Outsourcing CEOs

Shareholders were not happy. Yeah, all the line employees and managers were outsourced. The corporation produced nothing; it subcontracted to 3rd world factories—and squeezed the factories to get the lowest cost. And yet the shareholders wanted more. They always wanted more. But where to get it?

Winston the CEO was fat and happy. The stock price was high and he was collecting a healthy salary and truly enormous bonuses. All the high level executives were doing the same. Only one problem: the shareholders wanted that money. They put pressure on the Board—which took some doing because the Winston golfed regularly with the Board members. They were thisclose.

Nonetheless, the shareholders would not be denied.

Winston was sacked. He took his golden parachute and a private helicopter ride back to one of his estates, the one on the ocean with the yacht he’d named “The Galt.”

The company and the shareholders—the ingrates—weren’t Winston’s problem anymore. He’d retire, serve on some boards, think about philanthropy. If he got bored he might even run for president. The country, he thought, would be lucky to have him.

The lawsuit came next. Burt, the chairman, called Winston as a courtesy to let him know the papers would be coming. Winston’s lawyers battled the corporation’s lawyers and in the end Winston’s golden parachute was shredded, and then some. The unthinkable had happened: he was poor. He sold all his assets to pay his debts including a whole bunch of legal fees. The ex-CEO netted out zero.

Winston gritted his teeth and called his friends for help, the people who admired his quick wit and his sharp business acumen. But nobody returned his calls. Winston was not only destitute. He was also alone.

The new CEO, Singh, was from India. Nobody knew his first name but he seemed smart enough and he accepted a salary that in America would have been slightly above minimum wage. But he didn’t work in America. Singh worked at the new one-story world headquarters in Calcutta.

Singh was a happy man. For the first time in his life he was doing no physical labor. The job was easy and they were paying him what seemed like an exorbitant number of rupees. All he had to do was talk with a couple of subcontractors, make sure they do nothing stupid and occasionally make an inspirational speech. He usually left the office at noon and played cricket for the rest of the day. The stock price was at a record high and shareholders were happy.

Well, shareholders of other corporations took notice. Dozens, then hundreds of CEOs were forced to resign, and replaced by competent low paid executives across the globe. Shareholders everywhere wet themselves with excitement.

Meanwhile, Singh was bored. You could only play so much cricket. He was tired of seeing his face on the covers of Fortune, Forbes and Businessweek. He longed to do something. He walked out onto the factory floor. Low level workers and line managers were working efficiently and independently. Singh has discovered that all he needed to do to maximize production and quality was to stay out of the way and let people work. They know what to do.

But Singh was a little jealous. These people were creating things. Singh just moved numbers on a spreadsheet.

He felt almost as useless as the shareholders. And then—aha!

Singh took the company private. Why waste money on shareholders? They don’t produce anything. They don’t do anything. They are worse than useless—they are a drain.

So, that’s how we got here. A world of employee-run independent companies, with generous salaries and increasingly brilliant products and services. Best of all, the deadwood is gone.

Meanwhile, Winston lost weight and was desperately trying to learn how to play cricket. Maybe that would help.