Tuesday, May 12, 2009

V-Power: Magnificent, or Just Awesome?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Three years ago this past week, a company called V-Power Donuts was conceived, among other things, in a classroom at Naperville North High School. V-Power found its relatively inauspicious origins, which hardly forebade the mammoth economic impact it would later have on the school, in the hands of one V Kuznetsov, pictured at left, its CEO and namesake. V's emminently humanitarian vision was to bring the deserving, hungry young minds of Naperville North better doughnuts at a better price than what state budgetary constraints mandated they should have--a worthy endeavor, indeed.

Patton, Hannibal, even Sun Tzu himself would have marveled at V's plan to make his vision a reality. As Sun Tzu said, "What enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is FOREKNOWLEDGE." Oh, V had foreknowledge alright. In fact, he might even have been called something of a double agent. V was a former employee of Dunkin' Donuts.

With the inside track on the Big Business doughnut world, V was able to put together a business plan far superior to that of Naperville North's vaunted in-house cafeteria food provider, Sodexho. The key pieces to V's plan were his four wonderkid Vice Presidents: Tapan Jani (Marketing), Mike Bogart (Operations), Yannick Kwan (Finance), and Ryan McNamara (Human Resources). With this powerhouse team of business mogul prodigies, there was no way V-Power could fail. And fail, it did not.

When the Fab Five, as they later came to be known, presented their business plan, their teacher, Carliss Harris, wept silent tears of joy. V-Power's biggest rival, some guys selling gum or something, gave a standing ovation. Local rapscalian Bardia Farzad even congratulated the Five on a job well done, the highest compliment of his on record. V-Power's business plan was not just a business plan, it was a heavenly work of art. It represented the raw, iconoclastic, uncensored vision of its founders, constantly contradicting itself, repeating ideas, and using poor grammar to great rhetorical effect. In short, V-Power took the world by storm. And, quite frankly, how could all this praise not have been piled on?

The reverberations of V-Power's groundbreaking Statement of Purpose ("Our purpose as a company is to make a profit by purchasing donuts at $3.50 a dozen, and selling them at a higher price to make a profit") are still felt in the halls of Naperville North to this day, and their landmark assessment of the key features of their product ("Our product, donuts, is not like any other product from student run companies. Its main characteristics that shape our day to day operations are: donuts spoil after about a day; donuts require ample storage space; donuts need to kept sanitary; donuts have to be ordered every day"), quoted for your reading pleasure in all its original glory, is still the gold standard by which student-run companies evaluate their products today.

As we'll see, each of the V-Power VP's had their own style.

Tapan Jani, pictured to the left, was the head of Marketing. Below is a slide from the Marketing Team's portion of the business plan presentation (entitled "V-Power: And the Survery Says") that changed the lives of so many. It depicts the results of the market research led by Tapan Jani, who was supported by his crack team of analysts--Iris Chen and Ryan Ronayne.

As you all can see, Tapan was one of the innovators of the now-standard practice of veiling the unimportance of superfluous market research in an ambiguous, unclear manner, using nebulous pie charts and unlabeled data sets. Not until Freddie Mac would the world see business being done on quite this high a level again.

This next slide shows Tapan's implementation of the ingenious technique of asking leading yes-or-no questions that he already knows the answer to. Only the best court-appointed trial lawyers have been able to master this technique, and even then, few do it as poetically as Tapan does here. Additionally, the question that he asks reaches inspiring new heights of vaguery:

Are we to interpret this as asking whether the customer gets too much doughnut for their dollar? Or is the "too much" simply a reiteration of the "too high" theme? I'll never know, but what I do know is that Tapan's confusing poll questions did wonders in helping V-Power delude its customers.

Along with their flawless research, the Marketing team also drew up some shrewd advertising campaigns. Instead of paying what they deemed to be ridiculous royalties that come with using copyrighted material, the team decided that the most cost-effective, least energy-intensive method of advertising would be to use material that other people had already created without permission. Thus, Homer Simpson, that time-honored magnate of doughnut fetishism, became the new spokesman for V-Power Donuts.

But Tapan wasn't the only one making waves. Over on the Operations side of things, Mike Bogart (left), along with his team consisting of the consummate hard-worker Mark Jaris and the ever-professional Nicole Nanneti, were blazing a trail that few, if any, had ever previously blazed. One such trail was their treatment of the sensitive issue of handling cash, again quoted in all its original glory for your reading pleasure:

"Cash Handling: All cash is to be kept in the provided cash box, bills in one stack but organized by value, and coins in a plastic bag. If we are running out of change,"

In an impressive feat of diplomacy, and, might I mention, an earth-shattering example of Postmodernism, or "Weird for the sake of weird" for the layperson, Mike decided to cleave his declaration of the cash handling policy in half, and leave the other half completely out of the final plan. In one fell swoop, Mike tactfully avoided the sticky area of employee theft altogether, and also made the cash handling policy, in two words, sublimely vague. It was so vague and unclear that no one could possibly be reprimanded for mishandling the cash. Postmodern, indeed.

Equally important, and less overtly controversial, though it did have its moments, was Mike's policy on "handling customers":

"Handling Customers: employees are never to be mean to customers. Try to be as nice as possible, but do not go beyond your jurisdiction without management approval. Most customer suggestions are valuable input, and should be recorded and mentioned to management. Use common sense, and provide the best customer service you can! Smile!"

In his ominous requirement for "management approval," Mike, with subtle, almost Freudian nuance, effectively asserts the dominance of the Fab Five over the affairs of V-Power. They ruled with an iron fist, but it was an iron fist that went disguised as puppies and ducklings until it punched you in the face. Further, on a somewhat contrary note, Mike again goes against the conventional "customer is always right" wisdom, noting that "most customer suggestions are valuable." This flies in the face of conventional economics going all the way back to Ray Kroc, and it just goes to show that if nothing else, the Operations portion of the business plan illuminated the eccentric nature of the Fab Five, a nature that is inherent to geniuses the world over.

Yannick Kwan, or Y2K, as he was known during his Fab Five days, headed up the Finance Department, which also housed esteemed mathematicians Kat Yoh and Jon Talarek. What the Finance Department lacked in substance, they made up for in brevity. They were the ultimate minimalists, epitomizing (in a successful attempt at irony) the buttoned-down, number-crunching, ultimately soulless world of finance. Here is a sample from their "Projected Income Statement":

"After selling for 11 days, we have made a total of $369.46 from sales from selling doughnuts at the prices of $0.50 per doughnut or $5 per dozen. We have also spent $14.70 on Napkins for our customers and $10.00 on a Jamba Juice gift card which is part of our promotional campaign with the winner receiving this gift card."

Yannick had inside information on the failed attempt to trademark the word "napkin" as a brand name before the general public did, so he capitalized it here, prematurely (and, ultimately, embarrassingly) honoring his good friends at Solo. Yannick also defied verb tense, ironically (he was a master of irony) creating tension between the tenses.

Finally, there was the Human Resources Department, headed by VP Ryan McNamara (left), who was supported by the all-world cast of Matt Kerr and Annette Vacval. Macky, a term of endearment for McNamara that was popular with the shareholders, oversaw the creation of the V-Power Bylaws, as well as the Code of Conduct. Ironically (Macky was also an ironic genius), Article 6 of the Bylaws states:

"Article 6 - Product: Our CEO will go to Dunkin' Donuts every morning for a new batch of donuts for the day. The dozens of donuts will be paid with the company profits. During the selling period, the sellers will be handling the product safely, making sure that none of the product is stolen."

Here, Macky (with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek) equates net profits with gross revenue, stating that V-Power would buy their products using their profits. Of course, what the astute reader will pick up on is that the profits a company makes are determined only after their expenses have been factored into the equation. Macky pushed the ironic envelope to the brink, highlighting what he believed to be the sorry state of the business world today. He was a passionate man, and he pointed out unequivocally that some people in business today really don't know the difference between revenue and profit.

Macky also draws a chilling portrait of the stark contrast between supply and demand with his economical (pun intended) use of prepositions. In the first sentence of Article 6 (which has come to be known in religious circles as the "Doomsday Article"), Macky uses three prepositions, lulling readers into a false sense of security. They believe that they have all the prepositions they could ever need, but in the next two sentences combined, there are only three total prepositions. Macky even leaves out a "for" where there should have been one in the second sentence, just to reinforce his idea that no one can get complacent, that everyone must be constantly vigilant. Macky was, undoubtedly, the philosopher-warrior of the group.

The renown that the Fab Five and their business plan has received over the years is largely based on their groundbreaking work in the fields of vagueness and irony. The plan is regarded not only as the superlative business plan of the 21st century, but also as a bold, shocking statement against the efficiency, clarity, and overall effectiveness of contemporary business models. No doubt, it will soon take its rightful place amongst the greatest works of all time in the canon of Western literature.

And how was all of this planning actually applied on Judgment Day, you ask?


In the end, each employee of V-Power made a 1400% increase on their capital investment. Yes, I said 1400%. Those are Berkshire Hathaway numbers. And that's not even taking into account the well-deserved bonuses that each VP paid out to himself. Truly, V-Power Donuts was a sight that the world had never seen before, and one that it will likely never have the pleasure of seeing again.

May 8th is the symbolic inauguration day of V-Power, as the real day that they launched doughnut operations has been lost to the annals of history. We ask you, loyal TCS readers, in honor of the landmark achievements of V-Power Donuts, to celebrate every May 8th as National V-Power Appreciation Day.

Please, go out, buy a donut, and think of V-Power while you eat it. Thank you, and goodnight.

Tapan + Mike