View Termination Man on Amazon.com
When I walked into Great Lakes Fuel Systems around ten o’clock the next morning, the trappings of Ben the Welder were gone. I had shaved, showered, and combed my hair. My jeans and denim jacket were gone. I was clad in a Giorgio Armani suit, $1,200 off the peg. I grew up poor; and I still experienced a mild sense of disorientation when I dropped that kind of green for a pair of pants and a blazer. But image counts for a lot in the consulting field. My clients literally entrusted me with the fate of their operations. They knew me as the Termination Man, the guy who could get them the results they needed. I had to look the part.
I entered the GLFS facility through the rear entrance, using a temporary keycard that Beth Fisk had issued to me. TP Automotive didn’t want my name in the visitor’s log. They didn’t want my image showing up on the lobby cameras. I saw this as a bit of overkill on their part; but it was their dime. If they wanted me to creep in through the back door, that was fine by me.
Kevin didn’t even notice me as I walked by him on my way through the plant. To begin with, an automotive components plant is a noisy place. Everyone wears hearing protection, with the constant whirring, chugging, and pounding of all the machinery. I heard my wingtips clicking on the cement floor of the plant; but practically no one else did. Nor did my expensive suit draw undue attention. Since TP Automotive had acquired GLFS, the place had been crawling with suits. A few workers glanced briefly at me, then turned their attention back to their machinery. As far as they knew, I was just another TP Automotive manager or a hired efficiency expert.
I saw Kevin operating his press-fitting machine. It was a big device—about the size of a compact car. Kevin placed one half of a fuel pump housing into the machine’s lower jaw, inserted some additional components, and then pressed the red cycle-start button. The machine’s upper jaw descended, mating the bottom half of the housing with a top half that had been loaded into the machine from above.
I could tell that Kevin was distracted. The look on his face told me everything I needed to know: He had already been called for the drug test. He knew that it would show a positive result for marijuana use. He was waiting for the hammer to fall.
At the far edge of the factory area, I passed through a metal door, once again using the temporary keycard. I ascended a concrete staircase: This was a back entrance to the plant’s executive office space.
They were already gathered in the boardroom, seated around a big mahogany table in a semicircle. Beth Fisk from HR, Bernie Chapman from legal, and Chuck Gaskins—the new CEO installed by TP Automotive. Kurt and Shawn Myers were also present at the table. As usual, Kurt dominated the room, both because of his position, and also because of the man he was. Are Fortune 500 executive types born or made? In Kurt’s case, I would have argued for the former: He probably came out of the womb in formal attire, clutching a handful of business cards.
* * *
Serial to be continued. Visit the Serials page for links to more of Termination Man, or purchase the entire book from Amazon.com.