“Instant Gratification”    

Issue 31

By:  Ron Brounes  

November 1999


Recently, I experienced a morning that I will not soon forget (no matter how hard I try).  Early on, I received a phone call from my stockbroker (he prefers to be called financial advisor) who informed me that a company he recommended a few weeks back had dropped several points since we (I) purchased it.  He now suggested selling this position, limiting the losses, and pursuing even greater opportunities in other sectors.  We (I) had, after all, owned this security for almost an entire month and it had not performed as anticipated. 


Then a client called to complain about an article I had written and placed in a business trade periodical on her behalf.  Although the issue hit the stands only two days before, just a handful of readers had called to offer her feedback.  She had expected the phone to instantly begin ringing off the wall, even before she ordered and distributed reprints to clients and  prospects.   A short time later, another client (a very long-standing client) phoned to insist that I submit an RFP (request for proposal) relating to a project that I perform for the company on an ongoing basis.  Though he was very pleased with my work, his department had enacted some cost cutting measures and was making all vendors resubmit such proposals regardless of the history and success of the relationship.  The client added that his personal bonus was now tied into the budget, so he had financial incentive to cut costs wherever possible.  He emphasized that no offense was intended (though some was certainly taken). 


By this time, I considered taking the rest of the day off.  But the phone rang yet again.  It was a friend’s son asking me to help redo his resume’.  Immediately, I quit feeling sorry for myself and offered condolences over the apparent loss of his job.  If memory served, I had just helped him produce a resume’ a few short months before, so this position had obviously not worked out.  The young (very young) man corrected me.  He had been with this firm for almost six months and felt that his value was worth more on the open market.  He had a strong “techy” background and knew his skills were in high demand.  He then shared with me his ultimate goal: to make millions of dollars at an Internet start-up company by age 25. 


Totally depressed, I decided to take a break from the grind.  My stock portfolio was tumbling, two clients were on my back, and a smart-aleck kid was preparing to pass me on the road to financial independence.  (On a bright note, I had already received more phone calls that morning than I often do over the course of a full day.)  I quickly turned to a subject that was sure to cheer me up.  I picked up the sports page only to read that my basketball team had just lost its fifth game in a row.  Sportswriters and fans were saying (demanding) that the coach should be fired, the aging star should be traded, and the owner should move the team to New Orleans.  And yet the season was only five games old. 




Once upon a time, society used to be long-term focused and goal oriented.  Investors purchased stock in a company because they were confident in the growth plans and future earnings potential.  Today, many investors are simply speculators, purchasing shares in unknown companies based on a tip from their cousin’s friend’s uncle’s partner with the intent of selling them rather quickly.  Managers are making more business decisions based on pricing considerations alone.  Many are no longer concerned with details like timeliness, accuracy, responsiveness, completeness, and problem resolutions, but instead worry solely about budgets and bonuses.  They often implement business strategies, only to quickly disregard them because the expected results were not immediate.  Crucial decisions are made from one earnings period to the next, with too little thought about the long-term. 


Continuity on a resume was once extremely important; individuals who had held several jobs within a short time frame were perceived as unstable and a hiring risk.  Today, employees stay at a company just long enough to attain certain skills and then peddle off those qualifications to the highest bidder.  Multiple jobs on the resume may now be perceived as aggressive career advancement.  Even in the sports world, this instant gratification is readily apparent.  Successful coaches get fired after one bad season; players have their best years when they are playing for a new contract.  Incentives are almost always structured based on individual (rather than team) performances.




While the domestic economy remains quite strong, many investors, managers, job seekers, and ballplayers alike are achieving tremendous successes, in spite of their seemingly short-sighted decisions.  Even so, everyone should remember that forsaking the future for the present could ultimately have devastating results.  Early investors in AOL and Dell cost themselves a pretty penny by selling out after that initial price surge.  Companies that constantly change vendors to save money, may find themselves dissatisfied with the level of the new service; some even lose business because of poor execution and dissatisfied customers.  Athletes who make outrageous salary demands, occasionally cost themselves in the long-run.  Fired coaches often come back to haunt impatient owners. 


Individual and company goals should be set with an eye toward the future.  Certainly, short-term objectives create incentives to produce today, but they should always build on each other and lead to long-term successes down the road.  Company oriented incentives should be structured to benefit the group as a whole, rather than just a few managers and execs.  A team approach keeps everyone on the same page, working together for positive results. 


Vendors, suppliers, and customers should also be included in this “team” concept.  Strong relationships with strategic partners should lead to satisfied customers and more business down the road.  Remember, “Rome was not built in a day.”  For that matter, neither was IBM nor Microsoft.  Then again,  if anyone’s cousin’s friend’s uncle’s partner happens to be Bill Gates (timely choice), I could always use a good stock tip.  After all, I need to keep up financially with my friend’s son, who just landed a new job at an Internet start-up. 


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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH is a publication of Brounes & Associates focusing on business marketing and general communications strategies. Please call Ron Brounes at 713-432-1910 for additional information and look for my appearance in an upcoming episode of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”.  (If you can’t beat them, join them.)