Reply to post: "bean counters who value ... index of growth"

$200bn? Make that $467bn: Trump threatens to balloon proposed bonus China tech tariffs

Milton Silver badge

"bean counters who value ... index of growth"

"I think, from what I've been reading, constant growth is not a demand of modern economics ( which hasn't really changed that much) but of modern commerce . i.e. bean counters who value companies on an index of growth rather than earnings."

Broadly correct. I've written elsewhere about the appalling damage done by allowing bean-counters to have management responsibilties, but in truth, in this case, they are merely a symptom of a much larger problem wherein everyone focuses on what can be crudely measured instead of looking at more subtle, nuanced indicators of "goodness".

A brief story. Late 90s, IT boom, Yrs Truly is "Director, CRM and EAI" (actually one step below Board level) for a youngish consultancy in the City of <100 pretty good, skilled developers, architects, technologists etc. (Job title sounds bigger than the responsibilities.) Lots of recent senior recruiting, two utter first-rate Mongs have found their way into the Board, for Marketing and Finance. Founders consideirng IPO, got starry-eyed at recruiting "credible, heavyweight, highly-paid individuals" and fell prey to propaganda instead of shrewd assessment of past performance.

A certain level of IPO greed is kicking in so lots of poeple can become rich overnight. Many fancily printed potentially lucrative share entitlements are printed and distributed. But the problems (not least, inevitable bubble bursting) are in sight, for those with the wit to see it.

The City, it appears, will magic a successful IPO if quarterly revenue and profits steadily increase. There can be only a steady rise. Nothing else is tolerable. Abruptly, management types like me are being pressed to put in lots of billable hours. Abruptly, further hires are stalled. Abruptly, investment in training, research, in-house dev and anything else of long-term value is stopped. Personally I cannot properly manage, motivate and look after a young and eager team if I am also putting in too many billable hours—so my team's morale, coherence and performance—their belief—immediately starts to suffer. To Board I submit presentations predicting how and why this will hurt us badly in the months to come, as project quality degrades, deadines are missed, mistakes made, people leave. I actually show one slide showing the collapse in revenues for the next quarter. (Later turns out to be bang on, sadly.) Barely any reaction. No one cares. Maybe no one believes it. The only goal is "More revenue, by any means, and cut costs to keep profits 'growing'".

A few months later many staff (the better ones, of course) are leaving almost daily. Contributory factors include widespread incredulity about Marketing Idiot's mouth and foot problem, and the Finance Fool picking ill-informed fights with clients, who then decline to pay (and I didn't blame them). One of Finance Fool's favourite sayings, always glibly thrown out there, about staff who might not be billing maximum hours next month: "Can 'em. Just can 'em." (None of the people he wishes to "can" have less than a 30-point IQ advantage on him.) But the worst damage is done by the abrupt short term obsession with quarterly figures, which damages absolutely everything in the operation, including the morale of what used to be good, future-oriented teams of expert young developers.

Older, wiser, collecting my embarrasingly fat redundancy payment many months later, I pointed out neutrally that this was all entirely predictable. The answer: "Why didn't you say so?"

No IPO. Company blown away like a tumbleweed nearly 20 years ago. It could have survived well, grown slowly and spasmodically, learned along the way, probably eventually sold out handsomely to one of the BigX consultancies ... where, admittedly, it would have been infected by their own brand of greed and incompetence, but the founders would have got their payoff.

Instead, shortsighted greed and a moronically counterproductive obsession with just a couple of numbers, completely destroyed it.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019