At first glance, it's hard to know where to begin with TAC. But when I think about it a little more, it's immediately clear: Dell Schanze.
There's been a fair amount of TAC, and more specifically, Schanze bashing on this blog, but I really believe we can take some even-handed lessons from the demise of TAC, and I intend to glean them herewith.
First, this: What do TAC and Enron have in common? Denial. Great big, heaping servings of it. Both of these companies had people at the very top telling their subordinates, "Calm down, everything's fine." Enron and TAC each hid money problems and tried to save the farm by ripping off customers. And Ken Lay and Dell Schanze both insist to this day that they've done nothing wrong, in spite of mountains of evidence to the contrary.
The difference between Ken Lay and Dell Schanze? Shareholders. If Schanze had brought TAC crumbling down with thousands of shareholders to face after doing so, then Dell's claimed need to carry a gun might not be the simple self-delusion that it is.
And before we go on, I'd like to make this clear: I am not anti-gun. I'm anti-stupid.
Dell cares more about guns than he ever cared about TAC. Lay cares more about money than he ever cared about Enron.
And that's sad, and it's a bad sign for a business. A CEO or President position in a company is a commitment that you'll live and have priorities in accordance with the best interests of the business. I shouldn't be CEO of Apple Computer, because I like Windows, and recommend it to my friends. Maybe it's ok for a data-entry drone to go in every day, do his job, and hate the company all the while. But the guy at the top must care.
And even more importantly, he has to have a clue. Ken Lay was approached by his staff within Enron who had concerns about accounting practices. They were dismissed.
I know former members of Dell's inner circle. They told him to stop talking about guns. Stop carrying a gun. Stop putting gun stickers on your trailers. Stop being so crazy in front of media types. Stop buying time on late night TV to talk about religion. Stop comparing yourself to Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ in public. But as you can see below, Dell just doesn't get it.
And so, Jake's Rule of Customer Interaction #4 is a Special Dell Schanze Edition.
ROCI #4: If your staff are telling you something is wrong with the way you're running the company, SOMETHING IS WRONG. You've probably made smart hiring decisions, and if you haven't, then none of this matters anyway. You must listen to the people who have concerns. That's your job. In other words: Don't let your company die because you can't listen or change. If necessary, step down and let someone better suited to the job run the company.