|AN OPEN LETTER
To Any Corporation running in the red, whose CEO’s salary is more than $50 million.
I’ll Run Your Company Into the Ground for $1 million a Year.
As it stands, you have a CEO in place who is running your business into the ground, and it’s
costing you $50 million plus bonus. I’ll run that business for you for $1 million a year. There,
I’ve already told you how to put $49 million, or more, back on your books, and you haven’t even
hired me yet. Please accept this good advice: If you decide that I’m not the guy for you, find the
guy who is. But, whoever you hire; whether it’s me or anyone else; by that hiring you will have
already taken a step in the right direction. Good work.
Naturally, if I become your CEO, I’d like to have some say in what happens with that 49+ M. And
here is where you either love me or hate me; there is no middle ground. I’d suggest dividing it
three ways. One third is divided equally among the lowest paid people in the organization (we
want them to know they are an important part of the team) one third will be given to a charity (we
want to be an important part of the community) one third will go into the general fund, until it is
decided where precisely it might best be used to improve the corporation.
MY QUALIFICATIONS You may say—and quite rightly—that I don’t know anything at all
about your business. I would have to agree with you. I know nothing about your business, but I
do know this much: the guy you have at the helm now—who claims he does know the business,
who knows the business inside and out, and who apparently has the credentials you’ve been
looking for—is running your business in the red. And I know this too: he’s not doing it alone. I
mean, I’m assuming that he is surrounded with others who have been in the business for years
and who know that business inside out, and who are advising him. Perhaps he’s being advised
poorly, perhaps he’s not listening. Place me in that same position and I’d have no alternative but
to listen. With no experience of my own, I could only benefit from their experience. I’d also bring
a clear, uncluttered and uncompromised view to matters which your current CEO’s years of total
immersion in the corporate milieu may have blinded him to.
It’s quite natural for you to ask what I have done that puts me in line for this position; what have I
accomplished. First let me tell you what I haven’t done. I haven’t run my life in red ink. At this
moment I have a $76000 mortgage on a small cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I also owe
$12,000 on a car. That’s it; that is the sum total of my financial indebtedness. And this is debt I
handle easily. I owe not one single additional cent to anyone. Whether that’s better than what
your current CEO has done in his personal financial life or not, it’s certainly more than he’s
done for your company.
WHAT IF I FAIL
If you decide to hire me, take comfort knowing that if I do nothing more than sit back with my
feet up on the desk, my fingers entwined behind my head, grinning and whistling pop tunes
from the 1930’s slightly off key, together we’ve done more for your company than the guy you
now have occupying that office. If I prove to be the worst CEO in the entire history of business in
the Western World, you’ve lost a year, but your books will be in better shape. If I do OK, you’ll
have something to think about, and your books will be in better shape. If I accomplish anything
at all, you’ll have that, and your books will be in better shape. Whether you’re strictly
accountable to your investors or trying to satisfy your customers’ needs, or both, it can’t hurt to
improve the balance sheet.
Naturally, the question emerges, if I were placed in that high and highly respected position, what
would inspire me? The answer is this: I've always worked for much less than the rate I’m
proposing in order to work for you. But, I always put in more than an honest day’s work. I think
about the job and what might be done to improve the business continually. I do good work and I
represent the establishment well. I’m a product of the American middle-class of mid-century last;
that’s just the way we do things.
SO HERE’S THE DEAL
One year’s good and honest work in exchange for $1 million, and a bonus. Here’s how I’d like to
see the bonus work. Your accountant figures out and prepares my taxes, and my bonus is the
exact amount to pay those taxes. I walk with a cold million. If, after a year, you want to keep me
on, I will accept a cut in pay; I'll work for $500,000/year for the following two years. By the end of
that third year I should already know a little something about the business we’re in together.
Maybe not. But either way, we’ll both know this much: you’ve gotten your money’s worth...