I never had anything to do with Tom Petters. I’ve certainly never met the guy. But I don’t think I’d have liked him much.
When you meet a person in a bar, or on a date, or wherever, you can usually get a pretty fair sense of what that person’s about via all sorts of little cues; their body language, the way they pick their words, the way they spell things, the way the respond (or not) to questions, the tone and manner in which they speak, their eye contact, and a million other little telltale signs most of us have internalized after a lifetime of dealing with people.
Companies are the same. In my years of working – especially in my years as a contractor, where I’d sometimes be with three or four different companies in a year, with months of interviewing, and researching companies, and interviewing some more – I like to think I’ve developed a pretty keen sense of how a company is when I get a first impression. Of course, at various times in my life, I’ve had to just get a damn job, now, and so I’ve taken jobs where that little sense in the back of my head told me that there was something about the people I’d interviewed that wasn’t quite right. That little sense was always right.
And of course, I’ve walked away from job opportunities when that little sense was insistent enough (and other opportunities were available, naturally).
Over the years, I’ve interviewed with two Petters group subsidiaries – I’m not going to name names. And both times, that little voice in the back of my head said “RUN AWAY“. The gist I got both times was the same feeling you get when a salesman is pitching you on a very dubious proposition; he’s pouring his heart into it, but it just doesn’t add up. In both cases, there was a sense of – to coin a phrase – frantic sleaziness about the operation that set my internal “warning meter” to jackhammer. I left both interviews with no intention of coming back for a second. If presenting a frantically-sleazy veneer to interviewees was a tactic to weed out less-than-enthusiastic possible recruits – well, it worked. Twice.
And judging by this kind of story, I’m glad:
I’m trying to get official confirmation, but two previously credible sources tell me that GreatWater Media, part of Tom Petters’ empire, was shuttered today. All employees — I think we’re talking about three dozen folks — were terminated…When the acquisition was announced July 17, Petters officials told MMG employees they would not be paid for the previous three weeks. After stories appeared in MinnPost and the Star Tribune, Petters relented — offering 38 rehired workers “retention bonuses” equal to three weeks pay…according to one laid-off worker’s spouse, it was never paid and now won’t be.
Even worse, the spouse says workers won’t be paid for the past three weeks at GreatWater Media — meaning they’ve lost six weeks worth of pay overall.
In the interest of fairness, I’ll add that I do have friends who have worked in various corners of Petters’ former empire, and had good experiences. I’ve also worked with “alumni” of Petters’ empire who carried the frantic sleaziness with them to their next jobs.
Conclusion? There is none – except that that little voice in the back of your head can be a very useful thing.