Earlier in the year of 2000, my supervisor and I were sitting in the office of
our boss, who was the Marketing Director for a retail chain. The company
had spent thousands of dollars on a soon-to-be launched web site. We
about to get a dose of Economics 101. "Guys", the MD said with a solemn
tone, "the front office plans for a web site have been shelved. The company
we were going to use has gone belly-up. We’re going to have to let you
go. I’m sorry that it didn’t work out."
We shook hands, and made plans to clean out our cubicles. The Dot Com
dream had come to an end--even for a company that supposedly was on solid
INDUSTRY WITH OPM TO BURN:
I don’t have to tell many of you about the rough sledding that has been
going on in the dot com field. You may have your own high-tech horror
story about a job termination, a company filing for bankruptcy protection,
or simply arriving to work one morning and finding the doors locked--and
the lights out. During the last two financial quarters of 2000 the number
of dot coms that have gone belly-up have grown, the number of employees
laid-off (at least according to various financial reports) rivaled that
of the auto industry. 2001 is not looking brighter on the dot com financial
front for some companies.
NBC, and CBS News have done extensive reports and features on dot com
failures. The best one I have seen was the 60 Minutes piece aired on
10th, which profiled failing companies--that used to be rich companies,
tales of laid off employees and business owners, and the rise of the ‘vulture
capitalist’--a select group of men and women who buy the assets, hardware,
leftover merchandise, and client lists of failed dot coms. Reporter Steve
Kroft did an excellent job in quizzing one E-retailer who lost a whopping
$67-plus million dollars, which Kroft broke down to $1.3 million a week.
The E-retailer didn’t sweat; he merely pointed out that he was going
to go back to his venture capital pool and find more cash to try to make
a go of it.
other words, he was going to use Other People’s Money to maintain the
economic health of his company. (By the way; if you haven’t seen the movie
of that name, which features Danny DeVito, rent it--you’ll discover a
quick lesson on corporate economics!)
Internet is buzzing with articles and transcripts of dot com meltdowns:
of this writing, there are only three free Internet service providers
(ISPs) who are willing to let you surf for free. They may be gone by mid-2001
if they follow the trends of their now-defunct competitors.
outfit that used to give away free computers recently sent out letters
telling the recipients to either pay for them, or send them back!
experts report that the stress of increased hours and fewer workers has
led to increases of drug and alcohol abuse from Silicon Valley in California,
to the concrete canyons of Silicon Alley in New York.
the bloodletting to continue. Like the broadcast industry--among others--management
believes that the best way to keep the bottom line in the black is to
cut labor costs (fire the workers) and pocket the savings for themselves
(after all, there is always bankruptcy and reorganization for a business,
company, or corporation).
is another trend that is more visible--big corporations (and ABC, NBC,
CNN, and CBS are corporations ahead of anything else) have been buying
out or creating their own dot coms and keeping the cash flowing in from
their own deep pockets, aided by their own corporate mergers of five years
but not least, those who have been blown out of dot coms are finding
it hard to adjust to life in old corporate America. While industry trends
have shown that there is; A) a shortage of qualified workers, and; B)
staffing needs that have sat vacant in many companies for months, the
underground buzz is that many younger workers do not have a willingness
to get back into the ‘suit-and-tie’ regimen, or punch a clock. Worse
still; some coming out of college do not have the basic writing and English
to handle items such as reports, speeches, and (heaven forbid) basic
letters of introduction.
face it--one can get spoiled in the land of ‘casual work days’, high pay,
and flexible hours. But, as the Old Folks used to say in days gone by:
"When the White Economy Sneezes, the Black Economy catches pneumonia!"
I’ve noticed a lot sneezing going on among dot coms!
ARE A FACT OF LIFE:
some of you may be sitting before a computer terminal, or behind a newspaper
reading my column. You may have been knocked to the ground by a job loss,
a relationship breakup, or career derailment, and asking yourself two
questions: "Why Me?" and "Why Now?" You may even be thinking about shaking
your fist at God in anger, turning your back on the church, or closing
your Bible and chucking religion in general.
me give you a piece of advice: "Don’t Take The Dive: Rise And Survive!"
I got my piece of economic reversal, I thought about what my father--and
other African-American men in my life had told me over the years: "Always
have a backup plan." So, while my supervisor (who was a lot younger than
I was) was scrambling to post his resume on line, and worried about what
to tell his wife, I prayed. Then, I blew the dust off of my Substitute
Teaching license, went back into secondary education--and started a job
search from a position of strength, instead of a position of panic.
CAN KILL YOU:
I may get biblical for a moment; when Job lost it all, he had enough
sense to go back to God, and check out his standing in Him. Yes, Job
lousy friends who said that it was his fault that he lost it all. Yes,
Job had a silly wife who advised him to ‘curse God’. But when times get
tough, God will show you what kind of man you are; either a real man,
a weak man, or a spineless male.
your job? Lost your cash? Lost your woman? Was it your fault, or was
it life unfolding in front of you? Regardless, have a backup plan. Get
resume out of mothballs. Talk to your friends and network--some of them
may have problems worse than yours! Maintain your activity at your house
of worship. Don’t worry about getting, but concentrate on giving and helping.
Above all--don’t panic. In the words of one veteran broadcaster I had
the pleasure of working with, after he got the ax at a radio station after
fifteen years of employment: "I was looking for a job when I got here,
and I’ll be looking for a job when I leave!"
avenue for employment is education; both at the local or college level.
States are in bidding wars over teacher candidates, and many of them
willing to waive requirements just to get African American men with college
degrees back into the classroom to work with our youth. Colleges and
are also looking for us who have skills that can be passed on to the
next generation. They are called ‘Adjunct Faculty’. The side benefit
from a stint in the classroom; it give you a chance to have access to
search material into fields you never thought to check out yourself.
one thing about the sudden reversals of life is that it gives you a chance
to focus on the important. Time is not wasted. If you need to go back
to school for that degree, then get going. Need to re-tool that resume?
The unemployment bureau has the tools that you need to get it done--and
your tax dollars have guaranteed you free access to those materials.