Editor’s Corner

Almost five decades ago, I was a personnel guy for a St. Louis-based Fortune 500 company involved in consumer products and defense activities. I was the technical staffing manager for the defense side of the business. Life was simpler then. The whole personnel function consisted of me, my boss, and two secretaries – for all five of the plants working in the defense bailiwick.

We had a plant in Southern Illinois where manufacturing and assembly of explosive devices were done. Every couple of weeks, my boss received a list of from five to 20 people who needed to be fired, and since he was the boss and I wasn’t, guess who got the job of driving the 150 miles to be the hatchet man? Yep! It was me.

The plant sat on about 200 acres of ground with a security checkpoint about a mile from the actual plant. As soon as I showed up, the guards would get on the phone to spread the word that ‘the terminator’ was here. I wasn’t very popular.

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I had my list and I had my job, so when an employee’s name was announced over the intercom to come to the office, the secret was out – and so were they. I can’t tell you how many threats I received, but that’s a whole other story.

What brought this to mind was a story in the November 2007 INC. magazine about consultants who can be hired to fire client personnel. This is not one of the alternative revenue sources I had considered when I wrote about other options for revenue enhancement. But why not? Nobody enjoys firing people, so why not outsource this nasty job?

Paul Hawkinson is the editor of The Fordyce Letter, a publication for third-party recruiters that's part of ERE Media. He entered the personnel consulting industry in the late 1950's and began publishing for the industry in the 1970's. During his tenure as a practitioner, he personally billed over $5 million in both contingency and retainer assignments. He formed the Kimberly Organization and purchased The Fordyce Letter in 1980.