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Monday, January 24, 2005

The Boss put me on the spot today, and I have to say I dodged the bullet (or the water balloon, or whatever it was) pretty well. He wasnít exactly trying to pass the buck, but Iím thinking maybe he wanted to share the blame, later on when things go wrong. If they go wrong, that is.

He was working on an estimate for a job that was bidding today. Heís the one who does all the engineering and makes all the decisions, and thus it has ever been — until today, when he phoned and asked me how much of a markup to take on this bid. He asked me to make a decision like that! Let the scrambling begin.

His thinking is (as far as I can follow) that in the flush times of last summer, he was putting a high percentage of profit on his bids, and we were getting the jobs and making money. Whee! Lately, cash flow is barely a trickle, and while we are owed a ton of money by various owners and agencies, we arenít picking up new work at the rate we were last year.

What to do? Lower our profit margin, in the hope that we can underbid some less hungry contractor? Or keep it up there, because after all, we donít want to be working for nothing? We could end up almost giving away our products and services for cost, just for the sake of cash flow. Itís a matter of how low we want to go on the desperation meter.

I didnít want to talk him into or out of anything. I wanted to seem to be helping him make the decision he was going to make anyway. In the end, Iím not sure what he decided to do. I think he split the difference, which is fine as long as I donít get blamed. Itís not my fault if the profit is too high and we miss out on this job, and itís not my fault if we get the job and donít make any money on it. Howís that for staying solidly on the fence?

24 January 2005

The view from my porch.

Tonight I nearly blew it all anyway, without any help from the Boss. I was supposed to fax the quote to the government, but I couldnít get the fax to go through. And by the time I started, the government had taken its blankie and gone to bed for the night, so I nearly panicked. Then I remembered that it was possible to submit the quote on line, as long as I knew the right document numbers and screen names and passwords and PIN numbers to get into their system.

I didnít know any of those things when I started, but I dug and scratched around my files for an hour until I found what I needed. It was a nervous hour, Iíll tell you. This one would have been my fault.

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As it turned out, it was a dinky little job that wouldnít have made us much money even at a 100% markup. (I think he settled for a little less than that.) Anyway, that was a lot of heartache and a lot of headaches for a job that small. It goes to show what lean times weíre going through right now.

Recent recommendations can always be found on the links page.

One year ago: Exposure
"As good as I think I am at what I do, I don't think I'd hire myself to do it."

Two years ago: Turn Out the Lights
"I expected it to be busy, but I didn't expect so many briars, nettles and thorns to stick it to me as I hacked my way from Monday to Friday."

Three years ago: Dramatized
"You start out with the good stuff, and after a few of those the generic doesn't taste so bad."

Four years ago: Waters, Babble On
"If I never hear that person's name, I won't have that little chill go up and down my spine when I think about what he's doing."

Five years ago: Campaign Trail
"If I'm voting for someone merely because they haven't yet been put under the microscope and had their warts revealed, I might as well just go with the lesser evil. That seems to be the American way of voting anyway."

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