A Better Way Of Doing Business

Day 040/365 - The First Circle of Hell: Greed

Image by Great Beyond via Flickr

In the build-up to the holiday season, I was fortunate enough to be following a sneak peek preview of a most intriguing novel, Steve McAllister's The McAllister Code. I'll try to describe the book here, but that won't do it too much justice. Simply saying "It's about two wise-cracking aliens who visit Steve and convince him to write a book that will turn his hometown of Sarasota, FL into a marketing mecca" seems like it wouldn't achieve too much, but that's exactly what the book is about.

Or rather, that's what the book isn't about. There are several other recurrent themes throughout it, some striking, some novel, and some that will strike a chord with many readers. (There's my plug: go buy the book as I intend to, and tell @inkensoul I sent you). One theme Steve reiterates is something that I have believed for a long time. Businesses can be successful without being evil. For a long time it has been held that the "greed is good" images perpetuated in the Nineties were the model of how businesses should compete; win-lose, zero-sum games, triumph or die. One of Stephen Covey's seven habits is often quoted as "strive for win-win" yet only recently have companies appeared that can actually thrive on that model. It takes a huge amount of nerve to be the first adopter of that kind of policy and exchange short-term gains for long-term successes for all. It seems to be the sort of strategy that is only successful, once everyone accepts it. Although I was intrigued, I must admit, I had my doubts that such businesses could be successful. Yet, even as I read the daily excerpts from Steve's book, I ran into the following three quite remarkable examples.

Firstly, I'd like to mention Qualatek, right here in Hollister, California. My change in circumstances recently meant that C and I ended up sharing a laptop for a little while. This was quite an enlightening experience for C, as, suddenly she discovered that sharing a computer with a code monkey is quite a proposition as the poor machine begins to grunt and groan under the strain. I believe it lasted somewhere around a week before the monitor gave up the ghost. A quick peek inside seemed to confirm that it was a worn-out cable; it also confirmed what I believed about the interior of laptops. Nobody in their right mind should try to get inside one. It takes a can opener, and the number of bits and pieces is simply mind-boggling. Hence I started on my search for a repair professional, which is relatively easy, provided you don't mind being treated like dirt. Typically, computer repair folks will charge you the earth for an initial 'diagnosis', after which they'll then tell you what you might expect to pay should you decide to repair it or not. You're out of pocket immediately. Both C and I have had bad experiences this way that have left a terrible aftertaste. Enter Nick from Qualatek, who quite happily accepted my initial diagnosis, sat on an eBay auction for the missing part over the Christmas break, ordered it without even setting eyes on the machine, took the machine to fit it, and let me know that didn't cure the problem, then ordered a new display – all without any strong-arm or hard sales tactics. The whole experience has built such a level of trust that I know he is going to fix the problem, competently and economically, and I won't hesitate to recommend him to everyone. A wonderful way of doing business.

That "change in circumstances" I mentioned above was finding myself unemployed just before Christmas. Of course, everybody makes a comment that it's a terrible time to find yourself out of work, as if there was ever a good time, as if your sudden lack of a paycheck would overshadow the festivities and that would be the only thing on your mind. Of course, it's true it isn't a good time to be looking for work – but for many other reasons. So many corporate HR departments and recruiters are taking time off for the holidays that getting a response from anyone is difficult in itself. In December, I made something like sixty submissions to many and varied companies in the area, using the big-name job search sites that everyone has heard of. In the midst of all this I discovered Jobfox, and can certainly testify to its effectiveness. Like the other sites, there are benefits for premium membership, offers for resume writing services, and so on – of course, the companies have to make their money – but I was most surprised at the level of questions required during my initial sign-up for an account. As a result, the opportunities I was offered, which from the other sides were simply the same old stale postings that I'd seen throughout Christmas, were new, fresh, and more importantly, precisely targeted to my skills. The other sites had been fruitless for a month. It seemed within a week of Jobfox, I was well on my way to securing my current post. (Another mention here of course goes to my new employer, who distinguished themselves by acting surprisingly quickly over the Christmas and New Year break while other companies and recruiters let the holiday slip by).

Finally, one more mention of how human ways of doing business really make all the difference. We ate at Flames in San Jose after one of my job interviews, and were amazed at the friendly atmosphere, quality (and quantity!) of food on offer. We had a good conversation with the table server about where I had been that day, and wishing me good luck in my search. Of course, a recommendation for a restaurant always comes with a risk. You wonder whether or not your experience was a one-off; whether next time you go there it will not meet expectations, or worse, you take someone else there and things are terrible. C and I decided we were going to take two of her sisters there for their dinner after arriving in San Francisco airport last week. Fortunately, the food quality met – no, exceeded – our previous expectations, everyone enjoyed the food and the atmosphere. The biggest surprise though was most unexpected, the table server from our previous visit recognized us, asked me very directly and specifically about whether I had had any luck in the job search, and remembered so much from our previous visit. He surely had served hundreds of people in the interim, yet remembered everything, treated us well, and of course earned his tip. That's service, and that's a better way of doing business for everyone.

The coconut pie was wonderful, too.

Related articles

Zemanta helped me add links & pictures to this post. It can do it for you too.

About darlingman1970

Born in the UK and a graduate in mathematics from Cambridge University, Chris Nash has followed a career in software engineering which he continued after moving the United States in 1996 and now brings him to California in 2010. However, Chris does not want to be considered as merely a code monkey, and has always been interested in writing; in areas as diverse as factual technical manuals all the way through to fiction. An avid reader, Chris is a fan particularly of mystery novels and enjoys above all the works of Agatha Christie and David Hewson. Chris has recently gone through some significant life changes which, at the moment, he is considering as the basis for a forthcoming novel and as food for thought on his blog. He manages to couple his loves of writing and technology and is particularly interested in how internet innovations have an impact on the writing and promotional process. Chris is a firm supporter of Creative Commons and other 'open' initiatives and believes strongly that such distribution mechanisms are the "right" way to handle intellectual property in an evolving digital world. Chris is a keen Nintendo DS and Wii player in his spare time, and is currently happily attached, living in the Central Coast area of California. Find him on Twitter as @darlingman1970. Don't ask him how old he is.
This entry was posted in opinion, review. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s