Monday, September 22 - For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations (2015)

For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations (2015)

Chapter 17

• Monday, September 22

In the four days since quitting, Paige has been fretting endlessly. On the other hand, I’m amazed at how much better I’m sleeping at night, as if some huge, hidden weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

Uninterrupted by e-mails or emergency pages, the weekend was incredibly peaceful. I was still receiving them on Thursday, but I just deleted the e-mail accounts and blocked the text messages.

It felt great.

I tell Paige not to take Grant to her mother’s. Instead, I’m taking him on an adventure. Paige reacts with a bemused smile and helps me pack his Thomas the Tank Engine backpack.

By 8 a.m., we’re out of the house and heading happily to the train station, where, for months, I’ve been promising to take him. For an hour we watch trains go by, and I’m continually amazed at Grant’s unabashed joy. Despite the uncertainty around what I’ll be doing next, I feel blessed that I can share this moment with Grant.

As I’m taking pictures of Grant screaming with delight and pointing at the diesel trains going by, I realize how few pictures I’ve taken of either of my kids in the last month.

We’re still watching the trains when my phone rings. It’s Wes. I let it roll to voicemail.

He calls several more times, and each time he leaves another voicemail.

Then Patty calls, which I let roll to voicemail, too. After three more calls, I mutter in exasperation, “Come on, guys…”

“Palmer,” I answer the phone.

“Bill, we just heard the news from Steve,” I hear Patty say, sounding like she’s on a speakerphone. With surprising anger in her voice, she continues, “I’ve got Wes here, and we’re both completely shocked. We knew something wasn’t right when you didn’t show up for our regular CABmeeting on Friday. I just can’t believe you resigned during this outage—and after everything we’ve achieved!”

“Look, guys, it has nothing to do with you,” I explain. “Steve and I just had some irreconcilable differences about how to resolve the big invoicing failure. I’m sure you guys will do fine without me.”

As I say the last part, I feel slightly disingenuous.

“Well, we’ve pretty much screwed the pooch since you’ve left,” Wes says, sounding genuinely abashed, confirming my worst fears. “Steve insisted that we bring in all the engineers, including Brent. He said he wanted a ‘sense of urgency’ and ‘hands on keyboards, not people sitting on the bench.’ Obviously, we didn’t do a good enough job coordinating everyone’s efforts, and…”

Wes doesn’t finish his sentence. Patty picks up where he left off, “We don’t know for sure, but at the very least, the inventory management systems are now completely down, too. No one can get inventory levels in the plants or warehouses, and they don’t know which raw materials we need to replenish. All the finance guys are about to jump from window ledges, because they may not be able to close the books for the quarter on time. With all these systems down, no one has the data they need to compute cost of goods sold, gross profit, and net margin.”

“Holy shit.” Speechless for a moment, I finally say, “That’s incredible.”

Grant grabs at my phone, demanding my attention. I say, “Look, guys, I’m with my son, and we’re in the middle of something important. I can’t talk for very long. But rest assured that I’m really proud of everything that we’ve done together, and I know that you guys can get through this crisis without me.”

“That’s a load of junk, and you know it,” Patty says. “How can you leave us in the lurch like this? We have so many things that we planned on fixing together, and you’re leaving it all completely unfinished! I never figured you as someone who would quit like this!”

“I agree. Leaving now is pretty shitty, if you ask me,” Wes says, chiming in.

I sigh. I’m never going to tell them about all the frustrating and absurd meetings I’ve had to put up with Steve. That’s between him and me.

“I’m sorry to let you down, but it’s something that I had to do,” I say. “You’ll do just fine. Just don’t let Steve or anyone else micromanage you. No one knows the IT systems like you guys do, so don’t let anyone try to call the shots, okay?”

I hear Wes mutter, “Too late for that.”

By now, Grant is trying to hang up my phone. “Guys, I’ve got to run. We’ll catch up later, okay? Over beers.”

“Yeah, sure,” Wes says.

“Gee, thanks for everything,” Patty says. “Catch you around.”

With that, the line disconnects.

I let out a long sigh. Then, looking at Grant, I put away my phone and give him my full attention again, intent on recapturing our moment of happiness before it was interrupted.

My phone rings again on our drive home. Grant is asleep in the backseat. This time, it’s Steve.

Having no interest in talking with him just yet, I let it go to voicemail. Three times.

I pull into our garage and get out of the car, trying to get Grant out of his car seat without waking him up. As I walk through the house with him, I see Paige. I point to Grant, silently mouthing to her, “Asleep.” I pad softly up the stairs, at last transferring him to his bed and taking off his shoes.

With a sigh of relief, I close the door behind me and walk back downstairs.

When Paige sees me, she says, “That bastard Steve called me this morning. I almost hung up on him, but he gave me a long story about doing all this soul-searching with some guy named Erik. He says he has a proposition for you. I told him I’d pass along the message.”

When I roll my eyes, she says in a suddenly concerned voice, “Look, I know you resigned because you felt it was the right thing to do. But you know as well as I do that there aren’t many other companies in town that pay as well as Parts Unlimited. Especially after your promotion. I don’t want to move away from my family.”

She looks levelly at me. “Honey, I know he’s a bastard, but we both still need to earn a living. Promise me that you’ll listen to what Steve has to say and keep an open mind, okay? Bill? Okay?”

I merely nod and step into the dining room, hitting the speed dial for Steve.

Steve answers his cell phone on the first ring. “Good afternoon, Bill. Thanks for calling me back. I had the pleasure of talking with your wife, telling her all about what a jackass I’ve been.”

“Yeah, she said something to that effect,” I respond. “She said that you really wanted to talk.”

I hear him say, “Look, I wanted to apologize for the way I’ve behaved since you graciously accepted my request to become our VP of IT Operations. Dick thought I was crazy when I told him that I was going to have IT report to me. But I told him about how, when I first became a plant manager, many decades ago, I worked on the assembly line for a month, just to make sure that I understood the ins and outs of daily life of everyone who worked there.

“I promised Dick that I would get my hands dirty and not just delegate the problem away. I’m angry with myself that I haven’t lived up to that promise. And delegating all the IT issues to Sarah was a total screwup.

“Listen, I know I haven’t been fair to you, especially when you’ve fulfilled your end of the bargain. You’ve been a straight shooter, and you’ve genuinely tried to prevent bad things from happening.”

He pauses for a couple of moments. “Look, I just got kicked in the ass by Erik and by the entire audit committee. He held my feet to the fire until I finally understood something. It made me realize that I’ve been doing something really wrong for many years, and I want to make it right.

“In short, I’d like you to resume your role as VP of IT Operations, effective immediately. I’d like to work with you, as Erik coined it, as the two sides of a dysfunctional marriage. Maybe the two of us together can figure out what is really going wrong with how IT is managed here at Parts Unlimited.

“I’m convinced that IT is a competency that we need to develop here. All I’m asking is that you spend ninety days with me and give it a try. And if at the end of the ninety days you still want to bail, then you can do so, with a one-year severance package.”

Remembering my promise to Paige, I choose my words carefully. “You’ve been pretty consistent in being, as you say, a complete jackass for the past month. I’ve been very consistent in presenting to you my analyses and recommendations, over and over again. And each time, you’ve crapped on it. Why should I trust you now?”

Forty-five minutes later, after Steve continually tries to woo me back, I hang up the phone and go back into the kitchen where Paige is waiting to hear what happened.