Monday, July 19, 2010

one of the seven deadly sins

I've been thinking a lot about pride lately.  If one "deadly sin" can be worse than another, I think this is it.  I will try to explain and not be specific.  Don't want anyone getting their feathers ruffled, but then again, this is only my opinion.

For 2 1/2 years, I was a purchasing manager for a manufacturing company.  I was very grateful for the job. I had taken a long career break to raise two kids and this was my way back in.  I had procurement positions in the past, but that was prior to having children, when I could work late, go to dinner with suppliers and go in on Saturdays.  Purchasing is not the easy job some people think it is.  It might not be the same pressure that sales people experience (as John has shown me over the years), but you are constantly striving to get better materials, at cheaper prices, at precisely the moment they are needed.  The thing I always loved and hated about purchasing is that every cent you save, goes straight to the company's bottom line.  Salesmen (sorry, John) can't say that.

So back to the pride thing.  The company I worked for was a privately owned company and it was ruled with an iron fist.  There was a production meeting every day, and while it was nice to have some of the pressure of making decisions removed, it completely sucked to sit by and watch the wrong decisions being made on behalf of my department.  And let me tell you, there were plenty of bad decisions made.  And I believe all of those decisions were made because of shear pride.

Pride veiled everything for G., the owner of the company.  I don't know what happened in the early years of the company, but the last years were very ugly.  Delivery was everything.  It didn't matter what it took or how much it cost - we did not miss a delivery.  I often wondered how we ever made a profit, with all the costly hoops we had to jump through to make some deadlines.  I was not privy to sales contract negotiations, but one of our biggest customers was Wal-Mart.  If you know anything about Wal-Mart, you know they beat their suppliers to a pulp, buy from China and wave the American flag while doing it.  But, G. was very proud of the fact that he supplied America's biggest retailer along with some of their biggest competitors, even though Wal-Mart bankrupted much bigger players.  He was proud of the fact that he employed entire families.  He was proud that he did little things for his employees, like buy them breakfast or lunch once in a while. He lent them money.  He was proud that he had an elaborate Christmas party every year.  He had an RV that was mostly used by the female officers of the company, to travel to Chicago for Christmas shopping trips and by certain employees to go to NASCAR races. He had a company jet - even though he rarely used it himself and constantly offered it to nearby college sports teams to fly to away games.  He gave a very generous donation to a cause that is very near and dear to my heart.  His name is on the wall at Central Catholic High School, as one of their top tier contributors for the newly constructed building.

Where people thankful of G's generosity?  Heck yeah.  Was that generosity given for the right reasons? Probably not.

And every time his company got too deep in debt with a supplier, I was instructed to find another.  Be done with the past; be a big shot to a new guy.

I believe that this pride is what brought G. down.  I honestly think he would do anything to save face.  At some point he got in too deep, a scheme was born to get through it, but no plan was ever made to STAY out of it.  He devised a ponsi scheme of machinery to keep the pride going, and it didn't stop until he was forced into bankruptcy - after being in business or  25+ years.

So now, I try to stay reminded every day of how far, how deep and how wide pride can go; where it can start and how it can become a monster; how you can fudge on something and end up in jail for fraud to the tune of $250 million.  I think most people doubt you can get from point A to point B through just hanging onto your pride.  I truly believe G. did, and the ramifications stretch well past whatever generosity he ever extended.

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