Thursday, 28 June 2007

Commission Impossible - In AdSpace, no one can hear you scream!

Now here is one for the archives.

Please remember this point before reading on: A company (let's call it RoboKrop) gives you a contract, you read it, you sign it. Nowhere in that contract does it say that if your client decides not to pay, we will clawback your commission.

OK? Well, hang on, because you are in for a bumpy ride.

You are a salesperson selling advertising space over the telephone. Your job is to convince your prospect that advertising in one of the magazines and journals your company produces is a great idea and you use your skills to liaise with all of the relevant people to ensure that you get a faxed booking form back with a signature on it. That is success. That is your job, end of story. You have made an agreed percentage of the total amount of the deal as commission and that is paid to you at the end of the sales month which is the month you sold it in. In other words: sell in June, up to the 25th and the money is in the bank at the end of June.

What you do not do is worry about anything else, like chasing copy, chasing payment or even the printing process. Or so you would think...

You sell a half page advertisement to a company in Barbados and the deal is that they get a free half page. The deal is £2,950 for one half page. When the copy arrives for the two half pages there is so much information on the two half pages that someone, other than you, decides to give your customer a FULL page in the magazine. Not only that, they give them an additional full page free of charge. The cost of the two full pages is actually £9,900. Your customer has only paid £2,950. Someone other than you, the Directors themselves, made that decision.

You go to print and the customer is very, very happy. A couple of months later, in October 2006, you contact the customer and say that you want to secure the space again in the next issue. You explain that you know, and they know, they got a fantastic deal last time. The rate card for a full page is no longer £4,950 but now £5,450. Last time they only paid 29% of the value of what they got. To sweeten the pill you allow them to not only have a free full page but you will only charge them the old rate card of £4,950. They are happy, and they fax back a booking form for the amount, SIGNED! Your job is over. Two weeks later you are paid on that deal (along with some others).

The company have fixed terms of: "payment is due within 14 days of invoice".

2006 rolls into 2007 and you, and the rest of the sales team, continue to sell. As the time of publication approaches you hear that "a couple of the advertisers have still not paid". You pay no attention because you believe, like everyone else would, that there is an accountant/ legal team dealing with this.

Then the accountant disappears off the face of the earth (on holiday) and one of the Directors starts to call lots of people asking for money. To all of you it sounds like he is calling everyone that has advertised. That can't be true?

It transpires that, rather than only a couple of people not paying, only a couple of people have paid and the Director is chasing them for payment. He even states that the accountant 'wasn't doing his job properly'.

You, and the others, carry on selling.

We are told that the Bank Manager is making a visit to the company. Can we all look busy and dress in a businesslike fashion? A massive clean up takes place. he arrives, they take him to lunch.

Quote: "Have you got half a sec?"

That is the Directors way of telling you that he wants an important word with you, and he only has 'half a sec' as he is running out the door at 3:30pm to have an acupuncture session. Instead of telling you during the day when he had more than adequate time to sit down and discuss the matter in a professional way he opts for the cowards way of, "look, I am very busy and I am off to have some acupuncture, but..."

"Patterson haven't paid and we will have to take your commission back."

Let's look at the comments made and then the facts.

"They are not returning our calls and we cannot get them to pay" True, but then they have signed a contract and that is binding.

"We cannot sue them, it's too costly." No it isn't. What's more, they have signed a contract and you have them over a barrel. Furthermore, they are members of the tax organisation which you are publishing the book for so they will not want to jeopardise that, especially as the President of the organisation, who you publish the magazine they were advertising in, is the person paying you to publish it.

"They work in a far flung island offshore and they are financial experts." So what pal, that's your problem. It was ok to call them and sell them. If they are financial experts then they shouldn't have signed the fucking contract in the first place if they didn't want to go ahead.

"They won't tell each other that we don't pursue. They don't talk to each other." The organisation is a membership which holds three meetings a year for networking purposes. The directory we publish gives names and contact details of the members so they can call each other up. The organisation actively promote networking!

"You'll find that we can clawback the commission because it is in your contract." No it isn't. Nowhere in the contract of employment does it state that commission can or will be clawedback.

The killer points are these:

The deal was done at the beginning of October 2006. They want to clawback the commission almost 9 months later!

It's a legal/ credit control issue: nothing to do with the salesperson.

This 'Director' has given the salesperson no warning as he told him at the time his salary was due to be paid.

It contravenes the contract of employment as this issue is not covered in the terms.

If you do not pursue them you will send out a message that clearly states: Sign the contracts, you don't have to pay, don't worry about it. They are too scared to sue you.

In the end, it's a joke. A financial joke that will have massive and painful repercussions. If you think I am making all of this up, I am not. This is really happening. In the 21st century!

Who lives in a publishing house like this?

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

The New Law of the Jungle

It’s the new law of the jungle we are breaking.

Every time I use a ball-point pen I am reminded of my dishonesty. It has an ex-employer's name written on it. I borrowed it, permanently. Does it keep me awake at night? No. I am a member of a new criminal class who have helped themselves to something at work. We are middle-class master criminals. Some laws we consider unbreakable - but only some.

Almost one in five of us steals paperclips and stationery from the office. One-third of us pay tradesmen in cash to avoid paying VAT. Fraud and white-collar crime are now so widespread they will soon cost the nation more than offences such as burglary, according to an academic study by Keele University called Law Abiding Majority?.

Oh, the irony of it. The middle classes who rail against those evils of modern society - the hoodie, the mugger and the vandal - are criminals, too.
It all seems such small fry when seen from behind the privet hedge. Why shouldn't the middle classes dodge VAT on the plumber's bill when private equity billionaires pay less tax than their cleaners? I know which one I think is the crime. If Gordon Brown is happy to let them pay 10p in the pound on their billion-pound fortunes, I have no conscience about getting a washer changed minus VAT.

I'm more honest than many of the new criminal class. One-third of those questioned said they wouldn't hand back change if they were given too much in a shop (I wouldn't and haven't). I have worked in shops and I know how the shop assistant feels if their take doesn't tally at the end of the day but I subscribe to 'concentrate on what you are doing'. They can face an accusation of theft or ineptitude. The same goes for the 6% who admitted to asking a friend working in a bureaucracy to bend the rules for them. That's corruption in my private rule book. Then again, that book is called: 'The only rule is, there are no rules!'

This moral weighing and balancing is what it is all about. The pen from my employer doesn't prick my conscience because I don't have a working relationship which is measured in such minutiae. Like many people, I worked unpaid overtime and sometimes incurred expenses I didn't reclaim. It blurs the boundaries. As far as I am concerned, a stray pen or notebook is neither here nor there in the equation. It's just a perk of the job, like the odd personal phone call or using the photocopy machine for party invitations.

In fact, what the Keele academics called criminality is really nothing more than a measure of the difference between legality and middle-class morality.
If you don't think you're in this report, if you're congratulating yourself as set apart from all criminality, cast your eye over your book shelves. I bet you'll find a library book or one loaned by a friend many years ago which you didn't return. Isn't that a form of theft?

Then walk to the window and see where the car is parked. It's probably in a legal slot because the risk of fine or being towed away is too great. But is it always parked legally or do you, like me, busk the parking meters when you have no change or won't be a minute or simply resent being ripped off every time you go to the shops? Now imagine this: you are driving on a wide, straight, empty road on a clear day. Does the speedometer read 60 or 65? If it reads 65, you are breaking the law. Do you rationalise this to yourself that what matters is to drive safely and that driving at 65 on a straight road is perfectly safe?

A relative had an interesting experience when she lost a valuable ring. She claimed its value from the insurance company. Months later the ring turned up and, honourably, she returned the cheque (no, I wouldn't have either!). The official who dealt with her wrote to say that, in his experience, she was the first person to return a cheque. To have kept the money would have been fraud yet people justify it to themselves. According to the academics, 6% of those surveyed actually admitted to padding out insurance claims. No doubt they count up the premiums they have paid and tell themselves it is victimless crime.

According to the report, it isn't poverty but a dip in wealth that triggers this criminal behaviour. The worst offenders are highly-paid people who hit hard times temporarily. No doubt their situation no longer seems "fair". They will pocket £500 on an exaggerated claim against an insurance company but would, hopefully, be scandalised by a £50 theft from a door-to-door insurance salesman.

If a bank that has regularly charged us extortionate amounts in overdraft penalties then accidentally credits our account, how many of us would feel a moral obligation to draw its attention to the mistake? Or might we recall the billion-pound annual profit and multi-million-pound bonuses paid to banks' executives and ask ourselves who are the real robbers? I know someone who had an amount paid into his account by his bank accidently and he immediately transerred it to another account. The bank didn't realise but he was taking no chances.

We live in a world where people are increasingly valued according to their bank balance. Wealth is the new religion; the glitterati bedeck the top of the social tree and it doesn't seem to matter how they acquired their money.
Virtue has always been its own reward but never more so than now. We see politicians disgraced then read about their lifelong pensions. We see business executives who ruin companies and destroy employees' pensions, but walk away with golden handshakes and secure futures.

Money talks. In the past decade the new super-rich have quadrupled their wealth. In the past year alone they have seen it rise by one-fifth. There have always been people of vast wealth but until recently they were so rare we could name them. There was Onassis, Getty, the Kennedy clan. Now there are more than 1000 super-rich families in London alone. Their spending power is fuelling the house-price rise and thanks to legal tax avoidance those who are "non-dom" pay no stamp duty.

On paper, the middle classes, too, are worth more than ever since all houses have raced up in value. But, relatively, they feel worse off.
Job security is poor, pensions prospects are low and uncertain, and they find they cannot give their children the financial leg-up they need to become property owners themselves.

Some conclude that to be squeaky clean and scrupulously honest in such a society is to be a mug. I contend that once that becomes acceptable, the law of the jungle takes over.

There is very little wrong with forgetting to return a book or dodging a traffic warden or asking an official to bend the rules for you. There is everything right with being clever enough to make multi-millions on the financial markets and paying only 10% tax on it. It's legal, but utterly immoral. But after a while you could live with it and sleep easy.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Lesson #7: Never leave loose ends.

How many people do you know say, 'Let's just sign the paperwork and we will get all the other stuff sorted out at a later date!'?

Here is something I find really strange. Why on earth would anyone, if they are in their right mind, allow you to lock them into a contract that at a later date may change?

Would you want to be signing a piece of paper that would be either worthless, or worse, turn out to be even more costly to you and have deep implications into your business or wealth at a later date?

No, is the answer, so...

Lesson #7: Never leave loose ends.

My mentor, Ari Onassis, would always tie up all the loose ends of a contract at the very start. It is like my lesson 'kill the monster early'. If you do all the finer details at the start then there can be no questions later, and no problems either. Nor can there be any costly surprises.

I have a phrase that I have used on many occasions in training and in my own life and it serves me in good stead. Every time I have negotiated a contract I have thought of it and I have worked by it, and it is this:

"If you tie up all the loose ends at the start they will never become undone. If you leave the loose ends undone at the start, they will remain undone and you will never, ever, be able to tie them. What's more, they will become very expensive!"

Coming soon... Lesson #8: You only need one golden apple!

Monday, 11 June 2007

GR8 G8?

The G8 Summit, for all of its pomp and circumstance, is really just a big sales meeting. That's all.
That's not to say that this makes the gathering any less significant. It's not.
Sales meetings, whether they be between two small companies or eight big industrialized nations, is how things get done.
Meeting face to face is essential in effective selling. Certain types of business can be conducted long distance, or over the phone or web, but high level big-ticket items usually require a little face time. And at the G8 Summit, that's what you have: World leaders gathering for some valuable "face time".
The goals in attending the G8 Summit are broad, but just like any other sales meeting the bottom line for attending is simple: More economic and relational opportunities with trading partners around the world.
Even on the world stage, it still all comes down to doing a deal by making a presentation and closing the customer.

Paris Hilton Saleswoman

Paris Hilton's on again, off again, on again jail sentence is just the latest in what is sure to be a lifetime of ups and downs, successes and failures, highs and lows.
So why are we talking about her here?
Because what she has done with her career can serve as a roadmap for any aspiring sales professional who wants to set himself, or herself, apart from the competition.
First, answer me this: What is it that Paris Hilton does? Sure, she has some video experience that she can list on her Hollywood CV, but seriously...what is it that Paris Hilton does for a living? A recent news report said that Paris Hilton, and other celebrities, is paid as much as $250,000 to attend a party (note to party organizers everywhere: I'll come to your party for $50,000. Have your people call my people).
"Career"? You tell me.
But there's no denying that she is famous. And, she has built a career for herself (whatever that career may be). All of that makes her one of the best saleswomen ever.
Here's why:
She believes in what she's selling. What is she selling? Herself. She is the brand. She is the product. And she believes she's the best. Do you have the same kind of passion for yourself, and your product or service?
She presents a unique message. There are a lot of imitators in Hollywood, but theres only one Paris. Are you unique and memorable? You see how its worked for Paris...if your sales career is languishing, you might want to think about redefining yourself in a more memorable way.
She's someone you can't look away from. I'm not talking about the way she dresses, or whether or not you think she's beautiful or not. I'm talking about her "persona". Her whole personality, her image, and that "x-factor" that has the nation glued to their TV sets waiting to see a picture of Paris Hilton in jail.
Here's my point: She generates attention.
Do you? Does your sales message? Is your sales message unique and memorable in such a way that it rises to the level of being Paris-worthy in its presentation? If not, your prospects are probably looking away from you...and what you're trying to sell.

$250,000 for attending a party??? Come on...

The long nightmare continued today, as a Los Angeles judge ordered Paris Hilton back to jail.
The past few days we've been subjected to wall-to-wall Paris Hilton news, non-stop on the 24-hour cable news channels. A lot of us ask, "Why????"
What in the world did Paris Hilton do to earn the right to interrupt the G8 Summit and the launch of the space shuttle??? How has she done it!?!? Those of us who are entrepreneurs would spend 45 days in jail if it would bring worldwide publicity to our enterprise, right?

The whole thing got me to thinking about the lessons that her inexplicable rise to fame, and our ongoing fascination with her daily exploits, has for today's entrepreneur. "The Paris Principles" for business success:
You gotta look good. Paris Hilton focuses almost manically on her appearance. Do you spend a lot of time making sure your business looks good to the outside world?
You gotta be seen. Paris Hilton gets publicity. If she parties, we hear about it. If she gets arrested, we hear about it. Paris pays attention to getting noticed and staying on people's mind. Are you doing all you can to publicize your business?
Have fun. Love her or hate her, you gotta admit that Paris Hilton knows how to have fun. And secretly, we kind of envy her for that. As a business owner, do people have fun when they interact with your business? People like to have fun...that's why we keep tuning in for the latest Paris Hilton news.
Use the "new media. Paris Hilton rose to fame by starring in a home-made video. We won't get into a discussion about the content of that video, but suffice it to say that if you search Google and YouTube, you'll find plenty of videos and pictures and news on Paris Hilton. Is your business using these new publicity portals to publicize your business?
Give them something to talk about. If you're not a little edgy, you probably won't get talked about. There are lots of movie stars that aren't getting the kind of attention that Paris Hilton is getting, even though they're more talented and more deserving of attention. Yet, because Paris Hilton pushes the envelope, she gets the attention. Are you as edgy as you can be with your business?
Laugh at yourself once in a while. Did you mess up? Have a product launch that went haywire? Screwed up a grand opening of your newest product?
Learn to laugh at yourself. Paris Hilton turned the concept of laughing at herself into a hit TV series, "The Simple Life". Follow her lead!
Be nice. As I think back to everything I know about Paris Hilton from the stories I've heard in the media, I can't remember anything that talked about her being mean. Not public feuds to speak of, at least not any that turned really nasty by today's Hollywood standards. Love her or hate her, you have to admit that Paris Hilton has fostered a reputation of being nice. Clueless, maybe, but nice. Make sure your business is known for being "nice".
Don't be a Lindsay or a Britney. Paris Hilton comes close to crossing the line with her behavior, but she never goes over it too far. Compare that with Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears, who have gone way, WAY over the the point where their careers have taken a serious hit. Know where the line of acceptability is in your business market, and don't go over it all that often, and not very far over when you do cross it. Edgy is fine, drunken stupors are another story.
The Paris Principles: Follow them, and you'll probably have a successful business venture!

Thursday, 7 June 2007

The Dave Vinci Code

I was asked a question the other day that triggered off a three-hour conversation about two or three subjects. What was the question?
‘Do you believe in Aliens?’
How many times has that question been asked or the idea of alien life been raised in your life?
Well, I have to admit I am a big believer. I think it would be a very sad state of affairs if you stood at night, staring into space at the millions of stars out there, and believed that we were the only planet with life on it.
Have aliens been to this planet? I think so.
I was only a small kid when the Americans landed on the moon. I have watched the footage since and it always amazed me at how quickly the Americans advanced in those eight or so years from when JFK said that they would go to the moon to when Neil Armstrong placed a foot on the surface.
If you look at the competition, the Russians, you have to ask yourself: what happened?
The Americans were sending colour film back showing them tanned and fit, nice space suits, smiling at the camera in the cockpit of the Apollo capsule.
Cue the Russians. Grainy, black and white footage, incomprehensible sound, bits of wire hanging down and rubbish floating around.
The Americans were on their way back from the Moon.
The Russians were barely in orbit.
Even Apollo 13 played its drama out in Technicolor with the crew without a hair out of place.
Go forward another ten years or so and there are the Americans again, having toyed with SkyLab, the Spacestation (!), launching a re-usable space shuttle.
Where were the Russians? Still in orbit. Sometimes.
I really do believe that the Americans had help from some technology they recovered or found. I know it sounds like a scene from the Men in Black movies but believe me, they have something in Area 51 and they know a lot more than they are letting on.
Area 51 by the way is that place in the desert that everyone knows is there. It has so much new and unheard of security technology protecting it that they probably know if you are just ‘thinking about’ having a look at it. It is the place that has been only photographed from the air. It has hundreds of people working there. It has numerous people who used to work there talking about it to people who know it is there. It is also the place that, if you get near it, the army tells you ‘doesn’t exist!’!
Even in this country, after the Rendlesham Forest UFO sighting a few years back, Margaret Thatcher was quoted as saying/ordering: “The public must never know”.
Why? Because the average man and woman on the street would panic like hell and life, as we know it, would be over. You would have riots in the streets (because people think ‘that’s what you do’), looting, shooting and marshall law. The army would be called in because the streets would be full of people fighting for no other reason than to overcompensate for the fact that they are scared.
The thing that the majority of people would fail to understand is that if your planet is going to be invaded or destroyed...where do you run to? Why would you bother? You can’t stop the world because you want to get off.
If a spaceship landed...I would get on it.
End of story.
No questions asked.
I would jump at the chance.
I might print off a list of the last years winning lottery numbers and ask to be dropped off in the same spot but one year in the past, but then I am a salesman and I am always looking for an opportunity.
Alien life led onto something else.

‘If there is Alien life, do they worship the same God as we do?’’

Ah, religion. Where do I start?

I believe that Jesus existed though I firmly believe that he was an extraordinary, but normal, man. He had some amazing ideas and was very enigmatic, told a good story and people listened and followed. I believe from what I have read that he was married, probably to Mary Magdalene. If that sounds like the Da Vinci code, wash your mouth out. I read the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and around thirty other books giving contrary opinions. I also read about the council of Nicea and Constantine turning Jesus from a normal man to a Holy man and labelling Mary Magdalene a prostitute to distance Jesus from her.
I have also read the Gnostic gospels, the ones removed from the Bible we know today.
So what about the miracles? Well...
There was no TV, radio or newspapers in those days so all you had to rely on was word of mouth and, in some cases, word of mouth with translation thrown in.
Jesus got a group of followers together, the disciples, and they were his right hand men. He travelled around speaking and preaching his beliefs. People liked him, trusted him, believed him and then followed him. That’s all. That’s what I think. But the miracles?
The other day, in our office block here, the girls in reception said that a woman was having some form of seizure. When Mark, a pal of mine, and I went to have a look, the woman was lying on the floor shaking violently and lashing out. A so-called therapist was sitting on the floor watching her shaking his head: doing nothing. That’s helpful isn't it?
“She grabbed her throat and collapsed” he told us.
I checked her airways, turned her on her side and put her in the recovery position. I got the ‘therapist’ to go and call 999 and tell them a lady is having an epileptic attack.
She was shaking violently. I put my hand on her head and whispered in her ear, “Listen to me, hear my voice, calm down, come back to me, listen to me, hear my voice, calm down...” etc. I then did a form of EFT (emotional freedom therapy) on her and started to tap her wrists to slow her down a little.
I then held both of her hands and she gradually came round and looked at me. I told her who I was and what I thought had happened and asked her to keep calm. She did. The paramedic team arrived; Mark and I left them to it.
If that had happened in Jusus’ day then by the time 50 or more people had passed the story on, it would have become: “There was this woman and she was lying on the floor. Her head had been cut off. Her body was shaking. These two guys appeared out of nowhere, they just appeared. One of them bent down, held her head back on, whispered to her and brought her back to life! Then, bang...they disappeared into thin air. They must have been angels!”
That’s all it was in Jesus’ times. He may have done a few wonderful things but they weren't miracles as far as I am concerned.
Of course, if it could be proved that Jesus wasn’t ‘holy’ and that he didn’t ‘rise from the dead’ and he was married and had descendants then the Christian and certainly the Catholic Church would collapse. The Catholic faith is based on the resurrection and if that one fundamental point could be proved to have never happened; game over. That proof, I think exists and that is what I think the Holy Grail is. The bloodline.

At the council of Nicea it was argued that Christianity, though it was recognised as a faith, could not continue with a woman as the head of the church or even as part of the line of descendant heads.
It has only been in the last century that women have been allowed to vote and only in the last twenty years that have we seen female clergy.
The only way for Jesus to remain as the head of Christianity would be for him to be immortal (for want of a better word) and the only way to achieve that was to make him holy. He would be the head, eternally.

Saying that, I do have a few questions about the Bible.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say anything about prehistoric animals or cavemen and yet we know they existed. Why not?
If we are to believe that Adam and Eve were the first two people on earth and they were the beginning then...we are all related! Is that right?
God supposedly made the heavens and the earth and then said ‘let there be light. That means he made the heavens and the earth IN THE DARK! Why?
If Adam and Eve were the first people on earth who was running around making notes at the time God was creating the heavens and the Earth? So who wrote Genesis then?
How did Noah get two of every animal on the Ark when the majority of them were on the other side of the world? SkyNews?
How did Moses carry two stone tablets down a mountain without a forklift truck?
Why does every film, TV and school nativity have three wise men and yet nowhere in the Bible does it state that there were THREE of them? Where did that come from?
Why do the four books of the Bible that depict the crucifixion detail four DIFFERENT accounts? Were they all there or was it word of mouth?
Then again...when Moses went up the mountain to get the Ten Commandments the Bible states that there was a lot of noise, like thunder. Could that thunder have been an engine?
There was mist, like smoke. Could that smoke have come from the engines? And he came down with red skin like it was burnt,. Could that have been radiation?
Hey, perhaps it was a UFO and we are all some aliens experiment? Perhaps the Aliens came back? Will they come again?
Where are those lottery numbers?