Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Barney, Betty and the "Boys"

Barney's Oil Burners is a small mom-and-pop company that sells oil-fired furnaces.

Let's meet the team.

First, there is Barney. The owner. Each day, Barney makes a few sales, keeps an eye on the "boys" and send them out on their jobs. Barney likes to talk to his customers and anyone else who drops in.

The coffeepot is always on.

Barney always has time.

Barney's wife Betty, takes care of the books, answers the phone, schedules appointments and keeps the office semi-tidy. She hands over the paycheques to Barney every second Friday so he can take care of the "boys". Betty also handles all the customer complaints and tries her best to get the "boys" to fix them.

She smokes a lot of cigarettes.

There are three "boys".

The first is Joe, the Cape Breton old timer who has been there from the beginning when Barney and Betty set up shop. They say oil runs through Joe's bloodstream. You can smell the #2 Crude from around the corner before you see Joe coming. Danny is the ten-year veteran from Newfoundland who serves as Joe's caddy. Danny does what he is told. And rounding out the trio is Doug. He is the hometown, Albert County boy who never left town, but in truth is actually three years older than Joe and counting the days to retirement.

One day, Barney and Betty decide to do something nice for their "boys".

"Listen fellas sales are going to increase next year and I can only talk to so many customers. You boys are on the front line. Hell you're in the basement every day. Sometimes the customers even bring you cookies when you're down there working on their furnaces. They love you guys because they know you're not "salesmen". Here is what Betty and I got in mind. Instead of giving you a raise of a buck an hour next year, which I know you fellas deserve, how about we set up what they call an S.I.P.... a Sales Incentive Plan where everytime you bring me a lead and it turns into a sale there's a bonus for in there for you. So for example on a furnace sale, you will make an extra $50.00. On an oil tank, $25.00. An add-on heat pump, that's a cool, crisp, one hundred dollar bill in your pocket. Last year we installed, five hundred new furnaces and there is no signs of this slowing down. Do the math fellas and you'll see you're much better off with the S.I.P."

Joe dropped his head. Stared at his shoes.

Danny looked at Joe. Said nothing.

Only Doug spoke up.

"Listen Barney, I got bills to pay and I need that extra dollar an hour. There is risk here, there is no guarantee that what you're saying is gonna happen is actually gonna happen. Sure sales been good, but that doesn't mean they're gonnna stay that way. Besides, I got John's Heating after me and they're ready to give me a buck-and-a-half more an hour. So if you're going with this S.I.P. or whatever you call it, I'm gonna have to re-think things".

In the end, Barney and Betty decided to leave things be as they were.

With the dollar-an-hour raise, each of the "boys" collected an extra $2,000 dollars that year.

Under the S.I.P., each of the "boys" would have collected an extra $6,000.

At year end, over some holiday cheer, Barney let the "boys" in on what went down.

As usual, Joe and Danny looked down. Said nothing.

Once again, only Doug piped up.

"Those numbers can't be right. Besides you'd have never given us that kind of cash. But, now that you've made it, on our backs, when do we get our money?"

Danny wasn't so sure anymore that either Doug or Joe knew what the hell they were talking about.

Over the previous 12 months, Danny had spent time with Joe in a lot of basements, installing a lot furnaces, oil tanks and heat pumps. Danny also thought about all the opportunities that had slipped by when he could have said something to a customer that would have made them want to buy additional products from Barney's company like air exchangers and air conditioners; fireplaces and wood stoves. He started thinking about what he would have done with an $4,000 in his hands right now and how it may have worked to more with all the extra overtime created by the extra sales.

For the first time in his life, Danny was thinking long and hard about his role in the company.

Danny started to wonder if there was a difference between just doing a job like Joe had taught him or if there was more to being part of a real team inside any company. He was starting to understand what Barney meant and had everyone picked up their sales socks, maybe there would have been extra cash, plus they might have avoided the usual two-week spring layoff that always set him so far behind.

For time the time in his working life, Danny started to see - like it or not- he, Joe, Doug and everyone else at Barney's Oil Burners had another purpose above and beyond the tasks they were assigned to do.

He also started thinking that maybe, just maybe, employers like Barney and Betty aren't the enemy they have been painted to be. Especially when Joe and Doug start those coffee break bitch sessions.

On his way home that night to his wife and two kids, Danny started muttering to himself.

"If we hadn't been such yellow-bellied chickenshits and actually got off our lazy asses, we'd be bringin' home a lot more bacon. I'm tired of listening to losers who want to steal second base without ever taking their foot off first."

Dollar-oriented, clock-watching employees will often spend a lifetime without ever learning what Danny just did.

Without ever "getting it".

To expect profit without risk or experience without danger, is like expecting to live without being born. You will fail more often through being timid than by over-daring.

And your appetite for reward will only ever equal the amount of risk you can stomach.

No guts?

Never any glory.

Just a long ride home to face the bitter truth.

"There's a drive in me that won't allow me to do certain things that are easy"

P.S ... Our friend Johnny also shares some Deppian thoughts on what it means to take chances ...

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