Stanley Bing

America's next top industry

There's one sector that's humming along nicely right now. It's just not what you'd call a growth business per se.

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By Stanley Bing, columnist


(Fortune Magazine) -- The mood is as black and sour as a canned olive. Flat is the new up. Every industry is either in the tank or circling the bowl. But wait! Not every one. There is, ladies and gentlemen, one area of vigor in this challenging environment, and those of us who are smart, savvy, and bent on survival would be well advised to jump on board.

It's the layoff business. Let's look at some of the available postings in this terrific new sector of corporate enterprise.

Associate Layoff Coordinator. This is nothing more than a glorified assistant post, but it comes with the knowledge that while times are bad, the last department to suffer layoffs is the Layoff Department. Pay grade: $35K and up.

Director of Layoff Services. This is perhaps the hardest job in the hierarchy, because here is where the rubber meets the road that leads straight off the cliff. This is the guy who has to talk to the guys who need to be talked to. It's a dog's job, but history shows that the ability to actually execute the tough stuff is what marks a person for future positions of power and influence. Guys who aren't willing to kill people simply don't do as well. Pay grade: $75K to $125K - not too bad for those who enjoy their work.

Vice President, Layoff Operations. A far less tedious and more conceptual post. The Vice President must plan the large-scale moves that are dictated from above. It's not all gravy, though. The VP is the one who's required to listen to the whining of middle managers when they are informed that a certain percentage of their headcount must be rendered into chicken fat. Pay grade: $125K to $225K, based on years of service and the amount of fear you can engender in every phone call.

Executive Vice President, Layoff Administration. Now we're in the first layer of the stratosphere, an altitudinous position most often occupied by a person who used to have a legitimate financial function when there were beans to be counted. Now that there are almost no beans, he counts heads. This is the individual who looks at the entire org chart and asks, "Why can't we simply eliminate the whole right side of this thing and have the left side do it?" Pay grade: $250K to $500K, plus a potential slice of what you help to save.

President, Layoffs Division. Here is possibly the saddest person in the entire layoff business. Seeing it all. Knowing that among the many people who must be asked to leave there will be a significant layer of high-middle managers who once were his friends. Ironically, most of the people on the Layoff team are actually oblivious to the fact that they work there. They believe they are still in Accounting, or Law, or Public Relations, or Finance, and are just on temporary Layoff duty. This guy knows he's in it until the last buzzard falls off its perch in Death Valley. Pay grade: $1 million? Two?

Chairman and Chief Executive Layoff-icer. "A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic," Josef Stalin observed. He spoke for the kind of farseeing leader who, at the nosebleed level, sleeps well every night after issuing the orders to do what must be done and leaving the details to others. That's not all the chief must accomplish, of course. He or she must also sell the appropriate statistics to the bloodthirsty Street. And the Street is buying. In fact, at this juncture, excellence in the Layoff game may be the very best product a corporation can sell the guys in charge of the really big picture. Pay grade: $5 million per year, unless he has the good fortune to be fired.

These are just a few of the niches you could find your notch in. Whatever you do, it pays to get a toehold and stay put. It's the only place today where you can be safe while practicing the Golden Rule of business. You know the one. Do unto others before they do it to you?  To top of page

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