Monday, June 27, 2011

Thirty Years Of Jobbers - Chapter 2-3

Backing up two weeks prior to that meeting, and what led up to the events which prompted the meeting; the first day I was there, they were getting ready to send out customer statements. I watched this poor woman pull out two, thick ledger books and six, six mind you bottles of Liquid Paper. And there she sat for the remainder of the day. I heard her mumble, "He came in last week and paid for that load," as she obliterated the entry from the ledger book. 

"My God," I'm thinking. "They let her do that?" One day, I listened to her argue with a farmer for fifteen minutes, who was trying to get her to accept a $5,000 check for a load of diesel. "Now Mr. Martin," she argued, "you always pay cash for your loads."  

"No ma'am," Mr. Martin countered. "When Mr. Johnny came out last week, I was off feeding the cows, so he just dropped the load and left."

Finally, with determination on his side, he managed to force the check into her hands and vanished out the front door. Later, when I got around to auditing her accounts receivable, so far that year, she had managed to wash away over $80,000 with her Liquid Paper… and it was only August.

After a while, it became a ridiculous task trying to get her invoices into the computer. Invoices marked "Charge" were actually "Cash", and vice-versa. She had committed to memory (back when her memory was working) just who paid cash and who charged and her tirades made starting an argument extremely dangers. Oftentimes, (remember what I said about employees having to continue to run the business while the computer is being installed), I had to fill in from time to time. "Miss Gloria," I asked as respectfully as I could, "is this here a cash ticket or a charge ticket?" 

She spun around in her chair and jerked the ticket out of my hand, looked at it and thrust it back screaming, "That's J.D.'s signature. He always pays cash!"

"Yeah," I'm thinking, "just like Mr. Martin always pays cash."

Now I'm not trying to make fun of older people, I’m no spring chicken myself, but there is a point when the well-being of the business has to be considered. That jobber was so focused on her being there for so long, he allowed her to fritter away tens of thousands of dollars rather than put someone else in charge. I hope when the time comes and I’m costing my employees and my family tens of thousands of dollars, someone will have the decency to tell me so.

Many of my customers were facing this dilemma. A few of their employees were there when their dad started the business fifty years before, and they felt duty-bound to keep them on. Well I say, ‘That's fine, it's your decision and you should be commended for paying back years of loyalty.’ But, I would rather pay them the same salaries to do something less destructive. And remember, we don't like to talk about it, but stroke, heart attack, Alzheimer, etc. are real threats to some of your older employees.  Don't get too busy to neglect to notice the tell-tale signs of overwork and aging.

Every business needs at least two people in their organization that can fill in for each other when the other one's sick or just needs some time off. It's not fair to the business and it's not fair to the warhorse to have it any other way.

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