In ten years, Plant World had grown from a one-person venture into the largest nursery and landscaping business in its area. Its founder, Myta Ong, combined a lifelong interest in plants with a botany degree to provide a unique customer service. Ong had managed the company’s growth so that even with twenty full-time employees working in six to eight crews, the organization culture was still as open, friendly, and personal as it had been when her only “employees” were friends who would volunteer to help her move a heavy tree.
To maintain that atmosphere, Ong involved herself increasingly with people and less with plants as the company grew. With hundreds of customers and scores of jobs at any one time, she could no longer say without hesitation whether she had a dozen arborvitae bushes in stock or when Mrs. Carnack’s estate would need a new load of bark mulch. But she knew when Rose had been up all night with her baby, when Gary was likely to be late because he had driven to see his sick father over the weekend, and how to deal with Ellen when she was depressed because of her boyfriend’s behavior.
She kept track of the birthdays of every employee and even those of their children. She was up every morning by five-thirty arranging schedules so that John could get his son out of daycare at four o’clock and Martina could be back in town for her afternoon high school equivalency classes. Paying all this attention to employees may have led Ong to make a single bad business decision that almost destroyed the company. She provided extensive landscaping to a new mall on credit, and when the mall never opened and its owners went bankrupt, Plant World found itself in deep trouble.
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The company had virtually no cash and had to pay off the bills for the mall plants, most of which were not even salvageable. One Friday, Ong called a meeting with her employees and leveled with them: either they would not get paid for a month or Plant World would fold. The news hit the employees hard. Many counted on the Friday paycheck to buy groceries for the week. The local unemployment rate was low, however, and they knew they could find other jobs. But as they looked around, they wondered whether they could ever find this kind of job.
Sure, the pay was not the greatest, but the tears in the eyes of some workers were not over pay or personal hardship; they were for Ong, her dream, and her difficulties. They never thought of her as the boss or called her anything but “Myta. ” And leaving the group would not be just a matter of saying good-bye to fellow employees. If Bernice left, the company softball team would lose its best pitcher, and the Sunday game was the height of everyone’s week.
Read this – Puns in the Importance
Where else would they find people who spent much of the weekend working on the best puns with which to assail one another on Monday morning? At how many offices would everyone show up twenty minutes before starting time just to catch up with friends on other crews? What other boss would really understand when you simply said, “I don’t have a doctor’s appointment, I just need the afternoon off”? Ong gave her employees the weekend to think over their decision: whether to take their pay and look for another job or to dig into their savings and go on working.
Knowing it would be hard for them to quit, she told them they did not have to face her on Monday; if they did not show up, she would send them their checks. But when she arrived at seven-forty Monday morning, she found the entire group already there, ready to work even harder to pull the company through. They were even trying to top one another with puns about being “mall-contents. ” Case Questions •How would you describe the organization culture at Plant World? • How large can such a company get before it needs to change its culture and structure?
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