Brenda de la Rue stood in the Auditorium, addressing the assembled crowd. Usually the lights were on, but in this case she was staring out into the gloom and without a microphone.
Brenda shouted “I’ve brought you all here at 6am on a Tuesday morning because I have something very important to talk to you about.”
In fact the meeting was supposed to be at 8am, but Brenda’s assistant, Maddy Shovel, had taken daylight savings into account, but gone the wrong way.
“What I want us all to think about is this.” Brenda paused for dramatic effect. “We need to be acting like a start-up.”
Maddy Shovel, found the light switch and illuminated the room, before going over to turn on Brenda’s microphone.
Brenda continued. “The start-up culture. Bunny rabbit ears [Brenda actually said ‘bunny rabbit ears’ as she read from her prepared notes] is about desperation. It’s about hunger. It’s about the fight to survive. That is what we are trying to generate here in Amalgamated Bank. Rocky Three, Hippy Kay Yay!”
There was a long pause.
The audience slowly began to realise that this was the entire extent of Brenda’s speech and she was now looking out at them for feedback and grinning in an insane way.
Blinded by the lights, only one person was able to raise their hand with a question.
“Yes, Earthling, what do you want?” asked Brenda.
“Sorry to interrupt. But I think I might be able to add some context here as I have worked in four start-up companies.”
“I have worked in twelve.” Brenda lied, “But I am keen to hear your limited experience. What can you ‘share’ with us.” She almost choked on the word share.
“They all went bust.”
Brenda coughed again, the idea of failure had never occurred to her.
“Not relevant. We are looking to emulate the successful start-up culture. Not the failures. Think Googley Woogley, Amazing and Net Tits.”
Another hand went up, to Brenda’s increasing annoyance, “What now?”
“Can you explain why a company that makes a billion dollars a year in profit would want to take such huge risks, like a start-up does?”
“Kill the lights Maddy, there are Communists in here, stealing our ideas.”
David Starling had managed to miss the early morning announcement, arriving at his desk at 8:30am to find Peter Ness, Risk Manager, sitting in Dave’s chair reading a newspaper.
“Wait!” said Dave, “Did the voice over guy just say you were the Risk Manager? I thought you were Penis Head of Operations?”
“I’ll ignore that, but you are right. Brenda has us on a job rotation program. Thinks it will ease the tension.”
“How does that work? Don’t you need to spend a long time in a role to be any good at it?”
“Well, for proper jobs you do, but for us its quite an easy swap. I’m doing days of the month with an odd number and Timothy gets the even numbers.”
“You’ve been shafted there, there are more odd days than even. Anyway, whichever job you have, what are you doing here?”
“Not much, just catching up on world events.” Peter said, nodding towards his newspaper.
“Should you be sitting here?” Dave asked, pointing towards Penelope Crank’s desk.
“Oh, we are cool now. Almost friends. I told the auditors that we have turned off the mainframe, so now they leave her alone. In return she said I could hide here if I needed to.”
“What are you hiding from?”
“Brenda. She’s trying to turn us into a start-up. I’m not wearing a tee shirt with a corporate slogan about how independent I am, for anyone.”
“Why are you reading a newspaper, where do you even get one from in this day and age?”
“They have a big pile in reception. They are for the visitors to read while they are waiting there.”
“And you just go and steal one?”
“Usually, but today they put them in the kitchen. Didn’t want the visitors reading the headline.”
Peter showed the paper to Dave, which read ‘AMALGAMATED BANK HIT WITH RECORD FINE.’
“What did we do?”
“Ripped off some customers. Sold them a pile of crap that we knew was worth nothing. $400M fine. Not too bad really.”
“Not too bad?”
“We made $750M, so we are still well up.”
“What about our reputation? Isn’t that worth something?”
Peter laughed. “This is good news for us. Gives us some street cred. Compared to the big guys, this is tiny. It’s like when you hang out with a gang and the others don’t really trust you, then you get arrested for stealing a watch and all of a sudden you are their best friend. Now we are really part of the gang.”
Dave didn’t know what to say, so Peter carried on. “Anyway, its not really a crime to be ripping off your customers, who do they expect us to make money off? Its like accusing an abattoir of misleading the cattle.”
Brenda was with Rupert Onion, the CIO.
“Potential-wise, what scale of upside are we looking at with your start-up gig? Ballpark? 10? 20? 25 percent ROI? Scaled for already built in growth factoring, of course.”
Brenda has no idea what Rupert was talking about, but she knew these were numbers. Were these good numbers or bad numbers? She didn’t know, but they had gone up the more he talked so she went for good. For added protection Brenda decided to blame someone else.
“The finance team are modelling it at 27%.”
“Annually? Wow, that’s some good digits, Brenda.”
“I’ve pushed them hard on this. It looks sound.” she smiled, her fake smile.
“VG, Brenda, VG. What stake money do you need to get this baby born?”
“Tee shirts. We are going to need lots of tee shirts.” Brenda said, “Mainly extra large, I think.”
“You are at the logo stage of this, wow. Pure wow! I thought you were only just chinwagging, but you’ve workshopped it, socialised it, risk looped it and branded it already. Pure wow. Buy all the tee shirts you want. Lets do the big launch in two weeks just before my US trip, should give you time to get the TS’s printed. Book some time with me for next week to talk through the slide decks and get me up to speed on the whole kit and caboodle. Nice work, Brenda!”
Brenda hadn’t really thought much beyond the tee shirt thing, and even then she didn’t have a clue what to put on them. All she had really done was to watch a video on LinkedIn while she was eating a chicken sandwich for lunch. Now she’d have to go and try to find it again to see what else was involved. She better be quick too, by now that video would be hundreds of pages down underneath all the crap that kept feeding into her LinkedIn front page. She was at least 30 motivational slogans and a dozen people politically liking stuff they hated, away from finding the video.
Brenda was heading back to her desk when she bumped into Flux Larson, Dave’s boss, walking down the corridor.
“How was your start-up thing this morning?” asked Flux stupidly, realising that he should know, as he was supposed to have been there.
“It was more successful than I could have imagined. We’ve had four people resign already today, presumably to go and join a start-up. The CIO is all over it, wants us to have it all up and running within two weeks. That’s where you come in.”
“Where I what?”
“Grab anyone you need and get a plan together by 3pm. I’ll get Maddy to book a meeting room for us so you can explain it to me. Exciting times!” shouted Brenda walking away.
Flux wondered if this was going to be one of those unusual days when Brenda remembered who he was, or if he would get away with doing nothing as usual.