“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. —Wayne Gretzky” —Michael Scott.
What do you get when you put three employees, two computers, and one giant container of cheese balls in a free, closet-sized office? You get the Michael Scott Paper Company, which, despite having the deck stacked against them, quieted all the doubters and had a meteoric rise in the paper industry. Tuesday marks the 10th anniversary of the scrappy underdog company being sold to paper titan Dunder Mifflin, marking the end of a wildly productive (and short) era, while also begging the question: is the Michael Scott Paper Company the most successful business of all-time?
Before we can answer that, let’s start at the beginning. Tired of being overlooked and disrespected, long-time regional manager of Scranton’s Dunder Mifflin branch Michael Scott quit his job, eventually deciding to start his own paper company. It made sense considering he “knows everything that there is to know about paper.” And even as his Dunder Mifflin employees refused to join him and attempted to discourage him, he forged on: “This is a dream that I’ve had…since lunch and I’m not giving up on it now.” The resolve of a true entrepreneur. And in a true Jerry Maguire moment, he’s able to bring one loyal associate — Dunder Mifflin assistant-turned-Michael Scott Paper Company salesman, Pam Beesly.
Then, it was time to build the Dream Team. Move over, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird, because we’ve got Pam, intern-turned-arrested executive-turned-bowling alley blonde Ryan Howard (“He’s everything I’m not and everything I am,” Scott said of his protégé), and telemarketing wiz Vikram. And their mission is simple: “I will not beat. I will never give up. I am on a mission. That is the Michael Scott guarantee.” Chills.
Yes, there were early bumps, such as Grandma Scott refusing to invest and the subsequent resignation of Vikram, but the resolve was there. “I do my best work when people don’t believe in me,” declared Scott (just ask his high school math teacher about how many goals he scored). And that soon proved to be the case as he scored a free office “right in the middle of the paper belt.” Admittedly, it was a small space and it’s not ideal to hear everything happening in the bathroom above, but Apple started in a garage, so they were already a step above that. Dare I say that Scott is the Bill Gates of the paper game? I actually don’t have to, since he basically said it himself.
Once officially up and running, Scott really began to shine, showing why a “World’s Best CEO” mug needed to be commissioned. The man just knows how to connect with people, which is on full display with his wooing of big fish like Mr. Scofield and putting on charming pancake luncheons. In what should be no surprise, our Dream Team’s work quickly paid off, with young upstart Beesly securing her first career sale and the first for the Michael Scott Paper Company. And then they were off to the races, stealing 10 major clients from Dunder Mifflin through low prices and “unparalleled customer service.” But success didn’t change them; still, every morning, they’d hit the streets at 4:30 a.m., armed with just a mug of milk and sugar, making deliveries in an old Korean church van.
And yet, that quick success looked like it might be the cause of their downfall. Apparently, their prices were so cheap that they’d eventually put them out of business (maybe they should start charging for those church rides?). With his blood, sweat, and tears poured into this company, Scott declares this the worst day of his life — at least until Steve Martin dies. But as all of this is going on, Dunder Mifflin is in crisis mode, prompting an emergency visit to Scranton for CFO David Wallace.
After hours of strategizing, the brain trust decides that the cheapest option is to make Scott a buyout offer. Good luck with that considering you’re going up a master negotiator who definitely won’t tell them that his company is going broke. Scott plays hardball, rejecting the first offer before even hearing it. Wallace says MSPC is only four weeks old and that they can’t keep this rate up. With a strong counterargument from Scott, Dunder Mifflin comes back with an offer of $60,000. Scott, Howard, and Beesly talk in private, with Scott deciding that they need consistent money, so he demands that Wallace give him his old job, parking space, and Sebring back, in addition to banning new exec Charles Miner from Scranton and also bringing Howard and Beesly on as salesmen.
“Your company cannot be worth that much,” argues Wallace, explaining how salary and benefits for three people would make this a multimillion dollar buyout. “Our company is worth nothing,” responds Scott. “Business isn’t about money to me, David. If tomorrow my company goes under, I will just start another paper company. And then another. And another. And another.” He’s not lying, with plenty of possible company names at the ready, including “Michael.” With their balls now in Wallace’s court, he concedes, agreeing to the unprecedented demands.
Now, with full knowledge of the history of the Michael Scott Paper Company, let’s once again ask the question if its the most successful business in history. Well, do you know any other business that paid nothing for their office space, had an unlimited supply of cheese balls, and, after only four weeks in business, secured a multimillion dollar buyout from their competition? What was that you said about not getting a salary for the first five years, Oscar Martinez? That’s the exact opposite of declaring bankruptcy.
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