As a young vice president, I worked for a CEO in an entrepreneurial company that seesawed through the best and the worst of economic times. Our quarterly results were either “feast” or “famine.” Sometimes we were sweating bullets when major orders were delayed, and we had to cut costs and consider laying people off. Other times, sales were booming, and we were getting bonuses and stock options.
The CEO was charismatic and likeable. He made it his business to circulate around to everyone, whether they were wielding a pencil or a blowtorch in the fabricator shop. He was one of my early mentors, and I learned many lessons from him. What I remember most, however, was a Thanksgiving weekend during one of the tough times when the executive team left its turkey dinners early and came into the office for contingency planning.
Orders were delayed and, like many entrepreneurial companies, we had drawn on our credit lines. We were gathered together to find ways to cut costs, and one of the immediate measures that we took as a team, led by the CEO, was to impose 10% pay cuts on ourselves. The CEO even offered to put his home and property up for collateral if we needed a loan to meet payroll so we could keep our employees working; fortunately, the situation never worsened to that point.
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