I'm OK. You're OK. R U Y2K? In 18 short months, you're gonna crash. Unless, that is, you start upgrading, pronto: new wife, new nose, new wardrobe. Oh, and stay away from elevators.
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – The Y2K guys just left. There were two of them, with black suits, fat ties, and narrow eyes. They gave me a package to help me get in Y2K compliance. It's a thick bundle, with lots of charts and other effluvial documentation. And after thumbing through it, I'm really worried. It's clear: I'm not Y2K. I'm a long way from Y2K. And time is running out.

So, R U Y2K? If you're not, get busy. Something terrible is going to happen to you on Jan. 1, 2000. If I understand things correctly, on that date, significant portions of people who are not Y2K will crash, and they'll just...stop working.

I don't want to stop working in less than two years!

It could happen to me, or to you. You'll be there, working perfectly well, and then--POW! Suddenly you won't be working anymore. And no amount of fixing and upgrading after the fact will help, because the world will be Y2K and you won't be, and tough luck for you, Sparky, because you had plenty of advance notice and just didn't take things seriously enough to get Y2K when the getting was good. For my part, I'm going to do the following things immedi8ly!

1. Take a very complete inventory. You need to figure out the size of your Y2K problem, starting with all your accoutrements. Use a big piece of graph paper to index all your Y1K stuff. There's no question that many of my clothes, for instance, are not Y2K at all, but are probably Y1.996K or less. Some of my wardrobe is actually Y1.968K, and last winter I went to a wedding and had to squeeze myself into a Y1.979K formal suit. Boy, was that uncomfortable!

2. Ascertain which peripherals need to be upgraded and which replaced completely. These include toothbrushes, stereo equipment, personal digital assistants, and any fruits and vegetables in the bottom of the crisper. Toss anything that looks funky and replace it with cool stuff. There's just no way that a person who drives a brand-new BMW Z3 roadster just stops working for no reason at all. Maybe he gets to work later, or leaves earlier, but stopping altogether? Forget about it!

3. Upgrade personal software. I don't know about you, but my physical software is slipping out of date. Take my nose, for instance. It used to be small. Now it looks bigger from certain angles. I have no idea why. But it seems to me that it can't be good to carry this much nose into the new millennium. And then there's the matter of my overall profile, which is far too pear-shaped, as far as I'm concerned. I'll have to move both up to the next level before Y2K strikes--through exercise, even, if that proves necessary. I'm studying that.

4. Contact all vendors to ensure Y2K compliance. Take the guy who cuts my grass twice a month. It has come to my attention that he uses a gasoline-powered lawn mower. That's got to stop. My mailman also does things the old-fashioned way, puttering up to my porch to put a wad of paper in my mailbox, which is not even virtual or cybernetic in any way, but actually made out of some metal or other and painted white. These people's archaic approaches brand me and mine as so last century, destined for collapse in the 2K operating environment. They've got about 18 months to get in the kind of compliance that reflects well on me. After that, they're out of here.

5. Right-size the organization. For the past several years, I've had one wife, two children, two cars, and one cocker spaniel. Last year we added a second spaniel for no reason other than that my wife found it cute. Cuteness is an insufficient criterion, in my opinion, to expand head count. Rational investigation of my entire personnel picture reveals other disturbing trends. Expense-account dining was up 57% in the past six quarters, for example. This while portions have been getting inexorably smaller! It's outrageous, and we're going to put a stop to it.

6. Upgrade wife and children. Whether this is a hardware or a software issue is open to question. I've got a team of McKinsey people working on it; a report is due in January. After that, I'll assemble a work group to recommend a strategy. When that's completed, I'm going to start looking at my friends. They could stand some improvement too.

7. Begin reporting personal income as Ebitda. I'm not sure how the guys at the IRS are going to like this, but from what I hear they're under a lot of pressure to get Y2K themselves, so maybe they'll take kindly to it. Operating profit wheezes in on the balance sheet all laden down with depreciation and amortization, which makes the whole picture look worse, especially for a guy who's toting around as much goodwill as I am. Last year I produced free cash flow growth in double digits, while my actual earnings per share, thanks to an onerous tax burden, were rather depressed at the end of the day. Ebitda takes care of that by focusing my personal performance for the new millennium where it counts: on cash in the pocket, baby!

8. Change my demographics. In a few years I'm going to be outside the key age group most favored by advertisers. That's very anti-Y2K. I therefore plan to stay in the younger demo until the older one is determined to be a safe place to live.

9. Stay off elevators. Have you heard this? I don't quite get it, but something's going to happen to elevators when the big day comes. Face it--all your efforts won't add up to a hill of beans if you're caught in a tiny metal box hurtling 45 stories to bedrock. This is sort of a short-term change, involving basically one or two days on or about Jan. 1, 2000. But it's incredibly important nonetheless. Being a gobbet of mucus and spittle on the floor of a twisted steel hulk is not the way to keep yourself working smoothly in the new millennium. A word to the wise!

10. Maintain ongoing good relationships with ultrasenior management. We're now close enough in to see that many of the Y1K senior officers are going to make it just fine into the Y2K environment. The implications are clear and very heartening for those who have put in quality time in the waning days of the millennium: All that hard work, project management, and sucking up have not been in vain if they have, in fact, helped you to forge a bridge to the next century. Walk across it and sniff that fresh air! You've made it! You've won! You're O-2K!

Ain't life gr&?

By day, STANLEY BING is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name.