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SUMMIT FINANCIAL / CHOPSHOP

1 Parsippany, NJ, United States
Contact information:

I frankly was enjoying my first few weeks at Summit FINANCIAL and, although I was very puzzled about the lack of training, post-interview quotas, and the fact that my colleagues started dropping like flies a mere week after I arrived (and worried that you would tell a one-week employeee who would be next and who was "on the edge"), I still thought with my = MBA, some trial and error, IT coming through on a computer for me, and some up-to-date (or less than two year old ) materials from which to get leads, it would be a great place albeit not a lucrative one, to begin a career in Finance.

I must admit I was somewhat upset about being let go; especailly without severance, given the fact that I never in a million years would have left without giving you at least one month's notice. I believe it only fair that having diverted me from supporting my family and reseting my job search efforts at square one, especially in light of the lack of support that the company provided in securing teleconferences (detailed below), at least 2 weeks severance is the minimum the company should provide without being exploitative.

Yet, given what I saw go on at the firm, I have no desire to push try and recover any damages or otherwise deal with Summit again. If indeed is serious about living up to its self-professed quality and fairness credo you will provide severance, if not, then so be it.

A bit of background for the principals of the firm: I am an MBA with over 25 years in sales and marketing experience, and took the position to enter the finance industry. I am a hard worker (being asked to come in at 7:30 and leave at 4:30 each day, which I did without hesitating.)

The first warning sign that occured in the relationship was that the company asked me to use MY OWN computer for its business purposes. That is, without being compensated in any way shape or form. As all of you are seasoned, smart quantitatively oriented businessmen, I do not understand how you do not see the complete folly of this policy. The reduction in output that not having a computer at a marketers' desk (unless the do in fact have their own and use it) must represent tens if not hundreds of thousands of lost revenues on a conservative basis. Further, the morale hit a brand new employee experiences when asked PRIOR TO ARRIVING ON DAY ONE to bring his own PC, when he arrives to see partners parking Jags in their reserved spots must also comtribute substantially towards turnover, again making the firm incur sizeable overhead hits - all this because of a shortsighted policy of not allocating 10K - 15K firmwide for telemarketer PCs. In my case, I brought in my Mac, however a surly gentleman was offfended by the fact that that is the only computer I own, and made absolutely no effort to get the machine online, despite the machine running on an Intel 386 chip, for which there are a plethora of $49 Windows emulation software packages. In fact, at one point he went off line for a week and completely ignored the issue.

Asking an employee making $15 an hour to bring his own computer for business use is unheard of, and given the funds you allocate to recruit, pay, provide benfits for and otherwise run a telemarketing division, it seems that perhaps even a downgrade in the quality of the tea set in the conference room could finance actual PCS for workers.

In my case, I dug around in my attic until I found a circa 1998 laptop, however it was missing a $12 power cord. My boss gracious in letting me know that of course the firm would reimburse me the funds, yet the company would not reimburse.

Note that this is on top of an environment where your organization makes a concerted effort to recruit smart talented people, and spend good money to vet them. Frankly logic would dictate that if Summit is going to spend thousands just to recruit one new marketer that it perhaps shed its blinders and see that there is no point of bringing in someone if they are going to be systematically demoralized over the course of their first month by this type of shortsightedness.

This was not the only egregiously inefficient and frankly "plain dumb" policy I saw in my brief, disheartening and finally short tenure at a firm which based its marketing pitch on being the smartest and most insightful kids on the block from an asset allocation POV. The only explanations that I could come up with were that:

1) either you as partners, they are unaware of the hemorraging of overhead due to shortsighted, short-term decisions;

2) an inadequately informed and trained IT department provides poor managing-up to keep sr mgmt happy (albeit while the money was slipping thru the cracks...) ( the no one wants to be the bearer of news where we need to spend $ principle..)

3) A level of mid- and mid/upper management more motivated in keeping their jobs as long as possible by keeping up the appearance of being aggressive about obtaining results, without and innovations, insight or real marketing thinking - rather "get the teleconferences or off with your head."

In a business organization a combination of dynamics such as the ones I describe about mix together like a "T" and "N" and a "T" - resulting in sooner or later the organization destructing because Sr management has no TRUE idea about these issues due to the mid level and mid/sr level trying to survive as long as possible.

I venture that without serious intervention by the powers that be, given all this in 2010/2011 Summit may thud to the ground in the space of a few weeks.

The firm is rife with more evidence of these troubling signs:

1) Marketers like I was are given hand me down five and six year old research materials, no real training besides some cursory play acting, no acccess to an electronic do not call list, (making them access a crude list that is not in proper alpha order and has the same company spelled sometimes 5- 10 different ways. It's no wonder why the DNC list is so large!)

2) They denying these employees computers and the ability to view which prospects have already been approached by other depts. Ironic since apparently the organization has this info stored in a database. It's obvious that there is no real effort to comply with FTC/FCC telemarketing guidelines given the lack of a formal dnc process. If the company wanted to comply with the law, it could do so within 3 hours and with a budget of less than a few thousand dollars.

In my 25 -odd days I can tell you that I had at least 50 - 100 execs tell me that they were being called everyday by Summit and had been asked to be removed from the list 10 - 20 times.

This is hard to understand; since Summit apparently possesses a rather decent reputation as not being a chop shop. But when the "telemarketers" (a strategically poor term to use to bolster confidence in the employee leading to sales success) see from day one how Summit really only desires to play a numbers game, in which they are given quota sheets and told from week two that they will be fired if they do no make both quantity and quality marks, it is extremely disheartening...further leading to turnover...contributing to the possibility of a slow "sudden" insolvency of the firm.

3) To further suck the morale out of myself and other "TM'S", within my first three weeks of employment, I saw the "closed door office game" play out.

Usually on a Friday afternoon, the TM's would be called one by one into the bosses office and, to with conniviving credit and skill, in a nice way, he read them the riot act. He told me - an employee who had been there a mere two weeks - that a person who it appeared everyone in the group thought highly of and was quite jovial with, was about to be fired - at CLOSE OF DAY the next day. And the other gentleman in the group would be fired next. (Hmmm...I thought...if he tells ME this..what is he telling everyone else, and how long do I REALLY have to meet goals?) And using the cover of the poor economy ...he did it while looking like he believed that this management behavior was normal and accepted in honest, ethical companies. His real accomplishment was the opposite - in one fell swoop completely removing any trust I had in Summit, him, and his bosses.

I cannot tell you the complete inadvisability of managing this way, other than to let you know that Summit's turnover must be over 200% a year. Bring em in, show them that you're going to fire the guy next door, give them a surprise quota, and expect them to relax and perform. Voila! Chopshop?

4) Frankly I am further amazed how Summit can manage in this manner in the middle of this economic climate. I was aghast when in the same breath I was told that, the company was acutely aware of the econony's problems, but its response was to quicken the trigger finger on employees that did not get teleconferences.

All this with no computers, no research, food-stamp level pay, a whopping $15 payoff per teleconference, which it seemed the company thought that the "telemarketers" actually believed would make any sort of substantive difference in the quality of their lives, when in fact the "bounty" just emphasized the poverty level wages and the marketers' feelings of being raked given no upside and all downside. Again, stacking the odds towards failure. What about customer care>>

5) Most upsetting was being forced to endure (with a straight face) the argument, used to justify Summits' shifting of all the risk on to its marketing staff. Basically as I understood it, we were being told that a) the principals were running the group as a business and needed to see results, since they were injecting their own capital into the business to support each of our liveliehoods.

They recruited us because many of us were Ivy league grads, we have ambition, we have owned businesses, made hundreds of thousands in good years - but then they very quickly (days, not weeks) spoiled our enthusiasm methodically by looking at us in the face and expecting us to believe that principals and Directors, who drive Boxsters and Lamborghinis to work, and complain about having to fly business class instead of coach (when they are not on a three week vacation) actually think that the peple that they hire deliberately for their smarts and business acumen believe that management is "suffering."

I am no leftie or union guy or anything resembling that; I am a hard worker who doesnt complain and believed that Summit was not a Boilerroom but a Class operation. That's why I joined, and probably why you hired other decent workers who were great tithe very beginning but who were similarly put throught the wash and spin cycle marketers. AND THE CO WONDERS WHY

Tthe firm, probably once actually a respectful reputable and fair place to work in its heyday, is actually in the throes of what seems to be a business death cycle, one that is in no way shape or form related to the economy, but rather to management's blindness to the fact that they spend thousands on recruiting good people, essentiallly lie to get them in, then put on high pressure to acheive results quickly all with out providing a $400 computer or leads that have not been called 20 times.

When a company will not pay 12 dollars to get Internet access for someone who brings their own machine to work, has an atmosphere where managers are positioned strategically behind the wall of the marketers in order to get a good listening vantage point of every word of every call the marketer makes, and does not consider the depression-like conditions we are in and the fact that THERE IS NOT MARKET FOR THE PRODUCT, and that the company is just making that 20x worse by its cynical and shortsided greed and cheapness and willingness to look the other way as employees who can't turn water into wine, or pull a rabbit out of a hat are marched out the door the second tuesday of the month, somehing is DRAMATICALLY wrong.

Now I am glad I am not a part of Summit and walk away once and for all, as unfortunately I have no doubt that the guys behind meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee will be next, then my replacement, then his. (I have no illusions, I am surprised with all that I have documented and the 1000-call quota that the partners and business dev mgrs do not have their own quotas, even minimal.) Further I am surprised that Bus Deve Mgrs, who make five-ten times a "TM" ar tasked essentially with eavesdropping on a one person rather than supervise TMs AND make their own 200 calls a day.

Why is ALL of the risk and responsibility but none of the upside on the TM's? Evidence again of the mid management syndrome...talk a good game, fire a few every year, and you are OK! It seems that if you have a certain level of seniority or a five year club pass, then you dont have to work or put your neck out on the line, your job is to turn up the heat on the "help."

But as you can surmise, this is a dynamic that can only last so long before the hammer drops and execs in your level, and higher, soon find themselves wondering why they are similiarly jobless and no doubt denying it was due to anything they did in in mismanaging their business and treating people like sheep.

I bear no one there ill will personally; except for the mean IT guy they were all nice people and if any partner wishes to call me confidentially or email I will not reveal their identity under any circumstances; I only wish the best for the firm. I wish you good luck in keeping your position and perhaps some of my words will fall on the ears of owners who understand the business "death cycle" and can comprehend how it is potentially or even probably happening to your once great company.

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