/>In a bygone time there was certainty regarding your career, your job stability and plans for the future. If an individual worked hard and was a good employee at work, there was a good chance they could be there for life.
There were certain things that could be assumed. Those assumptions were the underpinning of your life. An employee could reasonably assume that income would steadily increase each year, the stock market would provide a steady rate of return which would provide opportunity for home ownership, college education for your children, annual vacations and eventually, a comfortable retirement.
Those assumptions seem to be relics of the 20th Century.
Now most employees work 10-12 hour days and are married to their job. Wild swings in economic fortunes continue to trouble us all and there is no certainty for our futures.
The economic angst is just one of the uncertainties faced by characters in my new novel.
Here is an excerpt about the sudden reversal of fortune facing the characters in “The Illusion of Certainty.”
As the team arrived on Monday, September 15th at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, the airport was abuzz about the economic crisis. Marc, Samantha and Jerry stopped to watch the airport monitors of CNN and CNBC. Over the weekend, Lehman Brothers collapsed and lost close to $7 billion because of bad bets on housing and commercial real estate markets. Lehman Brothers, one of the global investment banks, which was the fourth largest, had now lost 94% of its value. They were filing Chapter 11. Meanwhile, Merrill Lynch was purchased by the Bank of America.
There were reports that AIG (American International Group), the nation’s largest insurer, might be teetering on the edge of oblivion.
As the trio stood in the concourse of O’Hare, the stock market had lost more than 500 points. Analysts were talking about the credit markets freezing up, which would make it virtually impossible to buy anything.
This was also already being called “Black Monday.”
Jerry shook his head and said to Marc and Samantha, “What is going on? What does all of this mean?”
Marc and Samantha stood transfixed and didn’t answer Jerry’s rhetorical question. There was a sense they were witnessing something much more than a bad streak on Wall Street.
After they arrived at the client’s office building, all of the conversation was about the economic storm sweeping across the United States and the world. On Tuesday, the Dow Jones jumped up 140 points and it raised hopes that the storm was passing.
But, by the time Marc and his team of consultants left for Seattle on Friday, the stock market had lost another 1,000 points on top of Monday’s huge loss. There was also emergency maneuvering at the highest levels of the White House and Wall Street. The Fed convinced central banks to invest $180 billion in the global financial markets to keep commerce flowing.
The general setup for system implementation teams would be to set up work areas in a large open room. The consultants would spend the day tutoring the clients about how to configure the new system. However, the bulk of the work was to help the clients develop new procedures to be used in conjunction with the installation of the new system. Change was never an easy thing.
Some clients resisted changing their business practices and the general human tendency was keep things the same. The challenge of the consultants was to help the clients make the journey out of their comfort zone.
Marc’s job was to try to accomplish this business change with the upper management, who was often more entrenched in old practices than their underlings. Marc would also intervene when conflicts could be resolved at the lower levels. Ironically, after all of the turmoil in his personal life, Marc’s job basically boiled down to conflict resolution. He often gave con- vincing speeches to business clients or peers that “change is good.” This would make Marc wonder at times if he believed his own pep talks.
In the large open room that housed the implementation teams in Chicago, there were several flat-screen televisions tuned to various cable channels, mounted on brackets near the ceiling. Usually, the sound was left off and employees could occasionally glance up to see what was going on in the world.
This week, the sound was often turned up, particularly on CNBC, as the financially-oriented clients and consultants stood, looking up at the televisions with furrowed brows, trying to grasp the significance of the fast- moving events.
President George W. Bush addressed the nation and declared, “We are in the midst of a serious financial crisis. Our entire economy is in danger.” The next week a $700 billion bailout plan was proposed. The warning was, that without this rescue the entire economy could collapse. Something akin to the Great Depression was looming, seemingly out of nowhere.
Marc and his team headed to their favorite Friday watering hole—the Delta Crown Club at the airport. The four of them always gathered there before their flights left. It gave them a chance to do a post-mortem on the week and more importantly, have a good cocktail before heading home for the weekend. As they sat there on Friday night, they knew they would be right back in this concourse on Sunday night returning to Chicago. It was going to be a very short weekend. There were critical status meetings on Monday morning with the clients’ senior management. Therefore, the team had to fly back Sunday night. It happened often.
As they settled in at their table in the Crown Room, they ordered their usual round of drinks.
“What the hell is going to happen to us?” Andrea asked Marc as they waited for their drinks to be delivered.
“I don’t know. Nobody knows,” Marc said. “We had a limitless future, just two weeks ago. There was more business than we could handle. Now everything is in peril. There is no security anywhere. This could be really, really bad. Fear and uncertainty are rampant.”