Deja Vu

The old joke tells of a brand-new CEO who, on his first day, finds a letter from the former CEO on his desk. Two envelopes are stapled to the letter, which instructs him, "When your first crisis strikes, open the first letter. When your second crisis arrives, open the second one."

He shrugs, and tosses the letter and envelopes into a drawer and forgets about them.

Time passes, the company's results suddenly nosedive, investors are burning him in effigy and suddenly he remembers that letter. He opens the drawer, rips open the first envelope and reads, "Blame everything on me."

He adopts the idea with gratitude and merrily heaps vitriol on his predecessor.

A twist on that story is entirely Israeli: "When business is in the toilet and you're completely out of ideas, take down the file of 'Strategic plans', pick one, and sell it."

An old idea minus the dust can look pretty tasty under the right circumstances.

Motti Cohen, CEO of New Pharm, knows the theory. A few weeks ago he told Yedioth Ahronoth exactly what he thinks of his predecessor, Yaron Dor, a man now serving as marketing VP at the retail colossus Super-Sol.

What did he say? Well, to put it delicately, apparently Cohen and Dor won't be meeting for a nice coffee any time soon.

Extraordinary! Remarkable! Unique! Leading! etc

A few weeks after Cohen stamped all over Dor's good name and questioned his management skill, Yedioth Ahronoth discovered that New Pharm means to establish a chain of drugstores not connected with its existing chain of drugstores. If I am not mistaken, the new chain is to be called "New Pharm Medical".

What an astonishing idea! New Pharm will focus on - drugstores! In smaller branches! There you have a strategic plan that will show investors that the chain, that Roni Alroy bought, knows where it's going.

There was only one little snag with said Cohen and his extraordinary idea: every previous management at New Pharm had thought of it too.

The first time was apparently under Gil Unger (back then it was called Clal Pharm). That man whose reputation was so thoroughly blackened by Cohen, Mr. Dor, also touted it at every opportunity.

But who cares if the idea's been around since the Stone Age? The important thing is that New Pharm knows what to do now.

Cohen is not the only one. David Bikovsky, the chief executive of Home Center, inherited quite a bit of baggage from his predecessor, Aharon Meidan: three giant branches with no business being there. Bikovsky had another problem, too: when your predecessor is promoted to your chairman, you can't exactly throw mud at him.

But Bikovsky didn't take the job in order to fail. A few weeks ago Home Center launched a revolutionary concept - "the total sales and design center for construction, renovation, furniture and interior design". The new branches, which reportedly cost NIS 8 million in investment, would be a wonder in Gaash, Bilu and the Krayot.

So? So exactly three years before, Bikovsky's predecessor launched a revolutionary concept that would encompass everything a person or builder might need for design, renovation? Meidan's concept had a rather catchier name, though: "Super Home Center".

Old or new, Home Center didn't stint on the compliments it heaped on itself, such as "the first retail concept of its kind in the world"  and so on. Goodness. Bikovsky's idea is actually just a tad reminiscent of that idea by Meidan, and while about it - trip to Ikea, anyone?

(The message in the second envelope is: Prepare two envelopes?)