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Some Thoughts – October 7

Each day I watch as the Financial Crisis trickles through the different facets of our day to day lives and each night I concern myself with the knowledge that that this time is a game changer for many. Its not really important from the standpoint of the effects on my retirement savings but more so on shaping my core philosophies as a small business owner. We are in, or going in to a belt tightening  time where businesses and consumers are going to be much more pragmatic about where they spend those critical resource dollars. A time when efforts will and should be scrutinized to ensure the highest level of value for work done. I am leading into the notion that not only should banks, and financial institutions that hold the keys to so many lives look into and implement the regulation needed but also businesses as a whole, big and small.

As a point of fact:

Within Canada we have a retail chain called ‘Canadian Tire’. It has been a bellwether for so many years where people would take their car to get serviced. I even remember taking my first car, a Ford Exp (Pseudo 2 seater sports car) in to get services some 23 years ago. They were know for value and getting the job done. For me as a customer that had changed this year when I when into get some work done on my car with a valid estimate in hand. Coming back to pick up my car after the work was done yielded a 33%. The changer was explained as it too the Tech longer to complete the job then was quoted. Being in the Consulting business and working with Software for so many years I know that there are times that things can take longer then expected however I wanted to know a little more.

Canadian Tire it seems has moved over to a ‘Piece Work’ model where there tech’s are paid for the number of billable hours. Now the fact that this model is employed allows for ‘leakage’ and what I mean by leakage is; say they take your car into the shop look at it and decide that they need to order a part. They order that part that can take several hours to get there and instead of taking the service work off the clock they will continue to charge while the car sits there without any work being completed.

This roughly equates to if I take a contract and look over a clients database, and or specs and park the work for a while and continue to charge while I am on a different contact. For me this seems unethical and the model flawed from the customers standpoint.

I will no longer use Canadian Tire for any of my business for the simple fact that I do not believe that they are working from a customer centered standpoint and keeping my interests in mind.

The model for many businesses will have to change I think from a perceived value to an actual work value. This can have the chilling effect on some businesses that have a higher overhead and pay for those costs outside of the hours that are direct tied to resource work. The other effect is that the work (at least in my business) does not have to be completed within the building, City, state/province or country that the business is in. One thing is for sure Businesses will require a tighter level of information control where the identifying the Target Client Base becomes so much more important.

I run an actual value business, in that I charge for each hour worked. I do not charger for the perceived value of the work I do as that is such a speculative point. I have and continue to take work that ranges from 4 hours to months on a broad and varied group of technologies. I also am always open to discuss  issues, product and development and supporting my community to a point where I will pick up a phone and call someone on the newsgroups who has a problem and help walk through a solution at my own efforts/costs. I believe its good to be good and going out of your way is what makes you/and your company exceptional.

In light of the direction the global economy is going, are you changing your business practices. Are you focusing on customer first billing. Are you setting up practices and policies to ensure that your customers can continue to move forward as a partner?

Is Average Enough

Rich Eaton posted a reply to an earlier post about the VP debates. I started to think about our expectations of the work and ethic of the people around us. The one thing I can is that I really think the ‘Average’ worker is Global at not only an issue within the American Borders.

When I speak with business partners throughout the world the recurring theme of just punching the clock resonates. Be the UK, Australia, Germany, US, or Canada average seems to be the Norm. What’s worse is that we become excited when our average workers in a instance does a little better, however to back into average mode.

The problem with ‘averages’ is that generally they effect the ability of the ‘Exceptional’ to quantify their skills and get ahead as it is difficult in my opinion to understand or even comprehend skill and value when in day to day you are surrounded by averages. I can also see that there is a good enough mentality.

When I looking for a first hire, I interviewed many junior developers. They all had the feeling of entitlement, that they were going to start off their career with a large salary and that somehow it was deserved at this point in their lives. Unfortunately I think this is somewhat attributed to the Google effect where the Google’s and Microsoft’s of the world pretty much eat up all of the first class graduates and those who are left over are not ready for real world consumption. My first hire was unfortunately a disappointment, a mismatch if you will between my passion of technology and solving problems coupled with an old world work ethic. He starting of his career in what I consider a very difficult learning path, neither had the drive to learn new things or to put in the effort required to become a valuable team member.

I guess is average enough, do you work with average people or have you gotten to the point where the desire and commitment to excel is gone. I like to work with ‘Excellent’ people, they bring up my game to a place were I am proud. I am going to do everything I can to fight any urge to fall in the average trend.

Political Observations

I am Canadian, and last night there were 2 debates going on that were directly relevant to mine and my families interest. The leader debate between Harper (PC), Gilles Ducepe (Block) , Jack Layton (NDP), Stephan Dion (LIB) here in Canada and the US VP debate between Sen. Joe Biden and Gov Sara Pailn. You would think that I would have watched the debates of the leadership here in Canada however I didn’t specifically because I believe that currently the leadership in the US has more sway over my quality of life issues. With a population of roughly 10% of that of the States its hard to argue the dramatic effects that the US economy shifts have on the average Canadian. I like many Canadians are now seeing our retirement savings erode as our resource heavy TSX plummets from speculation of reduced resource needs from the Global economy.

Getting back to my watching of the VP debates. I was intrigued but what I might see given the events since Palin was added to the Republican ticket. And though there was no major stumbling, from an outsider view I felt that the performance was less then stellar. There were many times that I found myself arguing with the television screen that the point had not been answered.

To me it seemed that Gov Palin has rehearsed several talking points that she knew well but little other substance. When asked questions when it came to the average person or even a simple one of her short comings she would not answer the actual question and go back to ‘Safe’ statements. For me I think this debate was won by Sen. Biden more so because I felt that he demonstrated that Sen. McCain was not different, and did not represent change. It was also interesting to watch on CNN (HD) because of the little +/- indicators that were displayed. Every single observer (there were 6) except for 1 indicated Biden as the leader given the point spread, the exception was for Rollins (Republican Supported) who gave Palin the lead and not only by a few points but I believe by the end of the night it was something like 48-22 clearly skewed given the lack of valid answers to the actual questions.

Another thing that bothers me is the look into the camera and talk to the people letting them know that your are the same as them. Honestly I want to hope that my politicians are better then me. I manage my business, and my family the impact of my decisions is localized. The leadership of a country has millions (as in the case of Canada), even hundreds of Millions of individuals that their decisions effect. We should expect more from our electorate then we expect from ourselves they are given a great responsibility and should be respectful of that responsibility.

I have watched many of the debates, and town halls over the weeks and what still resonates with me as the individuals that are asked of their opinion on how little understanding that the decisions that are made in the States effects ‘Joe Six Pack’ and ‘Hockey Moms’ in the rest of the world. The bottom line for me is just because a politician is ‘small town USA’ or their leader ship qualities were sharpened as a Mayor of a town of 7000 does not mean in any way they are ready to lead a nation of more then 300 million ethnically, religiously, economically diverse peoples with needs and requirements that are complex and valid.

One of the other points I wanted to make was about an question I have about the tax cuts that each platform is promoting. Where Sen. Obama is promoting a bottom up cut and Sen. McCain is promoting a top down cut. I honestly believe there is need for both at different times. I believe here in Canada that tax system needs to be reviewed as well.

Gov. Palin noted that raising taxes on income earners over 250,000.00 would cause small businesses to shutdown, but I think that the answer given is too much of a simplification. First that tax is on income paid out to an individual not revenue brought in by the business. If the business is successful then would it not be possible to expand, bring new employees in and grow. I cannot see how a personal income tax cut for under 250,000. or an increase for more then 250,000.00 would directly lead to job losses. But I might be missing the point on this one.

With Canadian politics I am really only looking at a leader that with not negatively effect our economy and use the populous as testing ground for unproven policies. We as a people need to weather the storm like the rest of the world and that means making practical , prudent measures until things are righted. Lets hope were are headed in the right direction.