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Your article "Suspicious Minds" (Insight, June) was one of the most interesting and insightful assessments of modern management I've read in a very long time.
The one sentence "Your job is not so much to evaluate, but to make your subordinates successful, and to recognize their achievements" says it all. This concept has been the guiding light throughout my career — always put your subordinates' welfare first, before your own. Follow this and be honest with them and everything else will pretty much take care of itself. You will quickly find yourself leading a team of stellar performers. During my 20-year tenure in business, I have found this to be true in Fortune 500 companies, small start-ups, and everything in between.
Never underestimate the employee's ability to "read the tea leaves." Try to obscure the truth and in general you will fool no one. You will simply undermine the most important bond between manager and subordinate — trust.
I believe your article "Drawing a Bead on Cost" (May) is very misleading and fails to take into consideration the tremendous amount of compliance that qualified plans have to comply with. The providers involved in this area have to be compensated for their services. In many cases, the fees being charged today are basically the same as in 1983. Operation costs have significantly increased over the years. Also, the information about the Nationwide is incorrect; the company does not serve in a fiduciary role or assist in the selection of the funds available for plan participants.
A qualified plan is not a commodity; it requires a professional service. Just ask any plan sponsor that has gone through an Internal Revenue Service audit or Department of Labor investigation.
Before It's Too Late
The backlash and fallout on CEO pay will not come from CFOs or other senior executives ("What's the Boss Worth?" By the Numbers, May). They will come from shareholders, investors, lenders, and employees. CEOs and CFOs may want to prepare for this coming "crisis" now before it is too late.
Great article ("Coming Distractions," April). Here are some additional risk considerations:
Finding qualified people. There is a shortage of skilled and knowledgeable people. The education system is not producing enough well-trained people. What will happen to a company's greatest asset and its IP? How will it attract and keep the right talent?
Trust in the workplace. This is a foundation element for any society or workplace, but it is hard to achieve when compensation and performance are not always linked at the top, or when you live in fear of litigation. Trust and integrity go together.
Business continuity and pandemics. What will you do if employees and customers won't or can't show up for work? How do you keep the business viable?
Learning to Count
In "The Bean Counter" story (Grapevine, April), the founder of Fedco Seeds Inc. learned to prepare the financial statements for his $2 million business. I thought he and others might appreciate knowing of a Website that helps teach and reinforce accounting principles, financial statements, manufacturing overhead, and so on. The site, www.AccountingCoach.com, contains crystal-clear explanations of many topics — all with links to its 1,000 word glossary. To further assist learning, the site includes drills and a crossword puzzle for each topic. Several comprehensive exams are also provided. The Website is completely free, and there is no registration or password required.
Harold B. Averkamp
Founder & CEO
Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin
Playing by the Same Rules
Some thoughts on immigrant workers ("Help Wanted," March):
I tend to lean to the free-market position regarding labor rates. If someone will do the same job at a similar level of competence for a lower rate, he or she gets the job. However, since many among the immigrant workforce are not on any official payroll, the companies that employ them (directly or indirectly) often pay no employment taxes, resulting in even more savings over and above the hourly wage. The undocumented nature of this workforce enables both the "employees" and employers to avoid a variety of taxes used to provide medical care, education, and other city, state, and federal services.
Nevertheless, these workers and their families still consume a variety of public services, notably medical care and education. The costs of these services are effectively borne by the documented workforce. Part of the employee expense of companies that employ these workers is effectively subsidized by the legitimate workforce, contributing in part to my rising payroll, sales, and income taxes.
I'm all for giving the job to the lowest bidder, as long as everyone is playing by the same rules.
E-mail this article to talk radio's Rush, Sean, and Mark, as well as every member of Congress. "Help Wanted" shifted my position on this multifaceted issue. There is so much emotion and so little factual problem solving around this issue, I'm afraid whatever we get will make things worse and not better.
CEO and President
Cranford, New Jersey
Keeping 'Em Happy
I thought your article "The Little Things" (Your Move, February) was great. As my company's senior vice president and CFO, I do many of the same things that Wendy DiCicco does for her staff. We are a not-for-profit Broadway theatrical and local-arts presenter that faces many challenges, but I like to make certain that we keep our staff happy. Gift cards are always great, as is what we call "Pizza Day." Take a couple of hours either in the office or rent some space. It's worth the effort and expense.
Jerry D. Emlet
The Horace Bushnell Memorial Hall Corp.
In "What Women Want" (June), CDW Corp. CFO Barb Klein was quoted as saying, "Women who are seriously interested in being CFOs can't stay in finance their whole careers." The quote should have read "CEOs" instead of "CFOs."