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The Taming of the Crew
 

Jerry Strahan, general manager of street-vendor Lucky Dogs, has spent nearly 30 years shepherding a staff of vagrants, thieves, and other miscreants. A lesson in the true basics of good managing.
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You think you have problems with your workers? Compare your staff with the unruly employees at Lucky Dogs. Managing them takes a special kind of skill

If Jerry Strahan were the kind of manager who demanded whip-crack obedience, his tenure at Lucky Dogs Inc. would have been as short-lived as a wiener left out in the New Orleans summer sun. But Strahan demands virtually nothing from his employees, which is why he has survived 28 years in a position Job would have quit on the second day. As general manager for the approximately $3-million hot-dog-vending company, Strahan rides herd on a workforce lousy with drifters, alcoholics, insubordinates, petty thieves, not-so-petty thieves, brawlers, and the occasional psychopath. To tat a profitable enterprise from these loosest of loose threads, he has learned to be endlessly patient, flexible to the point of fluidity, and content to take his victories where he finds them.

Today, for example, Strahan is mildly exultant because Kenneth Schmitt has finally moved out of the elevator shaft. It's not that Schmitt couldn't afford his own digs; the hot-dog vendor was sufficiently flush to put down six months' rent on an apartment the day he left. But the shaft--which houses a primitive rope-pulled system that hasn't been used in years--had much to recommend it, including space enough for a bedroll and proximity to a shower and walk-in cooler. Then there were the claims of tradition: another vendor had inhabited the shaft in Lucky Dogs' previous quarters on Decatur Street on the fringes of New Orleans's sultry French Quarter. "The elevator shafts are very popular in this company," says Strahan dryly.

Strahan, a broadly built man of 48, is quick to point out that live-in help is not the norm at Lucky Dogs. When Schmitt moved in a year ago, the general manager had done what he does countless times every day--chosen his battles. And given Schmitt's 14 years of service as a more-on-than-off-again weenie vendor and the fact that he no longer showed up for work dressed as John Wayne or Doris Day, Strahan opted not to fight that one. "If anyone else asks, 'Can we sleep in the shop?' the answer is no," Strahan says. "That elevator shaft will never be occupied again. That's a rule I hope we won't have to break."

But at Lucky Dogs rules are made to be broken, not to mention laughed at, ignored, or simply not understood. "We make a set of rules and they're good for about 10 minutes," says Strahan. "You have to set rules, you have to semi-enforce them, you have to be very forgiving when they're not followed; otherwise you don't have carts out. You can't eliminate the madness. Sometimes you can control it."

Certainly, the men and women who propel Lucky Dogs' 10-foot-long hot-dog-shaped carts through the Quarter's nightly bacchanalia are unlikely adherents of corporate orthodoxy. They include people like day manager Paul Hager, a bluff fellow with thatchy white eyebrows, whose efforts at staff discipline have at times degenerated into slapping and shoving matches. ("If you've got some you can't reason with, you actually have to get physical with 'em," Hager drawls.) Then there's Larry Griffiths, a onetime aerospace engineer laid low by downsizing and lithium. Once, just days after a coworker warned Strahan that a note threatening Strahan's life had been found in Griffiths's apartment, Griffiths called Strahan to hit him up for cigarette money. And Joe Mayfield (recently deceased), who many years ago stole $800 from Lucky Dogs' safe, skipped town for a long stretch, and was eventually made a manager after his--and some of the money's--return. Talking with those people or listening to Strahan recount their biographies, you begin to suspect that some invisible hand has lifted the country by its northernmost edge and given it a good shake, sending all the loose bits tumbling down to New Orleans, where they've settled at Lucky Dogs.

You are also reminded that running a company, like raising a child, is not a by-the-book activity for everyone. In the real world every company is a unique amalgam of personalities, history, and environment, a messy organism that must be managed with skill and ambition, yes, but also with realistic expectations and at least a smidgen of unconditional love. Strahan's choices are often counterintuitive; many would undoubtedly dismiss them as plain wrong. But by playing to Lucky Dogs' idiosyncrasies and accepting the limitations inherent in managing below Maslow's hierarchy, he has both kept the company functioning and helped to make it successful.

Strahan doesn't presume to recommend any best practices--unless they're for making the best of a bad situation. But at Lucky Dogs, as at any company, sometimes that's the most you can do.

Considering how motley Lucky Dogs' real-life crew is, it's ironic that the company's most flagrantly peculiar employee is fictional. He is one Ignatius J. Reilly, the elephantine, hairy-eared, hunting-hatted, bellicose nutcase who is the hero of John Kennedy Toole's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Confederacy of Dunces. In Confederacy, Ignatius's listless quest for employment lands him at Paradise Vendors Inc., a street-vending company of indifferent hygiene staffed by the dregs of the scum of the earth. ("I wouldn't eat nothing outta one of them dirty wagons anyway. They all operated by a bunch of bums," says Ignatius's mother, voicing a sentiment expressed repeatedly throughout the novel.) Paradise Vendors, as anyone in New Orleans will tell you, was modeled after the Lucky Dogs of the 1960s, a time when it had "a very bad name in the city," says Doug Talbot, the company's owner since 1969. "The vendors were just about all wild. People thought they were dirty. Unsafe. Rude."

Lucky Dogs' nontraditional workforce got a second airing in 1998, when Strahan published a memoir of his quarter-century with the company, Managing Ignatius: The Lunacy of Lucky Dogs and Life in the Quarter (Louisiana State University Press). That book focuses chiefly on the 1970s and 1980s, when the vending pool reached dizzying heights of disrepute. "I can remember guys sitting around comparing wardens," says Strahan. In those days the company's workers--mostly shell-shocked Vietnam vets and wintering carnival workers--lived in more or less constant thrall to the neighborhood's exotic pleasures. The neighborhood was different, too. "When we were in the Quarter, it was sailors, it was hookers," says Strahan, nostalgically. "Today it's House of Blues, it's Planet Hollywood."

Life at Lucky Dogs these days is also tamer. The company's current headquarters, a 19th-century building with faded-red garage-scale doors and no identifying sign, sits just outside the Quarter in a neighborhood of staid banks and hotels. On this day a few men of varying degrees of scruffiness lounge around the entrance. Inside, a dozen carts, their fiberglass buns in white shading to brown, rest against the wall near a Coke machine, a washer-dryer, and tanks of carbon dioxide. A ceiling fan lazily whips the air, which is ripe with smells, some of them from food, some of them not.

Up a dingy flight of stairs, at the back of a cavernous storage space, is Strahan's office. It is spare and orderly, the high white walls adorned with a deer's head, Lucky Dogs memorabilia, and blueprints related to the general manager's grand passion: the landing crafts of World War II. (The first book Strahan wrote was a biography of Andrew Jackson Higgins, designer of the boats that moviegoers know from Saving Private Ryan.) Sitting at his desk, Strahan fields panicked calls from a vendor at the airport who is running low on supplies and wants the general manager to solve the problem from a 20-mile remove. "All he needed to do was call Mike [Russell, an assistant manager] on concourse B or walk over to him and say, 'I need some more," says Strahan, putting down the receiver with a sigh. "But instead he calls here and wants me to call Mike. Which is fine. Sometimes they just don't think for themselves. If it makes them more comfortable and it's that simple of a problem, then you do it."

Between calls, Strahan tries to explain the strange mathematics by which--even though staff appear and disappear without warning and no one can predict who will show up on any given day--there are always enough bodies to keep hot dogs flying off the company's 22 carts. "The key to being successful in this type of transient business is to have enough dependable people who know how to do enough different things so that there's always someone in control," Strahan says. Later, for example, the general manager himself will descend into the shop to scrub carts, substituting for "Big Alice" Knight, who the previous Saturday had run over her own foot with one of the 650-pound hot dogs, breaking two toes.

Replacing people is made easier by the fact that there's not much to learn: in many ways the 52-year-old Lucky Dogs is still a 1940s business. Vendors need no skills beyond making change; managers must be able to set up carts and count the day's takings. Technology presents no learning curve because, aside from the PCs that Strahan and owner Talbot use, there is no technology. When the general manager wants to get in touch with someone who has drifted out of town, he simply mentions it to the next vendor getting on a bus. "The people I'm looking for are going to be at the mission or the Salvation Army," he explains. "And the guy I'm asking to pass along my message is going to go to those same places, so he's going to run across them. You'd be amazed: two or three weeks later the person I'm looking for will contact me. It's like beating the drums in the old Tarzan movies."

Also key to keeping the business running is setting expectations worm's-belly low--and then praying the vendors meet them. "I tell the vendors, 'You need to be neat, you need to be clean, you need to be on time, you need to be polite, and you need to be conscientious," explains Strahan. "But the vendors say to me, 'Jerry, if I could be all those things, I'd be working in an office building on Poydras Street. Can we go for three out of five?"

Three out of five is dandy by Strahan, who dismisses the traditional code of business behavior as impractical for Lucky Dogs. "Most companies will say, 'If you don't show up for work, you're fired. If you show up for work drunk, you're fired," says Strahan. "Here, if you show up for work drunk, at least I've got to give you a C minus because you showed up." Since erratic behavior is the norm--Schmitt's dressing like a woman, Hager's getting riled and slamming the counter with a metal pipe in an attempt to get a drunken vendor's attention--Strahan chooses to react with unflappability rather than censure. Recently, when a vendor disappeared for a while and then showed up barely able to stand and smelling like a winery, Strahan asked him to explain himself. "He said, 'I thought I was pregnant," recalls Strahan. Not missing a beat, the general manager replied: "In your condition you probably shouldn't be working. Why don't you go home and we'll talk about it tomorrow?"

Indeed, Lucky Dogs' entire ethical framework is a matrix of relative sins, uniquely structured for compatibility with the street. "I know down here the guys are going to mess up generally," says Strahan. "You tell them they can't drink. People offer them drinks all night. So it's like a game. If I see that they're drinking too much, I bring them in. But if they're hiding a beer in a coffee cup, they're not openly saying, 'Hey, I'm going to drink in spite of the rules.' So you tend to look the other way. You could catch them all if you wanted to."

Strahan has been looking the other way since 1971, the year he started working as Lucky Dogs' relief manager as a freshman at the University of New Orleans. Over the next six years he ping-ponged between frankfurters and academia, eventually abandoning his plans to teach history and settling in to wrangle vendors full-time. Although 28 years with one company sounds like a career, Strahan bristles slightly at the suggestion that Lucky Dogs is his life's work. "I think any time I wanted to leave, I could," he says. "I could go back and teach--I'd probably have to take one or two more courses, but I could find a school to teach at. It's not like I'm forced to stay."

But Talbot is thrilled that Strahan has chosen to set a spell, chiefly because it allows the owner to maintain a sanity-preserving distance from the Quarter. From his well-appointed suburban home, Talbot handles Lucky Dogs' finances and plots forays into new markets--all of which have been shipwrecked on the rocks of politics and miserable luck. (The notable exception was Lucky Dogs' 1993 expansion into New Orleans's airport; sales there account for $1.4 million.) "If I hadn't found Jerry, I would have had to manage the vendors myself. But let me tell you, not everybody can do it," says Talbot, who is grooming sons Mark, 32, and Kirk, 30, to take over the business. "Jerry has more patience than I ever had with these people." Talbot's absence bestows on Strahan freedom, authority--and a convenient scapegoat when he has to make unpopular decisions. "I had a vendor say he thinks Doug doesn't exist, that he's a hand puppet Jerry talks to," says day manager Hager, who claims to have seen Talbot only a dozen times in the past 16 years.

Talbot's ambivalence about Lucky Dogs--his pride in the product, his reservations about the staff--date back to 1969, when he acquired the company almost against his will. Having just sold his interest in an Orange Julius franchise, he was looking around for a new venture and starting to feel a little desperate. "When you're young, newly married, a new father, all you think is, how the hell am I going to support this family?" he says. Talbot had heard for years that Lucky Dogs was for sale, and he liked the mechanics of selling hot dogs--the quick deal, the freedom from malls with their overhead. He also liked the French Quarter, which he found "fascinating, despite all its problems." And Lucky Dogs was profitable, with $40,000 a year in sales. On the downside the carts violated every health code on the books--no refrigeration, no sneeze guards, no hand-washing facilities. And then, of course, there were the vendors.

Still, Talbot figured it was worth making a call to Stephen Loyacano, the man who had founded Lucky Dogs with his brother back in 1947. Loyacano had originally asked $200,000, but as time passed he dropped the price to less than a third of that amount. "He just wanted to get out," says Talbot. "But there were so many negatives that it scared the hell out of me." Talbot declined to buy, but Loyacano persisted. "We kept going through this night after night," says Talbot. "I kept saying, 'Mr. Loyacano, you're wasting your time.' And he kept saying, 'Just make me an offer.' Finally, just to get him off my back, I said, '$15,000.' And he said, 'OK.' And I said, 'Oh shit, what am I going to do now?"

At the time Talbot calculated the company's life expectancy at a year or two. But Lucky Dogs proved surprisingly resilient. A grandfather clause passed by the city council restricted street vending in the French Quarter to companies that had been operating there before 1964, effectively granting Lucky Dogs a monopoly on wiener sales. Costs were low and flexible: vendors worked--and still work--as subcontractors for a 16% commission plus tips. (Day and night managers, most of whom rise from vendor ranks, are on salary; so are cleanup people.) Since Lucky Dogs rented no retail space, it was easy to adjust the number of carts on the street as sales ebbed and flowed. And after a few years the company managed to field a fleet of carts that more than satisfied the city's rigorous health code.

Talbot also found that Lucky Dogs had achieved a weird kind of celebrity outside the city, as evidenced by a flood of letters from visitors who were tickled by the carts. "You've got to notice us: a damn hot dog that big sitting out in the street," Talbot says.

But while the carts burnished Lucky Dogs' reputation, the vendors continued to tarnish it. Today most people who wash up on the company's doorstep find their way through word of mouth, but for years Talbot and Strahan recruited bodies--able and otherwise--in missions and on street corners. As a result the company's public face included one vendor with a hulking mass of hair who wadded all the money he made into tiny balls and piled it on top of his cart, and a vendor who would get drunk and scream, "Damn Yankees, go home if you're not going to buy a hot dog!" at passersby. "We've tried to get better people," says Talbot. "We've tried ads and employment agencies. But most people can't take the street."

With pickings so meager, Strahan doesn't turn away many applicants. Anyone who is clean, reasonably personable, can make change, and has an ID--even the occasional prison ID is OK--gets a cart. The general manager doesn't check references, although for years he gave the names of all applicants to the FBI, which wanted to keep track of who was drifting in and out of the Quarter. ("The good thing was that it showed me we weren't having major problems. That was refreshing," Strahan says.) And even after 28 years of almost nonstop hiring, Strahan doesn't claim extraordinary prescience about who will or won't work out. "I've seen guys that I thought would steal the money by 8 p.m. who've stayed here for years," he says. "I've seen guys I thought would stay here for years take the money by 8 p.m." His only rule of thumb: Don't trust the applicant who tries to sell himself. "Many times guys will come in here and they'll say, 'I'm looking for permanent work," says Strahan. "They're gone in two or three days. They said that just to impress me. So give me the guy who says, 'I'm only going to be here for a day or two,' because at least he's telling the truth."

The unreliability of new recruits and Strahan's reluctance to stock Lucky Dogs' ranks with tenderfeet forces him to be generous with second chances. "It's the guy I haven't caught who worries me, because he's probably smarter than I am," says the general manager, explaining why he not only rehired a man who stole $800 from the company but also made him a manager. "Joe [Mayfield] was in his mid- fifties when he took the money and probably 60 or so when he came back," says Strahan. "He wasn't going to run anywhere. He was sorry for what he did. And in the end I got more out of him than he ever got out of us."

Another returned prodigal son sometimes does maintenance on the company's carts. Today he works peacefully alongside Hager--even though it's been only four years since he was charged with holding the day manager and another employee, both longtime friends of his, at knifepoint. The charges were eventually dropped, and the maintenance man was soon back on Lucky Dogs' doorstep, angling for his old job. Strahan turned him away but after a few months agreed to let him work on the carts occasionally--at Hager's behest. "In this job you've got to forgive and forget," says the day manager, waving a hand as if to shoo away any lingering resentment. "If I held a grudge, there'd be a lot of people who wouldn't be working here."

Strahan insists that real violence--anything more serious than the waving of fists and the hurling of objects--is fairly rare at Lucky Dogs. But there's a lot of yelling. Emotionally, some of the vendors aren't wrapped too tight, the general manager says, and little things set them off. "I've had people want to kill each other because somebody took somebody else's onions," he says.

Strahan doesn't mind the screaming--the vendors' anger is as quick to fizzle as it is to ignite. And when the screaming is directed at him--as it often is--he happily responds in kind, at first raising his voice above his adversary's, then quickly lowering it and assuming a gentler tone. "I'll say, 'Look, I'm screaming at you, you're screaming at me, why don't we talk about this reasonably?" he says. "Sometimes that calms them down." It's a lesson he's trying to instill in Talbot's sons. "Paul Hager absolutely blew up at Mark the other day, and Mark said, 'I want to fire the son of a bitch.' And I said, 'Mark, do you want to do his job?"

Strahan describes his approach as a "fluid type of management, person by person, instant by instant." In practice he generally responds to infractions brought on by the heat of the moment with a brief squall, and those he considers calculated with a slow freeze. So when night manager Charles Pike recently threw his keys at Strahan and screamed, "I quit," for example, Strahan simply threw the keys back, yelling, "There won't be any mutinies! Now get back to work!" But when Pike specifically requested to work one New Year's Eve--Lucky Dogs' biggest night outside of Mardi Gras--and then chose instead to deliver pizza for another company, the general manager decided a line had been crossed. "I banned him from the shop for a year," says Strahan. "I wouldn't talk to him. I wouldn't take his phone calls." Pike has been back at Lucky Dogs for five years now, "and he's shown up every New Year's Eve," says Strahan with satisfaction.

Strahan takes a similarly relativist approach to theft. Although it's been a while since any substantial funds have found their way from the company's coffers into the vendors' pockets--vendors hand in their money at frequent intervals during their shifts, so they never have much on them--some pettier pilfering still occurs. The most common ploy is buying cheap hot dogs at a supermarket, selling them off the cart, and pocketing the profits. Such transgressions aren't just forgivable, they're expected, says Strahan. But stealing from another vendor--snatching a couple of packs of hot dogs off someone else's cart, for example--is one of the few offenses on Lucky Dogs' nonexistent books for which workers can be fired. "If theft is perpetrated against me, I can live with it," says Strahan. "If it's perpetrated against another vendor, I can't live with that. The company can financially take the loss. For the other vendor the loss is proportionally much greater."

For all that Lucky Dogs' vendors are unreliable, volatile, occasionally dishonest, and sometimes violent--they are not bad salespeople. Otherwise the company wouldn't be profitable, as it has been almost every year since Talbot bought it. A few, like recently retired Bill McCarty, will sell just until they make enough to cover the day's food and rent--$20, say--and then lounge around the cart holding court for the street crowd. But one or two are what Strahan calls "greedy" vendors, meaning they're in the Quarter to make money rather than for the never-ending party. During peak periods like Mardi Gras, real hustlers can make a couple of hundred dollars in a 12-hour day.

James Hudson, 36, marked himself as a go-getter early in his career--selling 3,300 jumbo hot dogs over a three-day stretch during Super Bowl '86, a company record that stands to this day. At 8:30 in the evening, Hudson perches on a stool on the corner of Toulouse and Bourbon streets, directly in the stumbling paths of folks exiting both Pat O'Brien's (home of the "Hurricane") and Tropical Isle (home of the "Hand Grenade"). His clothes--a dark blue shirt and gray slacks--are immaculate. All the items on his cart--the rolls, the napkins, the ketchup and mustard dispensers--are carefully arranged for rapid access. The foil covering the hot-dog well has been peeled back--just at the corner--emitting a plume of fragrant steam into the night air.

Hudson, who generally shows up at about 5:30 p.m. and works until 4 or 5 a.m., is cagey about how much he makes on an average night. "If I told you, that would be unfair to the other vendors," he says, his eyes scanning passing faces for signs of peckishness. "But I'm the best. There's always what you call so-so, good, and a cut above. Michael Jordan is a cut above. What makes him a cut above? I can't explain it. And I can't explain why I am either."

Hudson's prowess may owe something to the excellence of his bark. Tilting his head back, the vendor demonstrates: "Hot dog! Chili dog! I normally don't do that until late at night," he explains, as startled revelers turn to stare. "When they've been drinking a lot, that's when it's most powerful with them. It gets in their heads. That's when you nail them." Not all of Hudson's marketing strategies are equally subtle, however. "Once there was a guy walking by wearing a suit," he says. "I walked right up to him and grabbed him by the tie and pulled him over to the cart and started making him a hot dog."

Vendors like Hudson present a different problem for Strahan. Because they care about money, they may pester him with ideas for "improving the business," which generally means offering cheaper products and turning the savings over to the sales force. To avoid such discussions, Strahan follows the advice of Harry T. Garland, his high school principal. In reverential tones, Strahan describes the day when, as the newly elected student-body president, he was called into Garland's office. "He said to me, 'This year we're going to argue over the dress code. You want to know the honest-to-god truth? I don't care if you have your hair to your waist, but as long as we fight over that, we're not fighting over the true issues. As long as the kids are willing to fight me over the unimportant issues, I'll fight them every day,' " Strahan recalls. At Lucky Dogs a "dress code" issue might be whether a particular vendor gets cart number five or cart number seven, and Strahan will cheerfully argue it from here until Tuesday.

Strahan's fondness for the vendors--and he clearly is fond of them, at the same time that he's exasperated, frustrated, and occasionally just plain fed up--appears generally reciprocated. "Jerry's good as gold," says Jim Campbell, a lean, life-worn vendor who's worked for Lucky Dogs on and off for 22 years. "I've always thought of him like a brother. When I need financial help, I'll say, 'Jerry, I need $100 real quick,' and he'll say, 'Fine.'

"He's also a great mediator," Campbell continues. "There's a lot of personalities here, and sometimes my personality may not mesh with somebody else's. Then Jerry's got to step in and work out a compromise. Occasionally, he'll lose control. Then the best thing to do is close your mouth and start being good."

Hager calls Strahan "Lucky Dogs' father figure," a critical role in a company "that's like a day-care center with a bunch of three-year-olds who never grew up. He's got sensitivity and a good sense of humor," says Hager. "Something stupid can happen; someone can do something that ticks him off, and the next minute he's laughing about it."

Strahan accepts that he's well suited to the job but can't say whether it's by nature or because he's been doing it so long. And--life's work or no--he admits that almost three decades at Lucky Dogs may have made him unsuitable for most other positions. "What has this prepared me for? To be the ringmaster at a circus? To handle transient fruit pickers in California?" Strahan asks. "I don't think my skills would translate to a normal company. I'd probably get in trouble real fast, violate a labor law or something."

He is silent for a moment, then slowly smiles. "Now if I were to leave here, and I had a choice to do one thing, the thing I think that I would prefer doing is research in some quiet archives somewhere. Isn't that strange?"

Leigh Buchanan is a senior editor at Inc.


THE WORLD ACCORDING TO STRAHAN

Thou shalt not write commandments
"Most of these guys are nonconformists, and they're set in their ways. They're not going to wear black pants and white shirts, even if we tell them to. So we have to be flexible. We make rules I know we're going to bend--I know we're going to break--because of the crew we have."

"Forgive and forget. Repeat
"You don't have to show up every day. If you don't show up today, that's fine, show up tomorrow. But if you don't show up, there's no grudge. They need work. I need vendors. It's a constant flow."

Embrace commuting
"I can think of only three times I've been in bars in 20-something years in the Quarter. And on those occasions I went in to pull out night managers who were having too much to drink. If I come to the Quarter, I know too many street people. I know too many vendors. I would never be able to have an enjoyable evening. The two times in my life my wife and I did come down, we ended up not going home together because I had to go solve a problem."

Their words are water. Be a duck
"Sometimes guys will come in and scream and yell or curse me out because I'm in some sense the figure they rebel against. And five minutes later they say, 'Can I have $10?' Because they don't mean it. And once you realize that what they're saying is not real, then you don't worry about it."

Cut off your nose to spite your face
"Unreliability is expected. But I have the ultimate lever, because I assign the vendors to their corners. And if a vendor doesn't show up, he risks getting a lower-traffic corner when he comes back, which affects how much he makes. So you can financially slap them on the wrist. But then you're financially slapping yourself on the wrist, because you're putting a guy who's not as good on a good corner, and he may not sell as well. Still, you do it."

Know when to use 'em. Know when to lose 'em
"One of our day workers is an alcoholic. And there have been times when he's gone out to lunch, got a bottle, come back, and got drunk. The easy solution would be to fire him. But I knew he was an alcoholic going in. So as long as he's sober, I'll use him. Then I may not be able to find him for two, three, or six weeks. Then when he sobers up, he'll come in again and maybe work for a month or two. It's a cycle."

There's always a right answer
"The vendors don't deal well with authority, but in most cases you can reason with them. There was the guy who wanted to work in Jackson Square. And I told him Chet Anderson had the Square. And he says, 'Wait a minute. Anderson leaves and comes back and you give him the Square back. But if I leave and come back, I don't get the same corner back. It isn't fair.' We argued about it for 45 minutes, and we weren't getting anywhere. So finally I said, 'Let me explain it another way. I like Chet more than I like you.' And he accepted that."

Last updated: Aug 1, 1999

LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor-at-large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture.
@LeighEBuchanan




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