Friday, 19 December 2008

Corporate cheek

It's a time of year when traditionally, following six weeks of manic seasonal peak, work is dominated by various company piss-ups and client entertaining. Instead I find myself with my head buried in spreadsheets producing the 'tenders' on which the business nowadays survives.

The problem is that - in business bollock speak - our relationship with our clients is 'asymmetrical'. Or in other words, they're all big businesses and we're a little one so we're always going to get screwed.

And although I'd like to think we're pretty good at what we actually do, we are ill-equipped to go through all the bureaucratic corporate hoops that are required in these formal tenders. The worst aspect we have to contend with though is another bit of bollock-speak - 'transparency'.

In the context of tenders this means the client demanding the right to know exactly what our costs are so that they can see in turn how much profit (if any) we are making on their work.

Fair enough you may think. Except like many small businesses we do not have a particularly sophisticated cost analysis and in truth our business plan is simply to keep the whole thing going for another year. Which is why I am tempted to tick the box on the tender form that says "none of your fucking business".

Or possibly next time I'm in a supermarket I'll tell them that I'm running a beverages procurement tender and require full transparency of their costs of producing a jar of coffee. Just how much do they pay the poor sods who actually grow and pick their beans ? And how exactly can they guarantee year on year reductions for the next three years ?

I imagine they'd just have me escorted from the store...

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