During this same period, my business took a turn for the worse. Before starting the company we partners devised our ‘recruitment strategy’. We wanted to lure some of our key people away from our former employers. But we wanted to do it in a way that would annoy our firms as little as possible. Towards that end, each of us approached our key recruits. We explained our business goals, staffing plan, and benefits.
As a new company we didn’t have the resources to compete with our former firms’ non-financial benefits. So we got creative. In 1990, we were one of the earliest firms to implement a ‘casual Friday’ policy. We added a ‘half-day’ policy for Fridays…get your 40 hours in by noon and you were free to go. We did a lot of things to make the firm vibrant and attractive.
I recruited numerous people from Network Management Inc. (NMI) where I was working at the time, and I staggered their arrival to limit the negative impact. I also asked some of those who agreed to come on-board not to mention where they were heading for a while. George Mohrmann was a key lieutenant of mine at NMI and he eagerly accepted a job with me at MNG.
Of course, not all our recruits were from our former companies. Two in that category immediately come to mind. The first was my good old friend Ralph Parkinson from Peace Corps Togo. I called his mother to find out where he was so I could tell him about the birth of my daughter, Kate. Mrs. Parkinson told me that he had been chasing some young Spanish woman around Europe. But at the moment he was working as a handyman at a nudist colony in France. She said she wished she could get him to come home.
I spoke to my business partners about Ralph, saying he was hard working and had a technical bent. I thought I could get him to come in a help run our network infrastructure. And I was pretty sure I could get him for minimum wage. They agreed to my hiring him after I promised I would cut it off in three months, after I found ‘real’ network people.
When I finally tracked him down, he rejected my offer out of hand. The next day, he had second thoughts. He called back and said to count him in. After three months, I told him his time was up. He told me to go talk to my partners. They had all asked him to stick around. Ralph soon became a serious network engineer. In fact, he built a practice around selling his network skills to many other companies. In the end, he stayed with MNG many years after I had already left.
The other person I found early on was another very talented guy named Ryan Magrab. Ryan, George and I started building software that attracted a lot of good business. Within the first 18 months of starting out, we had a team of more than twenty systems people onboard. And the company was approaching one hundred full-time staff.
George and Ryan worked well together from the start. So well in fact that my wife, Nancy, once had a dream that I told them about. She said she’d dreamt that George and Ryan had broken away from MNG to start their own business. Mohrmann and Magrab were unabashedly materialistic. We all thought it funny that in Nancy’s dream they’d named their firm ‘GrabMor’.
George could be difficult. But I always found that this was a small price to pay for his intelligence, loyalty and hard work. My partner Amy, however, never felt that way and her feeling towards him eventually drove him out. He landed on his feet, getting a great job with major stock options at the Oracle Corporation. I told him I’d always be there for him and wished him all the best. Two weeks later he’d recruited Ryan Magrab. Then the two put a plan in place to steal all my best people.
They pulled person after person over to Oracle. It was easy picking as Oracle was a first class company offering serious stock options. And their stock was flying off the charts. Mohrmann and Magrab were out to kill my business. I was doing everything I could to keep my head above water but my clients were getting nervous. Then my project deadlines began to slip. I took up a mantra that summed up my world. “My life is in balance when my family, my clients and my business partners are all equally disappointed in me.”
George was angry. He waged all-out war cherry picking my people. In the end I told him to forget I’d ever considered him a friend; he was dead to me. Then I threaten Oracle with a law suit if they took another person. At that point they agreed to cease and desist.
Five years later, George and Ryan actually did start their own firm. Here’s what I found about it on the Web:
“GrabMor Technologies LLC was founded in 1998 by two former Oracle Corporation employees, George Mohrmann and Ryan Magrab… Having worked not only at Oracle, but at several other companies specializing in Oracle consulting, we have developed a strong team of some of the best and brightest Oracle talent in the area.” Yeah boy – mine.
The last I heard of George was this sad article from July 2005 in the Washington Post:
“George Robert Mohrmann – Computer Programmer: George Robert Mohrmann, 44, a McLean business owner and computer programmer analyst, died July 24 of a head trauma after a boating accident on the Potomac River near Fredericksburg. He was a McLean resident. Mr. Mohrmann dived off a boat in shallow water near Fairview Beach and did not resurface, an official with the King George County sheriff’s office said. When friends pulled him out of the water, he was unconscious. He was declared dead at the scene. Mr. Mohrmann ran his own company, GrabMor Technologies. He previously had worked for a number of technology companies.” He was out swimming with Ryan when he died.