Aug 25, 2006

A Reading List

I know you don't have any time to spend with your friends, family, or loved ones and these will never be mandatory Book Club reading but maybe you can sneak a page in somewhere.

Aug 22, 2006

Mad Love to the Haters

OMG - there's negativity afoot. Why do you have to harsh my cool, man? Do you know why? Because there's been an elephant sitting in the corner of the room for years and someone finally had the guts to point it out. Another reason why? Because, believe it or not, the Haters used to all be Lovers. No, really! We chugged that Kool Aid like nobody's business -- like the five cent pops we had before our contract with Coca-Cola brought a booty of free drinks.

Why all the negativity? We were betrayed. We bought into a dream only to end up with a nightmare. The brass ring was tin; the golden dream nothing but pyrite (e-pyrite?). Why shouldn't ex-Prizers sound like victims when, after all, they were victimized? If you love your job that's great. I was there. I felt that love in spades. I lived and breathed it for years. Don't consider this an invitation to post your undying devotion to the cause here. That's what Why I Like ePrize is for. This is the other side of the coin -- providing a forum to rant and rave and shake your tiny fist at the sky to vent the anger that might still be eating your insides. Or, more healthily, to laugh at the ridiculousness.

Just Do It - LOL

LOL Cult.

It's a War... but the Generals Go Home Early

Today at work I was told that for the next four weeks my company (the company I work for -- I don't OWN it) will be going whole hog on a project for the next four weeks. The plan includes two weeks of 10 hour days and two weeks of 12 hours days. There's a weekend of work in there too.

Is this like my old place of employment all over again? No. It's not. This is one month with a launch date at the end -- a light at the end of the tunnel. Likewise, this will be the first weekend I'll have to work this year. A quick look at the scoreboard has one weekend so far in 2006 while I worked 35 weekends in 2005. And, in my position at my former employer, I was not 'entitled' to any kind of extra cash for that extra work. I didn't even get an extra vacation day for that.

Not only do we have a target launch date but the best part has to be that this will be a full office effort. This will be everyone pitching in. This won't be a scenario where management status precludes long hours. Everyone's pitching in.

There's really nothing quite so disheartening as your fearless leader cutting out as soon as the five o'clock whistle blows while you're just settling in to work into the wee hours. (And you KNOW that they're out for the night -- they're not going to be doing anything for the rest of the night except spend time with their family, mistress, or significant other). It's like, "Next time I see you, the work better be done! 'Night!" And, zoom, they're off...!

Yeah, I'm a bit unrealisitic. If management stuck around at my former company every time someone worked late... they'd just about never leave. Here's a quote for an email I got last week:

"[Blank] and I have both put in all-nighters over the past week [...] I have not been out of the office until after 9pm for the past 2 weeks." If only that were the exception. Alas, it's the rule. It's funny. I blanked out the names of the poor suffering employees. That's the only way to know who they are as their stories are so typical. They won't be recognized for going above and beyond. If anything, they'll be chastized for not giving their "all" on another project. You're only as good as your last promotion.

Something in the air...

There were a spate of marriages and pregnancies going on for a while. To this one of the Project Managers said offhandedly, "Man, I swear there's something being pumped into the air here."

Quickly, almost too quickly, a friend replied, "Yeah... it's called FEAR."

Don't confuse fanaticism with fear. While the Kool-Aid might have you thinking that there is no place better that you could ever go and that leaving would be folly... it's not. This blog isn't a wake up call. It's a place to vent. Your best friend coworker getting canned or you getting canned might serve to wake you up. But don't think that it's the end of the world. Maybe your coworker(s) are even moving on. This doesn't mean that they're betraying you. Learn a lessong. There is life outside the multicolor walls.

Aug 21, 2006

Damned if you do...

When dizgruntled was still posting like mad (see postings below) and had a boatload of comments on his blog, one of the biggest complaints was, "What did you do to make changes? You can't just bitch all the time!"

To that end, I dug out a document I wrote in 2005. The last date I saved it was 11/23/2005. I'm curious if any of these ideas were implemented. I'd include more but won't as they may infringe on intellectual property.
I also wrote various proposals on team restructuring and did some hardcore R&D and proposal writing on branching out the company into some new directions which I have since seen other companies take off with. Rather than seek out new forms of revenue, let's just beat the old horses until we have to send them to the glue factory.

Let it not be said that folks who are embittered former employees never tried to make suggestions or get things done. The "damned if you don't" answer to that is that any kind of bellyaching means portraying a "victim". Victimize this.

Those Are Some Big Britches

"Some day, a company will come along and put us out of business, so it might as well be us."

Projected 2004 sales: $15.5 million plus
A spirit of innovation and evolution is driving ePrize toward its next goal: $30 million in sales by 2007. But it's not all about the bottom line at this company. Top-notch customer service and quality employees are two principal areas that spark ePrize's engine.
From "Young Millionaires: Class of 2004", Entrepreneur magazine, by Amanda C. Kooser

The agency’s reputation [...] led it to estimated 2005 sales of more than $25.5 million, a 37-percent increase over 2004 sales.
From 2006 Fast 50, Fast Company, by Author Unknown

Company sales jumped from $18.6 million in 2004 to nearly $30 million [in 2005]... When I first interviewed Linkner 11 months ago, he said his long-term goal was $100 million in annual sales by 2008 or 2009. Now he says the goal is $150 million by 2009.
From Motivation comes from make-believe, The Detroit Free Press, by Tom Long

From $15.5 million in 2004 to $150 million in 2009. Those are some really big britches to fill - a tenfold increase. They're on the path to doing this, but at what cost to the people that work there - and what reward to the people that work there? The rewards for some are obvious while the "little people" will take some heavy lumps. Growth is great, but at what cost?

Thinking Outside of the Lunchbox

Just a few comments about the posting below on "Lunchbox".

First... Going out to lunch is something that everyone should be able to enjoy. Sure, there might be the occasional emergency that crops up that might make going out inconvenient. But the real inconvenience comes when you would have meetings scheduled at lunch time. Sure, you can bring your lunch (or have your "Lunchbox" order -- as long as Lunchbox arrived before the start of the meeting... otherwise you'd find it cold an hour later) but you're stuck in the building for that time.

Not a big woop, right? Well... It begins to be a drag when you look at your Outlook calendar only to find that you've got three to four (or more -- depending on Staff Call) lunch meetings scheduled not just this week but every week.

I was guilty of setting one of those up, but with the understanding that it would be lunch outside of the building and that it was far more team-building than despotic demagoguery. My mother used to yell at me, "Go outside and blow the stink off of you." She certainly knew how to paint a picture with words, didn't she?

There was a stench associated with the grunts after a while. We were in the office from dawn (literally) to dusk (or far after).

Don't forget, too, that not only is there Lunchbox but there's Dinnerbox as well. This meal of the day arrives at 7PM and it's shameful how many employees are around to "enjoy" this second meal of the day at their place of employment.

One more thing... the posts below talk quite a bit about working 70 hours a week. Trust me, that's a pretty light week as far as they go. I usually clocked in at 80 on a light week and usually averaged out more at 100. In 2005 alone, I worked 35 out of 52 weekends. That figure includes "holiday weekends" -- including Christmas and Yom Kippur. The only difference between a holiday and a "normal weekday" was the locale where you were sitting with your laptop computer. As I used to tell my wife, "I can either ignore you at home or ignore you while I'm at the office."

The Island of Misfit Toybox

I used to bitch and moan that Upper Managment never wanted to spend time/money on R&D for new products or improvements to the products we used daily.

I was half right.

Time and Money aplenty were spent on new products all the time -- once they were sold and we were under a complete and crazy time crunch. There's no time like making a brand new product when you're under the gun to get it out the door and improvements/user concerns be damned.

The best part about all of this time/money spending came when we were making products that could/should be re-used with ease but would never get sold a second time and, thus, sat on a virtual shelf gathering virtual dust.

And then there are products that were researched and developed only to never be used. For two years I heard that we'd be switching over to "all Flash promotions" and that HTML was an antiquated humbug. Well... I just clicked on a dozen random links only to not find neither an all-Flash promotion nor any Flash element in any page to which I went. "Wha-Happened?"

The other thing that I love is that the person who replaced me had these huge dreams of adding DHTML/JS (think Proto AJAX) items to the pages to add a lot more "zing" and "pop". I didn't see any of those either.

Aug 20, 2006

In With The New

Up until now, all of the afore-posted entries were from the blog formerly known as "All Thing ePrize". The author of that blog (known as dizgruntled) removed them for fear of recompense. Perhaps fools rush in where angels fear to tread and there is no greater fool than I. What dizgruntled said needed to be said -- and still needs to be read.

Aug 18, 2006

Wages Breakdown

So for all of you typing about wages...have you seen a breakdown? Here's one...

30k/year @ 40hr/week = $ 14.42/hour
30k/year @ 50hr/week = $ 11.53/hour
30k/year @ 60hr/week = $ 9.62/hour
30k/year @ 70hr/week = $ 8.24/hour

35k/year @ 40hr/week = $ 16.83/hour
35k/year @ 50hr/week = $ 13.46/hour
35k/year @ 60hr/week = $ 11.22/hour
35k/year @ 70hr/week = $ 9.62/hour

40k/year @ 40hr/week = $ 19.23/hour
40k/year @ 50hr/week = $ 15.38/hour
40k/year @ 60hr/week = $ 12.82/hour
40k/year @ 70hr/week = $ 10.99/hour

45k/year @ 40hr/week = $ 21.63/hour
45k/year @ 50hr/week = $ 17.31/hour
45k/year @ 60hr/week = $ 14.42/hour
45k/year @ 70hr/week = $ 12.36/hour

50k/year @ 40hr/week = $ 24.04/hour
50k/year @ 50hr/week = $ 19.23/hour
50k/year @ 60hr/week = $ 16.03/hour
50k/year @ 70hr/week = $ 13.74/hour

55k/year @ 40hr/week = $ 26.44/hour
55k/year @ 50hr/week = $ 21.16/hour
55k/year @ 60hr/week = $ 17.63/hour
55k/year @ 70hr/week = $ 15.11/hour

60k/year @ 40hr/week = $ 28.85/hour
60k/year @ 50hr/week = $ 23.08/hour
60k/year @ 60hr/week = $ 19.23/hour
60k/year @ 70hr/week = $ 16.48/hour

65k/year @ 40hr/week = $ 31.25/hour
65k/year @ 50hr/week = $ 25/hour
65k/year @ 60hr/week = $ 20.83/hour
65k/year @ 70hr/week = $ 17.86/hour

70k/year @ 40hr/week = $ 33.65/hour
70k/year @ 50hr/week = $ 26.92/hour
70k/year @ 60hr/week = $ 22.43/hour
70k/year @ 70hr/week = $ 19.23/hour

Your thoughts...are they positive?

I'm trying to spin things in a differnt direction, and ask others for their opinions.

Here's my thought...

ePrize is just a baby, in terms of years as a business. The growth that is happening for the company is causing a lot of this 'drama' and 'growing-pains'. Linkner conceived this 'baby' of his, and has taught the company how to crawl and walk. Just as the company has started to really 'run', I feel like some of the 'parenting' was over-looked. Linkner forgot to teach his 'baby' how to slow down and stop.

Now, understand, 'tone' can be read into anything written here. The above was not meant to sound mean spirited or harsh, just an analogy.

You see the same thing in little kids. They get running so fast, they actually have to run into something or someone to stop. They just keep picking up more and more speed, and haven't figured out how to slow down.

So then my thought leads to this.
*(I don't have the answers...what do y'all think)*
What is ePrize going to 'run into' to stop or slow down?
Do you think ePrize needs to stop or slow down?
Do you think the employees have the energy, drive and ability to keep running?
How does all the running affect turn-over rate?
Does 'the running' affect turn-over rate?
Do you think I'm way off base here?

Blog Audit

I wanted to state, for the record, this is not meant to add fuel to the 'fire' that is ePrize.

I wanted to vent about my experience as an employee of ePrize. Mostly because when I received my official offer letter, I researched the company online. At that time I only found the 'warm fuzzies' about the company. If I had the opportunity to read statements from both current and former employees about their ePrize experience (such as are written here). I may have saved not only myself, but ePrize a little heartache as well.

As it has come to my attention that the masses @ ePrize now know this blog exists (that took a long time - chuckle) I also realize the ePrize legal team may be thinking about legal concerns.

Please realize...

*This is a personal blog; opinions are my own and do not reflect ePrize's views or intentionally reveal proprietary information.*

I have posted my opinions. I am encouraging others, employees or otherwise to post as well.

Now carry on, more to come.

What? Who? Why? Who?

Everyone, from time to time makes mistakes. There is nothing unusual about that statement.

At ePrize (where there are many quotes on the walls) there is a quote similar to this:

*"Don't be afraid to make a mistake. But make sure you don't make the same mistake twice."*

Boy, the leadership at ePrize is all over that statement. Understandably the work that is done at ePrize is not easy. I'm not about to say it is. So, mistakes happen. A poor decision is made. A deadline missed. Poor execution. Ok, so we're all together now. Mistakes happen and we all want to learn from them. Cool. Moving on.

How quickly can one person feel humiliated?
How much effort does it take to steal another person's confidence?
Exactly how confrontational is TOO confrontational?

I found that anytime a mistake occurred a series of events happened.

  1. What happened?
  2. Who did you tell? (you better be sure someone in leadership knew about this)
  3. Why did this happen? (what did you do!!!)
  4. Who's fault is it? (I want names, and I plan on going to them next)
  5. Go tell all your co-workers what happened, so everyone can learn from it! (nevermind the tears)
  6. Now get back to work! Here are 2 new projects!

Ok, I can hear all the posts now. Let me explain.

I agree with learning from mistakes and sharing them with your co-workers. I do not agree with tearing down someone's confidence. I do not agree with making an 'example' out of people while tearing them down psychologically and emotionally.

I don't expect hugs and pats on the back with every step. In fact I don't want that at all. I don't false compliments from leadership. Give it to me cut and dry.

*This is what is wrong.
**This is how it should be fixed.
Tell me not to do it again.*

But to dwell on mistakes for weeks. Telling employees they are doing a poor job, and still giving them more work? For goodness sakes, if someone is doing a poor job either lighten their workload, so they can catch their breath, or remove them from the system. Don't weigh down your weaker employees with more work! Who is that good for? Not the clients, not the 'team' they are working with. (bring on the comments gang!)

Asking Why is a good tactic sometimes. But not when the 'other' projects you are working on will suffer because of all the added time you have to account for to justify yourself, explain and re-explain yourself, and continually cover your ass with email chains, and documentation.

Agency or Vendor?

One of the most unique things about ePrize is their 'Client List'. If you've ever been in the elevator in their Pleasant Ridge Office, you are sure to take note of the hundreds of clients displayed on the walls.

As an employee you are reminded of this 'client' list time and time again.

The thing is essentially, ePrize is a vendor. They specialize in promotions. Often times, ePrize doesn't even have contact with the corporation. In fact they are hired by the corporations Advertising Agency.

So, what if the agency has a bad experience? What is the review of the promotion is terrible, or late? The agency can then choose another VENDOR to work with.

Here's the problem. ePrize fails to recognize themselves as the vendor.

In short, ePrize is the agencies 'bitch'. ePrize *has to* come through. Yet, the mentality, is to push back on the 'client'. Development pushes back, Project Management pushes back, Account/Sales/Leadership FREAK OUT, and blame production.

It's my belief that if ePrize would recognize they are the VENDOR, not an agency with a long standing contract, they would begin to shift their business model. Coke, Disney, and a million other big name clients can choose to go somewhere else. And if they are disappointed, time and time again, they will.

ePrize is not the only company that produces online promotions. They are however, the only company creating buzz about themselves, creating Promotion Summit's to increase awareness of themselves.

What would the 'client's' think if they found this blog?

Do you think their opinions of the company would change? Perhaps not. (after all it's just a silly blog)

ePrize does have a lot of promise. They promise to increase sales. They promise to increase workload. They promise to find a better work/life balance. They promise more perks and bells and whistles for their employees. (yoga, dry cleaning, manicure anyone?)

They promise their clients the moon! And often deliver cheese.

Scale it back for a moment ePrize. Catch your breath! Let your employees get caught up. Let your sales team finesse the clients they have, and stop worrying about 'new' clients and new sales. Take the time to produce what is actually being sold. WELL THOUGHT OUT, EXCELLENT PRODUCTS with FLAWLESS FUNCTIONALITY.

Right now you are not 'creating relationships' with your clients. Your employees are over worked, underpaid and will not have the all their focus on creating a solid product.

Do the right thing.

Working on the night train

I think we have all used, or at the very least heard the expression, "the light at the end of the tunnel'. Unfortunately, the ePrize business model is built without that phrase in mind. In fact, when the phrase is used around the office it has been said, "There is no light at the end of the tunnel".

Well that's comforting.

In my experience, most employers do try to fill your plate with work. Which is not by any means a complaint. I should 'earn my keep'. So I would have expected to receive a 'fair' workload. Again, assumptions got the best of me. I was not filled with a 40 hour workload, I was filled with a workload worth well over 40 hours.

You must understand. ePrize, like many other web based businesses work off a rate card. What this means is every role at the company, be it a software engineer, flash programmer, designer, project manager, or another other role, has a predetermined number of hours it should take to finish each 'step' to creating their product. In the case of ePrize the product is an online promotion. A sweepstakes, Instant Win game, Loyalty program, etc. Here's my issue with the rate card at ePrize.

  1. The rate card is OLD and out of date.
  2. I never saw this 'rate card' and when I would ask to see it, I was told it was not my job to worry about it.
  3. What may take one employee 1 hour to do, may take a new-er employee 3 hours
  4. EVERY PROJECT IS DIFFERENT. The clients, the make-up of the 'team members' within ePrize, the timing.

There are too many variables to assume one rate card is acceptable for EVERY project.

By the time you have all your projects assigned to you...There is NO WAY to get all the work done in a 40 hours week. Yet, you are still expected to be 'accountable' and get your work done. Ming you, this is the work, I never agreed to in the first place. It was put on my plate, with shiny wrapping, with anote that said, look at this cool client! Aren't we so LUCKY to work on tis project. (PS - You're screwed)

So the light at the end of the tunnel? At ePrize there is no such thing. As soon as crappy project 1 is off your plate, you still have crappy projects 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,and 7 to worry about....Plus you are about to get assigned project #8. WATCH OUT...The shit truck just stopped at your desk.

/Oh, yeah, I'm going to need you to come in on Sunday, em kay?/

eU - PeeEwe!

It's very interesting. ePrize has put a lot of effort into their training program. It starts with this series of classes they call eU, or ePRize University. (Catch-y huh?) In this series of classes the leaders from all the different departments come and talk to you and the rest of the class about what there department does and why they are so important. Then at the end of these classes, they actually test you on the information.

Again, this all seems really great. But then you come out of eU. You may have a little additional training specific to the role you are in, but be prepared for the workload. They have lined up the trucks at your desk...Waiting for you to tack up that pretty little diploma from eU...You are officially fair game!

This will be a short post, because I don't think I have the energy to really go into great detail about how if you take a job at this company, you will be thrown to the wolves.

Then you need to watch your step. You can get fired. These people are not scared to be an 'at will' employer. They will say it's because of lack of skills, or you just weren't 'ePrize material'. But really they remove those who do not drink the Kool-aid regularly. They remove those who will not conform. They push out, or fire those who have an outside life. Those who are older, or aren't the right religion. Those who disapprove of being at ePrize more than they have time to be with their families, or have a social life.

Man that place burns me.

FREE: Kool-Aid

Do you remember when you were little, and your parents would try to convince you something wasn't as bad as it was, by distracting you with some small shiny object?

I'll give you an example. You and your little brother, have to go spend a week at your great aunt's house, while your parents vacation in a Tropical Paradise. And your mom says something like, "It won't be that bad! Sure, Aunt Millie is 97, has no television, and lives in a retirement village, but she lives right next door to a huge Water Park!" Then you arrive at Aunt Millie's house. Millie never takes you to the Water Park and the day you convince her to let you go, the park is closed for renovations. Meanwhile, Mom is under the belief you are having the time of your life in the wave pool. You're little brother, on the other hand, is thrilled with getting Aunt Millie to play checkers with him all day long.

So, that's sort-of like working at ePrize.

Most of the employees at ePrize are like the 'little brother' in the story above. They are proud to work long, hard hours. For those people, things like lunchbox, and all the pop and coffee you can drink is AWESOME. They are the employees 'drinking the ePrize Kool-Aid'. They have bought in to the fact that it's 'cool' to go above and beyond...always.

Don't get me wrong, I work hard. The Kool-Aid is good, and it's easy to keep drinking it. I guess that's why I think the Kool-Aid junkies are foolish. You shouldn't be expect to go above and beyond EVERY TIME. It's not a badge of honor to stay up all night and work from 9am to 5 in the morning, and then return to work the next day at 9am, again. In my humble opinion, it's ridiculous.

Ok...I have to close out this post. There will be more of this rant later on.

Working Hours

So I should have known in my interview. I asked what the core business hours of work were for ePrize, and the person interviewing me said something to the effect of, "*laughter* we work about 50 hours a week, there are no core business hours".

50 hours for a salary job isn't that unreasonable and I needed a job. So I accepted their offer.

Then, my first day came. I was excited. Of course there is a lot of paperwork to fill out. I had to sit down and fill out Human Resources forms, and benefits information and the tax paper work. I recall a specific moment when the second red flag arose. On the tax form I had to fill out how many hours a week would I be working. So I asked, "What am I supposed to write here?" (Again trying to find out what the expectation was of how much I was 'supposed' to work. You know what I was instructed to write down? 40+


To recap...I have now been told there are no core business hours, and I had to submit something to the government that said I would be working 40+ hours a week. With such an open ended # of hours, I should have started running right then and there, but like I said. I needed a job.

So you ask, How much did you work? A consistent average of 70 hours a week, on a 40 hour a week salary. Hour for hour, I was making less than I had in years.

The next question is, how did you fit in 70 hours a week?

5 ten hour days in the office (at least) (see the post about lunchbox for more) ->that totals 50 hours
5 nights online for four hours from home (more about the non-stop work/workload in a coming post) to total 20 hours

Yup that's 70 hours a week. Not accounting for weekend work, which there always was.

ePrize has no consideration for it's employee's outside their office. They want their employees to eat/sleep/breathe ePrize. *More about drinking the Kool-Aid and the Make-Up on that place in a future post*

My so-called benefits - Let's talk about lunch

As I started my work at ePrize, I was getting up to speed and taking in my surroundings. I couldn't believe all the benefits this place has! Boy was a wrong!

So ePrize has this service, they call 'Lunchbox'. Everyday, you go into the office, and you can order lunch (from a series of different restaurants) that will be delivered to the office. This service costs a mere $4/day. The company pays the balance.

Now like I said, this seems like an AWESOME benefit. Here's the problem. It's a cult.

Ok, perhaps that was a little harsh, but, truly, it's like once you walk in the door in the morning, you will not leave the building for at least 10 hours. Ok, I'm getting off the subject.

Anyhow, Lunchbox. The thing about this 'perk' is that all it's doing is promoting more work on a 40 hour a week salary. No one leaves the building for lunch. It's creepy.

Everyone rushes to the kitchen when the announcement (via email) is made that the food has arrived. We go down, get the food, and return to our work more!

I know this doesn't seem like a huge deal. I assure you there is more. We have only just begun.

PLEASE NOTE: There are always exception's to the rule. I would say 99.5% of the employees at eprize go out to lunch less that once a month. THESE ARE SALARY EMPLOYEES! THEY DO NOT GET PAID ANYMORE FOR WORKING THROUGH LUNCH! THEY ARE EXPECTED TO DO SO!

Start of Work

In late 2004 I began my employment with an online promotion company ePrize, based out of Pleasant Ridge, MI. For the length of my employment I learned many things about myself but mostly I learned why someone would NOT want to work for this company. The ongoing posts will be one person's account of overworking for a company. Stay tuned.