It s a Problem, Jack


It's a Problem, Jack

Maynard returned from his summer at Walloon Lake tanned, relaxed , and fit as usual. But only a few weeks later he was in an uncharacteristically dark study. The problem was an especially bad Lansing economy. As the rest of the nation had inched somewhat out of the Depression, the automobile industry nose-dived, and the whole J. C. Penney district of Michigan-Ohio was affected. For the year, the district was down 23 percent, with Maynard's Lansing store down 7 percent.

"The automobile industry had its own private Depression that year," Batten recalled. "In Lansing we had Oldsmobile, REO, and Motorwheel and a lot of suppliers, and everybody was hurting. Business at the store was way off, but even so we were a lot better than the district numbers . Still, who loves a loss? And Maynard was very competitive. He just hated the idea of a loss on those comparison sheets in New York. So he was becoming more and more tense. Everybody could sense it."

After Batten oversaw taking inventory at the end of that year, he and the first-floor manager were talking in his office. They compared notes on how rough it was and what could be done about it. Adding gloomy emphasis to the discussion, Maynard appeared and just quietly hung by the door with a downcast expression. "It was the only time I ever saw him so discouraged," Batten recalled. "He was basically a very optimistic person. But now he was discouraged and terribly tense."

At his desk, Batten excused the floor manager and then rose looking at Maynard. "Oh, and Mr. Maynard?" Batten added, with formality because the dismissed associate was still within earshot.

"Yes, Mil?" the manager said distantly.

"On another matter, may I see you in your office?"

"Certainly," Maynard replied in a flat voice.

Batten closed Maynard's door. "What is it, Mil?"

"Jack, did you know you are very tense these days?"

"I do. And it worries me," Maynard said. "I'm afraid I might say or do something wrong because of all of the pressure we're under."

"Well, in my opinion what you ought to do is take a vacation."

"I was on vacation all summer."

"But I think you ought to take another vacation as well."

"You do?"

"Yes. The best thing that could happen for this store right now is for you to get out of here. Everybody knows your every breath , even when you're at Walloon Lake. And everybody sees how worried and tense you are, and now they are getting worried and tense."

"I see. I never thought of that."

Batten nodded. "It's a problem, Jack."

"Well, okay. If that's what you think, I'll get out."

"It would help."

"All right."

Maynard left that afternoon with his wife. They stayed at an American Plan resort hotel in Indiana, where, for two weeks, they canoed, hiked, enjoyed two- hour dinners, and spent evenings in the bar listening to a good combo.

When the manager returned, refreshed and in good humor, the staff's morale soared. The store soon returned to profit. "That was the only time I ever saw him close to changing his management style," Batten recalled. "And had he succumbed to giving direct instructions, we may not have survived."




Celebration of Fools. An Inside Look at the Rise and Fall of JCPenney
Celebration of Fools: An Inside Look at the Rise and Fall of JCPenney
ISBN: 0814471595
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 177
Authors: Bill Hare

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