Thursday, February 5, 2009



By : Mr. Burton J. “Bub” Glatzer, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Digi-Tyme Market Solutions, Ltd.

In business, unexpected things happen every day. A key employee may decide to resign during an important project. There may be cost overruns. The Board of Directors may refuse to allocate funding for an overhaul. Or a customer may need an order pronto, requiring the whole team to stay all night and all weekend. Because business is so volatile, it takes a brave manager to take charge. And because business is so volatile, managers must be flexible.
Managers cannot waste time. In business, time is money. If it takes three days to complete a project that should have taken two, the whole organization suffers. Managers, then, must constantly battle time pressure. If the Board wants something done by the 14th, a good manager will get it done by the 12th. If a customer needs an order fulfilled by Saturday, a good manager will have it in his hands by Thursday night. Successful businesses master time. To do that, they need managers who know how to handle the clock.

It is not easy to master time because nothing goes according to plan. Anyone can set up a schedule if events proceeded in a calm, orderly fashion. But they don’t. You might plan a lunch meeting for Tuesday at 12 PM, but then you find out there was a fire at the factory on Monday at 11 PM. Obviously you can’t make the meeting if your entire production facility goes up in smoke. You need to start making calls, pointing fingers and getting some results. Good managers, however, can manage their time—and others’ time—even during crisis. No matter what life throws at a determined manager, he knows what time it is.

Time pressure and unexpected events break most men. But they do not break good managers. Good managers create success because they are brave enough to do things that would deter others. If a competitor develops rival software and threatens to unbalance the market, a good manager will hire undercover agents to sabotage the competitor’s plant then steal the technology. If the company needs more funds, a good manager will skillfully inflate client bills to make up the shortfall. Every problem has a solution. Good managers know how to solve problems. That is why they succeed.

Good managers succeed for a simple reason: They are flexible. They do not tie themselves to particular outlooks, ideas, principles or ethical codes. They come under fire for this at times, but in the end, the proof is in the money pudding. Companies do not want managers to follow principles if principles reduce profits. Companies do not want managers who step into the ring with tied hands. They want managers who can fight with both hands—and administer low blows if that’s what it takes to win the bout. For example, a manager who tells himself “I cannot lie” forecloses actions that may be better for the business. Perhaps it would be more profitable to lie than to tell the truth. A “principled” manager would not lie in those circumstances. But he would be a bad manager if he did not lie, because he would not be flexible.

Principles and ethics are for cowards. There is no room in business for cowards. People who say they will not resort to “dishonorable” sales techniques are weaklings. What if those “dishonorable” sales techniques create 100% more profit? How could a manager in good conscience refuse to apply them? A bad manager would say: “I cannot justify calling people at their homes during dinner time. Nor can I advocate a sales pitch that falsely informs people that their computer systems are infected, because that is not ethical.”

This is pure cowardice. A good manager would evaluate whether a sales technique would increase revenues, then employ it. He would be flexible enough to adopt new and creative ways to generate profits for the business. He would not tie himself to old-fashioned moral teachings. Lying is bad, but a good manager has the strength to be flexible. He can justify lying if it will reasonably bring in more profits. That is flexibility. And flexibility is the spirit that drives America’s most successful business managers.

Critics say that good managers have no principles at all. This is incorrect. Good managers have many principles. Among these principles is passionate dedication to success and the courage to be flexible. Good managers also follow traditional principles such as the duty to be honest, forthright and honorable. Nonetheless, a good manager knows that principles have limits. They know when it is appropriate to observe a principle, and when it is appropriate to be flexible. If applying a principle would harm the business, a good manager will not take a stand to defend the principle. He will make an exception to save the business. For example, good managers believe that it is wrong to discriminate on racial grounds. But if a top-producing employee fires an underling for racial reasons, the good manager will not discipline the top employee. He is flexible enough to know that keeping the top employee happy is better for the business than defending a principle that pays no bills.

In recent years, good managers have absorbed unfair scrutiny for simply doing their jobs. Congressional hawks especially picked on top managers at Enron for so-called “unethical behavior.” People forget that Enron’s managers were very good at their jobs. They were not afraid to be flexible. They simply made a miscalculation and got caught. All good managers take that risk. If there had not been a left-wing media circus surrounding Enron, their managers would have been hailed as creative business heroes. Those managers had the courage to be flexible. They showed how successful a company can be when it refuses to bow to principle. True, the principled “player haters” ultimately won against Enron. But that was an exceptional case. Just because they won that round does not mean that Enron’s top managers were not admirably flexible. In any other circumstances, Enron’s managers would have triumphed.

In business, it is a jungle out there. There is not enough fruit on the tree for everyone, and only the strong survive. Successful businesses depend upon managers who are not afraid to kick, scratch, punch, bite and spit to win the fight. In today’s climate, it is not “politically correct” to say that the ends justify the means. Critics have forced good managers to at least appear “principled and ethical” while doing their jobs, no matter how unprofitable it is. But the ends really are everything; and every good manager knows that. Thus, good managers know how to appear principled, while retaining the flexibility to win at any price. For example, a good manager may hire an “Ethics Consulting Group” to provide instruction to employees. A good manager would report to the press that he spent $1,000,000 on “Ethics Training,” removing any public doubt that he is ethical. If anyone claims that his policies violate ethical standards, he can say: “I spend $1,000,000 annually on ethics training. I have the receipts. Therefore, I am ethical.” By employing these methods, a good manager can placate the nosy “ethics police” with verifiable compliance, when in truth he retains the flexibility to use any means necessary to win.

I guided my company to success in sixteen straight quarters because I am not a coward. I say that lying is bad, but I lied when I had to. I say that stealing is bad, but I stole competitors’ ideas when I had to. I say that misleading advertising is bad, but I endorsed misleading advertising when I had to. When push came to shove, I relaxed my principles. If I had rigidly adhered to principles during my time as manager, I would have been fired. If I had been selfish, I would have refused to falsify our corporate books to inflate the stock price. But I was not selfish, nor did I take a coward’s refuge in “ethics.” I did what great managers do: I examined the risks and dared to be flexible. Success is not easy, even if you are flexible. But if you are not flexible—and if you insist on principles—success is unachievable. In the end, people do not want ethical goody-goodies. They want net gains.

I have a message for all those who whine that successful managers are “unethical, unprincipled brigands.” You are all just jealous. You cowards wish you could be as flexible as we are, so you start shaking the ethics stick at us. Secretly, you marvel at our creative ability to tell naked lies and get away with it. Rather than get with the program, you start pontificating about “right,” “ethics,” “honor” and “propriety.” You have no idea how this economy works. Economic success is a race. There is no runner-up prize. And there is no “ethics award.” You either win or you lose. By following principles and ethics, you make it harder to win. When so much is at stake, who can afford to make the race harder than it already is? To illustrate, look at me: I am flexible and I am rich. Now look at you: You are ethical and you are poor. Of course you are upset, and that is why you “player hate.”

I did not tell you to be ethical or principled. That was your choice. You still have time to adapt. It is up to you. You can keep carping about “doing the right thing” and “telling the truth even if it hurts you.” For my part, I will continue doing what needs to be done to win. If winning means being ethical, I will be ethical. If winning means bending the rules, I will bend the rules. I am prepared to do anything for success, and that means evaluating risk. If ethical behavior presents a lower risk of failure than unethical behavior, then I will be ethical. But I do not insist on ethics every time. That would just be irrational. Let’s say I refuse to lie on principle. What good would it do me if I refuse to lie and I get fired? You say it would please my conscience. Great. My conscience can’t buy groceries, but my job can. What do you think I will do?

We are in a race. Successful managers do not have time to worry about how they run in the race. They just get to the finish line first. If you are not flexible, you will not succeed. Don’t be a cowardly and ethical. Be flexible and successful.

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