My blogbuddy and best-selling author Larry Correia has an excellent analysis of why Borders shut down this week. He maintains it had nothing to do with the rise of e-books, as Borders management claim, and everything to do with mismanagement and corporate ineptitude. Here's a part of his experiences with the chain.
When I do a book signing at Barnes & Noble (the other big box book store), their managers are universally helpful, the staff is normally very knowledgeable. I’ve never had an event at a B&N where they forgot to get books. I’ve never had an event at a B&N where they didn’t seem glad to have me and my fans there. Event at Borders? I’d have a fifty-fifty chance of having management give a damn. Maybe fifty-fifty on the employees, who were usually just listlessly serving time. And only Borders (and one particular Indy store that shall remain nameless) have actually scheduled me to have a book signing, and then forgotten to order any extra books. This has happened to me twice at two separate Borders.
. . .
My reception at Borders usually ranged between negative to blah… It got to the point that if I had to choose between stopping at an Indy, a B&N, or a Borders, I would hit the Indy first, then the B&N, then the other B&N, then every other B&N within 20 miles, and then maybe the Borders… Unless I was hungry, tired, bored, or maybe just wanted to go back to the hotel in case there was something more important to do, like watch reruns of Walker Texas Ranger.
. . .
Here is how the average Border’s drive by on release week would go. Stand forever at the customer service counter… Get one employee who goes, er, huh? You want to what? You write books? Oh… Okay… Whatever. Then I would go and sign my 0-2 copies. (right next to the forty thousand copies of various True Blood tie-ins) Nobody would care. Then I would ask myself why I bothered stopping at Borders and drive to the next B&N.
Some were better than others. Some were downright pathetic. I’ve worked at crappy companies, where the morale is low because the employees know they are just waiting to get screwed by management. You can see it in their eyes. You can feel it in the air. Borders had that feeling.
Go read the rest of what he has to say.
How many other companies in America are run like this today? For that matter, how many companies anywhere are run like this? I suspect there are more than a few. In my time I've worked for some large multinational firms (BP, Shell, IBM). It was my experience that the further from the coalface you got, the more 'corporate group-think' had taken over. Success of middle to upper management was measured in terms of how well you played the management school game - Six Sigma; whether you'd implemented all relevant ISO standards (plus half a dozen that aren't); whether or not your entire team had been sent on (uber-expensive) Franklin Covey courses (following which they had to spend an hour or more each day documenting every billable second of their time using that organization's [equally expensive] planning and organizing products); and so on. The more senior these managerial drones became, the less they were interested in the company's actual field of business. Everything was generic management, not company-specific leadership.
Top management was the worst of all, leading all their lower-level supervisors down the primrose path with them. The late Robert Townsend, the one management guru for whom I have genuine respect, put it like this.
Top management is supposed to be a tree full of owls - hooting when management heads into the wrong part of the forest. I'm still unpersuaded they even know where the forest is.
If you're in business, and you haven't read Townsend's book "Up The Organization", you owe it to yourself to buy a copy and read it cover to cover - several times. When you've done that, throw away every other management book you've ever read. You won't need them any more.
It's a pity that none of Borders' senior management appear to have read it.