There are many reasons I'm proud of my wife. Jennifer is a kick-*ss stage manager, universally acknowledged as the best in the local theatre community wherever we end up (whether off-off Broadway or on the East Bay). Everyone wants to work with her. She gets sh*t done. Knows her stuff. Denmothers the actors with finesse. Always professional, well-organized, and safety conscious. And she's put on some amazing shows. The musicals have been most impressive (from re-performances of City of Angels to Meet Me in St. Louis). She's even in the history books (in a history of a theatre she once worked for: Worthy But Neglected: Plays of the Mint Theater Company).
For those who don't know what a stage manager is, they run the entire show, in command of everything from scheduling to every last cue. In effect, the director decides how the show will be run, but once the show opens, the director goes home, and the stage manager does everything you would expect a director to do (on a movie set, for example), every night, the whole run, until the show closes. They also handle all the administrative stuff before production, like managing rehearsals and costumers and set builders and all the other stuff that has to happen. You can't run a play without a stage manager, and it's a thankless job no one wants, so it's hard to find someone who does it well. Jen doesn't just do it well. She loves it. She doesn't do it for a living, though. She usually only does community theatre, on her spare time (for minimal stipends). She could do it for a living, but the life of a stage manager isn't a stable one, since you're perpetually looking for a job (every time a show closes), which is wearying, and hardly conducive to a reliable income (permanent in-house positions are rare).
I mention all this because stage managing is one of the areas where I get to see many of the qualities in Jen that I love so much. Another is in her "real job." For the longest time in our marriage she had to work jobs she hated just to pull a reliable income, from executive assistant in corporate publishing to office manager for a mall management firm. Always dealing with all the corporate bullsh*t many of you may be well familiar with (office politics, stupidity, mismanagement, ignorance, *ssholedom, and that's just the short list). Yet she was so good at her work she invariably ended up writing the manual on every job she held. Literally. Her employers were always devastated to see her go. But I'm sure they're still using her handbooks. One even still has her voice on the carpark ticket machines. And there was a lot I saw in her in those jobs that I loved, too. But I always hated the fact that she was never happy in them.
Then one day her mall management company wanted to do something it could promote as being "green" (in the California Bay Area, appearing to care about the environment is marketing gold), and Jen thought it sounded awesome so she volunteered to run the program, complete with going to city meetings and managing everything on site. Of course the company wasn't really all that interested, just half-assed (in care and budgeting), the least it could do and still legally claim it was doing something. So all the usual things that suck about corporate jobs still sucked about this one, but Jen liked it so much she decided she didn't want to work for corporate bozos anymore. She wanted a job that meant something, that did some good.
So while still employed there she started shopping around for a similar job but in a company that actually did something for the environment, and for serious, not facade. Since she didn't need a job, she actually didn't give a sh*t how she came off in interviews, or who called back, which actually ended up selling herself even better: she was relaxed and unabashedly honest and basically her normal funny self. Thus guaranteeing she would only get hired where she would actually be appreciated (rather than where she would have to "conform"). She could also pick who she worked for, and for what salary and benefits. Hence she was just as much interviewing them as they were her. An enviable position to be in.
She eventually settled on Vetrazzo. They offered her a competitive position, she liked the people she was going to work with, and what they were doing. It was also the job Jen had essentially been trained for the whole past decade: getting an entirely new corporate office up and running from scratch. Everything from furnishing and supplying the physical office to getting networking and accounting systems set up, and workflow, and everything else you can think of. It was a brand new company, a start up, and small: the whole corporation could occupy a single conference table. She literally knows every single person, personally and well, from the very top all the way down. ...Oh, yeah, what do they do? I'll get to that in a minute.
Apart from being yet another venue where all her great qualities and talents could shine, even more than ever before, and I could admire her yet again, now Jen also had a job she was truly happy in. They often work her too hard. The only downside. But that's largely because it's a small company and there's a lot to do and not enough funding to hire people to do it. So she does everything. Or nearly so. But she now has an employee of her own and they are hiring another to take over some of her many and excessive responsibilities. But seeing the contrast led me to reflect a little on the philosophy of business.
She's happier now because (a) she likes everyone she works with and works for, (b) her bosses are rational, genuinely moral, and have a sense of humor, (c) they let her get things done in the way she knows they need to get done (no stupid arbitrary rules or instructions), (d) they treat her well, and (e) they actually listen to her and ask for her input on things (and really do want it). She feels like she's part of a team that takes her seriously, and really cares about the company and the work environment and the happiness of everyone on board. It's the way every business should be run, but hardly any ever are.
I would even argue the purpose of business is not to make money, but to secure the happiness of all who work in it. The making of a profit is a necessary means to that end, hence business must be savvy and competitive and well-run, but making money should never be the end in itself. The latter is to embrace a cold and inhuman and amoral life, while the former is to recognize the only valuable meaning in life. Bosses who grasp that make the world a better place, for themselves and everyone they work with and for. Bosses who don't, create little more than misery and useless coin.
I'm so happy Jen found this company and got in at the beginning and is growing with it and so much happier than she was before. She's now chief administrator of Vetrazzo, LLC (the only thing that'd make her happier is if she looked like Jennifer Connolly...oh wait, she already does...and yet she doesn't believe me...but I digress). The icing on the cake is that Vetrazzo actually does something great: they make countertops and tabletops out of recycled glass. Their product looks like a beautiful mozaic, and it comes in countless color schemes (check out their website). Essentially they manufacture big polished slabs of concrete and crushed glass, just like granite or marble slabs, that you can cut anyway you want for whatever you need, but instead of being cut from quarries or manufactured from petroleum products, they take trash and turn it into beautiful and functional materials for homes and businesses. So it's pro-environment, and good business.
Jen is now doing something she believes in, in a company that respects her and treats her well. But they are still a new company, building from scratch. They are doing quite well, with investors and income, but they can grow faster with help. All the plant and machinery and staff aren't cheap, and there's no fat cat capitalist or megacorporation bankrolling it, so their growth takes time as they generate earnings to acquire more assets. And that's what inspired me to write this blog today. Well, okay, it's partly an excuse to talk about why I love my wife and am so proud of her (I'd avoided talking too much about her before so she wouldn't get harassed by any of the jerks who pester me, but since she has already posted on my blog before, and anyone who follows her links will learn all this anyway, I figured it was time to let loose with my praise--but still, to all the jerks out there, leave her alone).
Nevertheless, what occasioned this excuse is an email Jen sent out to everyone she knew, which I excerpt here:
I’ve been working for a company called Vetrazzo for the last couple of years. We make truly gorgeous (and green) countertop material out of recycled glass and concrete. In fact if you haven’t heard from me in a long while Vetrazzo is probably the reason. I’m working my butt off over here!
The reason for this particular email is to beg a favor. We've made it to the top 20 of the Forbes 2008 Boost Your Business contest, and the final five will be decided by online voting. So we're reaching out to our friends and contacts to go online and vote for us, and if they feel so inclined to encourage their friends to do so as well. This would be a great boost (both marketing-wise and money-wise) to this fledgling company I've grown to love.
So I thought I'd ask this little favor, if you don't mind, please vote for us and pass it along to anyone else who might want to as well.
If they win, they'll get a $100,000 development grant. I believe we should all support companies like this, not just because they are green, but because they care about their workers and create a work environment that is the way all companies should be. Precisely because they aren't being micromanaged by some cold profit-seeking supercorp or aloof ultrarich industrialist, they actually have a humanist outlook at every level of company management. This is the kind of enterprise that deserves a boost, and all it'll cost you is about sixty seconds of clicking and typing at a website. I'm sure they need a lot of voters to get into the final five (the winner will be picked from those), so if you share my values and beliefs, or if you just want to tip one my way by helping the company that's made my wife a happier gal, please Vote Vetrazzo.
You can learn all about them at the Forbes Contest website. There, down the right side, is the Vetrazzo option. You can click through the corporate name to read all about the company (and what they will use the money for) and watch a short 30-second video (shot in their small factory just down the road from us--that's Jen's boss, BTW). But back on that first page, to vote for them, just click their "vote for" box, then fill out the web form at the bottom of the page (you can only vote once). Then click to submit your vote. The site will then send you a validation email, which will have a weblink in it (mine went into my spam folder, so keep a look out). You have to click or visit that weblink to validate your vote. That's all there is to it. Doesn't cost a dime. The contest closes at the end of this month (September 2008).