Wednesday, March 23, 2005

I'll Be Going to Business Purgatory

When I die, pray for me. I'll be going to Business Purgatory."

- My Boss

My boss was joking about having to constantly bend (and sometimes break) the corporate rules in order to get stuff done. This is a common problem in large corporations, which is why there is a religious-sounding saying in business: "It is better to seek forgiveness than to ask permission."

Those of us on the front line in sales, marketing and program management are trying to meet the needs of customers, close sales and get products off the ground. In large corporations there are large, complicated bureaucracies trying to prevent all these things from happening (okay, not really, but it seems that way). I'll go over a few of them and their modus operandi:

Legal - If you don't do business, you can't be sued - The legal department in large companies can drag a contract out to the point where the product is obsolete by the time it's signed. One time when I working at TI it took 9 months to ink a deal with IBM - so the legal departments on both sides made that negotiation a living hell. The end result is that marketing managers like myself end up doing most of our own contract negotiations, sending the final draft to Legal for review only when it is ready to be signed. I get grief for doing it, but it gets things done faster (as a side note, I have encountered several really good legal people in large corporations who bypass the System whenever possible, so this modus operandi isn't universal) .

HR - We're undereducated automatons on a power trip - My dislike hate loathing of HR organizations is well documented (try my new search bar to find out). I just ignore them at all times, even when I am interviewing. In my present job I basically refused to negotiate with HR and only with the product group, which earned their wrath. More recently I chewed out one of their drones who was trying to tell me to do something that made absolutely no sense, so the hate is mutual.

Purchasing - YOU can't talk to vendors, only WE can talk to vendors - Yeah, like I am going to listen to them. They think their power over vendors somehow translates to the marketing department. I got news for them: marketing makes fun of you behind your back. So you can guess what we think of their rules.

Accounting - Keep your receipts! - Accounting is usually very friendly, and I've liked all the accounting groups I have worked with, but they can a bit of a pain. Like wanting me to keep tabs on every single penny I spend on company business, and then trying to bounce some of my charges. Come on! That $300 bottle of Opus One wine was a legitimate business expense! And hostess clubs are a legitimate form of entertainment in Japan! Okay, I've learned. I'll "hide" that charge on my expense statement as something else.

Finance - Money is Power - Well, they actually have a point there. This is probably one organization whose rules Marketing routinely follows just because there are purse strings attached. But we get around them in other ways: pie-in-the-sky forecasts, inflated revenue projections, underestimating costs. I've seen NPV and IRR numbers fudged beyond belief. In short we'll do just about do anything to get that capital budget, do that acquisition, or anything else that requires large sums of money.

So by continuously breaking the rules, running roughshod over various organizations, and stacking data to meet my end purposes, I can say with some confidence that Business Purgatory is in my future. Or with the way my career is going, maybe I am already living it.

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