Mark Hernandez sat in the boardroom in the headquarters of Hernandez & Son. Across the table from him sat his father, the C.E.O., Jerry Hernandez. It was clear that both of them had been there for a while; papers and files were spread out in front of them, empty plates and bottles lay there from past meals, their coats were off and their ties loosened. Jerry leaned back tiredly in his seat, and Mark was rubbing his eyes, clearly exasperated.
Drumming his fingers on the table, Mark said, “I disagree, Dad. Look, I’m the C.F.O.; I know what I’m talking about. We’re going to have to cut executives’ salaries in order to maintain those jobs.”
Before he had finished talking, Jerry was shaking his head. “No, for the thousandth time, no! We’ve cut executive salaries three times in the last month in order to keep those workers’ jobs. Enough’s enough.”
“Dad, do I have to remind you that not only are these workers essential to the company, but our company already looks fragile to investors and Kramer Inc. is looking to make a hostile takeover? Laying off three hundred workers will do nothing to improve our situation!”
“Cutting executive salary has done nothing to improve our situation! We’re trying to turn this company around; when an idea doesn’t work, we drop it and move to the next one.”
“The cuts in pay allowed us to avoid laying off workers before now.”
“Look, Mark, I earned my pay, and I’m not going to give all of it up!”
“And these workers didn’t earn their jobs by coming in each day and working for us? Look, executives are still being paid too much for the company to handle in its current state. You also seem to have forgotten that the workers have also taken a cut in pay. We’re coming out with a new product in a few months, this is only temporary!” When Jerry didn’t respond, Mark added, “We’ve got to adapt to the times to make the company succeed!”
Jerry looked away coldly. “We’ll take this up tomorrow. Executive pay stays.”
Sighing, Mark got up and headed towards the door. Pausing, he turned back and said, “You know, everyone knows that you’re ill, and not one person has asked you to reform the executives’ health care options as a way to conserve costs. I think you owe them for that.”
Hours later, Mark sat in a bar, an empty mug sitting next to him as he stared into space. A man walked into the bar and sat next to him, patting him sympathetically on the shoulder. “Tough day at work, Mark?”
Mark looked up to see that the Chief Scientific Officer, Sherman Wilson, had come to join him. Shaking his head, Mark said, “He just doesn’t understand the danger that’s coming. In his heart, he doesn’t see that this company is crumbling. If we allow this layoff, that’s it for the company.”
Wilson nodded. “I know, Mark. I think your father knows, too. He just doesn’t want to admit it.”
Mark pounded the table in frustration. “I don’t get it! My father is a good businessman. Why’s he doing this? Why now, of all times?”
“I don’t know. I do know that if things don’t start improving fast, we don’t have chance of keeping Kramer Inc. away.”
“We have to convince the board to override my father on this.”
“Your father’s pretty adamant—.”
“If my father defies the Board of Directors, then they’ll fire him.”
“Are you willing to let that happen?”
Mark stared into his empty cup. “My father charged me with finding a way to save the company, and I’m going to do that.”
Wilson sighed deeply. “Are you meeting with them tomorrow?”
“I have one last meeting with my father. If that fails, then…” Mark nodded slowly, unwilling to even say what the next step would be.
Wilson got up. “Go home and get some rest, Mark. You’ll need it for tomorrow.”
The next day, Mark walked pensively through the office building on his way to meet with his father. He watched people bustle through the space, almost running to file reports, complete projects, and write up budgets. Mark wondered how it came to this. How could his father put his personal salary above hundreds of employees? It didn’t make sense to Mark. So much wasn’t making sense to him. Nodding absentmindedly to a passing group, Mark made his way to his father’s office.
Immediately, Mark could tell that something was off. His father was looking down at a piece paper, and whatever was written there seemed to have devastated him. “Dad?” Mark walked forward, concerned.
Jerry took a couple of moments to respond. “The product…”
“The product that we were counting on. The one that was supposed to be released in a few months… it failed a trial. It’s not going anywhere.”
Mark knew that this was a set back, but he was confused about why his father was taking it so hard. “We have other products, Dad. Something’ll work.”
Jerry didn’t seem to hear this. “I was counting on this… to make things normal again. To fill the hole in the budget…” Lifting his head, he looked directly into Mark’s eyes. “I’ve got to tell you something.”
“The doctors talked to me last week. My health… it’s regressing. I’m getting worse.”
Mark was already shaking his head. “You can’t let that shake you, Dad. We’ve got excellent doctors working on the problem. You’ll be fine.”
“Mark, I can’t run this company anymore. I’m too weak, and I’m too scared now. I’ve sent my resignation to the board… and they’ve made you the next C.E.O. I couldn’t ask for a better replacement.”