What was originally written in October 2006 is repeated here for your interest pending the arrival of the digital version of 7Ways on the grounds that nothing has changed and the book is as relevant today as it was when i conceptualised it and when i published it in print for the first time. Whichever way it will be about five bucks when it comes and i’m sure you’ll get your money back through what you save later.
To the blogosphere
27th October 2006.
Happy 60th birthday Nicholas: 7 Ways to get your money…a luta continua
Greetings happy blog-readers…When I retired from active day- to-day business at the end of the last century to concentrate on Tai Chi; and [among other things] on researching, writing, polishing, revising and editing my book “7 Ways to get your money”…from unwilling customers, one of the things that bothered me was whether my market place would still be relevant when I was finished. In other words would the problem of extracting payments from elusive customers still be a valid basis for a product devoted to combating this scourge, or would the newly, rights oriented environment, in which we allegedly now live, have contributed to an amelioration of what is a terminally deadly disease and would my book therefore have become obsolete. Would we in fact have become a more honest society?
I needn’t have worried.
My first corporate customer for my book:
‘Some” Communications Ltd,[name altered to avoid inconvenience] a public listed company, has not only proved the need still exists, but has demonstrated that non-payment for goods received could well have become a basic principle of business performance: a part of “the business model” to use current jargon.
I don’t know whether to be enraged that I have been proved right or overjoyed to find that the market for my new book could be bigger than I ever anticipated. Or perhaps I am overjoyed to find that I have been proved right…which is not much of a discovery after all. Proving that people and corporations duck on the responsibility to pay their debts is like proving that the sun comes up daily. All this means is that more and more people are going to want to read my collection of fables called “7 ways to get your money” …
My favourite response over this past few weeks, when applying Ways 1-5 of my book with the generally elusive hierarchy of “Some” Communications Ltd, was one from an earnest and deeply committed employee who disingenuously countered my complaint regarding the fact that agreed payment was then 20 days overdue with: “You know you’re not the only person in the queue waiting for money… We are inundated with people wanting payments”. Wow!
Of course the lady in question was proving a point I make in my book. Decent people become stressed out dealing with the outcomes of the evil ways of accountants and invariably blurt out the truth, when carefully probed. I was even told that I shouldn’t bother the Chief Executive Officer since there was inherently nothing he could do to resolve the situation… double wow! The lady’s response also illustrates another point I make in my book that when someone is attempting to cheat you they are in all probability cheating hundreds if not thousands of others at the same time and my objective is to be in front of the queue.
Strange to think, isn’t it that the pen-wielding accountant is fundamentally a greater threat to the financial well being of society than the AK toting heist meister. If one looks at the litany of bank failures over the past decade, or spectacular business scams: of which the late Mr Kebble’s was the archetype, and the “stealth and racket club” business failure the most seedy; one sees the omnipresent hand of the accountant. The scale of theft facilitated by accountant’s world wide lately makes the pickings of the “cash in transit” heist mongers look something like trivial pursuits. And the penalty is not all that great if yu get busted: Mr Skilling, architect of the infamous Enron fraud just took a minor 24 year “hit” in prison for destroying more lives in his one “little” Enron heist crime than a thousand hijackers.
However it is this [the accountant’s pen] that lies behind the theft represented by purchasing goods and then delaying payments. This may be motivated because the business has got a cash flow problem, and that is always possible in an interest rate-tightening era, and is a source of immediate concern. Often though it is simply: because they can.
Peter Bruce observed in his “Thick end of the wedge” leader recently that our economy is a “sclerotic capitalist system…coloured a bit darker [than in the dispossession era] now”; and in which “nothing changed”. He continued to say that there “was not enough competition in it” [Business Day: 21 June 2004]…. When one can predict with near total certainty that you will be given the run around on payments by a public company, it’s often due to an absence of competition. The absence of competition dispenses with the need for ethical behaviour.…I will call it the Oligopoly Blues . …sclerosis though is invariably terminal.
However this is not the place to debate such issues as the manifestation of conditions trending to Monopoly control but rather to comment on its manifestation in the form of slow payments and minimalist response to enquiry… It can only be done because they can. The guys that don’t play according to the rules must inevitably prevail against the straight…as the old saying goes…In Joburg nice guys come second. You can always stay in business if you persistently and strategically cheat your suppliers.
It is the core purpose of “7 Ways” to present a series of simple strategies to raise your chances in a feral business environment. The supply and demand odds are always stacked against the demand side in any monopoly or oligopolistic economic environment, and so the demand side has no option but to become more strident.
Ultimately the destiny of the slow payer should be the dustbin of history, and often is. I am reminded of a previous organisation, with which I had dealings in the early stages of preparing this book for the market that became notorious [to me] for ‘gypping’ payments… the late Stocks & Stocks Ltd.
Whatever was happening at my level was obviously happening elsewhere because in the period after my association with that organisation, I had the rueful pleasure of watching the share price slowly collapse as, presumably, failure piled on failure until the systemic lying I had experienced at one level could no longer stretch over the cracks, and the organisation eventually delisted from the exchange and ceased to exist… Presumably there were shareholders who eventually lost money with Stocks & Stocks.
Similarly if I were a shareholder in “Some” Communications Ltd I would be evaluating my position. Here is an organisation that has recently terminated the services of an alleged ‘playboy’ chief executive, under dubious circumstances, and may well have suffered an acrimonious takeover by a ressentiment-loaded competitor. And there was a controversial decision to hold back information about the above termination until the next annual meeting next year. They have unilaterally embarked on a restructuring programme that arbitrarily alters their contractual obligations, and shifts accountability for payments to inaccessible outlying regions, in countries that make the word corruption seem flighty…Their furtiveness when being pursued for payments has the hallmarks of a Nigerian bank scam operation, and I have no doubt that the frustrated observation that I am in a queue for payments, is an indicator of chickens coming home to roost.
Can you imagine that the almost traditional, cynical disregard for the rights of the [small] supplier / service provider in our society, [referred to as far back as the 1890’s by the way …see: Van Onselin : New Babylon] has reached such a low point that a Public company will renege on seriously small payments for a book devoted to methods of extracting payments from reluctant customers…without even being aware or caring that they have done so. I love the irony: and the immensely successful opportunity it gives me to introduce my product to you my reader.
Let me take you on a small journey around the world of business while I develop on my theme here.
We read so much these days about the accelerated nature of the product life cycle. Stephen King, for instance, reduced the product cycle to five hours with his Internet offering “the Plant”: wherein he proved that within five hours of launching his “product”, the vast ocean of thieves, vagabonds and generally corrupt humans “out there” in cyberworld pirated his work and set up competing web sites to suck off the unwary reader, and the level of piracy was such that the effect was visible in the rise and fall of “hits” to his site, over such a short 5 hour period of time.
Thus: when I started pioneering the world of blogging and writing on the Internet eight years ago I wrote that I felt like one of the old timers with the skin thick hide of my covered wagon being pierced constantly by the arrows of hackers, spammers and website hijackers. It was the reason I left my futuristic cyber soapie “The Yonka Memorandum” incomplete and concentrated [among other things] on “7 Ways” instead while there was still a world of “real” books that could [I imagined] generate a profitable return on time invested.
I also asked myself what product could I develop that would have a life cycle beyond five hours…was there a margin for me in the rising tide of planned dishonest business practices that began to pollute our city during and now, apparently, following the Sanctions era.
Today I celebrate my 60th birthday and can look back on a most eclectic business career spanning more than forty years. When I began working as a junior claims clerk in the Joburg business world in 1965, the world of business that I entered, via the gateway of the now long defunct Norwich Union Insurance Company was one where supervisors inspected work daily and where failure to respond to a “customer’s” insurance claim within two days was a fireable [sic] offence: against company rules.
It was also a violation of company rules to engage socially with any of the various service providers associated with the company, in order to discourage the taint of corruption. We were enjoined against accepting gifts from suppliers and the slightest token of regard was treated with utmost suspicion. Whether this was a camouflage for nefarious dealing by “seniors” was something I was then too junior to be allowed to know is something I can’t comment on, but I can say with conviction, that today, by contrast, the issue of responding to complaints from anyone: customer, supplier or whatever is seen as an act of corporate weakness, strewn with legal liability issues that no one wants to deal with. I am sure that anyone who has had to deal with the faceless nature of the call centre operation will know what I mean. As Ali Mufaruki observed in the Weekender: Back “then” citizens letters were answered. [The Weekender: Opinions & Analysis Oct 21-22 2006].
Then  we worked at wooden desks and it was not uncommon to arrive at the office in the morning and find someone’s desk nailed shut. The occupant had “buried” the previous day’s work quota in a drawer, and had been found out by a sniffing supervisor. The “miscreant” would be publicly excoriated for bringing the “firm’s reputation” into disrepute. The entire ethos of the business was one of “service” and “duty”: and one serious duty was paying your way. The Norwich Union was eventually kicked out of play by lesser nimbler less scrupulous players as the rules of play eroded under the pressure of a more dishonest era and in accordance with the ancient rule of Gresham…Bad money drives out good.
Decades of dishonest rule by racially obsessed parties that have dominated politics in our end of the continent for more than half a century, with all the trade-offs that implied, in the way of “jobs for Pals n cronies, and more particularly in our response to economic sanctions has seen the complete collapse of that work ethic that made business the great engine driver of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In its place we have substituted the philosophy of entitlement, accompanied by its handmaiden philosophy “We don’t pay we hassle”. Initially we hassled because we were not competent to do otherwise, now we hassle because we can: the competition has disappeared.
This philosophy has now become so endemic that it has provided food for a book …my… “7 Ways…” a book that has demonstrated such a real market satisfying need that my first print run sold out in under ten days [My first self-published book by contrast, the Buffalo Hunters , took four years].
Contrary to all the prattlings of business theorists it could well be that Globalisation makes the necessity of being concerned about customer relations possibly less relevant than all the textbooks and case studies would suggest. Either that or economies dominated by oligopolistic cartels do not need to concern themselves with such niceties. Michael Porter would suggest that the bargaining power of the supplier in this case is zero.
One almost feels sorry for those “ordinary decent criminals”, like car hijackers and the predatory gangs of heist mongers who currently plague our economy, who have to go to work each day carrying a hot machine gun and take their chances on being shot by armed citizens [pshew thank goodness they are being disarmed]; by armed guards [most unfair], or by an occasionally too rapidly responsive police services personnel [also unfair, they are now allowed to shoot first] Far better to pursue the accountants wonderfully succinct strategy of simply ‘stealing’ a supplier’s product and obfuscate the issue of payment until the supplier either gives up or goes bankrupt.
What you have been reading is derived from the 7th of the Seven Ways referred to in the title of my book…. The 7th Way is the “Enablement Way”. According to this Way you… the legitimate creditor must demonstrate in some way to the reluctant debtor that they must pay or bear intolerable consequences. In this case I am demonstrating that one of those consequences could be the damaging of the ‘bilking’ business as an outcome of some appropriately damaging publicity.
This [bilking] business may have been stealing people’s money for more than a century for all I know and therefore may be impervious to this tirade. I did business with a person in the organisation that I trusted. I am in business and a businessperson must be an optimist. I must assume integrity when I deal with a trusted person, until dishonesty becomes evident [according to my rules of threezanmore].
Then I must get my money and re-evaluate my position.
And the corporate sector does give the trader cause for concern. The Life Assurance Industry has recently treated the State with the contempt it deserves to such a pitch as to have driven out the meddlesome Life Assurance ombudsman from his job and the billions the industry should have paid for short changing thousands of small time policyholders could well have been smoothly covered up through the payment of “small payments” to strategic persons. In fact it is probable that the behaviours being witnessed daily in our corporate sector reflect all to frequently the arrogance of a bull market just before the fall. Nonetheless there may be some shareholders who are perturbed to hear that a public company cannot pay its small bills. At the least I might effect a loss of some marginal percentage points in shareholder value and drop the market capitalisation of the public company by a buck or two which would balance out my losses, which I can also bear… Oh gosh.
If you are reading this without the offending company being named and shamed it is because the Enablement Way proved effective and I got my money… If on the other hand you are reading the name of the miscreant company throughout this blog then you will know that [for time expediency reasons] I reverted to the Kamikaze strategy, also outlined in my book, whereby if I burn, you burn, baby.
Should you also think that I am reacting too early, after all they are only 27 days late with payment, it has occasionally taken me months to hassle money out of my many thousands of customers over forty years: then refer to the part of my book called “Twice is a trend”….
I did also speak to an estate agent this week at the local gym that told me this same company took three years to pay him for work done some time back. So I am pre-empting a possible thirty six month period of frustration and rage by following my own “Twice is a trend” variation on the “Rules of Threezanmore”: [also outlined in my book]…I find their behaviour outrageous and I am disturbed that I should have even felt bad about telling you about their behaviour as if it is my fault for having done business with them. Dammed is the naturally optimistic businessperson for how else can one move to change the world.
I also find it disturbing that a company will willingly sacrifice the opportunity to participate in the undoubted success profits this book will generate, in return for storing a few measly nuts: the absolute sign of moral if not actual business ‘acumenistic'[sic] bankruptcy. I could also rant on about how it also betrays an unspeakable contempt for local artists that frankly borders on business treason, but that would be over the top because it is more likely that they just didn’t think about it at all..
This alone indicates a lack of attention to their core business: a fundamental source of business failure.
Nonetheless it is the way of the market to sway the end.
Thee digital version of the book will be out by late 2015 which is already almost tomorrow.
Have a great day.
Nicholas aka .!NiK