Monday, January 30, 2006

Small Business: 1. George S. May International: 0

We had a visit at work today from a "Business Analyst" from the illustrious George S. May "business consulting" firm.

He said, "I've just got two forms for you to fill out here. Should only take a few minutes."

We had just been talking about getting more rigorous with our scheduling, so I happened to have a very full and detailed schedule for the day.

"OK," I said. "When do you need these?"


"But do you see all of that orange on my calendar? See how it fills up the whole day? That stuff is billable...this," I said, pointing to the questionnaire, "is not billable. So it comes later."

He was annoyed. But it got strange when I asked about an NDA. Was one in place between our company and his? My question was answered with a blank stare.

"A Non-Disclosure Agreement...A secrecy agreement. Do we have one in place with your company?"

"No, we don't do that. I'm bonded at Five-Hundred Thousand Dollars."

Now I gave him the blank look. What does bonding have to do with confidentiality, I wonder. He blathered on about how we wouldn't reveal a single one of his clients, even though they loved him and his services so much.

So I got up and asked our Company Comptroller. He's our main contracts guy, but he usually doesn't piddle around with little NDAs. Mr. Comptroller was concerned enough about the NDA, too. "If he doesn't want to sign one, we'll just write him his check and he can go."

Then the "Business Consultant" made the mistake of double-checking. He called his office, and learned that yes, they do sign NDAs. I wonder if he even realized that it made him look foolish. If he had not checked, but rather just stuck to his story, then we would have believed that his company really doesn't do NDAs -- even as weird as that seems.

Fortunately, though, it was too late. He'd annoyed Mr. Comptroller.

But I feel bad now -- we've ruined it for the next guys. At his next engagement as a "Business Consultant", he'll know what an NDA is, and it won't be quite so convenient to get rid of him.

Update, 2008 November 19 / 2010 August 4: Feel free to comment on your experiences with George S. May International. But just stick with the facts. Many comments have been made here GSMIC that I cannot verify because they were posted anonymously; so I decided to remove comments that make unverifiable claims. There have been many anonymous, unverifiable allegations against GSMIC:

  • Allegations of Aggressive sales techniques
  • Allegations of Rude behavior
  • Allegations of inefficient use of technology (e.g., use of handheld calculator instead of computer spreadsheet)
  • Allegations of long contracts and work agreements, strict adherance to the contract, and unwillingness to terminate the agreement verbally
  • Allegations that GSMIC revises their estimates (e.g., the first estimate was for $1000, but the second estimate makes that $20,000)
  • Allegations that GSMIC verifies the client's cash position and available liquid credit (i.e., how much money is in the bank, and how much is available on credit cards).
  • Allegations that GSMIC's travel reimbursement and travel policies for their staff are difficult

There's nothing illegal about high-pressure sales or having high prices! Here are some common sense guidelines for hiring any consultant:

  • Credentials What education and business background does the consultant have? You should only expect to get good advice from someone who has been successful running a business.

  • Tools and Technology What tools and technology does the consultant use? You should expect the modern use of spreadsheets, high speed computers, and effective use of the Internet.

  • Right of Termination How do you terminate the project immediately if you've already started the project? A good consultant will ensure you can stop at any point, and pay only for the work that has already been completed.

  • Schedule of DeliverablesWhat precisely will be delivered? When will it be delivered? What are the penalties if it is late?

You cannot use this blog to say things that are false or deceptively misleading. To that end, I need a way to verify that your statements are true, so you must identify yourself in your comment. I won't provide a forum for publishing false or deceptively-misleading comments, but if you have real concerns and factual statements, I hope you'll post.

You must include some type of contact information in your comments.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Gallery Inn -- 204 Calle Norzagaray, Old San Juan

I went to Puerto Rico for work last week and stayed at The Gallery Inn in Old San Juan. My colleague (JD) had been to San Juan previously, and stayed at The Intercontinental Resort. I'm a bit more adventurous in my dining and lodging, and I got some adventure.

My room was smallish -- probably 20-feet square -- but had a queen-sized bed and a private bathroom. It was clear that the building had undergone a lot of work. The house itself was 300 years old, but everything was in basically good shape.

There were numerous courtyards, and semi-indoor/semi-outdoor rooms adjacent the courtyards where I saw folks conversing.

Each room I saw has doors facing a balcony overlooking a courtyard. My second-floor balcony had many potted plants immediately outside the door. They have small fountains, so you could always hear the sound of running water.

There were lots of neat plants that I certainly didn't recognize. I enjoyed the greenery.

Besides plants, there was sculpture everywhere. I got the sense that I was in an artist colony or a university art department. I came across a memo to staff about the dress code; it had separate directions for the maintenance staff and for the "artists". I don't know the whole story, but it seems that the inn was started by a couple, Jan and Manuco, and they have a lot of artists living there.

Cleanliness: Everything was very clean, but not necessarily new. Nothing had an odd odor. It helped that my room floor was brick.

Security: You enter the inn's outermost courtyard through a closing gate, but it can be unlocked easily from the outside. Then you enter the house to reach the rooms. The lock you could use from the outside would not lock, but there was a sliding lock on the inside that did work. So I couldn't leave anything valuable in my room when I left.

Breakfast: The breakfast was good. The waitstaff apparently didn't speak English, and I didn't speak Spanish, but they tried very hard. You can eat in any of the courtyards at some tables, and they'll serve your food there. Every morning I had some cut and peeled fresh fruit, reasonable coffee, and toasted rolls with butter and guava paste. The coffee was OK; they should invest in a better coffee maker, I think. The percolator is a bad idea.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

But do the fast really want to eat the slow?

I'm a "consulting engineer" at my job, which means that I do the same things that any general-purpose computer guy does, but I do them for lots of different companies, all in the same day. I get to work within lots of different companies' work environments.
There's a book out, about which I know nothing except the title: It's Not the Big that Eat the Small...It's the Fast that Eat the Slow. I recently learned what "slow" means.

We got a gig to spend a lot of time helping a Big Stinking Telephone company. This company was recently called one of Corporate America's most-evil in slashdot postings.

Succesful V0IP carriers have some things in common: a small, smart staff (two or three, at least at first) with a strong need for their system to work. They use the SIP phones on their desks as soon as the system barely works. They're involved in the business decisions. Technical control tends to be centralized to people who actually use the enable password. Meetings are hard work. Regular upgrades are a part of life, so they learn to deal with it. V0IP is treated like real lifeline telephone service. They accept responsibility for making the system work.

Big slow companies lack these features. (At least this one did.) Yes, the staff was smart. But as an organiztion they were practically neurotic -- every risk had to be controlled, every server had to be redundant, every action planned with multiple people, everything scheduled with a pseudo-deadline. Every meeting took a while to schedule, so everything moved slowly.

Frustratingly slowly. Discouragingly slowly.

Do the fast really want any of that?