On August 9, the U.S. Department of Labor released the results of an exhaustive 10-year study into the most common symptoms associated with a dying business.
The report focuses on the analysis of former employees of such failed corporate entities as Te Casan (featuring Natalie Portman’s vegan-friendly footwear); Oprah Winfrey’s OWN television network; and the much ballyhooed Planet Hollywood endeavor – to name just three.
Below is the list of the top five indicators of imminent doom, based on the personal experiences and reflections of those who bore witness to the decline and fall of some highly touted business ventures.*
Beware of Men Bearing Blueprints: Cosmo K., a former employee at G.I. Joe’s – a privately owned retailer of sporting goods, ready-to-wear clothing, and auto parts – saw the writing on the wall long before the company collapsed in 2009. “I was having lunch on the roof of our office building in Eugene when out come four big guys with crew cuts. They were carrying rolled up blueprints. I asked one of them if they were here to fix the leak coming from the fifth floor toilet. He sneered, stuck his hand in his pocket and pulled out something that he then gave to me: it was a business card that had the name of the company he worked for…and it wasn’t G.I. Joe’s. We were laid off six months later.”
A Chronic Case of Urgency: “How many urgent meetings does a company need to hold in order to get it right?” asks Vicky V., a one-time staffer at subprime mortgage specialists American Freedom Mortgage, Inc. “I heard from a colleague of mine who survived the first wave of cuts that an urgent meeting was called on a Wednesday to discuss the ramifications of the previous urgent meeting that had been held that Monday.”
Hello, Neighbor! Peter P. from New York was a perfectly content senior level executive at Refco, a financial services company, when he started noticing a disconcerting trend: “The longer I was there, the faster the employee turnover rate became. By early 2005, it had gotten so insane that newbies were told by HR to wear ‘My name is’ stickers for their first six months at the company…assuming they lasted that long.”
Sharing a Cubicle with the IRS: Robert Z. was an account manager at Bethlehem Steel Corporation – at one time America’s second largest steel producer. He soon found himself working next to the IRS. “Stuck out like turds in a punch bowl, those bean counters. Pale, quiet… and they all smelled like glue. Anyhow, the brass tried to downplay it, but we all knew about the slush funds, managerial workshops held in the Caribbean, and of course those home office deductions. I mean it doesn’t take a CPA to figure out that answering e-mails on your laptop in front of your 72″³ flat screen TV doesn’t qualify your living room as a deductible office space.” Bethlehem Steel Corporation filed for bankruptcy in 2001.
Carpooling with a Kardashian: Lois L. from California worked for a spell at the Kardashian Kard prepaid debit card company. “I knew that something stank when Kim Kardashian (the company’s creator and CEO) started hitting me up for rides to and from the cubicle every day. Turns out that her Rolls Royce, Mercedes, Porsche, and Ferrari had been repossessed. Things got so bad that Kim even started bumming cigarettes off me in the break room!”
The study was commissioned by former Labor Secretary Tyrone Moneypenny. Reached for comment while on a hike up an Australian mountain range with an unidentified Argentinean woman, Moneypenny stated that “…as the U.S. economy changes, training and employment programs must innovate and adapt to effectively warn American workers about the tell-tale signs of an impending corporate failure.”
*All names have been changed for confidentiality purposes.