I’ve observed some funny things over the years when Boards have come into contact with the companies they ‘run’.
One thing that had me chuckling for months afterwards happened when I was a Pre-Sales Engineer at IBM in the late 80s. We were working for a global confectionery firm. You’ve eaten their stuff, and liked it, trust me, so the name would be a recognisable one.
The two head people visited their UK operation for the first time in a while and it happened to be at a time when the UK tax system made it attractive for companies to offer their staff a company car benefit. But it was a distorting tax measure and encouraged nice cars indeed.
In fact, the benefits system in the UK offshoot of this global company, further distorted the global scheme. This meant that large numbers of cars in the car park were of the highest calibre: sports cars, such as Porsches, were very popular alongside other ‘famous’ luxury cars most of us don’t drive. A good 50 or more were always to be found outside the company building.
Sadly, the Board members of that famous company had modest tastes themselves, and upon arrival at the UK HQ, were very surprised by the luxurious nature of the cars in the car park. A major explosion and total sense of humour loss ensued, heated discussion with the local UK management, especially as (I heard) that each Board member drove ordinary family saloon cars.
These weren’t extreme socialists, far from it, but they did not like such opulence on display amongst colleagues.
Within three months, the cars in the car park had totally changed and it really did hurt a lot of people who had got used to having a great car. As they say, the Board of that company now got what “it had inspected, and not what it expected”. But I had to laugh.
Our own Board visited our key Mississauga facility near Toronto at the end of last month and it was nothing like the story above. It was also not without its humorous moments; something I will share in a future blog.