Golden Business Ideas

Moving Up by Moving Down

Some 70% of job-switching executives are moving from big organizations to small ones, according to the Chicago outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas.

What does that mean, given the current shortage of top-notch executive talent, to managers and human resources departments of big outfits?

In one word, it means trouble .

What can they do about it? To find out, let’s see what’s behind the swing from big enterprise to small. According to the outplacement firm, it’s not necessarily higher salaries (although stock options do help). But equity ownership and a sense of independence and flexibility are key attractions.

What should that say to managers of big companies who want to keep their top talent? Maybe it’s time to revamp the compensation package to broaden equity ownership. And maybe it’s time to rethink the big business hierarchal culture and start to think small, which means working in cross-department teams, encouraging innovation and enhancing cross-training programs.

Winning Arguments

Skillful managers know that one of the best ways to win an argument is to make a concession and find some point of agreement with the other party. The concession doesn’t have to be a major point. The idea is not to demand complete submission. Unconditional surrender is sure to leave the other party feeling a loss of face, and that produces lasting enmity. Somehow, sometime, some way, the vanquished will devise a payback. You can count on that.

Why the Boss Should Take a Walk

There’s an old management theory that says a good boss doesn’t need an office—let alone a desk. After all, the theory goes, you can’t manage a company—and certainly not people—while sitting at a desk behind a closed office door. You’ve got to get out among the troops, find out what’s going on, what’s not—and, more important, why. You’ve got to see the problems and the successes first hand—not extract them by poring over reports prepared by middle managers who never get to see the whole picture.

Admittedly, to say an office is unnecessary may be somewhat of an exaggeration, but it’s fair to say a boss needs not only to open the door to his or her office but to get out on the floor and walk around.

Some years ago a long-forgotten management guru even formulated a management style called Management by Walking Around. The technique never caught on, partly because the words were too prosaic and lacked real pizazz. But the other reason it slipped from memory was because it demanded too much from managers. After all, walking around and listening to gripes and harebrained ideas is hard work. It also can be torture to the CEO’s ego to listen to a shipping clerk grouse about the poorly designed loading dock or a 19-year-old in the accounts receivable department explain that the company is losing money because of the billing process, which was probably outmoded even a decade before.

But it pays to make this effort. The boss is never going to hear about these problems while sitting behind the big mahogany desk, being protected by an executive assistant whose real job is to provide shelter from such “intrusions.”

So if someone advises you to take a walk, consider it good counsel.

An Invitation

The JofA publishes a monthly collection of Golden Business Ideas and invites readers to contribute their favorites (for attribution, if you like).

Send your ideas to Senior Editor Stanley Zarowin via either e-mail ( ) or regular mail at the Journal of Accountancy, Harborside Financial Center, 201 Plaza Three, Jersey City, NJ 07311-3881.


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