Here at NotQuiteProfitable.com we are the first to admit that we are not too proud to learn from others. We may be too proud to admit failure when it is just as easy to blame others. We may be too proud to stoop to any form of manual labor. Come to think of it, we may be too proud to stoop to any form of labor – period. We may even be too proud to beg or at least, to appear to be begging, but we are definitely not too proud to use someone else’s good idea.
We are happy to learn from others. We will even give them credit when it does not require us to provide any form of payment, as in this case. Others may refer to this as leaching off the hard work of others; we prefer to think of it as two entities in a symbiotic relationship . We benefit when we get great ideas for free and the originator benefits in some manner that is not quite clear to us right now, but we are sure that they do. Looking out for their interests is their job and not ours after all.
The latest example of this mutually beneficial relationship came about this morning in traffic. While driving to work today, one of our executives was sitting at a stoplight waiting for the light to turn green. As usual, he was having a conversation on his cellphone because there is no better to way to express your own importance than to demonstrate that you are just too important and too busy to waste any opportunity to conduct business. Returning now to the incident at the stoplight, an indigent gentleman, began to wash our executive’s windshield. We will let you read directly from the email that has been burning a path across the top floors of the corporation.
“I had just stopped for the light when this guy appeared at the side of my car. Using a greasy rag and squeegee that appeared to actually be an ice scraper, he proceeded to attack my windshield. After he had completed the job of hopelessly smearing my windshield, he held out a grubby paw and asked for $5 in return for his services. I was amazed that he had the gall to ask for payment for a service that I had not requested, that I did not need, and that he did a poor job of delivering. That is when it hit me. This was a genius plan for our increasing the business in our consulting division. In appreciation for this insight, I carefully avoided driving over his feet as I pulled into the intersection.”
In case you missed it, the key point here is that the non-service of windshield cleaning involves receiving a payment for a service that was:
- never requested,
- not needed, and
- poorly executed.
Our consulting service was already two-thirds of the way there. We had been steadily delivering unneeded services and doing that badly. We had to this point been constrained by one thing. We were under the misconception that we had to wait until the customer agreed to the service before we could deliver it. The indigent man on the corner (now referred to in respectful tones as The Squeegee Man”) had shown us the error of our ways. As everyone knows, the toughest part about the consulting business is making the sale. It can be a challenge convincing a customer that they should pay you to tell them things they already know. You have to convince the buyer that they should spend some of their corporation’s money on the hope that a consultant without any practical knowledge of their business is going to be able to bring about a miracle. The amazing thing is that with countless contrary examples, many continue to buy it.
Based on the inspiration gained from a street corner encounter [That sounds wrong. Be sure to edit this before it gets posted], we have created a four-step implementation.
- Contact a mid-level manager at a large corporation. This needs to be someone with sufficient signature authority to cover our fees. They must also be high enough in the company to be completely removed from the actual work and low enough to be completely disconnected from the strategic direction of the company. Fortunately, this is a target-rich environment in most corporations.
- Schedule a meeting to discuss the second phase of the project. By wording it this way the manager will naturally assume that this is the second phase of a project that has already been approved. While they cannot remember this project, they will assume it exists and they will be too embarrassed to admit they do not know what we are talking about. The well researched emperor’s-new-clothes syndrome works to our advantage here.
- Deliver a presentation on the mythical phase two. The content is not important. Use PowerPoint slides that are full of buzzwords, and generalizations along with plenty of graphs. All of the details will be provided using fonts that are three sizes smaller than the bottom line of your optometrist’s eye chart.
- Send an invoice that covers the time spent by all members of the staff and their next of kin. Remember to include all time spent in meetings with the client, in preparing the presentation, developing the materials, thinking about the project, and so on.
Our current schedule calls for a rollout to all of our consulting businesses in the next quarter and we expect a significant increase in billings with a minimal investment on our part. Lest you think we are going to get rich off this idea with no benefit at all falling to the indigent gentleman who provided the germ of this idea, we have decided that we will honor our unknown benefactor by naming our internal training plan “The Squeegee Man Plan.” It is quite literally the least we could do.
Footnotes: (because they would not have made this feature if they didn't want us to use them)
- We searched for an appropriate example of a symbiotic relationship but all of them seemed to involve parasites of one form or another. That was both kind of creepy and not too complimentary, so we immediately quit searching. Still, symbiotic is a great word so we decided to keep it. [↩]
- Not only does calling from your car express your level of importance but also it provides you the perfect excuse for not having information at the tip of your fingers. Rather than give the impression that you do not have a good grasp of all the details, you can simply say, “I don’t have that in front of me right now. … Can you look it up for me and email it to me so I’ll have it when I get to the office?” In one brief conversation, you have established your level in the corporate hierarchy and delegated a task to someone who obviously is not important enough to be required to conduct business while driving. [↩]
- We are not judging here. We realize that the man washing our windshield is someone’s son, somebody’s brother and someone’s worthless, no good, lazy brother-in-law that we always knew would turn out bad. [↩]
- Our branch offices in the southern US can include all of the time they spent fixin’ to work on the project as well. [↩]
- Our executive kept his windows tightly rolled up to avoid catching any other germs. [↩]
Now don't you feel smarter after reading this footnote?