A Vet’s True Tale

CFO's due diligence regarding the need to ''Support Our Ex-Troops'' was completely accurate, writes a reader. More letters: exit interviews are only half the story; planning problems start with people, not software; and more.

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Your article “Support Our Ex-Troops” (March) was excellent, 100 percent accurate, and in my case, very personal. In 1967 I was hospitalized at Philadelphia Naval Hospital after literally being blown up. The prognosis was that one day I would be deaf. I completed my four years of agreed-upon service, entered civilian life, and started my career. Time has now run out for me — it’s projected that I will be totally deaf within the next 24 months.

I filed my claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2005 and was granted a 10 percent hearing-loss disability per ear. Ten percent per ear with a total hearing loss pending just will not cut the mustard. I filed an appeal and was informed that my hearing date (no pun intended) would be at least two years out.

Your life drastically changes when facing the inability to hear your clients and students. I have enrolled in an American Sign class, placed my business on the market, and am endeavoring to cope with the reality of life as a deaf person at the age of 61. Your article hones in on the facts of life with the VA and its attempts to give Vietnam Vets the proverbial “scraps.” The hearing aids that were given to me were not only useless, but, according to the physicians who examined me, could not begin to address my loss.

To put the icing on the cake, the VA Hospital here in Spokane, Washington, closes its doors at 4:30 P.M. Recently we had a veteran arrive at the front door of the “Urgent Care/Emergency” unit at 4:35 P.M. His driver ran into the facility yelling that he had a man in his car who needed immediate help. The man was left literally on the ground — 10 feet from the door — while the staff called 911 for the Spokane Fire Department. He died while the staff looked on without lifting a finger to help him. (The complete story can be found in the March issue of The American Legion magazine, available online.)

As you can see, your due diligence was completely accurate. You are to be commended.

Dr. Tom Hudson

President

The Strategic Institute of North America Ltd.

Via E-mail

Debating the Merits

Your article “Reform Effort Rebuked” (Topline, February) failed to engage the recommendations or methodology of the Committee on Capital Markets Regulation on their merits. The article instead calls into question the committee’s independence and the necessity of a few of the 32 recommendations set out in the Interim Report it issued on November 30, 2006.

The article quotes a critic (The Corporate Library’s Nell Minow) who alleges that the committee fails to credit Sarbanes-Oxley for its positive contributions to the post-Enron capital-markets environment. We are compelled to reiterate two crucial points that will be evident to anyone who takes the time to read even the introduction and executive summary of the Interim Report.

The committee is deeply committed both to empowering shareholders and to maintaining the vital reforms introduced by Sarbox. These points are made abundantly clear on nearly every page of the report; in the introduction we state: “The better shareholders can protect themselves by using their voting power to hold management and directors responsible, the less they or the markets need to rely on actions of the courts and regulators.”

Going forward, the committee’s goal remains enhancement of the competitiveness of American capital markets by correcting the cost-benefit imbalances in our present regulatory scheme. Lamentably, rather than focusing on our methodology and goals, your article chose to impugn the objectivity of our membership, an error we hope will be corrected in future articles.

Hal S. Scott

Director

Committee on Capital Markets Regulation

Cambridge, Massachusetts


CFO responds:
The intent of the article was to describe the reception of the CCMR’s report in the marketplace rather than explain its contents, which had already been well publicized when we went to press. We neither called into question its aims nor impugned its membership, but reported on groups that do, while also acknowledging that some of the committee’s recommendations seem in line with the goals of its critics.

Start at the Top

The concept of rewards for a job well done versus nothing for a job poorly done is important (“Just Rewards,” February). A key concept in supporting a meritocracy is that base compensation and rewards should be a “full glass” for employees. This concept must be communicated and acted upon in every aspect of the company, including compensation and promotions. If done well, then bonuses, equity awards, and other incentives will reward the right behaviors. People will look forward to winning such rewards, rather than expect rewards for just playing the game. This culture starts at the top. If employees see top executives being rewarded according to the jobs accomplished, rather than simply for the title held, they will buy in to the overall message. Bifurcating pay from accountability tears apart a meritocracy and often leaves you with only those for whom winning is not a goal.

Dan Walter

Via E-mail

Both Sides of Retention

As the vice president of HR for a Fortune 130-something corporation before it was acquired by a competitor, I observed the upside and downside of exit interviews (“Parting Shots,” February). Bottom line? I believed then, and still do, that exit interviews play an important role in discovering the various workplace issues troubling employees who leave the organization.

And while exit interviews may help us get a handle on the reasons employees depart, we should devote at least as much time to determining why people stay. We can accomplish that through interacting daily with subordinates, paying close attention to the rumor mill, using confidential surveys, promoting an open-door policy, holding periodic employee meetings, and so on.

Only by exploring both sides of the employee-retention equation can we understand our organizations’ turnover numbers.

Ronald J. Rakowski

Principal

HR Learning Systems LLC

Southbury, Connecticut

Don’t Blame the Software

I am shocked at the lack of adequate planning and budgeting by so many companies (“The Last Mile,” January). More than 40 years ago, we put together effective business plans, including budgets, and line personnel were intimately involved. And we did it without computers and without emotional strain.

It seems to me the author looks at budgeting as something separate from planning. Effective budgets cannot exist without a business plan. Using the author’s jargon, the reference should be P&B, not the other way around. Planning (including budgets) is really a line activity, and if line personnel do not get involved, it is the fault of senior management, not poor computer software.

It seems that the only thing the author and referenced CFOs can offer to improve things is to replace poor computer software with new software. Planning problems are not really about software. They are a people problem.

Allen B. Richards

Punta Gorda, Florida

Corrections

In the article “It’s Not Who You Know, It’s How Many” (Your Move, January), the database program ACT was incorrectly cited as a Microsoft product. It is, in fact, from Sage Software.

In “Private Equity Attracts Public Scrutiny,” Bruce Evans was incorrectly identified as CEO of private-equity firm Summit Partners. He is a managing partner at the firm’s Boston office.

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