Thursday, 23 October 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #184: Shenanigans?

A tip of my manly astrakhan to the indefatigable Nikki Finke for this story about a recently dismissed president of Media Rights Capital (MRC) named Keith Samples. Now I'm not going to talk about the hows and whys of his dismissal from MRC, that's between him, his former employers, and their attorneys, but my interest was piqued by a story told about him.

For those too lazy to click the link when Mr. Samples was first hired, but before it went public, he latched himself onto the plans for the syndication sales of reruns of the NBC sit-com
The Office by posing as an "independent consultant" for the creator's agents, who are also deeply involved in MRC. He then tried to use the information to help MRC get the show at a low-ball price.

Now if that story is true, it is a case of being clever to the point of stupidity.

I'm sure he thought he was being the greatest evil genius in the history of evil geniuses when he concocted that plan, but he really needed someone to take him aside, and slap some sense into him.

Because while a scheme like that could get you some advantage in the short term, it is a major strategic blunder in the long term.


Good thing that you asked.

You see, NBC-Universal is one of the largest media companies in the world and even that's just a part of one of the most humongous conglomerates in the Solar System, and whether you like or respect the people who run said corporation, you have to respect its size. A company the size of MRC is basically a small rodent, in comparison to a elephant, and the executive who pulls a stunt like that is merely a flea on that rodent. If the flea makes the rodent bite the ankle of the elephant, it's going to turn around and stomp, promptly crushing both rodent and flea into paste.

Sure the rodent, may scurry away from the pissed off leviathan, but it's on a wide open plain, with very few places to hide. Not only that, this elephant doesn't get tired, and even if it gets distracted, it will return to the stompings and crushings. Maybe the rodent will try to save itself, and cast off the flea, screaming: "Take him! It was his idea! It was his idea!" The elephant will stomp the flea, and even though it may step back and relax for a while, the rodent really can't relax, because at any minute, the slightest thing will set off the elephant again, then it's stomping time redux.

And then there are the other elephants, if they get a chance, they will stomp or even eat the rodent. Not out of any warm feelings for the elephant who got bitten, they probably neither like or respect that elephant, but in order to preserve the integrity of the corporate food chain and the balance of nature between large and small, and they won't give up, because deep down, elephants never forget.

Even in the best case scenario, where the rodent avoids getting stomped at all, the rodent's life span is relatively short, and if the rodent dies of old age, the elephant will still be there.

Now that we're back from the land of fables, I'd like to talk about how, if that story is true, how a stunt like that could only hurt the perpetrator's career.

Ask yourself these questions:

1. Why would he do a stunt like that, with the long term ramifications?

2. Can you, as an employer, trust him with any responsibility if this is how he does business?

3. Can you, as an employer, deal with the ramifications of stunts like that?

4. Why should you, as an employer, have to deal with the negative ramifications of stunts like that?

And if that story is true, history teaches us that such things are only the tip of an iceberg, and it's not the stuff you can see that will get you, but the stuff beneath the surface that can spring up and smash you.

I guess the moral of all this moralizing is that you need some integrity in business, not only because it's ethical, but it is also good business and good self-preservation.

Why is it good self-preservation?

Because shenanigans like that only succeed in creating enemies, and in business, your shenanigans are ammunition for your enemies to use against you. So you're essentially creating people out to destroy you, and giving them the tools to do it with.

And that's just stupid.

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