Friday, 10 October 2008

Crisis & the real world

A week preoccupied by work. I never signed up to be a salesman but I seem to spend more and more time trying to drum up business. I'm resigned to doing it now as a necessary evil that comes with the responsibility of keeping the company going. Funnily enough I find the bullshit of presenting fairly easy - and I can even manage the negotiation bit. It's just the networking and faking an interest in the clients that defeats me.

Then at the end of a particularly depressing and crappy week this came along:

We had been approached by a couple of semi-plausible characters who claimed mysteriously to be acting for a business that was interested in talking to us. A bit like one of those letters that says 'you will discover something to your advantage'.

When we finally met up it turns out that they were acting for an Indian organisation that wanted to buy our company so that they could 'strip out cost' - that's a euphemism for getting rid of the workforce - and then outsource the jobs to India. The company could then be used as a 'vehicle' for attracting business from UK clients who might feel uneasy about dealing directly with an Indian company.

They were genuinely taken aback when we told them to fuck off.

They could not comprehend that there were turkeys who were not over the moon about Christmas. Or that a business might have some concern for their workers. Or for the fate of the industry as a whole.

Their parting shot was that they were sure some of our competitors would be happy to take them up on their offer. They might be right - we are fortunate to have a blue chip client base who don't just buy simply on price, and we are not dependent on heavy borrowing. For a small to medium size business that puts us in a fairly rare and privileged position. If we can maintain that we might just survive this recession.

There used to be a saying that the personal was political and vice-versa. I thought that was just an excuse for substituting navel contemplation for activism. But now I get it. And it fucking hurts. More than the still unreal news of banks going busts or stock markets crashing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I tell you what; the Cats Protection League have really gone down in my estimation.

£12 million they have lost in Icelandic banks, and I speak as somebody who regularly receives their 'Give us money or we kill the kitten' mailings.

I'm sorry, but who in their right mind was investing in banks with higher than avergae interest rates?

Even my son, introduced to the world of debt and finance by his student loan, looking for clever dodges to make a bit of money, shied away from banks offering high interest rates. 'There must be a reason. They must be desperate.' That was his thinking. He'd been paying attention, had actually heard of the credit crunch back in February when Northern Rock went bump and worked it out.

Maybe the Cats' Protection League had a cat in charge of their long-term investment plans but I think it is more likley it was a squirrel. You know, the guys that run around like mad burying their assets and then can't find half of them when they need them.

Actually it was probably some smug finance manager on a six figure salary. These are the guys that are always right, explaining why other people need to be made redundant, why resources are not available for things that need doing and are now getting bailed out even while other people's lives are ruined.

My German grandfather lost his savings three times. Once in the financial crash of 1923. Once in 1939 when all mortgages were stopped because of the war. And then again in 1945 when everything was smashed up. His bosses came up smelling of roses everytime. Even in 1945 after their printworks had been destroyed. They had nothing, but as former capitalists, it turned out they qualified for special treatment. As owners of a completely obliterated printworks they qualified for grants and loans from the Americans so they could get back into business and carry on making a profit out of my grandfather's labour.

It was 1955 before my grandfather could build the house that allowed his family to live together again. He only did it by taking bon illegal levels of debt. the rest of his life was lived under the pressure of paying that debt back.

Watch it all happen again. the workers will pay the price for this latest capitalist cock up. If we let them make us.