BING! HOW THEY DO IT

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As you'll see, life at 'Fortune' is all business, all the time. And if you believe that story, I'll tell you another one.

the day begins early here at the world's greatest business magazine. The top editors drift in about an hour past dawn, to check up on the work that has been taking place overnight at the Fortune business laboratories.

There, under the watchful eye of legendary editor John Huey, Time Inc. scientists have been hard at work all night testing the latest concepts in management technology. It fills one with humility to think that it is indeed here, in these secretive, asceptic, steel and enamel corridors and cubicles, that discoveries were made that shaped the face of mercantile capitalism -- Greed (1923), Quality with a capital Q (1939), the three-martini lunch (1954), Management By Walking Around (1978), the yellow power tie (1983), synergy (1986), dress-down Fridays (1990), and Barry Diller as a stand-alone concept (1994), just to mention a few, were happened upon here in the wee hours by dedicated experimenters on the Fortune payroll.

These discoveries and others like them would mean little, however, if they were not rigorously hammered into permanent shape for the magazine's enormous audience by a unique staff of editors, writers, researchers and graphic artists, all of whom are distinguished by the fact that they are, individually and as a group, some of the most serious people you are likely to meet.

There's no room here for idiotic laughter, stupid comments that crack up an entire morning meeting, people wandering in late half-dead from drunken excess the night before at rock 'n' roll clubs way downtown where they ended the long, frenetic evening howling like dogs at the moon. No, this is Fortune, and Fortune is about business. And we all know what a serious subject that is.

Let's look at them now, this military cadre, as they gather for the morning roll call.

First, there is John Huey himself, whose stoic demeanor pretty well defines the place. Long, lanky, with a shock of auburn hair falling insouciantly over one brow, Huey rarely shows what's going on inside his tough, placid exterior.

Sheathed in his customary gray suit, white shirt and understated club tie, he is, as one would expect in a place dedicated to the art and science of business, quite somber and restrained in style, and deeply ascetic in his personal habits. He is cool and dispassionate about the workings of enterprise, and guides others to a consensus free of non-rational considerations, messy emotions or inappropriate whimsey. The term "all business" was invented to describe such as he.

At Huey's steady right hand is Rik Kirkland. Somewhere along the line, Rik lost the c in his first name. Nobody knows quite where. He functions well without it, however. Today Rik seems a bit the worse for wear, even though at his worst he still looks better than most editors and a fair number of actors. He has just returned from six weeks in Katmandu, Nepal, where he ran a seminar on entrepreneurialism with Buddhist monks seeking to take their Internet site public.

The room fills. Now Smith enters. He is, as always, solemn, even grave. There are those, it is said, who have heard Smith laugh, but they are few and seem reluctant to speak of the experience. The new millennium, it is said, will be all about those who stick to the knitting. For Smith, it's all about the knitting. Not that he does knitting per se, but business journalism is heavy with metaphors like this one, although most business metaphors have to do with sports, and this one doesn't. Like Kirkland and Huey, Smith is crisp in his morning attire and still has an amazing amount of hair for an individual within hailing distance of his AARP greeting letter.

The team is almost complete. There is Serwer, calm and deferential to his elders, with a deep, abiding respect for the men, women and organizations about which he is called to write. And Norton, gentle, benign, with an open heart and generous spirit that bathes all God's creatures, even the richest ones, in the same benevolent light. And Dumaine, wrapped tighter than a Swiss watch, ready for action be it midnight or noon, and Petre, Zesiger, Fraker, Johnson and Schlender -- and Nocera from whom, if you are in business, you do not wish to get a phone call -- and of course, Carvell, all with their heads down, together working to define the walls, moats and turrets of that great castle that is the global economy.

We must leave them now, this focused, clinical group of men and women, for the work they do in this room first thing in the morning is dark, mysterious and heavy with proprietary information.

And if, as we walk away, we imagine that we hear -- what's that? -- a bedlam of hooting, yelling, cries of outrage and enthusiasm, all punctuated by wave upon wave of laughter, hilarious, infectious laughter, laughter that seems to bubble up from the very deepest pit of the room's collective belly and come spewing forth, a giant, collective spit-take . . . well, let's just chalk that up to our imagination, right?

Because nobody laughs that hard in the middle of the most serious business contemplation, do they? Nobody could possibly laugh so hard and still be the best in the world at what they do. And if they could, if they do?

Man, wouldn't it be great to work there!

By day, Fortune Columnist Mr. Bing, is a real executive at a real Fortune 500

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