Thursday, December 9, 2010

One of the seven deadly sins - update

I originally posted this back in July, but because sentences have finally been handed down, I felt the need to repost.  Read on, and I'll tack something more on the backside...
I've been thinking a lot about pride lately.  If one "deadly sin" can be worse than another, I think this is it.  

For 2 1/2 years, I was a purchasing manager for a manufacturing company, Wildwood Industries.  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 Gary, 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, Gary 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 Gary'
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 Gary 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 Gary did, and the ramifications stretch well past whatever generosity he ever extended.

So now, everyone has been sentenced and due to start serving in January.  Nice to have one last Christmas at home, I guess.  

Gary, the owner got 15 years.  I am struggling with the fact that because of his failing heath, he will serve his time in a prison close to Mayo Clinic  - and receive better healthcare than half of the people living in America.  I read all the article comments on line and the people defending Gary keep yelling, "But he did it to SAVE the business!"  Like he's some wonderful person to try to save the jobs of 700 people!  No - he is a prideful, spiteful, manipulative shell of a man who was only looking out for himself.  The business would never need saving if he had not run it the way he did.  Would people in general be better off if he had gone under 10 years ago when this whole thing started?  I think so.  And it didn't matter that his son quit the business because he didn't agree with the way things were being run.  It didn't matter that he didn't have a mansion.  He was a pillar in the community and looked up to by hundreds of people for his humble ways and his generosity.  That's all that mattered.

His wife was sentenced to 7 years.  She knew what was going on, but I really don't know what to think about her.  She said in court that she considered divorcing her husband at one point because of what was going on with the business.  THAT, I do not believe.  She's a Catholic and values her family too much to break it apart.  

Dominic, the plant manager received 7 years.  I don't think Gary could have done what he did without Dominic.  Enough said there.  

And Kim.  She only got 40 months. She made my short time there a very difficult one.  Trying to get vendors paid was a full time job there and she had no problem lying to me or anyone else looking for a check.  The check was in the mail, or must have gotten lost in the mail, or - my favorite - the check went out and was received only to have a stop payment slapped on it.  I guess I should be thankful for her lies now and I'm glad I was not part of that little inner circle.  

It's just really weird to be this close to something of this magnitude.  

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