Get closer to the earth.

Time in the Slave Camp

I think farmers would make good corporate CEOs. In fact, I think they would make better CEOs than people with business degrees.

Of course, I think so far outside the box people have trouble seeing what I see. I must be pretty far afield because I’ve never even seen the box. So let me tell you what I see from my vantage point.

Corporations today are lead by one person at the top telling people below them what they want done and generally how they want it done. Those people tell other people and those people tell still more, until finally you have someone who actually does the work. These are what I call the bottom rung employees or slaves.

If you think “slave” is harsh, take a look at that business model. It forms a pyramid with the person at the top being the all-important-must-keep-them-happy ruler. The pyramids were built not by the all-important-must-keep-them-happy ruler. They were built by slaves.

This one person kept happy at the top sounds a lot like a monarchy to me. Didn’t we as a nation decide monarchies were bad? There are plenty of examples to support this argument and King George III wasn’t the only one. The more recent non-sense with the banking industry is a modern example.

Now let’s take a look at farmers as CEOs.

Farmers know that to get fruit you have to lay the ground work or in their case take care of the soil. Why? Because you don’t get fruit without happy roots. Farmers know their livelihood comes from the bottom of the plant, not the top, so they do everything they can to keep the roots happy.

Keeping the roots or bottom rung employees happy is the best way to create a successful company and to get the fruit you are after. I know this, I’ve been that bottom rung employee most of my life. I worked for the dreaded corporate American box store that treats employees like slaves. In truth I think some slaves were treated better.

Bottom rung employees make the product. In the case of the dreaded box store, they are also the ones that have the most contact with the customers. Unhappy bottom rung employees are the number one reason customers don’t come back and the fruit or in this case, money doesn’t materialize.

But corporate CEOs with no background in agriculture don’t understand this. They sit in their high rises looking down at the little people and don’t see or understand what is happening at ground level and below. They are not happy, so they crack the whip at someone. That someone cracks the whip at a few more people until they get to the slaves at the bottom.

This makes those slaves unhappy. Those slaves give up time with their families and are working too hard and too many hours trying to meet unrealistic objectives created by people who have never done the work. Why? To keep the shareholders happy. They are working to make people who have money more money.

Those bottom rung employees decide that the company doesn’t care about them, so why should they care about the company. They start doing only enough to keep getting a pay check because corporate America is all about the numbers, not about productivity. If you put in your time, you get your company coins no matter how little you managed to accomplish.

The farmer, on the other hand, notices that the plants in one area are looking unhealthy. He climbs down from his tractor and gets a closer look at the plant. Then he sticks his hands in the soil to see if he can determine what the problem is. If he still can’t tell, he takes samples and does more investigation. The farmer tries to find out why the roots aren’t happy and gives them what they need to make them happy so they produce the fruit he’s after.

I served my time in the corporate slave camps. I did five and a half years at the dreaded box store as well as other corporations. I won’t do it again. I saw their priority list. At one place it was literally in the writing on the wall.

Number one on that company’s list of important things was the shareholders. Number two, was the customer. It wasn’t until number three that they got around to being concerned about the employees.

They put that right there on the bottom rung work site for all the employees to see. That company, an international corporation that made parts for car interiors, was horrible. Not even the subcontractors liked working there. I hated it and got out quick.

In one day I watched three different people go through the mental process of determining if they could quit. Three in one day. I made myself a part of the conversation in which the manufacturing manager stated that the workers needed discipline and if they were thinking about quitting they probably weren’t worth keeping anyway.

I’m betting King George III had a similar conversation right before the colonists told him to piss off.

I didn’t tell him the three people I watched were his front line supervisors. I pointed out the writing on the wall and I could see the light dawn in one of the supervisors. Suddenly, she saw what I saw.

So, if you are a corporate leader, I’d advise you to take an elevator ride to the bottom of your pyramid and check on your slaves once in a while. Keeping them happy is the key to keeping your pyramid intact. Get a little dirty while you’re down there. Its good for the soul and will reconnect you to the earth where you should be walking anyway.