Look Whos Talking: April 16, 2001

Some companies are going to pieces right about now.

Some companies are going to pieces right about now. Others are finding unique ways to build loyalty within the ranks. Just ask Acxiom, a CRM specialist in Little Rock, Ark.

After instituting a mandatory 5 percent pay cut, Acxiom asked associates within the company if theyd take an additional pay cut in exchange for more stock options. Nearly 2,000 employees agreed to the plan, which will save Acxiom $23 million annually.

Of course, the stock options could be worthless over the long haul. However, Acxioms shares are trading near a 52-week low. Even a small rebound in the stock could create lucrative gains for 2,000 eager employees.

Near term, I bet the stock plan will boost morale and force Acxioms employees to become much more cost conscious. But if the options dont gain value over the long haul, Acxiom will need to find more ways to maintain loyalty within the ranks.

Sources say Cisco Systems and Microsoft may have had a falling out in the directory market. Cisco was porting Microsofts Active Directory to Unix, but sources within Microsoft and Cisco now say that the project is on the rocks. One high-level Microsoft manager says he believes Cisco has shut down the project, but the source referred specific questions to Microsofts PR team. Neither Microsoft nor Cisco returned calls for an official comment.

If the rumors are true, it may provide a small but important opening for Novell, which has a decent—but certainly not stellar—relationship with Cisco.

Qwest is gearing up to blitz the small-business services market. The company has recruited Clifford S. Holtz as executive VP of small business markets, effective today. Holtz was a senior VP at Gateway and also worked at AT&T, where he reported to Qwest CEO Joseph P. Nacchio.

Consulting firms continue to struggling, and CFOs are taking the fall. In recent weeks, CFOs at Scient and Viant both have resigned amid pressure from Wall Street.

Hate to say "we told you so," but we warned CFOs to make some aggressive changes last fall.

Nobody could have predicted the current market slowdown, but we did tell CFOs within consulting firms that they needed to "downward manage" Wall Streets expectations.

Many CFOs didnt heed our advice. Now, some of them are falling on their own swords.