So what is the business of a car rental company? You would think it’s to rent cars, and you would imagine they would love customers who book in advance and then arrive at exactly the time they booked for to rent a car.
Well this is not the business model preferred by Thirfty car rental.
Last week we were in Vegas for a few days and decided it would be great to go for a hike in the Mohave desert, and pop in to Fry’s, my favorite geek out store on that side of the US. So we duly looked for a day’s car rental. We found Thrifty were at the airport, and so called them and booked a car for the next day. All confirmed and ready to go.
So the next day we dutifly took a taxi to the airport and went to the thrifty car rental desk, where we were told that they were not honoring reservations. Why I asked? Did you not have cars? And the stunning response was this “oh we have cars, but we are holding them in case any of our premier customers decide they might want one”.
So the facts were we had booked a reservation, they had a record of our reservation, they has cars available, but they chose to be assholes and not rent cars on the off-chance that a regular customer who had not made a reservation would want one.
The faster Thrifty go bankrupt the better, as far as I am concerned.
I will NEVER rent from them again. And I advise everyone I know will to NEVER rent from them again.
There is nothing worse than a business that does not understand why it is in business. Thrifty car rental, I wish you nothing but bankruptcy, your business model stinks.
I called Thrifty’s service department to complain and was unable to speak to a manager as none were in. I have not received a call back from them or any apology for their stupidity.
I think I’m going to found CRATCR, Car Renters Against Thrifty Car Rental, POWER TO THE PEOPLE!!!!!
Like most kids around the world, when I was at school I learnt of the history of the Brits who travelled to America to find solace free from religious and social tyranny.
It was held up as the pinnacle of freedom. A country driven to see all people as equal and to allow each individual the freedom to live their lives as they wished.
Of course the next chapter in that children’s history book did explain that all wasn’t perfect, with oppression of native people, rampant slavery, racism and sexism issues and a history of political corruption and political cowardice that pretty much matched the rest of the world. I know now that this chapter is taught very differently in America.
It seems that maybe teaching the issues of the past more completely may have been a great way to help people to learn to stop repeating them.
The issues of today, seem to be all too familiar from that children’s history book.
Yes I’m looking at you corrupt Supreme Court, and you, paid for politicians, and you business owners who think you have rights greater than other individuals, and you irresponsible gun rights advocates, and you manufacturers who ship jobs oversees to save a buck irrespective of the long term social costs, and you climate change deniers who put your short term profits ahead of long term health and social need, and you union leaders who limit growth of your members to line your personal power bases, and you war profiteers, and you bigots who subvert the meaning of religious texts to support your bigotry…. Hmm it’s a long list when you think about it….
I’ve read and listened to a good number of books on business, marketing, management, etc. which offer many excellent approaches, techniques and tips to run a successful, innovative, motivated team and organization. These books were/are best-sellers.
I know that the senior management of virtually every organization reads them and that many assign them to their teams and the next generation of leaders. “Long-term thinking,” “train, nurture and retain staff,” “always look at things from the perspective of your customers and prospects,” “treat everyone with respect and assume positive intent,” etc.
So my question is, “Why is it so rare that senior management actually follows any of that advice?”
Are they just not bright enough? Weak minded? Unable to change bad habits? Prefer “politics” to actual achievement as a strategy to advance? I mean really, WTF?
Did they mean well but revert to “Lord of the Flies” behavior after one bad quarter? Or are they just hiding their “crazy” in public most of the time? I’m asking because now that I’m back on positive side of the ledger I’m horrified at how bad it had been so often at so many places for me, my family and my friends. I had a chat with my first real business “mentor” the other night regarding helping his daughter get started in her chosen field and I was reminded how shocking it was when I first worked with him and was truly trusted, supported and empowered by him and the entire management team when we worked together in the 90’s.
We were all “jazzed up” to go to work every day, weren’t afraid to take calculated risks, and achieved great success with a small team and virtually no budget. Motivated, smart people we were and we innovated virtually every day to make the place better. Did I find a great leadership through my own research? LinkedIn? FuckedCompany.com? No, it was pure luck for me (and for them), that we “found” each other and were able to do great things and enjoy the process.
Why is that so rare today? Are 70% of Americans just idiots (as one of my best friends continually points out)? Do people really just not listen and comprehend good advice anymore? Are all “organizations” above a certain size just destined to go horribly dysfunctional because of their size? Is even the best corporate culture guaranteed to dissolve above 100 employees?
I don’t know the answer and believe me, I’m not complaining – I love competing against badly managed companies with toxic management styles and dysfunctional cultures. The bigger and better resourced they are, the better; it makes for greater satisfaction when you beat them and have your pick of their customers and their best employees.
I still would like to know the answer but until then I’ll just enjoy the fact that the competition is not going from “Good to Great,” doesn’t live by the “No Asshole Rule” and clearly hasn’t adopted “7 (or even 1), Habit of Highly Effective People.”
p.s.: When asked what my favorite “business” books are, the response is simple: “The Essential Drucker” and “The No Asshole Rule.” Great advice to work and live by everyday-
To win a game of chess you don’t need to have every piece survive, just the king. And in most chess games putting your pieces at risk are the most effective ways of winning. Create an emergency where by taking a desirable piece your opponent weakens their overall defense or by not taking that piece provides you with a desirable offence is the key to playing the game.
The more moves you can think ahead, considering the full range of potential future moves the better your chance of building a winning strategy.
There has always been a strong linkage between games like chess and strategic battle planning or political maneuvering.
In the last few decades these skills have truly entered a new realm of advancement. Since World War II, world leaders have realized the power they get from disasters both natural and forged. Many things that in the cold hard light of reasonableness would seem ridiculous are considered in the wake of an emergency.
The concept of habeas corpus used to be considered absolute! You could not be charged with a crime without evidence and you were considered innocent until proved guiltily in a court of law. These were basic principles of the society we created. It was considered critical that all people were treated as innocent, and this meant that strict controls were placed on agents of the state to prohibit unreasonable search and to ensure that you could not be held without charge.
But every time an emergency happens these and other sacrosanct stakes in the ground of society are ripped to shreds.
When a bunch of mad terrorists attacked America, we lost the right to ensure searches were undertaken only when ordered by a court. We also lost the rights to privacy of emails, and phone calls. And we lost the right to not be held without charge.
When a prick tried to light his shoes on a plane and another tried to blow up his underwear we all lost the rights to not be full body scanned, and to carry nail clippers.
When a hurricane hit New Orleans the people of that city lost their right to public education, and virtually every school was turned into a for-profit school supplemented via vouchers.
This is not just an American creation, everywhere in the world emergency situations have been used to re-write the rulebook, and in every single case the power base has been shifted from the people to an unelected series of corporations.
We now call this globalization.
Today we are seeing more and more “created disasters” such as the so-called fiscal cliff and the previously routine (but now line in the sand) debt ceiling debacles.
Each new disaster allows dramatic changes to be negotiated, lowering the social framework and replacing it with a corporately profitable model.
When we are shocked by the lack of investment by the government after any particular disaster, It’s simply a matter of realizing that in those specific cases the needs of corporations is best served by letting the disaster fester for longer. When there is a benefit to the corporate world, action is swift.
Gun lobbyists and anti-gun lobbyists all see terribly sad gun killings as a reason to push their special interest.
Politicians use minorities and under-educated children as pawns to drive for moving social programs to the private sector.
Fossil fuel advocates who are paid by the fossil fuel industry promote the idea that fossil fuels are good for you, while cigarette companies have only just come around to the idea that maybe ciggies cause cancer.
Now quite frankly I’m not sure that large corporations run by unelected doctor evils are really that much worse than your average politician.
But there is a lot to be said for the idea of getting the politicians you deserve.
Please can we get back to a government “Of the people, for the people and by the people” it really was a revolutionary idea.
New York wants new businesses to start up here! Newly hired employees, innovative new services and products, new revenue and profits and tax income to the state and more! I’ve heard NY politicians talk about it, “We’re making New York an attractive place to start and grow your company!” and the like.
We’ve heard the stories about successful companies started in a garage or studio apartment with an idea and just a few hundred dollars in some cases. The next thing you know they’ve got a campus, thousands of employees and plans to hire thousands more. Those stories are never about New York companies though, are they? Coincidence? Bad luck? New Yorkers aren’t as smart as people in Washington state or Virginia or elsewhere?
Actually, just the opposite. New York entrepreneurs are smart enough to know that New York state and especially the 5 boroughs of New York City have a unique “Publication” requirement for all new LLCs that will likely cost them thousands of dollars and 6+ weeks of hassles. Open your business elsewhere, no such requirement and no such fee. Hmmm…, NY and pay the fee or anywhere else and not pay the fee. Tough choice for them, eh? How does NY compare to neighboring states for formation of new LLCs per capita? Terrible, of course.
The “Publication” requirement requires new NY businesses to publish an official notice of their existence in multiple printed newspapers for 6 consecutive weeks. Any newspapers? Of course not. They select the newspapers and you have to call the county clerk to get the names of the papers who will get the $. They say the requirement is so the general public is “notified” yet the New York Law Journal with its high rates happens to seemingly always be one of the required newspapers. Big circulation of the general public for that one, eh? Oh, and the information is already available online, for free, to anyone in the general public who wants it on the Secretary of State’s website.
How unique is the fee? 48 states don’t have it, that how unique it is. If you’ve ever been curious about what a “special interest” group is and how their influence can drive lawmakers to do something for just them at the expense of virtually everyone else, here’s your case study at the state level.
$2000.00 may or may not seem like a lot of money to you but to some budding entrepreneurs it is money they could clearly use better elsewhere (elsewhere meaning anywhere other than New York).
Is it time to see apple as “that company that used to amaze?.
It was amazing when apple introduced the ipod, the imacs were really cool. I loved it when they introduced the iphone. The ipad was game changing. I even loved the airport extreme, and the apple tv (version 2) changed how I use my TV’s and computers.
But now it’s just a case of twice a year; thinner, faster, bigger, smaller, wider, taller and longer lasting.
Has apple become the new sell-a-vision. Rather than keynotes are they now really delivering 30 minute ad’s prompting how their new feature will change our lives , but hold on order now and get two for the same price , just pay separate shipping and handling.
I still love their products, but it feels like the innovation has slowed down considerably.
Compared to others in the space of ergonomics of consumer IT, they still suck least. But surely that’s not what we have come to expect from Apple.
Information Technology still sucks in so many ways, and there are still huge empty spaces for creativity and game changing innovation.
Apple don’t let the death of your autocratic founding genius be the reason why you stagnate and become part of the homogenous mush that is the rest of tech.
Some of the Android-y companies and even Microsoft seem to be showing signs of getting ready to take the creative high ground. I suspect they will continue to break as much as they fix, so apple you have a chance to stay as the leader of the cool pack. But that chance is getting smaller every day.
Why do politicians think that all the revenue collected by a small business is taken as Salary?
A small business has many choices available for how to account for the profit generated from their business. It so happens that with the historically low federal income tax rates available currently, the most advantageous model is often to take everything as salary.
But that is not the best way for the economy and jobs. Surely we would be better off as a country if it was more advantageous for a business to re-invest it’s profits into growing the business, hiring new employees and building new things as opposed to taking everything as personal income immediately.
And remember the term “small business” is not just used for what you and I would consider small businesses.
Having said all that depending on where you live, $250,000 of personal income is not rich anymore, and the breakpoint for taxes should be much higher, I’d suggest $500,000 or $1,000,000 would make more sense.
Of course adding more taxes on the salaried income on the richest makes very little financial difference to the total collected by the feds, but it will change how they account for profit on revenue. But all the ways that income can be made outside of salary are worthy of consideration (tax on capital gains, a tax on stock trades, foreign investments, tax on multiple properties etc).
In some countries great schemes exist for alleviating taxes for actions that support the countries economic or social goals. For example in Germany you don’t pay taxes on a mortgage if the property is well maintained and rented at reasonable rates. This encourages investment and helps everyone live in nicer houses.
In other places businesses get a huge tax break for creating products locally. Locally designed, locally sourced raw materials, locally sourced production, but not for local final stage production. This encourages the use of the countries full range of industry and doesn’t reward the old technique of making everything in China and brining it all together for local final assembly just to avoid taxes.
There are a million techniques to use taxation to drive up the economy, and still allow business owners to be just as rich as they are today (or even richer).
In a perfect world the amount of people working would be as high as possible, and all of them earning enough to pay taxes. And the rich would be encouraged by the tax code to grow their businesses in ways that grow the economy.
Personal taxes are just an avoidable inconvenience for the richest, and any change to federal tax rates will have minimal impact on them! Why is it an issue being discussed? Well if we were not discussing this we would be thinking about the deeper issues.
Personal taxes on the rich are just a distraction technique.
A fight that really doesn’t matter, but allows politicians to scream and shout and excite their bases without really changing anything that truly matters.
I dream of a world where politicians all work together for the benefit of the country they serve, and not fight each other for personal gain at the detriment of all the rest of us.
What is worse, a business that pays people so poorly that they cannot afford to live without support from the government or a union that places such restrictive rules on a business that it cannot change to keep healthy?
Obviously this question is a trap. But it is a trap that can and should be avoidable, (and generally is avoided).
When employees of a business feel well treated they tend not to need the power of unionization. And when companies consider themselves the sum of all their employees, investors and customers then the company treats everyone well and doesn’t need to fear that unions will limit their ability to thrive.
When a business finds ways to consider it’s employees in different “classes” there is always the risk that the disparity between the classes will grow in ways that are not reasonable.
Everyone loves to be treated as an individual, and want’s to be rewarded for his or her unique skills. When a cake decorator becomes a master at his/her profession they would like to be rewarded for their excellence. If they get the same pay as someone else who is not as skilled at piping, they have less incentive to hone that skill.
When someone founds a business and spend decades nurturing and growing that business they obviously deserve the rewards that come with that level of dedication.
And when an employee is hired to perform a function for that business they don’t expect to get the riches associated with being the business owner.
There are well documented corruptions of the worker – business relationship, where workers were coerced to either take on highly risky behaviors or were placed in positions of financial subservience where they could not afford to lose their job yet were not paid enough to live. The Spector of these relationships can be seen in many large organizations today.
When unions negotiated benefits as an offset for lower wages, this was a way of a business delaying these payments to their workers. But often the long term costs of these benefits are now causing these very businesses to try and renegotiate. Some of these negotiations see pensions being reduced, while other are through the courts with companies asking for their previous agreements to be swept aside as part of pre-bankruptcy considerations.
I always thought that unions accepting lower pay in exchange for amazing retirement plans was naïve, as there is always the risk that companies can change the rules later.
Companies that treat every employee as a unique individual, providing healthy profit sharing between all levels of employees, investors and customers and not creating barriers between any levels of employees are most likely to not suffer the excesses of union mandates.
But the pressure to reduce costs and increase profits is always going to make this very hard.
This story is fictional or maybe it’s better to say it may be fictional…
I owned a bakery, we had been in business for thirty years, proudly providing baked products to our community. We make excellent bread! Over the last few years there has been a significant change in our business, and it all started out really well. A new ultra large retailer started to carry our produce in their stores. This was great for us.
After about a year of carrying our product locally, we had a meeting with the local product manager and they asked to double the amount of product they were buying from us every week. We were so excited, this was just the break we needed, and we hired more staff and were doing very well.
About a year later the same product manager came to us and again asked to double the amount of product they were buying from us every week. Wow, we were so excited, this was a massive deal for us. After visiting the local bank to get a loan we doubled the size of our bakery, hiring loads of new people and moved ahead feeling wonderful about the future.
About a year later the same product manager came to us again and asked to double the amount of product they were buying from us. And again after visiting the bank, with our business plan we built a new bakery, hired more staff and met this exciting business challenge.
I was able to buy a bigger house, my two kids were able to go to the best universities, and the Christmas bonuses and raises to all of the staff made everyone very happy. Business was great
About a year later the same product manager came to us again, and expressed how pleased he was with out product, and that he wanted to again double the order, but this time he would only do this if we dropped out prices by 25%. He also added that if we didn’t drop our prices, he would cancel the whole order and take his business elsewhere.
What were we to do, this one customer now accounted for over 90% of our business, and without their order we would go bankrupt within weeks, not being able to pay the staff or the bank. So we reluctantly took the deal.
The price we were being paid for our product was now below our costs. So we had to cut costs. I fired 10% of the staff, reduced the salaries and benefits of those left and renegotiated the loans we had with the bank. We were now able to keep in business, but our profit margins were very slim, that any further reduction in price would destroy us.
About a year later the same product manager came to us again, and expressed how pleased he was with out product, and that he wanted to again double the order, but this time he would only do this if we dropped out prices by a further 15%. He also added that if we didn’t drop our prices, he would cancel the whole order and take his business elsewhere.
I was distraught; this was going to kill our company. But the product manager was unmoved. I had no choice, and took the deal.
Now I had to cut costs even more dramatically. To fulfill the new increased order at this lower overall price, I had to get draconian on our business model. Instead of buying my ingredients locally, I had to instead but bulk product directly from south America and Asia. The quality control wasn’t as good but the price was all I could afford. I had to fire another 20% of the staff, and move many of the other staff to lower hours, so as to stop having to pay them benefits. But we were still in business.
I started to have health problems due to the stress, and many of my best staff resigned. But what choice did I have.
About a year later the same product manager came to us again, and expressed how displeased he was with out product, the quality had gone down, and unless things got better he would cancel the deal.
My business has just gone through liquidation. We lost everything to the bank. A few of my former employees were able to get jobs at the large retailer that was our former customer. They pay and benefits are terrible, but they are now making their own baked products and they are the only one left in the area that does.
I started my professional career at Hewlett Packard. I joined at a time when the founders (Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett) were still alive, very old but still very much an influence on the day-to-day culture of Hewlett Packard.
It may seem quaint nowadays, but when a company, successful in so many ways (such as HP) still has the founders around, there is a lot of pressure to run the business in their image.
I used to work in a major site in Europe, the site contained a development and manufacturing operation, as well as an arm of HP labs, a pure research facility full of PhD’s with foreheads significantly larger than can be comfortably considered normal. Because it was a major site, company board meetings and visits from the highest echelons of the company’s management team were quite frequent. Even though I was a neophyte in the company I was able to attend all-hands meetings and hear the views of these leaders over the years. And it was normal for executives visiting a site to offer to meet one on one with anyone who would care to make an appointment.
The idea of management by wandering around and of being open with all employees was so engrained in the culture that whenever a dignitary was visiting there was a signup process to arrange for a one-on-one meeting. I made a point of always putting my name down on the list. And so it was that I got to meet both Bill and Dave among others.
Bill Hewlett was quite infirm when I got to meet him, actually travelling around the inside of buildings in a golf cart, waving at everyone and saying “you’re all doing very well” in a rather frail voice (I did notice the similarity at the time to young Mr. Grace, from the UK TV show “are you being served”). But his thoughts were still an amazing thing for a young engineer to be exposed to.
When I spoke with Dave Packard I remember him telling me a story about how HP drove innovation. He said that the model was quite simple, every year they would undertake a dozen game changing projects, knowing full well that most of them would not turn into strong businesses directly. But the ones that did succeed would be the future of the company, and would more than pay for the ones that had failed. But just as importantly the people who had worked on the failed projects has the experience to become the company’s success in the next round. It was just as much about gaining the positive experiences of failure as it was about the positive experiences of success.
This was a lesson I’ve taken with me through my career and life. The fact that Hewlett and Packard created a culture of respect for people was much more about creating a good long-term business strategy than it was about creating a good ethical playing field.
When Bill and Dave left their executive positions at Hewlett Packard, they still were very much involved in the running of the company until pretty much the days that they died.
John Young was the CEO when I joined Hewlett Packard, and I believe Bill Hewlett was the Chairman of the board. I remember quite clearly the time when the annual revenue of the company passed the $40 billion mark. As companies grow the levels of management between the CEO and the workers has to grow as well. And I remember that all of the management team of the company was trained on how to deal with the growth the company was going through. There was a paper from Harvard that analytically explained the pains company’s need to go through to be able to keep innovating. Hewlett Packard addressed this by refocusing on the founding principles of the company, and created an internal campaign called “the rules of the garage”. This is well documented and I’m sure you can find a copy on the HP site or around the web. But the rules were a practical set of cultural definitions, the core values of the company.
As time moved on John Young was replaced by Lew Platt. I remember some of the fundamental changes we started to see around the company. Where before decision-making was quite a public affair, we started to see a change. Information about the business was scarcer to the average employee, and the pressure was on to grow the business beyond purely new products. The company started to grow into markets such as printing and PC’s, areas where partnerships with original equipment manufacturers (canon, intel etc) drove amazing market-share growth. But where previously the leadership used to take a holistic view of the business, large fiefdoms started to form. I remember a time when laser printers, inkjet printers and consumables were all different fiefdoms. The heads of laser printing and Ink printing (Doug Carnahan and Rick Belluzo) were very different personalities and didn’t seem to see eye-to-eye on many things. Both I remember were amazing inspirational leaders.
It was very clear to the sales and marketing teams that the money was in toner and ink, and the way to sell more toner and ink was to get as many printers in use as possible, whatever that took. It took another decade for the company to agree on a way to link the consumables and printers together in a way that would maximize printer unit placements, and of course by that time, the competition had grown and had taken a significant share of the market that previously Hewlett Packard had been primed to dominate in-perpetuity. HP’s did create some amazing software to make their printers better than the competition in the form of printer drivers and logic boards, which were considered the best in the industry. But when everyone on the planet seemed to by buying printer it was easier to lose market share than to gain it.
This was the power of the fiefdoms, and it has had a continually detrimental effect on the business (in the view of this author).
Lew did have the respect of his dukes (the business group heads of the fiefdoms). But this loyalty was not automatically passed to him replacement.
I had the pleasure of being at HP when Carly Fiorina became the CEO. I found her to be an incredibly smart woman. But I saw quite quickly how the Dukes listened to her direction and then did whatever they thought was preferable for their individual fiefdoms. Carly drove HP to become larger by acquisition, the most obvious being Compaq (who had at the time only recently absorbed DEC). Many of the leadership were replaced by incoming Compaq executives, much of the culture of the company at this time moved from one of innovation in R&D to innovation in acquisition and just-in-time manufacturing processes. Ms. Fiorina tried to address the new risk-averse nature of the management team by trying to refocus HP on innovation and invention, hence the new company tag line “HP invent”. But I suspect too much time had passed from the passing of the founders and their passion for their culture, and the latest management team was not effective in trying to reinvigorate the culture of “huge corporate entrepreneurialism”.
The amazing thing to me was that all through these decades of change, HP was still able to bring out such amazing products. There technology is still preeminent in so many categories. And I know that HP still has some of the best engineering and field staff in the world. A lot had changed but it’s hard to un-teach greatness from engineers, however hard you try.
During the time of Carly, I left HP for an exciting new opportunity, but still continued to follow the company closely.
After Carly (whose end as CEO was quite shocking), eventually the HP board found a new CEO in the form of Mark Hurd. I have never met Mark personally, but many of my friends at HP at the time described him as “cut throat” and were dismayed at the deep cost cutting exercises he continually delivered. I can only imagine the pressure he was under to right the ship, and a combination of cuts in many areas along with massive acquisitions in others were made. Frankly the strategy (while hard) did seem to hold a lot of business sense. Unfortunately another very public falling out with the board along with some salacious stories that were never fully substantiated (in my opinion) had Mark leave the company well before his strategy could reach a point of ROI.
Again the board took some time to find a new CEO, and this time it was the ex-ceo of SAP, Leo Apotheker. Leo then started a new round of trying to right the ship, and again it seems (to me) that he didn’t really grab hold of the dukes of the fiefdoms in such a way that they truly followed his lead. I have no inside knowledge here, but it seems that his views on the direction of the company were not widely supported by those that worked one or two levels down in the business. His public plans to divest of the PC business, and move the company to be in high value, lower volume enterprise markets such as enterprise software, while entering new markets such as tablets didn’t seem congruent. Again it may just be that his time at the company was too short to be able to show the world the full value of the plan.
Leo was then replaced by the current CEO Meg Whitman, and boy does she have her hands full. This week we heard from HP about their analysis of the purchase of Autonomy. From my experience of enterprise software company’s, I’m not that surprised. Enterprise software in inherently a relationship business, and I suspect every software company holds themselves in incredibly high esteem, combine this with the track record of acquired software companies and it seems par for the course.
It was very impressive that Ms. Whitman was so open about their analysis, and being able to draw a line under the politics of the situation speaks very well for her ability to drive change.
Again below all of the complexities of the last thirty years, HP still creates amazing products, and I suspect their new CEO may be just the right person to fix some of the gaps in their thinking culturally and strategically.
HP’s strength started by valuing people, especially those that had learned the lessons taught through failure. I suspect the people there today have been battle hardened and when the ship is again pointing in a single direction they will dominate the markets they serve.