Thursday, 26 March 2015

African Roulette

I am 53. I am also a cynical old git. I understand Murphy’s law and appreciate irony. Nothing much surprises me anymore and almost everything annoys me. I mean it. Everything. I have even been known to moan about cute kitten pictures on Twitter. But at the end of the extremely long day I do understand business and I realise that you win some and lose some.

Sales are like that. Getting a new customer is that perfect conjunction of proposition, need and timing all coming together at just the right moment, like an orgasm of sorts. Make the first call a day later and you might miss out. Call too soon and the need might not be front of mind and the chance will never come. So there is no point in beating yourself up about a loss. If you did your best, you just dust yourself down and move on, perhaps allowing yourself a rueful grin.

Every business should have values. There should be lines that we will not cross no matter what. Sales people do not like lines, rules or boundaries, but we need them, to keep us honest and to make sure that the bills get paid. Here in eReco land, we have some values. We are passionate about sustainability and very against anything unnecessarily ending up in landfill, for instance. We are uncompromising about data security because the consequences of being slapdash are so appalling. And we firmly subscribe to the theory that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Take our toner recycling service. We courier out a box that holds about 20 cartridges, bottles or whatever toner comes in these days, and you call us when it is full. Then we come and get it, give you some nice paperwork and charge you £34.50 for the privilege, whilst guaranteeing that nothing will end up in landfill to boot. Simples. And yet some people are horrified that we charge. Honestly. Other people do it for free.

No they don’t. Recycling the toner may come with your printer package, lease or whatever, but it is not free. You are paying for it in the price. Your stationary supplier may take your old stuff too, but only if you buy new ones from them, so again you are paying for it in the price. Don’t be fooled by the word free. It remains relative.

The same is true of the free IT equipment collections. You have to read the small print. You have to find out where they are cutting the corners to pay for their labour. Is it on your data? That data which could cost you a £500k fine if it all goes wrong? Free is turning into a bit of a gamble. But when I pop this little objection onto the table you would think that I had insulted some people’s intelligence. Of course they are removing the data. What with? Fairy liquid?

The next cliché that comes trotting out is the charity one. It’s for charity. We have donated it to children in Africa. Well let me tell you something mate, Africa don’t want it. They have said so. Their governments are starting to ban it. They would quite like some food, maybe some clean water and a few Paracetemol but they are fine for 8 year old desktops thanks very much. The odd Harrier jump jet would be much appreciated, but they are OK for battered LaserJet’s. And the only children who get to see most of this stuff are the ones working the acid baths trying to get the precious metals off the mother boards.

So a free lunch is a bit like playing Russian roulette. There are a lot of possible outcomes here, one of which is that you get exactly what it said on the tin. Don’t get me wrong here. I understand Murphy’s Law and you probably won’t be the one that gets caught out. That is why I always say that this game is about risk management. Using a free service and not really knowing what they are going to do with your stuff is taking an unnecessary risk.

Which you might think is fine. But I don’t like the other outcomes. If the ammunition chambers rolls round to the wrong place, someone gets hurt. Your company, financially. Maybe fatally if you cannot stand a large fine. It will not do the reputation any good either. The environment too. Some kids in Africa. It’s all just a little bit distasteful for the want of paying a few hundred quid.

And yet, I am a cynical old git, of course. So I write another post for this blog and hope that just one person reads it and changes what they do. I don’t expect to make a difference but I know I have to dust myself down, pick myself up and start all over again.

But stop it with the pesky kittens, ok?