HARTFORD, CT—Middle management officials at Coopers & Schmidt, a Hartford-based insurance claims adjustment firm, are busy gearing up this week for Operation Xerox-Fax, a covert, high-stakes faxing mission scheduled for April 23.
The goal of the risky operation, which will involve an estimated three mid-level employees, ranging from assistant account coordinators to re-gional sales supervisors, is the successful photocopying, faxing and confirmation of Coopers & Schmidt’s March ’96 benefits summary.
“This is an exciting, high-risk mission,” said Tom Gerosa, an associate claims adjuster who has been with the firm for 14 years. “I pray no one is hurt.”
Operation Xerox-Fax is set to begin at 10 a.m. sharp, when Coopers & Schmidt secretary Janice D’Alessio will make a photocopy of the benefits summary, which she will then put in company vice-president Ralph Gleick’s mailbox. When her portion of the mission is complete, D’Alessio will remove the original document from the Xerox machine, walk across the office, and hand-deliver it to regional benefits co-supervisor Art Blaine, who will be awaiting the document in his cubicle.
Blaine is considered by many to be the pointman of the Operation. Responsible for double-checking the benefits summary against the benefits file on his computer, he must then transport it safely to new accounts manager Terri Auletta at the fax machine, which lies more than 30 yards from Blaine’s cubicle, past the supply closet, paper shredder and inspirational corporate poster that reads: “Success—If You Believe It, You Can Achieve It.”
“There will be dangers, no doubt,” said Blaine, who was promoted from assistant benefits supervisor to co-supervisor six years ago when Ted Stram died. “The area of the office I will cross is one of our most volatile—sales managers demonstrating golf swings, outgoing Federal Express packages lying on the floor, the list goes on. My wife is very concerned, but she knows this is what comes along with the job. She knew it wouldn’t be easy when she married me. She’s strong though.”
Making matters more tense is the fact that the fax can only take place between 10:45 and 11:30 a.m. If the fax doesn’t get sent during that window, then the recipient, regional assistant sales and benefits manager Gary Tre-mont, will in all likelihood be at lunch, meaning the fax cannot get sent and have receipt confirmed until after the lunch hour, which could be as late as 2 p.m.
“I don’t even want to talk about that possibility,” Au-letta said. “Fail-ure is not an option with this team.”
Operation coordinator Paul McHue is confident his elite squad of middle management employees is fully prepared for its mission.
“We have trained day and night for months for this Operation,” McHue said. “The photocopy machine’s ink cartridge has been checked and re-checked. Missing staplers have either been returned or replaced. Paper clips have been positioned at strategic points along the mission route. Fax numbers have been confirmed. Hallways have been cleared of all empty boxes. Clearance has been received from office manager Nancy Lu-ber-da. We only get one shot at this.”
Despite all the preparations, disaster almost struck Thursday when, during a rou-tine test run, the Xerox ma-chine un-expect-edly ran out of paper.
“We were out of letter-size, and had no choice but to go with bright pink legal-size pa-per,” Auletta said. “Had that happened during the real thing, all would have been lost.”
The man responsible for the empty paper tray, assistant claims adjuster George Haselbreit, has since been replaced.
“George was always too much of a risk,” McHue said. “His style was too flashy; he was too much of a hot dog, a loose cannon. We had no choice but to replace him with someone who can stick to a mission directive—Pat Cook from third-floor client services.”
Operation Xerox-Fax, which was approved last Thursday in a hand-signed memo from Lu-ber-da, is the boldest fax-related maneuver undertaken at Coopers & Schmidt in nearly four years. In November 1992, a renegade team of seventh-floor actuaries and accountants faxed client Jim Reinhardt, a Hartford physician, a four-page spreadsheet analysis of his projected taxable earnings from holdings and investments for fiscal year 1993.
“Three of us went into the office that day,” recalled accountant William Keating, who was part of Operation Fax Spreadsheet Data to Jim Rein-hardt. “And only two came out.”
The third member, actuary Harlan Stone, left the office that day shortly after lunch with a cold.
If Operation Xerox-Fax is a success, all three team members can anticipate a well-deserved vacation soon after its completion.
“Patriot’s Day is coming up,” Auletta said. “You better believe I’m going to make the most of the half-day we get off.”