10/08/2005: "salt or salve: the follow-up"
Well. I asked for opinions, and did I ever get them. The quantity didn't overwhelm me, but what was said (as of this writing) was... interesting. It leads me to believe that I was less than clear in my explanation of the situation, and even less so in laying out the choices that lay before me.
Thus, I'm going to see if I can't explain myself a little bit better, answer some of the points that were brought up, and make you all agree with me instead of my wife.
First at bat will be an examination of the current path that I'm going down, the one that involves my asking for pay-in-lieu-of-notice. This is, and always has been, very much a malicious act, right from the get-go. I signed a contract, worked under the assumption that I was a contractor, and was reluctantly going to simply go along with the terms of the contract, even after being terminated for grounds that I simply cannot agree with. By filing this claim with the Ministry of Labour, I'm not just going after the one week's pay. Such a pitiful amount is nothing to a company like them. However, the Ministry of Labour, Revenue Canada, and likely a few other not-so-friendly government offices will be a veritable hornet's nest shoved up their rectal orifice. It will suck up their time, effort, and cost them a pretty penny to boot. I simply can't honestly say that there is no malice in this action. Quite the opposite - I wanted to screw them.
I'll admit I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that, and somewhat shocked by the reality of it as well, now that I've just written it down for myself to see in black and white. However, it is also a good point that I should not back off of this claim, lest another hapless engineer come merrily along and fall into the same trap I did. Regardless of the outcome, they are going to think long and hard before ever hiring another Professional Engineer on contract. While that may seem like closing doors for others, it's also saving them the same aggravation I went through, thinking they've found a good job and eventually finding out how mired the company actually is in its own inbred history.
Now, there was a common thread of "you can be bought" going on. Come on, people... I just refused a project because of the potential of patent infringement. Do you really think I'm looking to be bought? It's damned near insulting, is what it is.
I will admit that when I first thought of going back and trying to become a supplier that my wording to them would be along the lines of "if you give me a chance to quote you on some components, all this trouble could go away," but that would pretty much be blackmail, and would most certainly amount to me being for sale. That is not my intention at all, however. I was actually thinking more along Christian lines here... instead of turning the thumbscrews with my pay-in-lieu claim, I'd entirely back off that on my own accord, turn the other cheek, and try to turn an adversary into an ally. No "if" clauses, just a simple change of heart.
I could go only halfway and back off my claim, but that won't mend any fences. My name will still be spat upon anywhere within that company, and that is what I thought I could reverse by being able to save them money on components. Yes, I'd make money, but here's a horrible, shocking truth for you - that's how business works. It's all money. I would be trying to keep my professional history free of hostile adversaries, and at the same time trying leverage the knowledge I gained while working for them to make some money. If leveraging knowledge is wrong, you'd better close your eyes to the capitalist economy we're all neck-deep in.
Please keep in mind that I really don't want to have an adversary brewing in my backyard. I'm not a confrontational guy, and like having friends. I'm not worried per se about having this particular company blacklist me, but why not avoid it if possible? If given the choice, I'd rather have good press than bad.
Something else I should clear up is my feelings about the company and the president, which are distinct. The president is a pretty good guy in general, but I believe that he simply hasn't earned his way to where he is now. He's running his grandfather's company, and it's obvious that it's more sentiment and obsessive hobby than actual business for him, otherwise he'd be weeding out the deadwood and invigorating his organization. The company itself is in a sad state of affairs. Deadwood litters many departments and offices, communication is poor at best, and there seems to be no reward system beyond paltry benefits and a steady income. It seems to be very, very, VERY hard to be fired from a full-time job there (according to those that have been there a long time), which simply means mistakes are absorbed, not really learned from, and life goes on.
Nevertheless, the company makes decent products (upcoming Chinese-sourced cheap knock-offs notwithstanding), is Canadian, is local, and I know the product and process pretty well. I would never allow myself to be put in a situation where I report to that president ever again, but I could certainly deal with him at an arm's length. The company I would never work for personally again, but I have the opportunity to not only become a benefit to that company again, but make money at the same time. Perhaps it's a very fine line, or a distinction that only I'm seeing right now, but I do see it, and I'm hungry for opportunities to use my new-found connections. Why not start with something that I'm familiar with, that's almost literally in my backyard, that I have first-hand knowledge about, that wouldn't matter if it worked out or not, as I was prepared to burn that bridge anyways? I mean, truthfully - is there any better way to get my feet wet in doing sales?
Can you tell that I want to sell to them? If not, I do. I want to leverage a bad experience into a good one. Why shouldn't I?
Upon reading your comments, I've come up with one new course of action I could take, plus a slight alteration. The new course of action would be to both follow through with my claim, then still attempt to sell to them. If that doesn't show no ill will towards them, I don't know what would. It's just business, nothing personal. From what I infer from the president's e-mail he sent the other day, that's exactly how he sees the situation as well.
The alteration? There is nothing saying that I have to deal with the company directly. Instead of being the salesperson going in there offering my wares, I could simply hire someone to do it for me. Sure, I'd be giving up a cut of the profits, but it could make the whole affair that much further removed from being personal. My name would never be mentioned within the company, and wouldn't ever be found out even if they wanted to dig deeper into where these components would be coming from. I know one other person in the company that may not be there now, as he has been planning to leave them for many months now, and he actually worked in the purchasing department. He'd be an ideal candidate.
So, there's the re-statement of my position. I still have yet to get the opinion of my business associates, John and Bob, and my dad, but right now I'm feeling that I need to do this. The claim will go ahead one way or the other, if only because I want them to know they were wrong, and I was right. Then I can get to work on the proverbial making of lemonade.