When at work, don't answer the phone when you don't recognize the caller ID number.
I just got off of a 15 minute call with a 91 year old shareholder of some of our investment companies. He called me because my name is on our annual reports and he figured (incorrectly) that I'm a Big Important Executive with all kinds of ability to make Big Important Executive Decisions (ha ha). He began the call by telling me how horrible it was that the person answering the 800 number for our funds had no idea who I was. Forget for a moment that he was horribly mispronouncing my last name. We have lots and lots of employees and the people who answer the 800 number don't even work for this company! Hell, there are people that work for this company, in the same building, that probably don't know (and couldn't care less) who I am.
Then he told me that I should be congratulated (yeah for me!) because I was at my desk like every good executive should be. He said "I have called executives of many companies and they're never at their desks. They must be out to lunch or in the bathroom or something when they should be at their desks!" He told me how he had owned a company for 20 years and he wanted to give me some advice. "Never allow your secretary to tell any callers that you are away from your desk! Executives should be at their desks working!" Ok, I'll keep my potty breaks to a minimum. I debated whether I should tell him that although I was at my desk (like the good executive I am), I was actually reading blogs. Maybe not.
The reason for his call (besides giving me wholly inappropriate and unsolicited advice) was to tell me that I need to band together with others in my industry and tell our main regulator that we should stop wasting shareholder money by sending out annual reports to people who are just going to throw them in the garbage. "I'm an intelligent person. I know a lot of things. I can't understand your reports anyway and I don't want them. It's a waste of money to print these things! I would have thrown this one in the garbage sooner but I found your name on it." (Again, yeah for me!) Not that any of you want to know the inner workings of this very dry area of the law but regular disclosure of important (and not so important) facts is essential to selling mutual funds. There is no way in hell the regulators are going to allow us to stop mailing these things out. Trying to be helpful, I pointed out to him that he could get them electronically and that would save his funds printing costs. "I've had this computer for four years. I have a tutor come over every week to work with me. I'm an intelligent person. I know things but I can't figure out the damn computer anyway." Okaaaay. And by the way, thanks for reminding me that the documents I spend half my life drafting, reading, editing and fighting with marketing people over are simply thrown in the trash by most people who get them. It's nice to know that the things I do matter so much.
I told him he should write the regulator himself, that they're always glad to hear from the investors they serve. He said "I've written to congressmen and all kinds of politicians. Nobody wants to do anything! I've told them that we need to be prepared for natural disasters and have evacuation plans in case of a NUCLEAR WAR!" (Yes, he yelled "nuclear war" in my ear.) Sigh.
Thankfully, after 15 minutes he said "I have another call. Thank you for listening to me."
Just to be clear - I'm not making fun of the elderly. At 91, this man appeared to be more clear-headed than most people half his age. At least some of the things he was saying made sense - it's silly to send annual reports to people who don't want them. I'll grant that. We should be able to send them only to people who request them and put them online for people who can use their computers. However, that will never happen in my lifetime. So there really is no sense in banging my head against that particular brick wall.
In the end, I'm really proud of myself. Usually I avoid talking to shareholders, regulators and other people with the power to make my work life miserable (I have this nasty habit of saying what I really think which tends to be a bad thing in those conversations). I usually punt those calls to people who are far more tactful. But this man wasn't nasty and he was only making suggestions so there was no harm in listening. And maybe he just wanted to talk to someone who would listen. So maybe I was able to matter to him, if only for 15 minutes.