Once upon a time, the head of divisional sales came into the CFO’s office and told him he needed to fire Jacob the accountant. The CFO was astonished.
“Jacob is the most boring person in the firm!” said the CFO. “Not coincidentally, he’s also the most honest.”
The head of sales said that he had it on good authority that Jacob was stealing money from the company.
“Jacob?” repeated the CFO. “Jacob from accounting? Jacob, who’s been checking his blood pressure at 3 o’clock every afternoon, without fail, since 1988? Jacob, who earnestly believes ketchup to be ‘too spicy’ a condiment? Jacob, who apologizes whenever he accidentally bumps into the ficus by the copy room?”
“That’s the guy,” nodded the head of sales. “I saw him yesterday driving a BMW. So I followed him home—to a mansion in the suburbs! Listen—as head of sales, I know better than anyone: no one gets rich through hard work alone.”
But Jacob did get these things through hard work alone, a full 30 years of hard work, which included saving, quiet investment, and acting on one or two real-estate tips from his brother-in-law Maurie. So he was shocked when the CFO called him into his office with the news.
“I’m being laid off?” gasped Jacob. He seemed near tears.
Feeling that he’d made a horrible mistake, the CFO told Jacob to step outside for a minute. The CFO called the head of sales.
“Listen,” cooed the head of sales, “I know this is hard for you, but hear me out. Can him today. We’ll go back and check on him in two months. If he can still afford all the stuff he has, we’ll know he’s stockpiled some major loot.”
The CFO was swayed. He called in Jacob and canned him.
Jacob drove home in distress. His wife and three children were at the door.
“We’re lost,” he said, “totally lost. My boss thinks I stole from the company. Now I don’t have a job, and, because my reputation is ruined, I won’t be able to find another!”
There was much gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes.
After weeks of worry, he started selling off his possessions. He put his BMW up for sale, he took his kids out of private school, and—in the most desperate move of all—he looked into relocating to Baltimore.
One night, his wife told him to send an e-mail to God.
“You can send an e-mail to anyone,” said Jacob, “but not to God.”
But his wife was insistent. “So send it anyway,” she scolded.
Jacob wasn’t a man to argue with his wife, so he wrote a short but stirring e-mail, leaving it unaddressed. Then he left the room and his daughter came in, read the e-mail, and decided to send it to everyone in Jacob’s address book, figuring that one of them must be the intended recipient.
In this way, the e-mail was sent to Tanya, the ex-receptionist, whom Jacob e-mailed in support after she was laid off a year ago. Tanya was taken by the e-mail, and so she sent it to everyone she knew at their former firm. Some of Jacob’s former co-workers got it, and they forwarded it on, and others forwarded it on, and so forth. Thus, like a little bird chirping away on boughs and flitting from tree to tree, the e-mail finally alighted in the inbox of the CEO. The CEO was at his computer when the e-mail came in, and he read it right away.
Even though he had no idea who Jacob was, or that he’d even worked for his company—so large a corporation this was—the CEO was taken by Jacob’s plight. So he decided to send a gift of cash to help Jacob out until he could find a job. Along with the cash, he sent a letter that read, “Jake, Hope this helps. Signed, God.”
Now, the money came in just in time, right when things were at their most dire. Jacob wanted to use the money to bolster their savings, but his wife insisted that they celebrate. Jacob, never one to argue, agreed again. He went out and bought a profusion of presents and a huge turkey. When he came home with all that loot, guess who was across the street with binoculars and Chinese takeout? That’s right: the head of sales and the CFO.
That guy’s wealthier than a Saudi prince! thought the CFO. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s stealing from the firm. I’ll investigate this tomorrow.
The next day, the CFO hired an auditor to go over the company’s books. Sure enough, the auditor found funds missing. The SEC was called and Jacob was hauled away from his home in handcuffs.
“Good riddance,” said the head of sales. “Now we can all go back to making money.”