On Not Being A Good Corporate Rat…

Or, one reason I finally became an independent consultant… I chuckle to myself every time I’m reminded of this story.

Recently posted this as a reply at Perry Marshall’s blog. Incidentally, Perry is another engineer who broke the corporate bonds and went on to found a very successful Internet marketing business.

Thought I was in big trouble – but actually got rewarded…

Prior to starting my own engineering consulting firm in 1987, I was a Field Sales Engineer for Intel. It was a great experience with a great company, and proved very helpful when running my own  business.

But it wasn’t all peaches and cream. Like any large company, the bureaucracy was always there. Unfortunately for me, I never got along well with bureaucrats. Guess I wasn’t cut out to be a good corporate rat.

So, when a new monthly reporting form came out, I first chose to ignore it. Known as the “Disti Report”, it asked for a detailed forecast on sales through distribution for my accounts.

Since almost all my sales were direct, why waste my time filling out a report that had no meaning anyway?

But Chris, my sales support, came to my rescue. She reminded me that I had not submitted the report along with the monthly status report.

“So what?” I said. Being wiser in the ways of bureaucracies, she said, “Hey, just do it. It will only take you a minute.”

So I grabbed a form, made up some numbers, and handed it back to Chris. It took about thirty seconds.

She grinned, and attached it to my status report.

The following month we went through the same exercise. Chris asked, “Where is your Disti Report?”

I replied, “Do you have last month’s report?” After she handed it to me, I made a photocopy, handed it back, and she sent it in.

She grinned again.

The next month, she asked “Should I just make another copy of the Disti Report?” I replied, “Yes – and you don’t need to even ask me anymore.”

So for the next twelve months, she just attached copies of the unaltered Disti Report to my monthly status report. I even think she made photocopies of the photocopies, so they were starting to fade.

Then one day, our Regional Sales Manager came to town for a meeting. When he passed out an agenda, one item stood out – Disti Reports.

I winced – looked at Chris – and she winced back. I figured my impudence had caught up to me, and I was about to be severely chastised.

We finally got to the Disti Report on the agenda. The Regional Manager started out, “We have a big problem with Disti Reports, folks.”

I closed my eyes – wait for it, I thought.

Then he continued, “Nobody in this office is filling them out, and we need that information. No wait, Gerke has faithfully filled his out every month — but he doesn’t even sell anything thorough distribution!”

I snuck a look at Chris. It was all she could do to keep from bursting out laughing. Me, I just  breathed a sigh of relief. As far as I know, we were never found out.

So what was the big lesson here? If it only takes a minute or two and is not that important, just go ahead and play their silly games.

But the games did finally grind me down. Two years later, I started my own firm and last fall completed 25 years in business.

And no, we do NOT have Disti Reports…

So how about you? Are you a corporate misfit like I was? If so, running your own business may be the answer. Consulting is just one of many possibilities.

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