A gorgeous woman slinks up to a CEO at a party and through her moist lips purrs "I' ll do anything—anything. Just tell me what you would like." With no hesitation, he replies, "reprice my options."
Some major financial institutions have, however, experienced staggering problems because they engaged in the "weakened lending practices" I described in last year's letter. John Stumpf, CEO of Wells Fargo, aptly dissected the recent behavior of many lenders: "It is interesting that the industry has invented new ways to lose money when the old ways seemed to work just fine."
The attitude of our managers vividly contrasts with that of the young man who married a tycoon's only child, a decidedly homely and dull lass. Relieved, the father called in his new son-in-law after the wedding and began to discuss the future:
"Son, you're the boy I always wanted and never had. Here's a stock certificate for 50% of the company. You're my equal partner from now on."
"Now, what would you like to run? How about sales?"
"I'm afraid I couldn't sell water to a man crawling in the Sahara."
"Well then, how about heading human relations?"
"I really don't care for people."
"No problem, we have lots of other spots in the business. What would you like to do?"
"Actually, nothing appeals to me. Why don't you just buy me out?"
My own role in operations may best be illustrated by a small tale concerning my granddaughter, Emily, and her fourth birthday ...