Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hidden Manna: Amicable Competition

Graduation! hmmm Congrats to all the 2008 Graduates.
This may differ from all of my previous post, it is just that I can't get it off my mind so I guess will write it here to remind us what we are IN for this world... the planet called Earth.
The two students were drinking their last beer after the Seniors’ Prom marking their graduation. The following day their class would scatter to the four corners of the country. So this was their last beer until their class’s official homecoming ten years hence. The moment was almost solemn for Jonathan Richmond and Charlie Quarter. And, although they had never been very close during the preceding four years (their values and lifestyle were too contrasted to allow for deep friendship between them), nevertheless they felt the special significance of this time of separation...“All right, Jonathan,” Charlie said, “I’m ready to bet that when we meet in ten years’ time, I’ll be three times riches than you’ll be.”
Such a statement was pure Charlie Quarter. For it expressed perfectly the young man’s extremely competitive nature. Not just because Charlie was ready to bet on anything (he said it make life so much more interesting), but because he loved to humiliate his opponents by delivering them a crushing defeat whenever possible. And unfortunately, he was as unscrupulous as he was ruthless. As long as he won, he didn’t care what means he used to achieve his goal. Jonathan Richmond, on the other hand, always preferred cooperation to competition. Or if one insisted on using the term “competition,” he would always soften it into the expression “friendly competition.” Moreover, Jonathan was about the closest thing you could ever find to a really honest man. To his upright nature, deceit and crooked means were as unthinkable as a flash of lightning in a blue sky. And so, he felt no inclination to take up his classmate on the latter’s cocky bet, in the feat that such a bet would only incite him to be even more unscrupulous in the next ten years. However, since he didn’t want to offend Charlie during their last minutes together, he tactfully rephrased his companion’s proposal.

“Well, Charlie,” he replied with a friendly laugh, “you know I’m not much of a gambler. Never had the nerves for it. But maybe in ten years we can compare notes and see if both of us have made good, each in his line of business. Hopefully, we will have. And I’ll be the first one to drink a toast to your success, my friend.”
This conversation proved to be the two young men’s last contact until the homecoming ten years later. In the mean time each launched on in different directions, directions that differed with regard to their business careers and, even more so, with regard to their spiritual evolution.

Charlie Quarter began his career by opening a modest retail store with a partner. They sold computer equipment both hardware and software. Within a year, though, Charlie had managed to defraud his partner of his share of the business. Then he joined forces with another, bigger retailer, whom he likewise succeeded in swindling out of the partnership, thus ending up a wealthy man. After that he entered the manufacturing segment of the computer world and began producing equipments for his own chain of stores. From then on he contrived, by hook or by crook, to eliminate most of his competitors, forcing them out of the business by the most ruthless and dishonest means possible: industrial espionage, personnel raiding, labor unrest, and so on. Unfortunately for him, though, his unethical tactics eventually backfired against him. He was accused of breaking the copyright laws enshrined in the computer Software Act of 1980. Just before the date of the class homecoming around, he lost about everything he owned in a lawsuit. And so it was very chasten Charlie who faced Jonathan after their ten years’ separation.

The latter entered the business world with only one thing in mind: the service of the public. Being a deeply committed Christian, he had completely made his the teaching of Jesus on service: “you know that among the pagans the rulers lord it over them and their great man make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20, 26-28).

And so, imbued with the sole concern of serving the public, he looked around for ways and means of achieving his aim. Now, it so happened that at the particular time a website developing company, Angels on Vines, was on the verge of bankruptcy. Jonathan bought it, put it back on its feet, and soon transformed it into the most thriving concern in the entire Websites industry expanding in the process into a vast network of branches and offices, worldwide. How the young man achieved all this was direct result of his idealism, integrity and profound respect for his employees (whom he always called “associates”). Here are some of the methods he used in this connection.

First of all, from the very first day of his takeover of Angels on Vines, he stressed quality. To his stockholders he said year after year: “Quality is the first word in our motto. Growth is not our principal goal. Our goal is to be quality organization and do a quality job, which means that we will be proud of our work and products for years to come. As we achieve quality, growth will come as a result.”
With Jonathan at the helm, Angels on Vines became obsessed with quality. You asked officials at the company’s headquarters about personnel, they would talk quality; you asked about sales, they would talk quality; you asked about management, they would talk quality.

In this respect Jonathan had a simple philosophy: he wanted to give the best company service of any company in the world. To this end Angels on Vines guaranteed answering any customers complain in twenty-four hours. Jonathan read every complaint Email personally and answered it personally. His company guaranteed quality websites in all over the country and the whole world.

Towards his personnel Jonathan always acted with the utmost respect and consideration. Thus he insisted that at all levels of the organization all members were made aware of their essential contribution to the overall success of Angels on Vines. They were to be treated as adults and as partners, with dignity and respect. This meant that employees, once they wholeheartedly shared the values of service and quality at the heart of the company’s working principles, were given a wide scope of practical autonomy to get the job done. New ideas and new forms of experimentation were welcome, all this with a high tolerance of failure for those who risked innovations. All important communications were made face to face. Workers were given opportunity for career education, security in their positions, and easy access to any superiors. Finally, employees received constant “positive reinforcement” by means of incentives and rewards of all kinds: pens badges, buttons, medals, a ten percent bonus for a week’s punctuality, a “gold circle” for top sales persons, special “jubilees” for outstanding performers, honorary stars for no-absence months, and so on. In other words Jonathan provided initiative, direction, meaning he created among his “associates” a sense of excitement, of exuberance, a sense of being part of the best, a sense of creating something of quality that they could be proud of. And they were. For indeed, as Jonathan often stated publicly: “At Angels on Vines, we only make Websites; but it’s the best in the world. And so, the public is served and God is honored.”

It is in such a context that Charlie and Jonathan met again. Naturally, the latter was far too considerate to remind his classmate of their erstwhile resolution to “compare notes” and, even less, of Charlie’s bet of tripling Jonathan’s worth. No, given his exquisitely Christian tact, Jonathan could not allow himself to gloat over his former classmate’s failure (even though richly deserved) or even allude to it.

This attitude of Jonathan took Charlie by surprise. He had expected at least a few oblique and ironical references to his fiasco. He got none. On the contrary, he sensed that Jonathan wasn’t in the least judgmental towards him, that he was in fact discreetly supportive and sympathetic. And this set him thinking. He had already begun to revise his entire philosophy of life, acknowledging that ruthless competition was unproductive in the long run. Perhaps, he mused, Jonathan’s approach was better than his? Anyway, it certainly worked better!

To cut short a long story, at the end of the homecoming Jonathan, sensing his classmate’s change of heart, graciously invited Charlie to come and work for him. The latter accepted with gratitude, aware that life – or was it God? - was giving him a second chance. He wouldn’t miss this one!



If you look into my eyes
will you see my love for you?
If you look at my lips
will you know it's meant for you?

Everything happens for reasons...
Every moment has its own seasons...

The right time will come,
we will be together for eternity,
The right moment will come
our bond shall be filled with God's Blessings and Security.

© Aice Nice Poems