The Secret Entrepreneur: Video conference calls left me raging against the corporate machine!

Naked cameos aside, video conference calls with corporate management became the bane of our Secret Entrepreneur’s life post-acquisition

Ever feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall? Wondered if other entrepreneurs feel the same? Even among business owners you consider friends you won’t get the full, unvarnished, truth about life as the CEO of a fast-growing business.

Bottling-up those darker, inner thoughts for fear of losing friends, colleagues, and clients can’t be good for you. That’s why our Secret Entrepreneur – a very real business owner known only to Startups.co.uk –has decided to lift the lid on the angst, frustrations, and realities of running a multi-million turnover company right here.

You may even know him, but we won’t be telling you who he is. Read on to find out what really bugs entrepreneurs after a big corporation acquires them…

Lessons in futile management

The pointless conference call is one of the cardinal sins of bad management. In my recent misadventures in large-corporate-land following the sale of one of my businesses, my role in the handover saw me being party to many of these extraordinary wastes of time, resources and money.

Investing hundreds of thousands of pounds in a video-conferencing system to connect offices around the world isn’t a good enough reason to have staff sit through pointless calls with no objective or clear benefit. Especially when those calls are scheduled by a CEO who should know better, seemingly purely to show that they are actually doing something. And even more so when that expensive system only works about 50% of the time.

One regular call in particular involved at least 12 senior managers whose collective hourly cost to the business must have been several thousands of pounds – yet every week they would undoubtedly all leave without having gained anything at all from the session. Except for one now legendary occasion where a colleague diligently joined the call from his hotel room on holiday, only for his wife to walk past the mirror behind him, completely naked.

As my time managing the handover began to come to an end, my ability to suck up these time wasting sessions (and many other things too – more on that soon) began to seriously wane.

At first, subversion started simply enough – things like a chat backchannel between some of the participants, with the main objective of trying to get someone to laugh inappropriately.

As the waste of time became less bearable though, things escalated – or rather, I escalated them.

My most memorable incident was ‘participating’ on a call, while nine timezones away, on the other side of the world (without anyone’s knowledge) and hosting a small dinner party.

I taped over the video camera on my laptop, put the mic on mute, claimed a technical issue, then proceeded to continue my evening with the volume on low and another colleague on the call primed to listen out for the (unlikely) mention of my name, at which point they would message me and I could jump in.

This amused my dinner guests no end, but no one at the company ever guessed.

I lost all faith and resigned two weeks later.

Read previous Secret Entrepreneur columns here on Startups.co.uk.

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