I dig my music and wanted to update the outmoded decibel hardware lying around my pandokkie in Rosebank. So I popped into one of those stores that specialise in selling everything from tiny tweeters to big woofers.

After browsing around for about 20 minutes, I found just what I wanted - a CD player fitted with everything that opens and shuts. The young sales assistant demonstrated its features. And there were lots of them. Despite the high price, I was impressed.

"Right,' I said, "I'll take it."

"Over 12, 18, 24, 36, 48 or 60 months," asked the sales assistant.

I looked at her blankly.

"What terms do you want?"

"Terms?" I replied. "I'll pay cash."

"Cash!" shrieked the distraught young lady. "I'll have to ask the manager how to handle this."

Since the manager was "on lunch" at the time, I told the sales assistant that I'd return later. I never did.

The store is well on its way to the graveyard of businesses that failed to make it. The manager hadn't seen fit to delegate authority to the sales assistant so she could make an on-the-spot decision. Another potential sale went down the tubes.

If you want your business to go the same way, study its character. Pull it apart. See how it works. If it's lean, responds quickly to customers, it it's innovative and always a step ahead of the competition, the business is like to be around for a long time.

So if you want to kill the business stone dead, forget the latest business buzzword: "empowerment". Just make sure that the people who work for you aren't allowed to decide anything. Niks nie.

Bestow authority and you're heading for trouble. Look what happened to Kodak, IBM, Kellogg, Black & Decker and Rank Xerox. They were on the way out. Then they started empowering their staff. It propelled them from corporate sick beds to growing successes by making them more competitive.

Jack Welch, the boss at General Electric, reckons his company has found the "distilled essence" of being competitive. "It's the reservoir of talent and creativity and energy that can be found in each of our people," he says. "That essence is liberated when we make people believe that what they think and do is important then get out of their way while they do it."

Don't listen to him if you want to moor the business.

Ask any empowerment guru and he'll tell you that making people change the way they think and do things isn't easy. In fact, it's bloody difficult. People learn slowly and forget quickly. So, in your bid to kill the business, pay lip service to the empowerment concept to show that you're in tune with the times. And make regular promises about introducing training programmes. Just don't implement them.

You can also exaggerate worker expectations not just a bit: grossly. Go over the top. Turn your employees on by making wild claims about their future prospects. Ensure that they expect too much too soon. Then let them down and watch morale, loyalty and productivity plummet.

And procrastinate. Adopt the well-known South African strategy of morê is nog 'n dag. Always put off until tomorrow or, preferably the day after that which yesterday you put off until today. I guarantee your employees will emulate your slothful example.

And when you encounter staff enthusiasm, passop. Enthusiasm breeds innovation and innovation breeds success as well as corporate longevity. Firmly stamp it out wherever you find it. Squash positive suggestions with the immortal words: "We tried that once before." Let a poignant silence that suggests total failure follow the phrase. If you repeat this often enough, you'll soon dampen the ardour of even your most progressive and insistent minions.

Remember that those business zealots who guide the destinies of the most successful corporations have visions. They can see where their companies will be tomorrow, next week, next month, next year and the next decade. Like Raymond Ackerman of Pick 'n Pay, Meyer Kahn of SAB, and sol Kerzner of Sun International, they have the ability to clearly communicate those visions to those who work for them.

If you find yourself visualising corporate growth paths, how to achieve strategic advantages, what you can do to add value to your product or service, I suggest you go for a long lunch with lots of spook en diesel. However, if you find yourself involuntarily assailed by corporate visions, make your interpretations so complex that no one can make head or tail of them, including you.

I think it was the famous poet Robert Browning who said: "When I compose my lines, only God and I know what they mean. Now only God knows."

To sow the seeds of business destruction, follow my easy-to implement 10 point guideline:


Talk is cheap, so feel free to talk ad nauseum about empowering employees, but do everything you can to ensure that your employees are deprived of decision-making authority.


Create a vision of the future that drips with gloom.


Successful staff training breeds unhealthy expectations, so cancel all programmes designed to upgrade worker skills.


Avoid making any decisions for as long as possible.


Strive to keep your employees, suppliers and customers in the dark about company developments and products.


Encourage your employees, particularly members of your sales force, to ignore marketplace changes, especially changes in customers' requirements.


Focus on company rules, regulations and procedures to the exclusion of everything else. Bureaucratic strangulation halts forward momentum.


Douse the fires of enthusiasm and innovation quickly.


Continually increase the height and depth of the barriers between management, employees, customers and suppliers. This form of apartheid canlead to the quick death of your business.


Fob off innovative suggestions with: "We tried that once before." Follow it with the poignant pause that depresses.

1. I thought I made it clear
2. Let's not rock the boat
3. We tried that once before
4. Who cares? It's the company time after all
5. I'm the boss. Do as I say
6. I can't stand change
7. We made the cuts, now lets get back to work
8. I'll do it as soon as possible
9. I prefer to work alone
10. Speaking as a Nestlé man
11. Get him on the line!
12. I've got 20 years experience
13. Let's keep it confidential
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