Business schools lack the temerity to publicly say what the game of business is really all about. The late George Carlin got it right and said so before he died:
Everybody knows by now, all businessmen are completely full of shit; just the worst kind of low-life, criminal, cocksuckers you could ever wanna’ run into – a fuckin’ piece of shit businessman. And the proof of it, the proof of it is, they don’t even trust each other. They don’t trust one another. When a business man sits down to negotiate a deal, the first thing he does is to automatically assume that the other guy is a complete lying prick who’s trying to fuck him outta his money. So he’s gotta do everything he can to fuck the other guy a little bit faster and a little bit harder. And he’s gotta do it with a big smile on his face. You know that big, bullshit businessman smile? And if you’re a customer – Whoah! – that’s when you get the really big smile. Customer always gets that really big smile, as the businessman carefully positions himself directly behind the customer, and unzips his pants, and proceeds to service…the…account.
Business success means winning by any means that you can get away with.
Business Schools wisely refrain from offering degrees in becoming a ruthless financial predator, in part because a lot of moms would not be comfortable with that, but mostly because they cannot actually turn anyone into a successful financial predator. So they make money by moving junior along for four enjoyable years while he sits through a lot of courses that are not too challenging for most people.
But the truth about business is there for all to see.
Near the turn of the century it became vogue for corporate business executives to portray themselves as supermen who could use their unique genius to transform a mediocre company into spectacular profitability in only a few years if the board of directors would agree to pay them a billion dollars. After a few years of this game it finally became clear to lawmakers that all these experts were doing was corrupting the accounting system so they could publish fake financial reports with a lot of big impressive sales and profit numbers, reap their billions, and cash out and move to Florida. The government eventually caught up and passed Sarbanes-Oxley to shut down this particular swindle, but don’t believe for one second that the Sarbox legislation ended the game.
So here in shockingly frank terms are the real skills needed to succeed in business.
Brag. You must constantly tell everyone how great you are. No one ever made it to the top on pure untouted virtue. Bragging may have been the primary skill that elevated General Douglas MacArthur to become a five star general and ultimately the Viceroy of Japan. Both he and his mother wrote letters endlessly to generals and politicians telling them how great Douglas was.
You must be a bully and you must be a bigger bully than your opponent. You must have the personality and the large intimidating physical presence to intimidate people to do what you want them to do, and to prevent them from doing that to you.
This fact explains the dearth of women at the highest levels of corporate management. Women can charm your socks off or nag you to death but in a genuine brutish fight they aren’t worth a flip at bullying. You will note that most women are, fundamentally, pussies.
Of course. To succeed in business you must be able to convincingly bullshit anyone at any time about anything.
Another of the essential arts of deception. The successful corporate executive must be able to win a hand from time to time merely by bluffing opponents out of the game.
5. Brown Nosing
Or in corporate-speak, cultivating strategic relationships. This is primarily a skill that one needs to climb the corporate ladder and to have one’s way with the Board of Directors. The late great F. Ross Johnson used his excellent brown nosing skills to climb the corporate ladder all the way to the CEO’s chair in every company where he worked. Ross was a master at using corporate resources to bribe his superiors and directors to get them to do whatever he wanted them to do, without them feeling bribed. Amazing.
6. Back Stabbing
And of course, one must be able to destroy your opponents, particularly opponents who are smarter than you are. This is accomplished by attacking them in ways that all fall under the allegorically named category of back-stabbing.
Back stabbing techniques ranges from merely heaping ridicule upon an opponent to running a play where one baits the opponent into compromising behavior and then exposes them.
So there you have it. Tom’s B-School. The real package of skills necessary to rise to the top of the corporate jungle and eat meat with the big dogs. Harvard can help but you really need to be born with predator DNA to win this game.
Lest you leave thinking this is all one big joke let me call your attention to the career of Al Dunlap. “Chainsaw” Al Dunlap made a reputation in the 1980’s as corporate business genius. Bring Al into any mediocre business and he would use his sharp business genius to find ways to increase sales and cut costs in ways that no other mortal could. Hire Al and in no time the financial reports would show terrific increased sales, margins, and profits as Al sliced through the company and cut out waste with his cold efficient genius. But in the end Al was found to be a fraud. Although he would fire a lot of people (often good diligent long term employees) the spectacular financial results were found to be the result of nothing more than fraudulent accounting. Al was cooking the books. He was a professional financial reporting fraud artist who used Bragging, Bullshitting, and Bluffing to make a huge pile of money.
Al was on the front of the wave in financial reporting fraud. He got out of the game with a pile of money and a slap on the wrist before the government got really mad and put some of the fraudsters in prison like Bernie Ebbers of WorldCom and Jeff Skilling of Enron for doing more or less the same things that Al did.
But this is the United States of America where money talks. Al Dunlap is now retired in Florida where his name is proudly plastered on a building in the school of business at Florida State University. I kid you not.