Friday, 8 June 2012

How to destroy a (successful) company - a step by step guide


The ultimate guide to destroying (successful) companies - suitable for both your own unwanted company or acquired companies.


Before you continue take the following test. 


Question 1: Do you care about your company? (the one you might be looking to destroy)
Question 2: Do you care what happens to the people who work for the company?
Question 3: Do you care for the product/service you offer?


If you have answered Yes to any of the questions above then I recommend that you do not read this article OR if you still wish to proceed then find somebody capable of answering No to all 3 questions to undertake this task for you (luckily such people can be found easily).


After the unprecedented success of my previous article on destroying successful products I have received multiple requests to expand the guide to destroying successful or not so successful companies as well. Of course with me being busy with creating success at places where success is valued it took me several months to find time to write the new guide. But it is all done now so I can publish it and all of the candidate company destroyers can start benefiting from my wisdom immediately.
(the same) Famous IT magazine (requested to remain anonymous): "Another must read manual for your senior executive team that shows you in ten very easy steps how to get rid of unwanted companies. The author has once again excelled and his proven recommendations are spot on."

You can use this guide at your own risk. While the practices described below have been proven to work you should consider your own context carefully before proceeding. The author assumes no responsibility if your company is still functioning after you have followed the suggested procedure. Some successful companies where talented people create great products will take longer to destroy.

When destroying a company you have two major concerns - the product/service and the people. The rest is a lot easier so I will not expand too much on it.

Let's begin..

Step 1 Ensure that all the senior managers, directors, etc in the company are capable of answering No to all 3 questions above. You don't want somebody who suddenly decides to start caring about people to damage your plans. If you sense that some senior managers or directors do not fit the bill then fire them immediately and get new ones who meet the conditions. You can in fact use the 3 questions above in your interview process.

Step 2 If you don't have an HR department then hire one. If you have another department with more sensible name - e.g. Talent or People managers then rename them to HR - it sounds a little more scarier and works best for our purpose. Also you need your HR people to understand that your intentions are to fire lots of people so they need to be prepared with relevant laws and regulations - it is better to be on the safe side. You may also test them on the three questions above - it definitely helps.

Step 3 Now that you have your key actors in place you are ready to start acting. Firstly I would suggest establishing strong command and control culture. Make sure all managers are instructed to avoid trusting employees. Your HR should start writing procedures and restrictions - the more the better. Your IT department should start cutting off employees access to sources of information including methods of communication except some 10+ years old technology that nobody will use anyway.

Step 4 Restrict the ability of the network to communicate. The people in your company create a social network whether you want it or not. This network is capable of self organising and being creative. You don't want that. so expand on step 3 and implement all sorts of restrictions to open communication - stop access to services like FaceBook or Twitter, internally in teams use the command and control tools to inflict fear. There's several ways to do that - e.g. create policies and publish them on your intranet (hopefully nobody reads that) Then publicly punish employees who do not comply with the policies. Job done. Other ways are to pick up on small issues with employees - e.g. always 5 minutes late, taking too long lunch breaks, taking too many breaks.. the possibilities are limitless but don't forget Step 2 - you need skilled HR professionals who know how to handle all these cases.

Step 5 - If you have a product company for help with destroying the products follow the steps in my other guide on destroying successful products. If you are a service based company you can learn from the same guide and also take necessary steps to decrease the quality of the services you are offering. You can achieve that by actively encouraging an inefficient quality assurance process, measuring things that make no sense, providing no training at all, etc.

Step 6 - Decrease quality of customer service - to help your customers transition gradually to other suppliers you should consider decreasing the quality of your customer service. You can do that by ensuring the people in your customer service department are paid very little so they don't care about their jobs. You can also hire a manager for that department - someone skilled at creating a destructive culture where people blame each other and work in silos without sharing any information. Finally you can also find ways to get rid of some key people in the customer service team which is a great way of reducing quality.

Step 7 - Do the things that feel like the wrong things. Whether you develop a product or offer a service you can always choose to do the wrong things. For example if you offer a cleaning service you can decide to use cheaper materials which will produce worse results and that means unhappy customers. Or if you have a taxi driving service you can buy old cars and do not provide sat navs so drivers take longer to get to places.The idea is to focus on doing things that have either negative value or at least no value. This will help reduce product/service quality and customer satisfaction.

Step 8 - Ensure your directors and senior people are actively working to reduce staff morale. To do that they can show off with things only they can afford or they can ensure any successes are attributed to them rather than the people who really did the work. Another option is for managers to increase pressure on people across all teams without any apparent reason. What also works really well is to create a complicated bonus scheme. One that allows directors to justify whatever bonuses they want to pay or not pay. Bonuses are really good de-motivator when not paid. This is because people get used to them and are disappointed when they don't get them.


Step 9 - Eliminate lines of business. When you frustrate people and decrease quality of service then lines of business will inevitably get into trouble. At this point you have to close them which involves making people redundant and closing off offices. This shall send the right message to those still working for your company to start looking elsewhere. Again to make this work you'd need experienced HRs skilled in this sort of thing and "3 Nos" line managers (see the 3 questions above). Equipped with the right people a task like this will get you closer to your goal.

Step 10 - As you close more and more lines of business and the company gets in trouble you may start getting offers to sell the business. Now that may not be your goal but it may be a good idea to escape the mess with some cash in your pocket. Depending on how much you have messed things up another business might come to the rescue. If you're happy with selling then get the cash and run (And don't start another business ever again!) If you don't need the cash then reject all offers and see the process of closing all lines of business through.

Congratulations!

You have managed to fully destroy your company. Your hard work has paid off and your goal is achieved. Now you can move elsewhere and see if you can be as successful.  

Of course there's always a chance that something might not happen as the guide predicts so if you have tried this step by step procedure get in touch and we can exchange ideas to make it better so it serves more people like you.

I hope it works for you ( or rather it doesn't)

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