Each day I watch as the Financial Crisis trickles through the different facets of our day to day lives and each night I concern myself with the knowledge that that this time is a game changer for many. Its not really important from the standpoint of the effects on my retirement savings but more so on shaping my core philosophies as a small business owner. We are in, or going in to a belt tightening time where businesses and consumers are going to be much more pragmatic about where they spend those critical resource dollars. A time when efforts will and should be scrutinized to ensure the highest level of value for work done. I am leading into the notion that not only should banks, and financial institutions that hold the keys to so many lives look into and implement the regulation needed but also businesses as a whole, big and small.
As a point of fact:
Within Canada we have a retail chain called 'Canadian Tire'. It has been a bellwether for so many years where people would take their car to get serviced. I even remember taking my first car, a Ford Exp (Pseudo 2 seater sports car) in to get services some 23 years ago. They were know for value and getting the job done. For me as a customer that had changed this year when I when into get some work done on my car with a valid estimate in hand. Coming back to pick up my car after the work was done yielded a 33%. The changer was explained as it too the Tech longer to complete the job then was quoted. Being in the Consulting business and working with Software for so many years I know that there are times that things can take longer then expected however I wanted to know a little more.
Canadian Tire it seems has moved over to a 'Piece Work' model where there tech's are paid for the number of billable hours. Now the fact that this model is employed allows for 'leakage' and what I mean by leakage is; say they take your car into the shop look at it and decide that they need to order a part. They order that part that can take several hours to get there and instead of taking the service work off the clock they will continue to charge while the car sits there without any work being completed.
This roughly equates to if I take a contract and look over a clients database, and or specs and park the work for a while and continue to charge while I am on a different contact. For me this seems unethical and the model flawed from the customers standpoint.
I will no longer use Canadian Tire for any of my business for the simple fact that I do not believe that they are working from a customer centered standpoint and keeping my interests in mind.
The model for many businesses will have to change I think from a perceived value to an actual work value. This can have the chilling effect on some businesses that have a higher overhead and pay for those costs outside of the hours that are direct tied to resource work. The other effect is that the work (at least in my business) does not have to be completed within the building, City, state/province or country that the business is in. One thing is for sure Businesses will require a tighter level of information control where the identifying the Target Client Base becomes so much more important.
I run an actual value business, in that I charge for each hour worked. I do not charger for the perceived value of the work I do as that is such a speculative point. I have and continue to take work that ranges from 4 hours to months on a broad and varied group of technologies. I also am always open to discuss issues, product and development and supporting my community to a point where I will pick up a phone and call someone on the newsgroups who has a problem and help walk through a solution at my own efforts/costs. I believe its good to be good and going out of your way is what makes you/and your company exceptional.
In light of the direction the global economy is going, are you changing your business practices. Are you focusing on customer first billing. Are you setting up practices and policies to ensure that your customers can continue to move forward as a partner?