So you're going to jail ...
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – DEAR MESSRS. RIGAS AND KOZLOWSKI:

First of all, I think I'm speaking for business executives everywhere when I say, Hey, in spite of the fact that you've made it much more difficult for us to clear expense accounts without some pain-in-the-butt pencil pusher getting all over us about in-room movies and stuff like that, we feel for you in your time of trial, or post-trial, or whatever.

You're going to do some time, brothers, and that gives anybody who wears a suit pause, even if we're not miscreants like you quite yet. For that we say thanks, because we business types always look up to the big guys who serve as our examples.

This is an open letter to you both as you head off for whatever capacious cells they've got planned for you--to say goodbye, to wish you well, and to ask you where the money is buried. Just kidding! I know you don't have it squirreled away in a big metal box that you'll dig up when you get out. Do you?

But seriously, you can do hard time or you can do easy time. The fact is, prison is a lot like a corporation. Once you wrap your mind around that, you'll be on the way to making it work for you.

First, just as out here, it's not what you know, it's who you know. You've got to press the flesh, meet the people who will be working for you, make them see that you're a guy worth listening to. It's not that different from any new executive assignment you've taken on over the years. Find the right guys. Make them yours. That's Job One.

Next you've got to make sure you have the support of your senior management. The sad fact is, while the world hasn't completely come to an end, you have been demoted. You're no longer the guys in charge of the candy store. You're middle management now, in a large corporate structure that finds you pretty much the definition of fungible.

That means you've got to play by different rules than you followed when you were in the corner office. There's a warden with whom to establish a positive relationship, for instance. View him as the chairman of your board of directors. It's not going to be too hard. You're smart. You're funny. And you're famous. Compare that with the run-of-the-mill inmate he deals with. You've got assets you haven't even considered. Use 'em!

Do meals just the way you used to. Breakfast is the lightest repast from a business perspective, of course. It's just for touching base with guys you can tolerate first thing in the day, nothing heavy or agenda-laden. Players who try to swing big stuff over bacon and eggs are lightweights. Lunch, on the other hand, is a chance to make friends, start projects, set up alliances that may pay off in the laundry room or exercise yard. Dinner, like breakfast, is a more purely social occasion, but weightier. It's better to dine alone or with one close associate than to work too hard before lights out. Only nerds do that.

And don't complain about the food. It is what it is. We don't choose where we eat, we eat where the social milieu decrees we have to. Or in your case, the jury. It's not about the food, anyhow. It's about the company. So suck it up ... literally. By the way, the meatball sandwich they have on Tuesdays isn't half bad. It compares favorably with the sweetbreads they serve as an appetizer at the place where I have to eat every day.

Always remember that it's about the work, and there's still plenty of that to manage. Wherever they put you, there are people in need of vision. You've always provided that to your team. If you hadn't, you wouldn't have generated enough revenue to steal on such a grand scale. Bring those talents to bear, and you'll be raising the margins on those license plates in no time.

I know I don't have to tell you this, but --live large. You can get anything in the joint for the right price. Show the same kind of flair that you did in the so-called real world. Dress sharp. Keep a snazzy toilet seat. Make it work for you.

Don't forget your conjugal visits, or any of the other perks that come your way. What am I thinking about? I don't have to tell you guys about perks.

Stay in shape. They have great weight rooms, I hear.

Finally, I guess it goes without saying that if you should happen to drop the soap, have somebody else pick it up for you. That should be easy for you both. You're executives!

And don't worry. There are six publishers, a couple of networks, and a whole bunch of elite consulting groups waiting for you when you get out. This is America. We like to give our celebrity villains a second chance. And by then, who knows? Maybe this crazy fad to prosecute white-collar criminals will be over.

Until then--stay frosty, dudes. âñ 

STANLEY BING's latest book, Sun Tzu Was a Sissy: Conquer Your Enemies, Promote Your Friends, and Wage the REAL Art of War (HarperBusiness), is available at finer bookstores everywhere. He can be reached at stanleybing@aol.com.