Blake Glenn’s Looney thoughts, perspectives, adventures, and insights on the world of business!
— By Blake Glenn
In mid-June, 1995 at approximately 8:29 am EST, on a typical sunny-hazy day, a major fire broke out in downtown Los Angeles, California. The sparks from this blue-hot blaze had been smoldering at a low level for about 10 days and now threatened to burst into an inferno and engulf the U.S. GAO building. The GAO was the Government Accounting Office.
An aside … As a result of a brilliant and strategically considered rebranding effort, in 2004 the “A” was changed from Accounting to Accountability. Yay!
This was not one of the ubiquitous 100-times-a-year forest fires indigenous to Southern California. No. This one was special. It was entirely contained within the GAO building. But if not contained, it threatened to leap-frog across the U.S. and spread to Atlanta, Washington, DC and other regional offices of the GAO.
Let me set the stage for this story.
You see I was working on-site as a contractor at the U.S. GAO Washington, DC headquarters. Our mission was to maintain the information technology system at the HQ as well as several field office locations around the country. Our services included installation, help desk support, repairs, maintenance, disaster recovery, and training. In total, the contract was worth about $5,000,000.
In 1995 the contractor I worked for was in discussions with the GAO for renewal and expansion of said contract. When you’re in a contract renewal year it’s like being a professional athlete in your last contract year. You want to have a great year. Be on your best behavior. Do a great job to try to ensure another big contract to keep the money rolling in. Those titanium golf clubs don’t buy themselves you know.
Needless to say, the higher-level, and by default, mid-level managers were all in a tizzy, as would be expected. The prospect of losing country-club memberships would panic even the most fearless individual. My employer implemented a secret plan send a specialist with a particular set of skills to address the situation.
And after conducting a bit of clandestine research, putting myself and those I love in dire danger, I was able to uncover the original transcript from the top-secret 1-on-1 crisis meeting with my boss, the project manager at U.S. GAO HQ in Washington, DC. Below I’ve provided a complete un-redacted original transcript.
8:47 am EST: Boss called into office of GAO division director in Washington, DC to get an earful on a critical situation developing in Los Angeles, CA
9:17 am EST: Boss asks to meet me in large GAO conference room … alone
9:23 am EST (I had to make a bathroom stop): Boss provides overview of the critical situation in Los Angeles
Full Transcript (un-redacted):
Boss: I need you Blake.
Me: Of course. How can I help sir?
Boss: We have a major situation in LA. A raging fire has broken out at the GAO regional office there. And I’m not so sure we can contain it. It’s bad. Real bad. Our entire tech contract is in deep shit. That’s $5,000,000 ready to go poof!
Me: Hmm. I see sir. How did this happen?
Boss: The geeks. Those damned geeks. No people skills. They ran wild. Talking to the customers like they were idiots. Not fixing problems in a timely fashion. They’re utterly out of control. They’ve fucked it all up! Damnit. Damn. It!
Me: I agree. That’s a bad situation sir. And by geeks I assume you primarily mean Terry, the onsite project manager.
Boss: Yes, Terry. Blake you’re our best hope. Hell you’re our only hope at this point. You’re the sole individual that can drag us out of that quagmire. Without you I’m afraid this contract will be lost. It’s worth $5,000,000 you know. We can’t lose it. You have to save it for us. It funds my country club membership. We have to focus on the real important things in life right?
Me: What? That’s a lot of pressure sir. By myself I don’t know if I can …
Boss (interrupting): We’re depending on you Blake. I mean TOTALLY. DEPENDING. ON. YOU. We really are. I need you to fly into LA and fix this freakin’ mess.
Me: Of course sir. I’ll do my best. But …
Boss (interrupting): No buts. I mean butts are fine. I like butts a lot, just not as part of this conversation. Just make this happen. And here may be a pony in it for you if you can pull off this miracle. You like ponies don’t you?
Me: Silence. Bewilderment. Staring. Mouth open.
Boss: Well don’t you?
Me: Uh. I don’t know. I never …
Boss (interrupting): Of course you do. What a stupid question. We all like ponies.
Me: Ok sir. I can see you’re under a lot of pressure. Are you ok?
Boss: How about a pink one. I think I can make that happen. You like pink do you?
Me: Pink? What?
Boss: Pressure! You have no freakin’ idea. I picked a helluva day to stop taking my pain killers recreationally.
Me: Ok. Ok. I’ll go to LA and do my best sir.
Boss: Of course. Your best is all I can ask for. That and fixing this mess of course. And saving my golf privileges. We can’t forget what’s important here. Am I right?
Me: No. I’m not promising …
Boss (interrupting): So that’s it then. It’s settled. You’ll fly out and deal with it. I already have you booked on a flight.
Me: What? When?
Boss: Two hours . You better get moving.
Me: Two hours! Sir what the fu…
Boss (interrupting): Excellent! I knew you’d be excited and want to leave right away. You’re my main man. By the way, does my golf swing look correct? Look at this.
Me: You son of a …
Boss (interrupting): No reason to thank me! You know I’m an unsentimental fool. When you reach LA be sure to check in straight away. Now off you go. You’re the man!
And with that I raced home, quickly packed, and caught a taxi to Washington National Airport. The 8-hour trip to Los Angeles, including the layover, flew by (no pun intended … ok it really was) rather quickly. I had a little time to prep myself for the hellish, toxic environment I was about to walk into – angry clients, battered tech staff, low morale on both sides, and the prospect of losing a $5,000,000 contract.
After a good night’s sleep, the last one I’d have for several days, I stepped onto pavement directly in front ofthe downtown Los Angeles GAO office. It was 8:00 am sharp. I quickly glanced the bright yellow shape in the sky, adjusted my red power tie, took a deep breath, opened the glass door, and walked head-first into the raging inferno inside.
For the rest of the story please read part II of LA On Fire!
Blake Glenn shares his looney perspectives, stories, and mis-adventures in The Looney Executive blog. He has interviewed hundreds (or at least tens) of people via The Looney Executive Podcasts and former TV show. He’s the founder of a tech group called IgniteTech, and claims to be a direct descendant of the original Looney Executive – Because there must be SOME explanation … right?
If you dare, I can be reached the old school way … blake@LooneyExecutive.com
P.S. I’m actively recruiting test contestants for my business game show experiment. Interested? Please contact me so I can add you to the player pool!