Adding value to yourself

There’s a rallying cry that the left like to use about how WalMart doesn’t pay it’s employees enough to live on , and thus the welfare expenses created by these employees are directly attributable to WalMart. Evil corportaion, 1%, blah, blah, blah.

Never mind that, because of minimum wage laws, the same could be said of EVERY business that pays a similar rate as WallyWorld. So, I said to the person who was carrying on about this, that those welfare costs would be even higher if WalMart didn’t give them a job at all, and that if you don’t like what Walmart pays you perhaps you should make yourself into the kind of employee who is worth more than what WalMart pays.

You can imagine the response to that.

But, it’s true. Case in point – I’m doing an internship program at a corporate HQ here in town.One of my duties is to reconcile a list of customer deposits against payments received that month. Normally, this process takes about 12 hours of cutting/pasting/comparing against two separate spreadsheets. After doing this a few times, I said to the boss “Would you mind if I tinkered with these spreadsheets? I think I can come up with a way to make this work faster.” *** They said go ahead, just experiment on copies of the files rather than the originals. As they were saying that I was bouncing the idea around in my head coming up with a solution and by the time they said “And we’ll pay you for your time” I’d already finished the formulas in my head.

After a half hour of tinkering, I had a workable solution. After a couple hours at my computer that night before bed, I had a more refined and elegant solution. I turned a 12 hour job into one hour. When I demonstrated it the next day to the guy above me, you’d have thought I’d discovered plutonium. But, it makes sense…I just gave them 11 man-hours to put towards other projects and duties.  Thats an example of how you create a value that other people are willing to pay for. If they have to cut the payroll down, who is more likely to get the pink slip…the guy who comes in, does his work, and leaves at 5:00:01, or the guy who comes in ten minutes early, stays until the job is done, and actively contributes to improve the processes and efficiency of the business?

There are far too many people out there who don’t realize that every human being is not worth the same as another. Sure, it’s a lovely egalitarian thought but the guy who sweeps the floors in the warehouse is not as equally valuable as the person running the product management system in the office. Sad, but true. Some fellow traveler comment about how the CEO makes 75 times what the lowest paid employee makes. There is nothing wrong with that….that’s how it should be. You know why the CEO gets paid 75 times more? Because I can walk out the door and find someone qualified to sweep the floors and scrub the toilets in about four minutes, but I can’t walk out and find someone qualified to manage and run a billion-dollar-a-year company in four minutes. Ben and Jerrys, the ice cream socialists from Vermont, made a big fuss years back about how the highest paid person in their company would not earn more than five times what the lowest paid person made. Try to imagine the results of trying to find someone who has the talent to run a multi-million dollar company for less than $150,000 per year. B&J quietly abandoned the policy when no one would come work for their corporate positions.

Sure, the economy may be doing somewhat better these days but being prepared for economic uncertainty includes making myself into the sort of person who, when the ax starts falling, is put at the back of the line.


*** For those who are curious, I simply cut/paste all the payment, invoice, balance, date data (four columns) into a table, and then VLOOKUPped against the data in my other spreadsheet and wherever a payment was found, I had the invoice, date, payment, and amount values moved into their respective places through a series of IF and VLOOKUP formulas. Yeah, it was formula soup but it works. (And, yeah, macros would have helped bu we’re not allowed to use macros on the corporate machines.)

16 thoughts on “Adding value to yourself

  1. That’s nice, but at my old job, at a certain health “care” company, I stopped doing extra things to streamline operations. After the third or fourth time of being dinged for meddling I got the point. God forbid you come in early or stay late, unless you’re “on call”, which means you must stay within a 1/2 hour response time area. Fishing trip? Forget it. Weekend getaway? Nope – the “Company” was going to wring their 20 bucks per day out of you. 15 minutes of “overtime” got you pulled into the office. Trying to explain yourself is futile, because you’re pulled into the abyssal depths of corporate penny pinching and Medicare fraud, and you’re so close to understanding where the management is coming from but you can’t honestly tell a lie, right? So in conclusion, I suppose it boils down to what type of business you’re in, and whether or not they move ideas around as opposed to wheeling warm money, sorry, I mean warm bodies around. I’m not bitter. At all. At which company did I work? The largest provider of Xxxxxxxx services in the States, and in Europe. Never again.

  2. The only facet not covered about the ax falling is the fact that bosses will always have an opinion, good or bad, formed of their employees that may not accurately describe the employee. That is what I disliked the most about our Army NCOER system; it ultimately boiled down to how your boss feels about you on rating day.
    Or, the ones that recognize good employees for the talent and turn that recognition into threatening and now are scared said employee will take over their job. I never understood any of that past the fact that some human nature is involved. Now add my favorite type of employee…the one that says he/she is going to take over my job someday. The old phrase, “you’re sitting at my desk” attitude is not a threat, but a very large compliment and helps identify an employee that is trainable for that position in the future.

    Just my thoughts.

  3. When you are an employee you are always subject to those things.

    When YOU are the business, there are other things you are judged by and subjected to, but being rated by a boss is not one of them.

    Build something for yourself that doesn’t involve being an employee.

    Even a small additional income stream is more than NO additional streams….


      • Someone called this the “portfolio” approach, and I’ve actually lived it.

        Think of work like an investment portfolio. Some investments are high risk, high return. So are some types of work (going all in on a business idea.) Some investments carry little risk, but the rewards are smaller too. This I think of as employment with a BigCorp. Sometimes you invest to get a non-monetary reward (kickstarter, startup, neighbor kid’s latest idea) and some work (like volunteering) has low pay, but high reward.

        Like an investment portfolio, your mix of investment types (and work types) will change with time, and your personal goals and situation. (If you have a sick kid, you might really need to just go to a dead end 9-5 with good health care coverage for a while.) Most advisers suggest taking risks while young and single, and then getting more conservative with age. Very few would suggest betting on an IPO with all your savings at age 64…. but that might be a great time to do some volunteer work.

        I’ve found this to be a helpful way to frame my various careers since encountering it in the early 90s. (and I didn’t mean you personally with the business comments.)


        (I do think though, that everyone with a prepping mindset ought to get working on a Plan B for generating income, just because sh!t happens.)

  4. I was with a company doing government R&D. We had a contract to do a certain bit of research. The VP overseeing the work was a good guy and friendly, so I pointed out to him how we could accomplish the work in about a quarter of the time contracted for. Then he nicely explained to me that it was a cost plus contract – so all the employee time was paid for, and the company profit was a percentage of the payroll – so what possible reason would they have for doing the job in fewer hours? It was a learning moment.

    At another company, there was an employee that just didn’t get it. He complained about a lot of things, most of which were real problems. I, as a friend, and our boss, both suggested he pick one bad thing and find a way to make it better. He couldn’t get his mind around it, wanting it to all be done for him. So he was let go – essentially fired, but done in a way that called it a layoff and ensuring that he would receive a benefit package. Why? It would be much cheaper for the company to fire him. But in fact, the boss was a person, the guy was a person, and good people try to look out for each other even during something as harsh as termination. I have seen that pattern several time. At the core of the corporate world, there are still people who care.

  5. The problem with drinking the corporate Kool-Aid is when you don’t recognize the faults of the system. Cheerleading capitalism is fine as long as you realize it is a fundamentally flawed system in an energy and resource contraction. And really, who are you kidding? Why pay a guy over $150k a year to screw the pooch on a hundred year legacy of quality ( Whirlpool )? Sell poison to the public ( pharma industry )? Screw over the entire economy for a few hundred billion in profits ( banks )? Oh, right, they are getting paid to strip the copper wiring from the walls, not by offering a better product at a cheaper price.

  6. Comandante, you are fortunate to be associated with an employer who will acknowledge innovation and not be afraid to encourage it. Sadly, many companies do not encourage independent thinking, and actually stifle initiative. Some managers are threatened by those underlings who show too much promise.

  7. I remember a conversation with someone once when they where going on about a CEO making 100 times what the averages paid employee makes and how bad it was.
    So I asked well how many employees do they have. They answered “I don’t knew a few thousand”. My answer was “Well if I start a small business is it fair for me to get payed the same as my only employee?” I got a yes from them. “So why is it bad when someone who employees a few thousand people, only take a wage equal to 100 people. I have never cared what my boss or anyone else is payed, I only care what I’m payed.”

  8. The best company I ever worked for rewarded independent thinking. I remember the the first time I told my boss that we needed a better way to do x. He said OK & left. Took me a while to figure out that I was supposed to come up with the solution – which I did. The bosses kept asking the workers for ideas about how to be more efficient. I’ll bet there are some people here who own some of their scopes or binoculars. 🙂

  9. The average ceo is paid 13 milliomn. A high paid ceo its over 100 million in a year.. compensation committees are incestous,. Remember the scandal where psy oncentives were changed after the fact to determine bonuses? Nothing came of it. That you were worth more money because of increased worth doesnt necessarily translate to domeone getting paid 100 million.

  10. The biggest impediment I’ve encountered in high-tech companies? The dedicated R&D Dept. It tends to be a closed door, filled with jealous bastards. The NIH Syndrome runs rampant in them. They are aided and abetted in this by the machine shop, who are their best buddies. Most of the good ideas and designs originate with the line engineers and manufacturing techs. R&D tends to be a black hole for money and time. A pox on ’em.

    • Except when it isn’t. Like GE, Western Electric, Bell Labs, Monsanto, Intel, Texas Instruments, HP…


      Oh, Kodak, Dow, BASF… Polaroid, IBM…

      but perhaps those days are all in the past.

  11. I find it hilarious that such basic spreadsheet skills that are intended to remove that time drain work are utterly unknown in business. A friend has a similar situation – comparing dozens of workbooks across the nation for HQ. Instead of setting up a simple sheet to contain all the data from each book on an as-needed updated basis they….manually enter the numbers each month into the Big Workbook – then print it again and again for the board meeting.

    I have tried over and over to get her to comprehend the beauty of using the lookup, sheet sharing, etc. But no. Madness. But at least it isn’t my madness. Good on ya.

    • One of the reasons I won out over the other candidate was because they wanted ‘out of the box’ thinking. When the business was small, the two number-crunchers were able to handle payroll, depreciation shedules, etc, between the two of them. But when the business grew exponentially, spreadsheets that required a few minutes to update and maintain took hours. And they didnt have time to write up new ones because they were busy trying to keep caught up. Then I come along an am handed a tedious 12-hour task of reconciling a deposit spreadsheet. I look at it with fresh eyes and say “Guys, what if we just do this this this” and the next thing you know a 12-hour job now takes two hours…and now theres’ an ‘extra’ ten hours to put towards other stuff for the same man-hour cost. But..I’m pacing myself…only one or two game-changing ideas per fiscal quarter…don’t wanna peak too early.

  12. Who’s John Galt?
    Most in “management” are only there because of a piece of paper that says they partyed for four years and have friends that got hired under the same criteria. Most could easily be replaced by any of their subordinates(it’s who you know not what you know(and can do))

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