How many corporate managers have a thing like that to their credit?"

"Not many, J.B.," I said. "Not many."

"Darn right! You can bet those pantywaists over at Conglomerated Paperworks are quaking in their boots. Right, C.F.?"

"Right, J.B."

"Question...," I said. "How does the corporate entrepreneur compare income-wise with the... well, what do you call them?"

"Privateers," said C.F.

"Pirates, you mean!," J. B. corrected.

"Right. Pirates," C.F. repeated.

"Anyway," I continued, "how do your corporate managers compare in income with private owners?"

"Well... On the whole," J.B. said expansively, "very well. Naturally they don't knock down what some of those predators are walking home with, but they don't take any losses either. We have a very liberal compensation and benefits package for our senior managers. And we're backing up our entrepreneurial initiative with a strategic incentive program."

"'Incentive program'?"

"We reward out managers for taking up the initiative, for making bold, active, strategic policy determinations in a decisive manner."

I said: "Put a number on it."

J.B. sighed. "It's not that easy. A lot of what we're doing is in kind, not cash. For instance, what's the cash value of a membership in our executive health club? Our executive country club? Our liberal vacation credits plan? Plus, there's the human factors... How much would C.F., here, pay for the company he keeps with our company. That's worth something too, isn't it? Have you ever heard of any private enterprisers who have friends like we have? Just name one!"

"One of the stock complaints about corporate managers," I said, "is that they put too much emphasis on so- called human factors, and not enough on the bottom-line..."

"Who said that?! I've never heard that. Have you, C.F.?"

"No, sir, J.B. Never once."

Deep breath. "Well, take the case of Ateve... A 'privateer' starts it in his garage and turns it into a giant multi-national. He sells it to a conglomerate. They run it into the ground and end up selling it for pennies on the dollar to Jock Triumph."

"A thief!," said J.B.

"A gonoph!," said C.F.

"And besides," said J.B., "did you ever look at his human factors? An uneducated, undignified thief! I'll bet he doesn't even know which fork is which."

C.F. chuckled.

"But I've heard that he's growing by 20% a year..."

"Paper profits," said J.B. "Puffball reporting practices. Sure, his numbers look good, but what about his morale? Has his staff initiated any strategic new policies?"

"But 20% a year... That's a lot isn't it? I mean, even for an entrepreneur?"

"What entrepreneur? He's not an entrepreneur, just a merchant prince. A robber baron. A vulture of profit. Not like C.F., here. Right, C.F.?"

C.F. strove to look fitting: "Whatever you say, J.B."

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