Downsizing and Freelancing:  History and the Present


The Wonderful World of Jim Penn


Let’s travel back to a time of Yore to understand the present.  Assembled at the Camelot Round Table are 20 Knights in Shinning Armor.  King Arthur enters, his face quite somber.  It had been rumored that he’ll make an important announcement today. 


He speaks.  “My valiant and loyal Knights, I come to you with mixed blessings.  Thanks to you, we have been successful in our campaign against the Saxons.  Peace and tranquility are once more with us and will be for many years.  Crops abound, and trade flourishes.  All are employed, and I have reduced taxes to the greatest extent.”


Lowering his voice, he continues.  “But with the good news comes the not-so-good news.  There is no longer the need for your services there once was.  Therefore, I must announce that, effective in a fortnight, eight of you will be dismissed from my service with severance.”


An alarming cry went up from all present, “Ohhhh!”


King Arthur recognized his error.  “Not severance of heads, but severance payment for deeds well done,” he said.


“Ahhhh!” was the relieved reply, and then silence.


Sir Lancelot rose to his feet and broke the silence, “My liege, it has been my life’s highlight to serve you.  I recognize the great responsibility that you owe your people.  Having majored in demand-for-supply-side economics, I know the necessity to reduce taxes, when possible, and minimize the governmental payroll.  Although a 40 percent reduction is quite drastic, I stand ready to do whatever is necessary.  I feel that I speak for all here.”


After much applause, the King addressed Lancelot.  “Sir Lancelot, as one of my most trusted men, you shall always be foremost in my heart but, because you command the greatest salary, it is you and seven others that must bite the proverbial dust and seek other employment.  Of course, if future need should arise, I will again call upon you to take up the banner and join my forces.”


Lancelot rose and addressed the King once more, “I know how it saddens you to communicate your message to me and the others.  I always stand ready to serve.  I hope that all those served will stick together and aid those in need in the name of the Good, the Right and the Just.  Of course, I will be available for conflict consulting, and hopefully you will use me as an outsource resource.”


Merlin, Arthur’s most trusted advisor, whispered in the King’s ear.  Arthur’s face lit up as he nodded enthusiastically in agreement.  “Sir Lancelot, I have a suggestion for you and your band of seven.  As we know, Merlin, a prestidigitator of the highest order, has an honors degree in marketing from the Invisible College.  He suggests, Lancelot, that you shorten your name to Lance, and you and your band become known as Freelancers.  No longer will you be required to pledge fealty to one employer, but you can roam freely to do many jobs.”


Sir Gawain pounded the table with glee and said, “What a marvelous idea!”


And, so, Sir Lancelot and his upbeat band of Freelancers roamed the highways and byways offering their services to all who could pay for them (and also did some conflict consulting for King Arthur).  They made a decent living, although Lancelot and his men never did acquire sufficient estates to retire.


We now fast forward to the headquarters of Amalgamated Consolidated.  Rupert Pendragon, chairman of the board and CEO, is meeting with his top management in the conference room which, coincidentally, has a round table.  Amalgamated Consolidated, once a semiconductor manufacturing darling of Wall Street, has fallen on semihard times and is in the process of reorganization.


He begins, “Ladies and gentleman, I have some good news and some not-so-good news.  What do you want to hear first?”


And, you know the rest of the story!