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December 5, 2008

Work for $1 a Year? Ha! Not This CEO!


This week, automotive CEOs Rick Wagoner and Alan Mullaly, fearless leaders of General Motors and Ford respectively, announced that they would work for $1 a year for the foreseeable future.


This is the sort of thing you have to do when youíre begging Congress for taxpayer money to keep your company afloat. You have to start operating your company the way businesses operate in congressmenís fantasies. The CEO works for free! Every product releases clean green goodness into the environment! Each employee receives a 100 percent raise every day and the company never seems to run out of money!


Hey! Itís a corporation! Itís made of money!


Note to self: Do not go before Congress asking for anything for your business. You will not like what happens.


But letís say you found yourself up there. Why is not important. Youíre there, and the distinguished honorables are demanding that you, too, work for $1 a year. Hmm. Yes. Hmm, indeed . . .


Congressman: Mr. Krause, are you willing to accept a salary of $1 a year for your work as CEO of the company?


Me (after laughing hysterically for about 10 minutes): No.


Congressman: Wouldnít that send a positive message to your workforce?


Me: What message?


Congressman: That youíre willing to share in the sacrifice.


Me: But Iím not interested in sharing in any sacrifice.


Congressman: How can you say that?


Me: Well, for one thing, Iím not interested in there being any sacrifice. Iím interested in sharing in lots and lots of profits.


Congressman: I donít know what youíre talking about, Mr. Krause. The CEOs who come before this committee donít make any profits. Thatís why theyíre here.


Me: You know, Mr. Congressman, maybe it wouldnít kill you to hear from some companies who do make profits. They are out there, you know. If all you do is talk to CEOs from failing companies like the Detroit Big Three, how are you ever going to learn anything about how successful companies operate? Might be useful for you to know.


Congressman: Well, we do hear from profitable companies whenever we drag the oil company CEOs up here to threaten them.


Me: Kind of not what I meant. Do you ever talk to small-company entrepreneurs who put their limited cash at risk to bring a new product or service to the market?


Congressman: I know all about those people! I saw Jerry McGuire! ďShow me the money!Ē


Me: Yeah, well, theyíre not all like that. And a lot of them work for little or nothing in the early going, but the reason they take that risk is so they can reward themselves later on.


Congressman: Reward themselves?


Me: You know, get rich?


Congressman: Thatís horrible! How can they do that? Especially now, when thereís a recession! Mr. Krause, would you join me now in calling for a moratorium on people getting rich until the economy gets going again?


Me: Nope. Thatís the dumbest thing I ever heard.


Congressman: Well I never! Youíre not going to get your hands on any taxpayer money talking like that, buddy boy! Youíre company will go out of business!


Me: I donít care.


Congressman: You donít Ė what? How can you not care?


Me: Because I donít. I mean, I donít really think I need any taxpayer money to avoid going out of business, but if thatís the way it goes down, Iíll just do something else. Why should I sit around fretting about it? Itís certainly not worth it to sit here and grovel in front of you. Iíd rather tell all my friends and family I failed at business Ė any day.


Congressman: Well, if you owned a company that employs hundreds of thousands of people and pays the benefits of three times as many retirees, you probably wouldnít feel that way.


Me: Youíve got me there. Maybe the key is to never create something that you feel compelled to keep alive forever. That way you donít do irrational, humiliating things to prevent its demise. If the jig is up, the jig is up, whether itís a business or someoneís political career. You picking up what Iím putting down?


Congressman: That does not compute.


Me: Oh well. Gotta go. I have to interview a job candidate.


Congressman: Who?


Me: That poor dumb bastard you just whipsawed into working for $1 a year. You didnít think he was going to actually do it, did you?


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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