Many, many years ago, I was a young IT operations manager overseeing a 24/7 shop for a novelty company. Just before I started working there the company had secured the exclusive rights in North American for a little know product called Smurfs.
As you may know, Smurfs became a phenomenon. Little blue trolls with white hats were the subject of thousands of figurines, mugs, stuffed plush, toys, games, a TV cartoon and a movie. Powered by Smurfs, this company went from $6 million in sales to $150 million plus in just a few years. And licensing added another $600 million annually.
The workload was incredible and we all struggled to keep up. I thought I was a cool 20 something year old (as proven by my Members Only jacket and Angels Flight pants) and the whole Smurf thing just got sickening to me. I went out to the warehouse and one of the guys gave me a stuffed plush Smurf. I tore off its head and mounted it on a wooden plaque in my office. It was my little act of rebellion.
Not much later the Director of Operations walked in, looked at my newly mounted Smurf and blew his top! He went into my boss’ office and screamed at him, and the incident was a topic in the next executive meeting. I was severely reprimanded. I almost got fired. I thought the whole thing was very much overblown. And I was angry about it. All over a little disrespect shown to a toy.
Over 30 years later, I feel much differently. I understand how important it is to have shared values. I know how company icons need to be valued. I’ve experienced the difficulty of getting and keeping everyone on the same page. I know how invaluable culture is and how devastating it is to see it eroded away.
I’m sorry. I was wrong and arrogant. I deserved to be fired.