**This post is part of Indie Ink’s Weekly Writing Challenge I am a newcomer to this challenge and to writing fiction. My challenger was Kiki Harshman. This was her challenge: “Today is your first day as CEO for a huge corporation that you despise. What now?” I in turn challenged Random Girl. **
The New CEO
“What the hell was I thinking?”
That was the thought running through my mind as I steered my car into my new parking place. As I turned the car off, I thought of what was on my plate that day, about what I had planned and wondered if I could really pull it off.
As the new CEO, I asked for a staff meeting first thing this morning. I wanted to personally introduce myself to the people whose lives I was about to enter and probably change. I did not want them to read about yet another change at the top in a memo. I wanted to reassure them that while changes were coming, they would be good changes and would benefit everyone.
After that meeting, I had another meeting scheduled with the Board of Directors and the top Managers all at once. Was I ready to put my plan into action? Would there be any resistance? Would they care?
I thought of the journey I took to get to this moment. A challenge that had me now running a company I despised.
How did a dinner discussion with friends about how to like a company you despise, turn in to a challenge that I ultimately accepted?
The discussion was simple. Pick a company you detested and if you were CEO, what would you do to turn it into a company you could be proud of running. Picking the company was easy – we all agreed on the same one. We all despised our biggest competitor. We detested them not as a competitor per se, but for the way they ran their company, their lack of values in the business, and for the way they treated their employees and clients. They were notorious for chewing through top management and they were starting to lose their best employees. With such disarray from top to bottom, we could not understand how they were making a profit, but they were.
Initially, we discussed the frontline employees. For the most part, they are good folks. Sure, some were deadwood and would need watching, but when the top doesn’t give a crap about what the rest of the company is doing, they get a pass for now.
We moved on to middle management – now there is where some of the most ineffectual managers are. We started tearing apart each department, whom we would let go now, who would stay, and who, if any, we would move to other parts of the company. They were the worst sort of managers – they micro-managed, berated, and took credit for their employees work. There was no sense of empowerment or responsibility given. Just take, take, and take. I knew this personally. I had hired some of their best and brightest over the years and this was a recurring topic.
Finally, we hit on the top-level, the CEO, and the Managers that reported to him. This group of people needed a lesson in business and in being human. When asked what I would do, I jokingly replied, “I’d fire them all, and create a new corporate culture.”
We continued dissecting the company and its business practices when someone from the table slightly behind us spoke.
Turning to see who had addressed us, we were startled and a bit embarrassed to see a senior board member of the company we were discussing, having dinner with his family. All of us knew him. He certainly knew us.
Having listened to a considerable part of our conversation over the course of the meal, we had his interest. He stood up and walked over to my side of the table. Looking directly at me without rancor, he spoke.
“I’m very familiar with your reputation in this industry,” he said. “You are known in this business for leading by example. You create teams that work well together. The company is run well and people want to work for you. You and your staff are problem solvers that listen and act accordingly. The company is well-regarded because of that culture and the people you cultivated.”
Then he issued me the challenge. Right there, in front of everyone. It was almost a dare of “put your money where your mouth is.”
He proposed that I go to the top management at his company and tell them that what they were doing was hurting their reputation in the business community, and, it was hurting the rest of us in the industry. All of us knew that wasn’t true, but since the top people paid little attention to what the industry said, he knew I could get away with saying that. I was to propose a plan that would help them turn their company into something better – a company that I (and others) would not despise. He would give me access to as many people as I needed.
“We’ll make this a learning opportunity for the people in top management, he said.”
It was a daring challenge and I had to think about this and the ramifications.
I contacted the top people at this company and met with them over a period of a few weeks. Initially, I was half-hearted about the idea. They were stubborn about suggestions that I made and I could almost bet they were placating me …waiting for me to leave, so they could return to their status quo.
As I continued to meet with them and tried to help them take their company in a new direction, I found that I was beating a dead horse. They were not going to make any of the changes I suggested. I finally gave up, called the board member who had issued me the dare and told him I had failed.
“I did my best,” I told him. “The CEO and Managers just don’t care enough to make at least one change.” We talked for a while longer and I hung up feeling bad. It turns out; he had further plans for me.
I had a hard time resigning from the company I had nurtured and grown with, but the knowledge that I was about to change many lives, hopefully for the better, motivated me forward.
I got out of the car and walked to front door of my new company. This day would be a true test of my abilities. Standing a bit taller, I walked in the door and my day began.
As I walked into the staff meeting, I sensed fear. Typical really of a company that creates that atmosphere. After explaining who I was, and that I wouldn’t be making immediate or drastic changes in their status, I could sense a letting out of breath. These hardworking people really needed a break. Today, I gave them one. They smiled…the relief was palpable. As I walked out of the meeting room, I smiled to myself. Boy, were they in for a surprise later. One that I hoped they would see as good.
Finally, it was time to meet with the Board of Directors, the CEO and the top Managers. I steeled myself, collected my thoughts, and walked into the boardroom.
As I looked around at this jaded, unfriendly group of people, I knew right then that my plan was the right one. I quickly glanced at the board member who had put this plan into action. He nodded his head ever so slightly at me.
Turning to those seated around the boardroom table, I smiled and said “Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for being here.”
“As you know, over the past few weeks, I offered to help you change the way you ran your business and improve your reputation in our industry. You repeatedly turned me down.”
“Your Board of Directors however, has other plans. They have asked me to come aboard to make the changes that I suggested and to take this company in a new direction.”
Glancing in the direction of the (now former) CEO who sat there in shock, I said, “There are many changes that I plan on making. The first change happens right now as a matter of fact.”
Looking at everyone at the table, I said, “With the full backing of the Board of Directors, you’re all fired. You have one hour to clear out your offices. Security will escort you to your offices and out of the building.”
I was now the new CEO of the company I despised.