I will be the first to admit that I have accepted TARP money. I used the money I got for my ninth birthday to buy a tarp, which I then used to make a tent. I've had that tarp for many years, and not once did the federal government ever question my motives. Back then a tarp meant F-U-N, but nowadays TARP stands for anything but fun. In fact, I would like to suggest that the government's version of TARP stands for Take Away Real Phun.
The government has informed all recipients of TARP money that they need to submit a “luxury expenditures policy” spelling out how they propose to save money on luxuries. One target of the policy is aviation; another is office renovations; and the third is entertainment and events. This is where they went too far.
Most organizations have stated in their policies that they will no longer use corporate jets for “personal use,” and by “personal use” they mean “fishing in Finland” and I say, “Bravo!” This is a good first step but it needs to go a bit further. I think that CEOs benefiting from TARP should be made to ride coach like the rest of us. The way I see it, if your company lost so much money while you were in charge that you need this loan, then you must earn your way back to the private jet. Right now, you're in the back of the plane, middle seat, nonexit row.
The same should hold true for hotel rooms, but rather than make the CEO stay in a regular room, give him a nice suite that he will share with all of the other Cs — namely the CFO, the COO, and the C-3PO — all bunking together to promote camaraderie.
As far as the category of office renovations goes, all of the recipients agreed to no new Picassos in the lobby, but, once again, I think they need to go further. The corner office is a luxury for the person who is responsible for the performance of the organization. Since the performance was sub-par, I think the person in charge needs to work from a different office for a while. It's like going down to the minors when your batting average slumps. We won't make them start over in a cubicle, but an interior office with no window — or door — ought to provide an incentive for improved performance.
Now we come to the scariest category of all, entertainment and events. If companies include my suggestions in the aviation and office categories, they should be able to leave entertainment and events alone. But oh, no, they won't listen and cuts will be made. Fortunately, I have suggestions for how to save money without cutting the number of meetings you hold — or speakers you hire.
Let's say that you are in charge of an incentive meeting where qualifiers earn the right to attend. In other words, it's a prize. Take a tip from the Internet marketers out there in Nigeria who e-mail us to tell us that we have won a “prize” and that all we have to do to claim it is to pay “shipping and handling.” Just as Ticketmaster charges a “processing fee,” you can charge the winners a Ticketing And Regional Processing fee, or TARP. I think about $1,000 per attendee ought to do it. This way, you have most of your expenses pre-paid and you will have money left over for more speakers.
Here's an idea that will save a ton on your catering budget. As aevent, have all of your attendees work in the kitchen washing dishes, stirring soup, and waiting on tables. This will give them insight that can be discussed in a breakout session the following day. In return, they get to eat for free which saves you more money for …. Well, you get the idea.
I hope that my words have inspired you to keep the FUN in your meetings and that my ideas will prompt others to take action. The main thing is that we survive the current storm and look forward to better days. Until the storm passes, you'll find me under my tarp.
Dale Irvin is The Professional Summarizer™. He will emcee your next event and keep the audience updated on what they have just seen with a running comedy monologue. Visit www.DaleIrvin.com and sign up for the free Friday Funnies and Funny Business.