On the Road with USGlass

Profiles in Courage, and One in Cowardice

Whoever said honesty is the best policy obviously did not work in the glass business. For years, companies—and not just those in the glass business—have remained relatively quiet when faced with certain business challenges. But that is starting to change.

I’d put a hat on just so I could tip it to Kris Vockler for sharing what her company, ICD, is going through in trying to defend against a preferential payment claim by the creditors of Arch Aluminum. Oh and get this, ICD is also an unsecured creditor in the bankruptcy. So not only will Kris not see most of what the old Arch owes her company, the company’s attorneys are requesting that she return the money she was paid in the last 90 days before the bankruptcy was filed. (See her story here). This is another example of a law being admirable in intent and entirely different in practice.

Now it would seem to me to make sense that those making these preferential claims should, at the very least, be required to disclose what percentage of money paid out in the last 90 days they were trying to recover. If it’s four, five, maybe even ten percent, there could be a pretty good case made for preference. But if it’s more than 50 percent, that would be very important for those being asked to give it back to know.

“Large companies already know to set aside anything they got paid in the last 90 days,” said a lawyer in the business. “It’s the smaller companies that get hurt.”

So it used to be that when you heard of a customer filing, you would run into accounting and pull a quick receivables list while holding your breath. Now you not only have to pull the receivables, but also a list of payments in the last 90 days and hold your breath a lot longer.

If anyone can get this changed, Kris Vockler can.

And Kris wasn’t the only example of a company leader willing to share unpleasant information for the good of the industry. The indictment  last week of Latrisha Riedling, former CFO of Glassworks in Louisville, Ky., (not affiliated with Glasswerks in California) was noteworthy for the very forward way in which its management handled it. You can see a video news report here.

I applaud Glassworks for its willingness to let everyone know what it has been through. Its willingness to do so elicited sympathy and understanding from the surrounding community and the industry.

For many years, embezzlers moved quietly from one company to the next because, though they’d be fired, companies rarely wanted to prosecute the embezzler. They just wanted him or her to go away. That has all changed for the better through the courageous efforts of companies like this.

Bad, Bad Boss

So last week was Boss’s Day and in honor of it, a local radio station here had a contest about the top ten worst ways to find out you’ve been let go. They were supposed to be funny but, really, they were heart-breaking.

That radio segment reminded me of a firing I’d witnessed that should definitely have been included on the list. I was on the road somewhere working out in a hotel health club when an impeccably dressed man entered the club. You know the type—they look so perfectly dressed to work out that you know they are not there to work out.

Well, in this case, I was wrong, because he got on the treadmill and hooked up what I thought was an iPod to his ear. He then laid his towel down meticulously on the bars and turned on the machine to the speed of 9.8 miles per hour.

After a few minutes’ warm-up time, the treadmill exploded into a cacophony of sound and speed. I then realized that what he had hooked up to his face was a phone and not an iPod. Just then, while running full force, he made a call and asked for Bryant.

“Hello, Bryant, this is … wheeze, wheeze, wheeze … A.J. and I just need … wheeze … just need to talk to you a minute. Hold on.”

At this point, he put the phone on hold and took a big drink of water, never breaking stride.

“Bryant, still there? Good. Hey … gulp … wheeze … cough … hey, it’s just not working out for you with us anymore. So today is going to be your last day. It’s been a … cough … wheeze … (Now at this point he went into a wheezing/coughing fit for about 30 seconds, and he’s still running and I know Bryant can, at least, here his feet pounding the rubber treads.) “It’s been a great eight years, but today it’s over. Mamie will be out to get your keys and things in a few minutes. Gotta go. Take … wheeze, wheeze … care.”

Now I must have looked over at him with such a stunned look on my face that he turned to me and, without missing a step, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Time … wheeze … management.”

Never forgot it. Have a good week.