Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #183: Harvey Takes the Stage

A tip of my bon chapeau to the fragrant folks at Defamer, for the news that the troubled Weinstein Company is spending big bucks dumping large swaths of their library straight to DVD, while several senior executives jump ship and start swimming for shore.

Which reminds me of an old post I did about the 7 Stages of Good Grief This Shouldn't Be Happening To Any Company. So I thought I'd update and expand on them.

STAGE 1: FRUSTRATION- This stage comes in the form of whispers, rumours, and messages beginning with "you didn't hear this from me, but..." Those rumours usually contain stories about how people are finding it harder and harder to do business with a certain company. It starts, usually, with rumours that certain folks in management are sniffing around for other jobs with other companies. Then vendors and contract employees start to gripe about how hard it is to get anything done with this company, if at all, and how one should be extra careful when doing business with that them.

STAGE 2: AGGRAVATION- The rumours and whispers turn from a few drips into a raging river of complaints. The media starts reporting on these complaints. These reports go beyond on how hard it is to do business with this company, to tell you that business is now impossible to do, because of managerial dysfunction. The company starts grasping at straws to get much needed cash. At this stage the people rumoured to be sniffing around for new jobs, start to leave, slowly at first, and usually only when they have something concrete lined up, but that starts to change when the company enters Stage 3.

STAGE 3: UNIONIZATION- The reports start to get an official air when the workers contracted to write and direct the movies, as well as the folks who run the cameras, lights, and cafeteria services start filing formal grievances with their unions over everything from artistic differences to financial screw-overs, and everything in between, and I mean everything. The unions starts making demands, creditors and investors start getting worried, and executives start jumping ship wholesale whether they have new jobs lined up or not, because they want to avoid getting caught up in the next stage which is...

STAGE 4: LITIGATION- Worried over the union troubles, the investors and creditors start looking to either get their money out of the company, or to get the money that's owed them. They may have been patient in the past because they thought the company was fiscally healthy, but when they see stages 2-3 pass, their patience not only wears thin, but breaks completely. To get the money that they feel is their due they must unleash the darkest, most destructive force the universe has ever known: Lawyers. Lawsuits start flying left, right, and centre, and potential investors start backing away from getting involved, fearful of the shit-storm that has been unleashed. Now many times the company folds or sells out at this stage, but some try to hang on, only to face the next stage...

STAGE 5: INVESTIGATION- The company may have thought it had trouble before with the lawyers, but now the government gets involved. Industry regulators, and the dreaded IRS tax man can smell blood in the water, and they swarm in like hungry sharks. And I have to explain that this stage never ends well for anyone outside of the government, because the bureaucrats careers are on the line, and they will do anything and everything in their power, using every resource of the federal government, to make their case. And this can only lead to....

STAGE 6: DEVASTATION- This is when the company that doesn't get bought out gets destroyed. I'm talking about bankruptcies, job losses (sans golden parachutes), obese tax bills, and the potential for indictments and humiliating perp walks in front of the local federal courthouse. Think that may be a little extreme, trust me, if the government can find the slightest scintilla of an irregularity that they can sell to a jury as an illegality, they will do it. Remember, the US tax code is somewhere around 27,000 pages, they will find something to prosecute with in there, guaranteed. Even if the upper management dodges the bullet of prosecution, the company itself will be nothing but a shell, co-owned by the IRS and a handful of corporate litigators until the few remaining assets are auctioned off for pennies on the dollar.

STAGE 7: SALVATION- This is the last stage of a failing company. The head of the now defunct company goes to rehab. This isn't because of any actual addiction, but because the creditors and IRS who now own the company haven't gotten around to cancelling the health insurance yet. In rehab the failed CEO finds Jesus, possibly in the cafeteria, and makes an incredible comeback as CEO of a leper colony in Paraguay.

Harvey, I'm not one of your "five true friends" so I'm not going to sugar coat this for you. Your company is in trouble, it's somewhere between Stage 2 and Stage 3, and trust me, you don't want to go full scale Stage 4. So take a step back, and think about what's going wrong, and how to fix it.

And if the answer to the question of what's going wrong is you, then you really have to fix it, and fast. These stages are not inevitable unless you make them inevitable.

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