A Business Carol
Sun Kissed Beaches and the Azure Sea
The storm had left Chicago a frozen wasteland, buried under almost five feet of new snow. Howling winds swept rapidly through alleyways and city streets, gnawing violently at building sides, as they thrashed to and fro. Worst hit was the now vacant Thatch and Sons Ltd. building, whose boarded up windows and crumbling neon sign marked the remnants of a once great business.
As the malevolent tempest swept across the Northeast, thirty-two-year-old, Eric Thatch, basked in the warmth of a Carribean sun. These days he thought little about the family legacy he had sold off and the proud business he managed to successfully run into the ground. From where he sat in Palm Beach, Florida, all that he treasured in life was laid out in front of him; Pina Coladas, bikini clad women, sun kissed beaches, and a gleaming azure sea.
Eric stumbled back to his apartment around dusk, with no idea of what that night had in store for him. The peaceful bliss of ignorance which had wrapped itself cozily around Eric’s psyche, kept him unaware of the supernatural forces at work and the machinations of other worldly beings who sought to correct the trajectory of a selfish life spent poorly.
The Late Great Tom Thatch
An ominous feeling which permeated deep into Eric’s sleep told him he wasn’t alone. Stirred from the depths of gentle slumber by a sudden jolt, Eric awoke to see a man floating above him, as if fixed to the ceiling. The translucent figure bore an uncanny resemblance to Eric’s father, the late Tom Thatch.
The room turned bone-chillingly cold. Frost covered the windows and mirrors. Eric’s sheets had become hard and rigid.
The specter, appeared as a billowing cloud of smoke, loosely held together in the form of a man, but constantly trying to break free of the body-like container which held it in place. Just as the vapors seemed to escape whatever force bound them together, they were pulled back into it, making it seem as if the spirit’s fragile existence flickered, like a candle in the wind.
The apparition began to float downwards. Eric’s eyes were sure what appeared before them, but his conscious mind couldn’t bring itself to believe what seemed so obvious.
It spoke, “Hello, son.”
Eric let out a ghastly shriek, reaching a high pitched crescendo that many would think impossible for a man his age.
“I heard you sold the business.”
Eric stammered, letting out a menagerie of horrible sounds which his tongue failed to weave into a comprehensive sentence. Despite the intense cold which filled the room, he felt a growing heat burning inside him. A deep sense of dread held him firmly held in place. He was too petrified to move.
“You have forsaken me, my son. I roam the Earth with no legacy to remember me by. I peer into the homes of the employees you abandoned and the shareholders you robbed blind with your stupidity and selfishness.”
As the dead man spoke, Eric trembled, his proud spirit quelled by his father’s accusations.
Eric’s reply failed to adequately address his father’s volley of accusations.
“I… I… got a good price... It was a bad economy… seemed reasonable.”
“Tonight you are to be visited by three spirits; the ghosts of marketing, sales, and operations. If you fail to learn from what they show you, you will share my fate, aimlessly wandering the Earth, thinking of what could have been.”
And in a puff of smoke, he vanished.
Ghost of Marketing Mistakes
First to appear to the young ne’er-do-well was the Ghost of Marketing Mistakes.
Eric lay curled tightly beneath the covers, trying to forget the troubling dream of his father’s ghost. He noticed a warm presence in the room along with the sound of crackling embers, both of which he could feel growing. The covers lifted from his bed as if by their own accord. A young woman dressed in white appeared before him radiating so much light that it was difficult to make out her features beyond a shapely silhouette.
“Eric,” she noted warmly.
She had a powerful aura, that was also calm and gentle.
“Wh-who are you.”
“I am the Ghost of Marketing Past. I am here to show you the error of your ways.”
She snapped her fingers.
Suddenly Eric appeared in the back of his freshman year Communications 101 course, staring at a younger, wide-eyed version of himself.
The younger Eric sat attentively at the front of the class, trying to match his note taking to the rapid tempo of the professor’s speech.
The hollow shell of a man who stood in the back of that class was utterly bewildered. His eyes remained transfixed on the bright-eyed collegiate who represented everything he could have been.
“You used to be so passionate. What happened?”
Eric turned to the spirit. The professor continued to prattle on in the background.
“I don’t know,” he uttered solemnly.
“I do.” Again the spirit snapped her fingers, causing the strange duo to lurch forward in time.
In the head office of the Thatch and Sons Ltd. building sat a growingly disillusioned man, whose father’s corpse was not yet cold. He had recently inherited a large company, which he would later run into the ground.
In an effort to keep up in a new digital age, the young CEO sunk most of the company’s capital in a disparate composite of marketing solutions. He had invested in every digital snake oil which had been peddled to him, acquiring several dozen applications with singular functions. He would realize too late that the time it took to move data from one platform to another left him virtually no time to run his company. Eric, a once ambitious marketer who had the trappings of a shrewd and cunning business man, had become little more than a manager of technology.
The Florida retiree recognized this iteration of himself all too well. This time in his life had marked the beginning of a downward spiral.
“You never understood the Total Cost of Ownership,” said the ghost. “Software is more than just what you pay for it.” Her voice became more powerful and ominous. “Failing to see the value of integration cost you your family legacy. ”
“I didn’t know. I was young,” Eric shot back, his voice quivering.
“You didn’t research the product. You were arrogant and fool-hardy. Rather than reinvest in better solutions, you called it quits and sold off the company in pieces, for a fraction of what it was worth.” The once gentle spirit had become turned into a ruthless prosecutor. The gentle white light which framed her being had turned a fiery red.
Eric attempted to defend himself from the spirit’s accusations. “No. You don’t know what it was like… having a thousand applications… trying to make your ESP work with your contact database… and your website!”
Ghost of Sales Conversions
Suddenly Eric found himself back in his apartment. He sat upright in his bed, feeling completely unhinged. Just as he was ready to chalk up his supernatural experiences as a bad dream or fever induced delusion, a large, barrel chested man burst through the door.
“Alright let’s go! I don’t have all day,” the spirit said in a deep voice which echoed through the room.
He wore an elegant silk suit. The man was bearded and had long, slicked back hair. He hit something on his smartphone and they materialized outside the house of former Thatch salesman, Shane O’Fennigan.
Peering through a dusty window, Eric saw the O’Fennigan household was little more than a rundown hovel on the Southside of Chicago. The Thatchs’ most valuable salesman had been reduced to squallor after the company went under. The recession had made it difficult to find new work, so Shane had to take odd handyman jobs to get by.
His big family crowded a small table set for Christmas dinner. There were far too many of them to fit comfortably, and far too little food to fill their groaning stomachs. Despite their grim state of affairs, they looked happy. They all wore big jubilant smiles and were thankful for what little they had, and for each other. Shane sat at the head of the table, clasping his sick wife’s delicate hand, and looking around proudly at the beautiful family they had.
Eric’s eyes became moist and his heart wretched. When he had sold the failing company, he hadn’t thought about Shane or his staff. He had only been thinking about ensuring the best outcome for himself.
The Ghost of Sales Conversions towered over Eric with a bent head and a grim expression. He raised his heavy index finger and pointed at Eric’s chest.
“Shane’s family has become destitute because he didn’t have access to the sales tools he needed, when he needed them. You fell into a per user pricing trap when you invested in S________e, and to cut costs you made your whole sales staff share one login!”
Eric felt choked by a crushing guilt and unable to respond to his accuser. He looked away, leaned his head against the wall, and closed his eyes in disbelief.
Ghost of Operations
The Ghost of Business Operations was the last to appear to Eric.
This time, Eric sat solemnly at his desk awaiting the arrival of the third spirit. The room once again became cold, and frost covered the windows. From a dark corner of his living room, Eric noticed the shadow of a foreboding figure make its way across the room.
The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently, approached. When it came near him, Eric bent down on his knee; for the very air through which the spirit moved seemed to scatter gloom and mystery. It wore the appearance of an aging bureaucrat with a green eyeshade and large, round spectacles, which reflected all of the light in the room, both of which helped to obscure its face. It had wiry white hair, and despite being rather tall, hunched lowly, so that most of its torso ran parallel to the ground.
“I’m ready for what you have to show me.”
There was no reply. The ghost merely twitched its nose and pointed its long, bony index finger to something beyond Eric’s field of vision.
As Eric turned his head, he saw that he was no longer in his living room, but seated in a freezing Chicago alleyway. The ghost floated forward and Eric followed. Around the corner was the Thatch and Sons Ltd. building with it’s boarded up windows and crumbling neon sign. The spirit slipped through a wide gap between two broken boards.
Eric paused. “Why have you taken me here?! What do you want from me?!” he shouted.
There was no response. Once again Eric reluctantly followed. His palms were sweating profusely, despite the bitter cold. His heart pounded like drums of war, as he entered the tomb of his family’s enterprise.
The building smelled musty. It was dimly lit, as the boards blocked most of the natural light. Rats scurried back and forth. The spirit walked over to a file cabinet which sat ominously in the very center of the room. It gently flicked it, and the cabinet toppled over. A leakage of papers flooded forth, which soon covered the entire room. The spirit pointed down at them.
Eric understood that he was expected to read them. He got down on the ground and began rifling through the sea of documents. There were invoices, projects, employee training manuals, organizational charts, and statistics, all scattered about in a non digitized sea of terror. He had invested in every single-function software imaginable, but had not taken the time to enter old documents into the new systems. He had crippled the operational ability of his company by not having a single access point for all of his data. He had made his employees endure the horror of having to waste entire days searching for data across disconnected data silos and cluttered filing cabinets!
Eric wept loudly. “Forgive me, for I knew not what I had done, but now I see the error of my ways!” His uncontrollable sobbing made even the deathlike Ghost of Business Operations feel sympathy for the pitiful young man.
Eric awoke the next day, exhilarated to see that he was still alive after crossing into the otherworldly thresholds which had transported him through time and space.
He felt reinvigorated. He was young and still had time to do things right. Eric hurriedly showered and got dressed. He knew what he had to do.
Eric was headed to the bank to attain a small loan to launch a new company. He was going to rebuild and create a legacy of his own. He planned on keeping his company lean this time and only spending money on the essentials. As Eric walked hurriedly to the bank, he thought about what he absolutely needed to start a company. Fancy office; no he could work remotely. Elite marketing consultants; no, he could create a small in-house team. Marketing software; yes, but he’d need to do it differently this time. Using expensive, siloed tech would destroy everything he was trying to build. Eric needed to find a single, integrated platform. Something indispensable that could fulfill all of his marketing, sales, and operational needs.
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