Episode 4 So the PFY and I are hanging out in the conference room because the Council’s Zoom call keeps cutting out.
The board members themselves aren’t very happy that we’re here, but since it’s the third time we’ve been back to reboot the app (and lunchtime is quickly approaching), they want the call succeeds.
Hearing the call explains why the board isn’t so excited that we’re here. Job cuts are being discussed and the board is considering a bid from a consultancy that claims to help address post-COVID balance sheet issues.
“…and we are confident, after reviewing your expense profiles, that we can make strategic changes that would save your business a significant amount of expense,” said the guy on the other end of the call. .
“What sort of savings are we talking about, Gerard?” asks a board member.
“We expect it to be around 20 to 25%,” replies Gérard.
Cue murmurs of mild excitement, as this type of economy would likely trigger a performance bonus for everyone around the table.
Everyone except the PFY and myself of course.
“Interesting proposal”, replies our President, trying not to get wet. “And your fees?”
“Our fees would represent ten percent of the costs that we helped to reduce,” replies Gérard.
Other whispers, but I think the crowd considers 2-2.5% not too bitter a pill to swallow.
“Okay, we accept,” said the president. “So where do you want to start? »
“Once you sign the contract, I’ll probably start with the people responsible for the quality of that call,” Gerard jokes.
At least I think he was joking – although that thought is not reflected on the faces of the Council as all eyes turn to the PFY and myself.
“I think he was hanging up himself,” the PFY says a few minutes later as we descend into the elevator.
“He probably designed the whole thing. Did you research the company?”
“Yeah,” I said, showing him my phone screen. ‘Shell company for a decade, ambiguous name that could mean financial consultancy but could just as well be a manure farming cooperative in Yemen. Our team’, although all blurb refers to ‘we’ or U.S’.”
“A one-man band? suggests the PFY.
“It’s possible, but we’ll find out soon enough when his ‘team’ does his interviews with us.”
Just 15 minutes later, the PFY and I receive invites to one-on-one Zoom meetings with Gerard’s company. At the end of the lunch hour, we discover that at least 50 other employees of the company have similar appointments and there is a distinct smell of blood in the water…
… One day later …
The PFY interview may not have gone well because the nanosecond he picks up the call, he’s stalking Gerard on social media.
“He asked me what qualifications I had that supported me in the role!” the PFY engages. “Then he wanted to know how I justified my salary when the technical side of the work we do is quite mundane!”
And it’s not just him. When the boss came back from his interview, he was almost crying. Apparently he forgot one of the questions and tried to work his way through it and ended up talking about erectile dysfunction before launching into a mental list of other staff shortcomings. With his office’s terrible soundproofing, it’s now about as toxic as Pol Pot’s portaloo.
One of the Beancounters quit after a question about a spreadsheet function he couldn’t answer. Apparently he saw the writing on the wall and jumped off the top of it.
“They say he wants to close the company cafeteria,” the PFY whispers after returning from lunch.
“Yes, but THEY say a lot of things,” I said, having just finished my interview. “At the end of the day, Gerard is a pretty boring person to talk to – and I’ve talked to OS/2 fans. I’d go so far as to say he doesn’t have a stock os in his body and that you would find all his business acumen and strategic direction in a handful of books on budget management.”
“I don’t think you can take it out that easily,” the PFY said, shaking his head.
“No seriously, it really IS based on five or six corporate finance books,” I replied. “These books, actually.” I point to a stack of books behind my desk. “The easy part was the visuals and the AI - I just paid an AR company for it. The hardest part was distilling the bullet points from the books into a decision tree.”
“Gerard isn’t real?” the PFY gasps.
“Of course he is,” I reply. “It’s real AI. Obviously people would eventually figure out they’re talking to a Sim, but with a conferencing link you can hide some of the worst issues. On top of that, people are in mode defensive because they’re And if Gerard ever gets stuck, he just has to answer one of his ‘perceptual’ stress questions.”
“What is a question of perceptual stress? »
“Oh, there are about ten, all completely ambiguous, but with an underlying accusation of some form of misconduct. presences at her workplace; implying that her work-from-home performance was seriously below average; suggesting that a previous interviewee has, in a roundabout way, implied that she is a stalker; may -be simply mentioning that the office supplies belong to the company and bringing them home is stealing. Then, also just asking them a question about something obscure they think they should namely, as the list of parameters of the Excel function FACTDOUBLE.”
“So what – is it all for your amusement?”
It’s for the money. Gerard has a binding contract with the board to receive 2.5% of the money he saves the company – whether they implement the changes or not.
“And what is Gerard going to recommend?” asks the PFY.
“Gérard will recommend firing the board of directors. »
Someone gets a performance bonus!