Rumplestiltskin a Modern Day Contractor

February 7, 2013 in At Work, Skills Development, Small Businesses

As recently as yesterday in the world of business there lived a young lass, and for the purposes of this tale, our lass will be the production manager of a large company.

It so happens that this young lass has a father who works as accounts executive at the same company – and as we all know, accounts executives have targets to meet and kings to win over, not to mention kingdoms to serve.

So on a wonderful, sunny morning the accounts executive meets with The King and makes mention of just how talented and productive our young lass is, and how she creates a product that can make The King even wealthier than he already is. Being a 21st century royal, The King is enthralled and immediately tasks the accounts executive with the job of making him the wealthiest King in the land.

After a short celebratory dance, the accounts executive is faced with the stark realisation that his young production manager, although extremely talented, hardworking and truly dedicated, may well not have the ability to deliver in the time promised as she is committed to delivering on other orders as well.

The King, however, does not budge on his requirements and, not willing to lose face, the accounts executive does what most people in a similar situation would do…. He simply puts the pressure on the young production manager to perform a miracle.

Stressed and concerned our young lass begins this mammoth task only to find that there is no possible way she can perform on time. Alas, they will have to call in a sub-contractor. Luckily she is aware of a small company by the name of RumpleSomething, a name she remembers due to its similarity to the fairytale character Rumplestiltskin. A tale she identifies with, likening herself to the stressed and concerned miller’s daughter, under tremendous pressure to spin straw into gold.

So early one morning, with the rest of the kingdom sound asleep, our production manager contacts RumpleSomething, her soon to be saviour and sub-contractor.

Enter the small businessman, keen to assist and even keener to forge a great business relationship with this big company, and he immediately gets to work. His quotation has been accepted, his ability speaks for itself and alongside the miller’s daughter, (or hang on, that’s the accounts executive’s daughter) he sets to work to cast the dye for many future contracts and just about immediately the King and accounts executive start to smile.

After a week or two of this kind of work, the small business contractor realises that his cash flow is under pressure and he phones the accounts department for payment. Much to his frustration it turns out he isn’t on the database, and all kinds of paperwork will need to be filled out to complete his company’s registration as a vendor, so he needs to take a day to do this. Due to this delay he promises the miller’s daughter that he’ll put in some overtime, and he confidently expects her to agree to the new payment terms, after all, it‘s been smooth sailing up until now.

At this time, Mr RumpleSomething also finds that the miller’s daughter has started to move the goal posts at the request of her King, and in doing so is making it very difficult for his small company to meet month-end requirements.

The fact is, he finally gets to the point where he makes a brand new agreement, involving a production bonus, whilst in his head writing off the overtime money. After all the time granted for completion is very little and now the scope of the project is starting to change….

The miller’s/accounts executive’s daughter agrees, but not in writing.

So they deliver and RumplesSomething submits his invoice and bonus request.
The next day the miller’s daughter phones him regarding items needing repair and touch-ups, extra deliverables and risk avoiders, but at no stage are finances discussed.

Finally, after 30 days of waiting, Mr RumpleSomething again approaches the miller’s daughter for payment – and this is when she starts negotiating better terms. In fact it’s not even a negotiation, she is simply relaying a message from her management stating that the revised terms were against their company policy; they pay on 90 days only and no production bonuses are ever paid. So whilst the miller’s daughter was mortified and sorry, the matter and payment for Mr RumpleSomething was declined.

Now the fairytale at this stage allows Rumplestiltskin the ability to wager an all or nothing bet. Should the miller’s daughter be able to guess his name, he’ll walk away from the deal with no payment at all. And obviously at that stage he was very sure that she would never guess his name. Back to reality though.

Mr RumpleSomething, having a small business, has invested all his available time and resources into this particular job, month-end is looming and he simply does not have the luxury of playing fast and loose with income, he has salaries to pay and creditors wanting their instalments. He has to fight harder for what is rightfully his, even after an agreement was made.

And so sadly we end our tale here, with our disillusioned Mr RumpleSomething in the precarious position of fighting a giant with a stone. No… hold on, now we’re starting to mix in a few too many characters, so ignore the stone comment and we’ll simply end our story here.

We do have hindsight though, so the moral of the story is: Be Proactive! Had the accounts executive been more assertive and negotiated a better deal, this situation would never have arisen. Likewise, had the production manager negotiated and collaborated to set goals with the accounts executive, Mr RumpleSomething would not have entered the picture and most importantly had Mr RumpleSomething better management training and/or negotiating skills training, or had he better administrative control with solid service level agreements in place prior to starting the job, this situation would definitely be no more than a Grimm fairytale.

By Debbie Engelbrecht. Debbie is the founder and CEO of Staff Training, a proudly South African soft skills training company.

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