The Pointless House of Quality:
The Saga of Our Pointless CEO!
CEO David J. Huffenpuff at a team building event,
showing employees that he can relate to their careers.
I began my education in chemical engineering, where I became proficient in slide rule calculations and the use of logarithm tables. Unfortunately, bigotry and internal politics made me a scapegoat for the shortcomings of the professors. Thus, thanks to their incompetence, I was expelled from the department for low grades. I tried another university, but soon found the same vicious politics in the chemistry courses I took and was given unjustly low grades again. I considered other majors in the sciences, but the more I looked at the textbooks that I would be forced to use, the more I saw potential for bigotry and petty politics in the grading. I abandoned my dreams and obtained a degree in business.
Armed with only a degree and no actual business experience, I was well poised to begin a lucrative career as a consultant. Soon I came up with the Huffenpuff Plan, the advanced system for increasing profitability that has helped dozens of companies. It's based on a revolutionary two-step program: 1) Spend Less, and 2) Repeat Step 1. Companies that had the courage to follow this program have higher profits, while those that never saw the light because they refused to pay my consulting fees continued their downward plummet.
Many leading companies wanted more of my skills than they could get with consulting alone. In late 1972, I left consulting to become the Chief Financial Officer at SlipWit Slide Rules, Inc. When I came, profits and stock price had been dropping for years and the company was actually losing money. Analysts and consultants were all clamoring about the threat of "electronic calculators," and wanted us to drastically change our product line and invest in unproven electronic devices. I stood firm and refused to give into this fad. When the first electronic calculator hit the market, I predicted that the product would last less than a year. And I was absolutely right.
The analysts thought slide rules were doomed by competition from Hewlett-Packard, a new company with a flash-in-the-pan product, a portable electronic calculator called the HP-35. This electronic gizmo was being hailed as the beginning of a new. But those of us who knew and understood real calculations - the kind that require slide rules and logarithm tables - recognized that no flash-in-the-pan gizmo with buttons was ever going to disrupt a time-honored mainstay like slide rules. The slide rule industry had been around for over a hundred years, and with my leadership, you could bet it wasn't going to go away anytime soon. I explained to the management at SlipWit that the HP-35 wouldn't be on the market more than two or three years - and I was 100% correct, as usual. By 1975, the HP-35 was completely discontinued! Today the HP-35 is just a memory, collecting dust in the Museum of HP Calculators.
But initially the CEO at SlipWit wanted to jump on the bandwagon and follow the electronic fad. They were talking about releasing their own portable electronic calculator - a big mistake, if you ask me. In fact, they were even talking about developing "personal computers" for people - something that would have been premature by at least a decade. Their plans would have meant backing away from SlipWit's traditional source of strength and risking everything on new-fangled electronic technologies. Good grief! I had just two words for these people: "core competencies!" We had to focus on our manufacturing and product strengths and avoid risk. And the two-step Huffenpuff Plan would be our salvation: 1) spend less, and 2) spend even less (or repeat step 1). Selling more might be hard, given our incompetent sales staff who allowed out market share to be eroded with HP's doomed calculator, but by golly, I could reduce costs with a vengeance! Drastic cost reduction measures would be the key to getting SlipWit in the black again - not some kind of paranoid over reaction to an electronic gizmo. And history proved me right.
With the backing of the Board of Directors, I guided SlipWit into a series of massive layoffs and other cost reduction measures. Naturally, I gave my cost-cutting program a catchy acronym to raise awareness: RACK - for "Reduce All Costs Kwickly." I announced the program at an executive retreat held at an off-site resort in Maui, and hired the band Queen to play their most famous tune with slightly altered words: "We will, we will, RACK you!" Sweaters with the RACK logo - a cute cartoon graphic of the medieval justice-enforcing device of the same name - were specially made and provided to management, along with RACK coffee cups, golf balls, fountain pen sets, crystal mementos, and so forth, to drive home the message to all levels of the company. This kind of awareness is what it takes to make things happen. To show that we were serious and to motivate management to do what it takes to put their employees to the RACK, extra large executive bonuses were given that year.
In the coming weeks, I put the company on the RACK program. Tough goals with stretch objectives were implemented. And the corporation stretched to meet those objectives while on the RACK. I eliminated our mail room first, noting that mail room staff did nothing to directly generate sales or improve properties. Janitorial staff went next. Then secretaries. Pretty soon it was just the core of the Company - the production facility, the salesmen, and the executives. The program was succeeding brilliantly, but Istruggled with incompetent people who kept losing orders and checks that came in the mail, sometimes misplacing these valuable documents with piles of junk that seemed to accumulate due to the slovenly habits of our employees. I fired the worst offenders and began a program of Draconian office inspections by management to improve order, but I soon came to realize that no matter how great top management is, unless their are competent people at the lower levels, business plans will fail to be executed properly.
Meanwhile, every component of the product was carefully scrutinized for some way to make it lower in quality. As sales continued to drop, management realized that they had to make more profit on fewer slide rules. This required extreme and innovative measures, like replacing expensive wood and plastic components with cardboard. And I responded to further drops in sales by firing our pathetic sales staff and disgruntled marketers, instead relying on more cost-effective word-of-mouth advertising. I was finally able to turn the business around completely.
Tears came to my eyes when the 1973 fourth quarter report showed something that the analysts had said could not be done: we realized actual profits for the first time in 36 months, thanks to my bold step of firing the sales staff, the production staff, and all other non-essential employees (i.e., everyone outside of upper management), and by selling the manufacturing site to the State of Arizona for conversion into a prison. You see, sales of slide rules from overstocked inventories were still positive -- no new production was needed that quarter -- and costs were down to nearly zero (not counting management salary and bonuses, which were "off the books" thanks to help from our accounting firm).
Under my guidance, I had helped SlipWit achieve the objective they had given me, and revolutionized their business in the process. With the success of SlipWit behind me, I took my severance bonus and modest fourth quarter cash bonus (the stock options did not pan out, unfortunately) and moved on to revamp other industries as well. Soon I was ready to start my own company and truly redefine the world of business. Thus, in 1995, I founded Pointless, Inc., so named to warn competitors that resistance to my corporate domination will indeed be pointless.
SlipWit quickly went under without my guidance -- the fools reverted to old paradigms, having failed to learn the secrets of success that I had used to bring SlipWit into the black again. But what glory days we had under my leadership, and what glory days we are headed for now at Pointless.
To learn more about our CEO and his incredible wit and wisdom, may we suggest the following pages: