The Reset Manifesto
CopyrightÂ© 2016 by Lazlo Zalezac
Everyone turned to look at the gentleman who had entered the waiting area. He looked around nervously, and licked his lips. George and Rebecca knew the man, but the others were totally clueless.
Rebecca asked, “What’s up, Fergus?”
“First of all, let me express our condolences on behalf of everyone at Galileo Industries. My father wished he could be here, but his health won’t let him get out of bed. He is in his nineties.”
“Thank you. Let your father know that we appreciate his thoughts.”
“We had a meeting of the board of directors. As you know, Mr. Moore held two shares of stock.”
“I didn’t know that. I thought he had turned them back years ago,” Rebecca said.
George said, “Dad never mentioned anything about that.”
Ever the lawyer, Charles said, “I thought you had to be an employee of Galileo to own stock.”
“Mr. Moore was an employee. He sat on the board.”
“I never knew that,” George said.
“I knew he was a consultant, but I didn’t realize that he was still formally an employee,” Rebecca said.
“He wanted his shares to transfer over to you and that we give you his spot on the board. We met on the matter and saw no reason to go against his request. I hope you’ll join us.”
“I don’t know. This is surprising news.”
“The position comes with a small salary of twenty thousand a year.”
Everyone in the company gathered in the cafeteria wondering what was happening. The factory was scheduled to close in two weeks and no one had heard anything about the future plans for it. Morale was at an all-time low. It dropped even lower when Peter Moore had shown up that morning wearing a suit. It meant that SAS, the Turd was visiting.
A small contingent of people made their way to the impromptu stage which made them visible to everyone present. Without bothering with any kind of self introduction, Mr. Meyers announced, “Mr. Stephen Augustus Stapleton, the Third, has come to make an announcement. I realize that the official timeline says that we only have two weeks left before the factory is handed over to the new owners, but we are all still employees of Newton. Please give a warm welcome to Mr. Stephen Augustus Stapleton, the Third.”
“Hey, SAS the Turd, what do you want to say, asshole?”
A small chant of ‘SAS the Turd’ broke out in the room. Mr. Stapleton was furious. He stormed up to the microphone and said, “We let everyone here think the turn-over date was in two weeks. It’s actually tomorrow. Go home. We don’t need you anymore.”
The man turned and stormed off the stage to angry shouts of ‘SAS, the Turd.’ Mr. Meyers walked up to the microphone with a smile on his face. It was in extreme contrast to the expressions on the faces of everyone else.
“Everyone calm down. There’s no need to be upset. I know everyone here knows Mr. Peter Moore.”
There were shouts which covered the entire spectrum of emotions. Some felt that he had lied to them. Others assumed that SAS the Turd had lied to him as well. Still, this turn of events didn’t shine a very flattering light on him.
“Mr. Meyers, Mr. Carroll, and I knew that was going to be the announcement when SAS the Turd—”
The entire crowd cheered their approval. A shout of ‘You’re Fired, ‘ echoed from the hallway outside the cafeteria.
“—informed us of his surprise visit. We knew the actual date of turnover, even though we had been told it was in two weeks. Fortunately, the new management of the factory was able to attend today. They would like to make an announcement of their own. Mr. Meyers, if you would...”
Mr. Meyers stepped up to the microphone and said, “Approximately ten months ago I was visited by Peter Moore. I had no idea who he was. He informed me that he was going to be the individual in charge of shutting down the factory.”
From the hallway came a shout, “I’m going to kill you, mother f•©ker.”
Almost as one, everyone in the cafeteria shouted, “He can take care of himself.”
“Mr. Carroll and I met with some investors and raised the money to purchase the factory on behalf of the employees. Tomorrow, Galileo Industries will open its doors. According to its charter, it is an employee-owned business. Every employee has to own stock. New hires will be offered shares after a three-month probation. Only employees can own stock in the company. Everyone who is here has passed the three month probation.
“Tomorrow morning, tables will be set up outside the entrances of the factory. You will want to stop there and purchase stock in Galileo. Shares are one dollar for one share. One share is all that is required to remain an employee. Of course, once you buy stock, you will stop being an employee and become an owner.
“Of course, being an owner changes things significantly. I’d like Tim Carroll to explain what it means for each of you.”
Tim stepped up to the microphone. He noticed a person enter the back of the room holding his thumb up. He grinned. The man stepped out unnoticed by anyone else. Tim waited until he heard shouts from the hallway.
“First, let me give you the good news. The noises you hear from the hallway is Mr. Stephen Augustus Stapleton, the Third — affectionately known around here as SAS the Turd — being arrested on racketeering charges. Rather than explain it, I’d rather show it to you. Ellison, would you start the video presentation?”
A guy in the back of the room turned on a projector. Once it had started, he began a video. The crowd watched in shock as Peter was ordered to bribe the union officials. They were furious upon seeing the union officials take the money and run. People were tearing up their union cards by the end of the film.
Once it was over, Tim returned to the microphone. “I cannot in good conscience remain loyal to an organization that abandons me to the whims of individuals like SAS the Turd. Tomorrow afternoon, I will lead a meeting to call for a vote on whether Galileo Industries will become a union shop or not. It will be a shareholder meeting, not a union meeting, and you will vote your shares. If you have ten shares, you get ten votes. It’s that simple.
“As owners, you can attend the quarterly shareholder meetings and vote on issues determining the direction in which the company moves. When you purchase shares tomorrow, you will receive a report assembled by the current board of directors. Now there are some things I’m sure that you want to know. I’ll turn this microphone over to Peter.”
The crowd was totally silent by this point in time. They had all expected to be given their walking papers, not allowed to become an owner of the company. This was something none of them had even imagined was possible. It did explain the whisper campaign to hold onto every dollar they could because a huge investment opportunity was coming.
“Thank you, Tim. First, there are some details about the end of your employment with Newton that I should cover. Each of you will be given a check representing one week’s pay for every year that you’ve been an employee of Newton. For some of you, that will be a significant amount of money. I think everyone here will be able to afford a couple shares of stock.”
A huge cheer when up.
“Second, the contract we signed with Newton included a non-compete clause for a period of ten years. This prevents this factory from producing any products that it is making today for a period of ten years. Now this presented a dilemma for us. How can you run a factory if you don’t have any products?”
Everyone in the room sagged. All of a sudden it seemed they were being given the opportunity to buy shares in a company that was about to go broke.
“Well, we arranged a one-year contract with a Chinese firm to provide final assembly of their products. What that means is that we have work, but we’re going to have to rearrange the assembly lines that we have here. That will take time. Fortunately, we have the funding to cover operating costs during that time period. That includes wages.
“More importantly, it gives us time to arrange other contracts with other companies. It will give us time to identify products that we can manufacture here, that are ours and ours alone. Galileo will be a profitable company. With a little hard work on our parts, it will be around to provide employment for our children and grandchildren.
“Third, this company will belong to you. This means that you have to think about the company’s needs along with your own. We could easily suck the capital out of this company in two months time. If we do that, we’ll be left with nothing. Your children will grow up in a ghost town with rampant unemployment. We can give everything we make back to the company but live impoverished lives as a result. There’s a happy medium in there where we can live a good life, raise our families, prepare for our retirement, and keep a solid healthy company through good economic times and bad.
“When you purchase shares tomorrow, you’ll be accepting a responsibility to others.
“Now, I suggest you line up at the table in the back of the room to receive your final paycheck and severance check. Go home and share the good news with your family. I’m sure that they’ll be relieved to learn that tomorrow is definitely going to be a brighter day.”
Peter turned and walked off the stage. He managed to reach the hallway before anyone realized he was gone. He made his way to the office that had been his throughout the transition. He grabbed a bottle of tonic water from the mini-fridge and sat down at his desk. It was time for him to concentrate on the next step in his plan to save the country.
The first thing he needed was a new office. He mentally corrected himself. The first thing he needed to do was make another date with Rebecca. The second thing was to formally resign from Newton. Just having an executive shout that he was fired from another room wasn’t a formal ending of a work relationship. The third thing was the office.
He pulled out his cell phone and hit the speed dial.
“Who is this?”
“This is tall, dark, and handsome.”
“It sounds more like short, pale, and passable.”
Peter laughed. Rebecca did have a marvelous wit.
He had just hung up the phone from arranging a date for the upcoming Friday evening when Fergus Meyers and Tim Carroll entered his office.
“That went well,” Fergus said.
Tim said, “Very well.”
“Now that you’ve been fired, it looks like you need a job.”
“Yes, I’ve been giving some thought to that.”
“I know the plan was for you to purchase two shares and serve in an advisory role for a small salary, but you can scale up now.”
“No. I’ve got too much to do to be here full time.”
“What are you going to do for a living?”
“I’m going to start a mail-order business. Well ... actually it’s more of an online order business, but that sounds rather awkward rolling off the tongue. In fact, I was thinking of leaving now to find an appropriate office.”
“So we’ll see you tomorrow morning?”
“Bright and early. I want to be one of the first in line to buy stock.”
Peter made his way out to his car. He touched the button on his fob and the car started right up. He pushed a second button and the driver side door and trunk popped open. He went to the trunk and pulled out the camera on the telescoping rod. As was habit, he checked under the body of the car and under the seats for explosives. There was nothing.
A small crowd of people was watching him. One of them shouted, “You don’t need to do that now! Nobody here wants to see you hurt.”
Peter shouted back, “It’s not the folks here that I’m worried about. I just kicked Newton in the nuts.”
“The guy can take care of himself.”
“The first time he said that I wanted to laugh.”
“You weren’t the only one.”
“I’m glad he was on our side.”
“Think he’ll stay here?”
“He’s dating Chuck Arnold’s daughter, Becky. Even though they’ve only had two dates, Chuck thinks it’s serious.”
“There for a while I was thinking Chuck was crazy letting his daughter go out with Peter. I guess he knew something we didn’t know.”
“Did you notice that he wasn’t leading the charge to teach the company not to screw with us?”
“Now that you mention it ... I guess I didn’t. I didn’t even think about that.”
The woman at the realty company attentively listened to Peter outline what he wanted. The value of real estate had gone down significantly since the news about the factory closing had been announced. To be honest, she had expected to end up in a situation where she had a lot of empty houses listed and no customers. Like an overwhelming majority of people in the county, she was delighted to learn that was not going to be the case. The market hadn’t had a chance to recover yet after the news about the factory becoming employee-owned had been announced the previous day, so Peter could expect to get a pretty good deal on a place.
After spending a moment reviewing her listings, she said, “I think I have just the place for you.”
Fifteen minutes later, Peter was parked in the parking lot of a small office building that overlooked the river that fed the nearby lake. It was an older two story home that had been converted into an office building. The lawn around the sides had been paved over to make an entrance and an exit to the back which had been paved over to serve as a parking lot. There was plenty of parking space.
The woman was prattling on about the quality of the building, the good location, and other matters of importance to most individuals making a business purchase. She wanted to make a sale just to confirm to herself that the local market was going to recover.
Peter listened to her with only half of his attention using the trick he had employed in high school. His concerns were completely different. He was examining the place with an eye towards security. From the outside, it was pretty good. On the ground floor, there was a front and back door along with eight windows. The windows and doors could be reinforced. Surveillance cameras could monitor the surrounding area since there wasn’t anything obscuring the view. One large bush would have to be removed, but that was a matter of landscaping.
Inside the building, Peter walked through it with an eye towards where he would put his networks. He was planning on having a simple T1 line brought to the building, but it would connect to a network that occupied a single room, his nominal office from which he would run his internet company. He would have a second T1 line brought in that would connect to a second network which he would use for his forays into the Internet. He would have a third network which was not connected to the outside and would exist purely for scrubbing data and performing calculations on what he pulled from the internet. The majority of his computing infrastructure would remain outside of his physical environment, on machines scattered around the world.
The real estate agent eventually realized that she didn’t have his full attention. She basically stood back letting the building sell itself. Peter went through each room with a critical eye for how he could use it. He identified areas that could be used for storage space, a computing rack, a basic office, a public area, and so on. He knew that he was going to get it when he discovered a basement that could be converted into a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility). He might not be the government, but his paranoia was probably greater.
“I’ll take it.”
The sun rose on a long line of people waiting excitedly to purchase stock. At the head of the line was Fergus, Tim and then Peter. A lawyer and her assistant were seated at a table with the sheriff and three deputies standing beside him. The lawyer was there to manage the sales. There was going to be a lot of cash handed over and they didn’t want anything to mar the occasion.
At starting time, Fergus counted out ten $100 bills. The transaction was entered in the computer by the lawyer’s assistant. He received a small certificate noting his purchase of a thousand shares. Tim stepped up and counted out ten $100 bills. He received a certificate.
It was Peter’s turn. He held up two $1 bills and received his certificate for his purchase. The low value of his purchase was quite a surprise to everyone. They figured that he’d use his big Newton salary to buy a huge block of stock and basically end up running the company. Buying two shares cost less than the average person could dig out of the seat cushions of their couch.
He stood off to the side shaking people’s hands after they had purchased shares. He was genuinely surprised by how much money people were putting into the company. Nearly everyone brought a thousand dollars or more. One of the secretaries brought $10,000. These were not wealthy people. A lot of them were just scraping by on wages that hadn’t been adjusted for inflation for ten years. It was impressive to see them put so much into the company.
People were gathered around watching others buy shares when two individuals came walking up. One had been expected to show up sooner or later. Everyone knew that Jasper Wilcox was in Minnesota taking care of his wife while she was getting treated for cancer. He was on temporary leave and everyone figured he’d be offered shares upon returning to work.