Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Too smart for my own good

There's nothing quite so annoying as an overzealous leader.

Remember when the first George Bush became president, and made a huge deal about how he wanted a flag-burning amendment? Of course, none of us has ever seen anyone actually BURNING one, and no one would be getting hurt if they were being burned, and we have the freedom of expression in this country to do so, but no matter. George Bush was giddy with power and wanted to show us how strong and patriotic he was by boldly defending the US flag.

I am reminded of when an alcoholic first starts attending AA meetings, and stands around monitoring everyone's alcohol intake. He's just too consumed with the new role.

I made a similar mistake when I took over as DM. I harped on this staffing issue, and how we were spending $250,000 a year on temps.

Yes, we spend a lot on temps. Yes, we should try to cut it down. But it's not nearly as simple as I made it out to be.

We have busy times and slow times in this office. The busy times are very busy, and the slow times are very slow. We are at 93 employees now, but by February, we will probably only need 83. In June, I'll need about 93 again.

I could hire all the temps outright, and just stay at 93 employees all year, but that would mean that for six months at a time, ten employees would be sitting around doing nothing. Employees who are sitting around don't stay employees for long.

Yes, I can save us some money. But it's not going to be as easy as I first thought. My idea to solve the temp problem is the same as my idea for a lot of things: Automate it and farm it out.

First, we get a list of what everyone is doing, and work with our development people to get computers to do as much of it as possible. And whatever is left can be "farmed out", or given to another company to work on for us. I used to use Arthur Andersen for those projects, but obviously that company is no longer desirable, due to the recent Enron unpleasantness. I'll just use someone else. There are many details to work out, of course. For one thing, auditors will have to check all the work being done by other workers. But I still believe we will save a lot of money. Not as much as I first thought, though.

Wednesday, November 3, 1:00pm. Managers' meeing in my office.

"By next Wednesday, I need a list from everyone of your temporary staffing needs for the next twelve months," I say.

"This is a mistake," says Mike from underwriting. "You can't just fire temps and expect everything to run smoothly. I mean, here we are, turning record profits, and you're talking about firing temps!"

"Yeah!" say a few others.

People are idiots. They just love to read into every word I say, and then hit me over the head with what I supposedly said.

"Mike," I say. "Who said anything about firing temps?!"

"Steve, why else would you be asking?" he says. "We all know you want to slash spending, and you're gonna save a ton of money, and Dan Johnson is going to be very proud of you, and meanwhile we are gonna be going nuts over here trying to get the work done. I mean, we're making all this money-"

"WRONG, Mike. WRONG!" I shout. I'm not pissed, but this is the response I feel his attitude warrants. I'll never come out and accuse someone of insubordination. I'll just rip him a new asshole, and he'll get the message.

"We NEED the manpower to get the job done. I've never said otherwise. We can't get by with less people right now. But yes, I am exploring other options to get it done faster and cheaper. And I don't want to hear about record profits," I say firmly. "If we're wasting money, it's gonna stop. If there's a cheaper way to do something without losing quality, it's gonna be done."

"Well," Mike says weakly, "I was just concerned that you were gonna cut staff-"

"Well then say, 'Steve, I'm concerned you're gonna cut staff'," I say. "I don't need editorial comments. Except if they're from me, of course."



It's amazing to me how easy it is to solve a problem if you just know who to call and what to ask.

I have a contact at PWC (Price Waterhouse Coopers), and I called him about all this temp business. I explained my problem, and told him I was interested in farming the work out to his group. It was sporadic, I said, and somewhat labor-intensive. Could he help me?

"Sure, Steve. Of course! We do that sort of thing all the time! Call me again when you have details, and we'll make a deal."

We've been doing things the same way for years. YEARS! And with a five-minute phone call, I found a cheaper, faster, better way.

Now, if I could only solve my girl problems as easily...