One of my favorite musicals is “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” by Frank Loesser. It’s certainly one of the best Broadway shows ever written. I’ve seen it several times. Early in the first act there is a song called “The Company Way“. It’s great. It’s perfect. Here are the first few lines:
Twimble: When I joined this firm
As a brash young man
Well, I said to myself,
“Now brash young man,
Don’t get any ideas.”
Well, I stuck to that,
And I haven’t had one in years.
Finch: You play it safe.
Twimble: I play it the company way;
Wherever the company puts me
There I stay.
Finch: But what is your point of view?
Twimble: I have no point of view.
Finch: Supposing the company thinks…
Twimble: I think so too.
Middle managers are not rewarded for creativity or risk. They are a whole different species from entrepreneurs. My experience is that middle managers are primarily about protecting their asses. They are not about the new. They are not about the cutting edge. They are about keeping their jobs. Avoid them like the plague. The efficiencies and savings your new product or service offers may indeed obviate the need for the very middle manager you are pitching.
The primary reason my own firm, Corporate Rain International, only does high-end sales initiation with real strategic corporate decision makers is that all else is a huge time waster. In executive sales outsourcing, even if you are eventually pushed down to a middle manager for a final sales decision by a company leader, it is with a strategic mandate. A different ballgame entirely than going bottom up.
If things go bad, the middle manager always wants to be able to say, “But I hired IBM…” or “But I hired McKinsey…”. He sees no reward for backing your pipsqueak, out-of-the-box creative company, no matter what the potential upside for his corporation.
Quoting “The Company Way” further:
Finch: When they want brilliant thinking
Twimble: That is no concern of mine.
Finch: Suppose a man of genius
Twimble: Watch that genius get suggested to resign.
“How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” opened on Broadway in 1961. I assure you things haven’t changed. Here’s a picture of Frank Loesser, composer and sales guru (1910-1969). Thank you, Frank.