For a long time now, I’ve been saying that a corporatized university, much like the corporatized medical system, is a monstrosity. You can’t turn everything into a for-profit venture. But this morning, I started wondering, should I look at this another way? For example – what would happen if we tried to corporatize “family”? Might this be the next new frontier for the capitalist model? Since most families are too impoverished now to be valuable as the rabid consumers of the past, it might be necessary to find a new value for them in this shifting market system.
First, we would have to begin with incorporating the family (hereinafter called the Family Corporation) which would be a separate entity from the family itself. Then we would proceed with a restructuring of the leadership roles. Traditionally, the head of the family has been a member of the family, most likely an elder who has the authority and wisdom gained through years of life, and years of living within the network of family members. But we find that this is not the best option for the Family Corporation, given the fact that such family heads, which role will now be redesigned and called the Chief Family Officer, have little or no training in marketing, management or international commerce. So from now on, it will become necessary to conduct a more widespread search for CFO, someone preferably with a Master’s in Family Administration. (It is not necessary that this person be, him/herself a member of a family, or know about “family” in the more antiquated sense. In fact, such experience may be seen as problematic since it risks reactionary thinking.) This outside CFO will be much more effective in this supervisory position, since s/he will be free from all the sentimentality that so often accompanies a family member’s dealings within their own kinship network. The CFO will be charged with redesigning and reorganizing that kinship network so that the economic value of the unit will increase and generate a profit for the newly-created Board of Directors, outside professionals named by the CFO for the purpose of overseeing the profit margins, the stability of their market share and of course, responsible for the ever-important outside funding initiatives, including research grants, and corporate funding ventures. Compensation for the position of CFO should begin at $500,000 with a potential $500,000 in additional discretionary funds. Bonuses should be built into the contract, as should the provision of a home, car and driver befitting the role of a CFO whose attendant responsibilities include moving in upper levels of the corporate and social circles. Compensation for Board Members can be decided among the Board and CFO. Salaries for family members would be decided according to market variables, with the goal being to maintain profit margins by holding a steady, low-moderate compensation for these family positions. It would be best for the Family Corporation if these family members were expected to compete with each other for a percentage of a small compensation pool.
The next step is to assess the potential value of each of the family members. This is not the same as the professional income data that might be gathered by a forensic expert. Rather, it is a complete re-evaluation of the person’s potential worth in the market. For instance, if the mother is a practicing attorney in a thriving litigation practice, what value might she have to a corporate entity looking for inside information about certain areas of law? Might those corporations be willing to provide a research grant to mom to conduct a study for the purposes of clarifying certain legal positions in the case now brought against them by the Federal Government? And wouldn’t this be an enticing new model for corporations who have, in the past, spent billions of dollars for representation by law firms that have grown fat and complacent? Creating this sort of free market model, where corporations can award grants to a variety of legal applicants and create their own team — not the same as an inhouse team, which again would create the expectation of ongoing employment and benefits – but a team for the term of the grant period and no longer? Mom could then continue her work with her own law firm, but would be able to create outside grant possibilities as an additional source of income, thereby increasing the profitability of her worth to the Family Corporation and the Board. It should be made clear that Mom, as an employee of the Family Corporation, would be expected to draw a lower salary from her own income at the law firm, since much of that income would now be the property of the Corporation, to be used for the purpose of off-setting administrative costs.
Since mom is a widow, there may also be funding and grant opportunities through the creation of a non-profit organization, name to be decided at a future date, for the purpose of receiving donations and grants from various funding agencies. It would be important for mom to maintain her identity as widow, by signing the documents created by our legal advisors, promising not to remarry. She should also maintain membership in national widowhood organizations, and be encouraged to be an active participant, providing talks, lectures, community service to other widows, and an occasional power point presentation at appropriate events and conferences. Compensation for these events would also be the property of the Family Corporation.
The potential market value of the children could be assessed using a variety of standardized evaluative techniques as well as the standard marketing assessment tools. Intellect, physical skills, attractiveness would all be important evaluators. But there may be hidden potential value that must be kept in mind when assessing the individual possibilities. For instance, if there is a special needs child in the family, that child could present great value for the purposes of human interest stories, and possible funding and research grants. By making such a child available for a series of pharmaceutical tests for FDA approval processes, for instance, the Family Corporation may be able to earn additional income. The child’s value, then, would increase exponentially as an income producer. The same would be true of an overweight child, preferably a daughter, who could become a human interest story, and who could then be part of a “get thin” campaign, complete with TV and radio interviews, videotape segments of her dieting and workout program (which could be sold on DVD at a later date). Possible funding from weight loss companies such as Jennie Craig or Weight Watchers would bring additional revenue; perhaps even some cosmetic and fashion companies would pay to become involved with a makeover experience, then marketing a line of cosmetics or clothes related to this transformational experience. The point here is that nothing should be overlooked in regard to the marketing potential of children’s imperfections.
It would probably make the most sense, at least in the earliest re-modeling of the Family Corporation, to also name mom as the Acting Chair, a position charged with the responsibility of overseeing and administering the responsibilities and level of functioning of the other family members and growing administrative staff. This would support the appearance of a more traditional model, and forestall any anxiety on the part of other family membership. It’s always best to have someone perceived as an insider to act in the mediative position of authority and create a barrier between the family unit and the CFO.
It’s also better if the family unit is not given full information about the membership of the board, or its activities. Most important is the need to include only the key operatives in the executive decisions, since the family members lack both the training and the status to take part in this process.
Grandma, because of her advanced age and retirement status might be best used in her capacity as community leader, in order to plan activities designed to create the sense of neighborhood happiness. Grandma would be expected to make regular local appearances in such feel-good places as the local farmer’s market, and the garden supply store. She should be encouraged to teach Sunday School (and our marketing analysis people can let us know which would be the most effective church choice) and volunteer a few hours each week at a day care center. This would be a key PR position, so that the name of the family could be used often in media releases and local TV interviews. Other family members should be encouraged to refer all conversations about the family and its activities to Grandma, and her administrative staff of PR experts.
Part of the responsibility of Grandma and the PR team would be to create and maintain a website and weekly newsletter, providing the “at home and personal” accounts of family life, being sure that SEO options are always considered, and hash tags used. The goal of all communications would be for the dual purpose of raising “brand” awareness and creating higher income potential. Donation requests and other purchasable items would be prominently featured on each page of the website and each page of the newsletter.
These would be the only full-time family positions. The other positions, those of the sons and daughters, would be decided on a seasonal basis, and renewed “at will” by the Acting Chair and her outside assistants. And, since the possibility for negative feelings might develop if the Acting Chair in her capacity as “mother” makes the ultimate decision, it is probably best that all renewal request decisions be made irrevocably by an outside assistant, charged with that duty. This assistant position, too, would be full-time.
Sons and Daughters would be required to complete the re-application paperwork in a timely manner, stating their availability for family membership, with the understanding that, since they are not to be awarded full-time status at any time, their compensation for such family membership would be approximately 30% of what a full-time family member might receive. This, of course, would preclude them from receiving health care benefits on the family policy, or having any full-time space in the family home, resulting in a substantial savings for the Family Corporation. Most bedrooms will have to be retained by the growing administrative staff. Any other possible work and sleep areas, such as porches, yards, decks, stairwells, kitchens, hallways or living room floor space will be shared and re-assigned season by season to contingent family members, as available, with the understanding that no personal items are to be stored in such spaces, and would be discarded at the end of the seasonal term of involvement. Any closets or storage space in the family home would also be reserved for use by full-time family members or their administrative staff. Driveways and garage space are reserved for the use of full-time family members and administrative staff. Contingent family members are not eligible to receive any assistance from the full-time administrative staff. Any supplies used in the operation of the Family Corporation are to be requisitioned by the contingent family members to prevent misuse of supplies. This includes all office items as well as tissues, paper towels and toilet paper. A voucher for a maximum of 3 family meals a week would be provided to each contingent family member, which could be used for any of the three daily meals: breakfast, lunch, or dinner. These vouchers are not to be combined with any other form of discount coupon and cannot be traded or sold. They must be used during the seasonal term, and expire at the end of said term. A voucher for inclusion in family holidays will also be available, allowing each contingent family member to apply for his/her choice of one holiday per year: Christmas, Easter or Thanksgiving. Decisions about contingent family attendance will be made by the administrative staff, and are to be considered final. Contingent family members should also understand that, as contract family members renewed at will, they are not eligible for any sort of state or federal family services, such as foster care or shelters.
Since these changes may create an unnecessary sense of dissatisfaction and disloyalty to the Family Corporation, it is important that all correspondence begin with “Dear Family Members”. Research has proven that encouraging the belief in equality and team membership is a successful management tactic in any two-tiered system.
The ultimate goal would be to find a way to “brand” the family, with an attendant high-impact logo, creating a successful narrative about their unique contributions and talents, perhaps with an eye towards the creation of a reality TV show and the possible movie deal, with the secondary sales of a line of clothing, workout CDs, lunchboxes and eBooks. Any of these income sources legally belong to the Family Corporation, and not to the individual family members whose characterizations are contractually part of the corporate brand and the sole property of the Family Corporation. All profit from these secondary sources of income would belong to the corporation, to be divided among the CFO and Board of Directors in year-end bonuses.
I may be on to something here — if we could all find a way to turn the hundreds of thousands of unprofitable and old-fashioned family units into marketable, monetized entities, we could create an entire new industry of educational degrees – Masters in Family Administration, Masters in Family Psychological Marketing Dynamics, Masters in Family Management and Supervision. We could create hundreds of thousands of well-paid administrative jobs and contribute to the highly-valued marketing model of our consumerist economy. The cost in quality of life to the actual families themselves would be minimal in comparison to the enormity of profit possible.
I’m open to further suggestions on how to successfully corporatize an otherwise worthless and sloppy organization of people. After all, progress is progress.