[Pablo Picasso is reported to have said “good artists borrow, great artists steal.” While I would NEVER consider myself a great writer, the idea for this story was stolen from Isaac Asimov’s “A Loint of Paw".]
Omicron International’s stock was in trouble, which meant, as CEO, Randall Ivanson was in trouble. The stock price was steadily falling for no other reason than it had the same name as the latest COVID variant. The board wanted answers and they wanted them yesterday!
‘Fuck the board and fuck the stock market - what the hell do they expect me to do.’
Randall and the board had already announced a twenty million euro stock buyback. It had a short term effect but after a few days the stock price continued its downward slide.
In some ways the name crisis couldn’t have come at a better time. Randall had been lobbying the board for a name change and a rebranding. They had always balked at the cost. They did, however, agree to the creation of a Chief Communications Officer (CCO). The CCO would take on some of the work now done by the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) The CMO would be inward facing, dealing with marketing and customer relations. The CCO would be outward facing dealing with the public relation and shareholder relations.
A candidate search had been underway for six months. Human Resources (HR) had finally presented two candidates for Randall’s consideration.
Normally, there would be face-to-face meetings with the board, the CEO and the candidates. These weren’t normal times. There would be a final interview over Zoom but his decision today would determine who would get that interview. They needed to work fast. Unless the candidate completely ‘screwed up’ the interview, his choice today would be approved by the board.
Whom ever Randall chose would be responsible for the name change and the rebranding. It was probably the most important decision he would ever have to make. The future of the company could be at stake.
There were no names on the two folders in front of him. There was a sealed envelope attached with the candidates names. To avoid any bias he was supposed to base his decision on the information included in the folder. It was part of the ESG (Environmental, social and corporate governance) protocols that he had helped establish.
‘Bloody foolish rule - I should never have agreed to it’
He just started reading the information in the first folder when his phone rang.
“Tom, what can I do for you?” Tom Howard was the board chair and Randall knew why he was calling.
“You haven’t sent me your choice for CCO. I was supposed to have it two days ago.”
“I’m working on it. You will have it by the end of the day.”
“That’s what you said yesterday. Just get it to me today.” Tom hung up without waiting for a reply.
Randall buzzed his secretary.
“Janice, would you have Jim come over in about an hour.” Jim Ryan was the CMO and had been urging Randall to create the position of CCO.
“Look Randall I know my strengths - public relations is one of them. I need to focus on marketing. It is what I do best.”
HR had prepared printouts of the candidates' LinkIn profiles and a number of articles on each one - all with the names redacted. Randall had asked HR to also give Jim Ryan and Tom Howard copies of the candidate's information.
He briefly looked at the academic qualifications of the two candidates. They were remarkably similar but an item in candidate number one’s LinkedIn profile stood out:
‘Hmm - a MSc in Global Media and Communications from the London School of Economics.’ Randall was familiar with the course, part of which was at Fudan University in Shanghai.
‘Connections in China would be very useful in the future’ A quick check of language skills - ‘Fluent in Mandarin - very nice’
Not to be out done, an item in candidate number two’s profile also caught his eye:
‘Worked for two years in Abu Dhabi - nice.’ The company had just opened an office in Dubai. ‘We certainly could use someone on the team with knowledge of the UAE.’
Both candidates were asked to write a short paper on the rebranding of Omicron. (This was before the crisis with the name affecting the stock.)
‘Christ - these could have been written by the same person.’
Both papers pointed out the need to be aware of the cultural differences in the areas Omicron operated. They each expressed concern on how Omicron was entering the US market. “It is a completely different culture from either Britain or the EU.”
‘Tell me something I don’t know’ - Their entry into the US was going badly. The media hadn't picked up on that and he was surprised that both candidates knew there could be a problem.
Randall had just finished reading the material in the folders when Jim walked in.
“Did you get your copy of the material from HR?”
“What do you think?”
“I think you could flip a coin. . . . I checked them out on LinkedIn and . . . “
“Wait! - HR gave you their names?”
“Hell no! . . . “
Randall looked puzzled.
Smiling - “Here is what you do ‘old man’.” Jim was a personal friend, the youngest member of the ‘C’ suite and the only one to call Randall ‘old man’.
“Take a sentence from the printout of their LinkedIn profile and put it in Google with quotes around it. Then add LinkedIn as the other search term. Do you want me to show you?”
“No - not now. Was there anything HR missed?”
“No - I didn’t see anything. Before you ask - no I don't know either of them. . . . Are you going for lunch?”
“Yeh - this is starting to get to me.” Laughing, “I may need to get a Euro so I have a coin to flip.”
Jim laughed. “I’ll tell you one thing. If you don’t hire candidate number two for CCO I would like to offer him the head of the Dubai office.”
Randall nodded ‘Dubai would be a better fit’
Randall got back to the office at 1:00pm. Jim’s comment on Dubai had made up his mind on who to pick. Candidate number one would get the nod for CCO and he would get Jim to offer candidate number two the Dubai position.
Opening the envelope and taking out the page with the candidate’s names and personal information he chuckled to himself.
‘Maybe I should have done this first - it could have saved a lot of time’
Circling the name of the first candidate, he scribbled four words on the page. He placed the page in an envelope and went out to see his secretary.
“Janis, this needs to be hand delivered to Tom Howard as soon as possible.”
Tom Howard had just finished a conference call with the rest of the board members when Randall’s envelope arrived.
Like Randall, he hadn’t been given the names of the candidates. He was seeing their names, Sharon Nate and Jonathan Lever, for the first time. He just shook his head and laughed when he saw what Randall had written:
“Better Nate than Lever”