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10/24/2005: "full stop, full reverse"

Those of you following along at home will remember the recent and stimulating discussion that has occurred here about my claim against a local barbeque manufacturer, and my concurrent desire to become their supplier. I finally had the chance on Friday to sit down with both of my business mentors (partners, associates, bosses, whatever the heck you want to call them), Bob and John, and discuss this situation with them. Their opinions were surprising, and quite emphatic. Let me share them with you.

First off, I'll tell you what they didn't say. Neither of them so much as blinked an eye at the thought of my being a supplier to this company, regardless of what happened between us. While it was not said explicitly, I believe I am correct in inferring that what has happened between myself and that company simply isn't worth concerning myself with - it's water under the bridge, and shouldn't be an impediment to my desire to do business with them again in a different capacity.

What they did say was pretty straightforward. They asked how much I was trying to get out of the company in terms of pay-in-lieu-of-notice, which I told them was one week's wages. Both of them immediately and emphatically said, "Forget about it." Their reasoning was much the same as mine, and went even a bit further. By trying to extract this relatively paltry sum from the company, I will forever be blacklisted with the company. Business is a small world, and although I have a feeling this particular company is rather isolated, you just never know who the president knows, and who he might talk to and say bad things about me. (That may already be the case to some extent, but there is no reason to exacerbate the situation further.) That pretty much follows my line of thinking, in that I'd rather leave a good impresson, or at least a neutral one, than entirely burn this particular bridge behind me.

Bob went a bit further in his reasoning. He asked me, "How much would it cost me to get into that company in order to give them a quote on their components?" He would have to make phone call after phone call, and put a large effort into winning the trust of this company, just for the opportunity to quote some parts. In other words, I can look at giving up the one week's pay that I've been chasing as a cost of getting into this company to do business. If successful, that week's pay will be made up very quickly. If not, well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. It was never guaranteed that I'd get the pay-in-lieu-of-notice, only likely from a legal standpoint.

Thus, this weekend I wrote a letter to the president informing him that I will abide by our original agreement, never pursue a claim against them in regards to my employment there, and apoligized for any inconvenience I had caused. I also explained what I am doing now, and that I would like the opportunity to make up for the differences caused by my termination by giving them access to components through a more direct supply line. I honestly have no idea whether the president will give me a chance or close the book on me forever, but I've put the ball in his court, so now I'll just wait and see what happens this week. I may push a little more if I don't hear from him by going through purchasing, or supplying them with an unsolicited quote, just to get their attention. We'll see. The coming week should let me know where I stand.

For those of you apprehensive about this course of action, stay calm. I have two very capable and experienced businessmen behind me in this, and I have no trouble asking them for help. I won't get in over my head, and will bow out if need be. I honestly don't see how becoming a supplier to them could hurt me, so feel free to let me know what to "watch out for".

In any case, I'm in waiting mode now. I'm hopeful that I'll be called on to spring into action soon, as they will be ramping up production of barbeques come January for the spring and summer season, which means component orders need to be made soon. Even if I've missed the window on the next barbequing season (funny to say that in October), there will always be a next year.

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