Last month, friends Doug and Penny came for Sunday lunch. Doug and I soon started talking business. Filled with passion, Doug, a fellow retailer, raised his voice:
“It’s bloody hard working with arrogant MBA marketing muppets straight out of The Apprentice!”
My wife, Alex, gave us a withering stare.
“Don’t bring business to lunch,” she said. “Leave it at the office.”
“What’s got into you, Doug?” I asked when we escaped to walk the dog.
“Where do I start?” he replied. “It began as the deal of a lifetime, the chance to open several stores at once. At first Susan, the brand manager, and her boss, Mark, were very positive. They asked for a proposal to put before Tuesday’s divisional board. I worked through the weekend and sent an email on Monday morning.
“I heard nothing, so I rang a few times but got voicemail. On Thursday I tried an email. ‘We will respond on Monday’ was the reply. On Wednesday they proposed a conference call for the following morning. ‘At last, I can agree heads of terms,’ I thought. I cancelled all my engagements and waited for the call.
“Their mood had changed. Mark was sarcastic and offhand. ‘Your offer is way off the mark,’ he sneered. ‘You’re living in fantasy land, wasting our time. I need a £50,000 monthly guarantee in writing for our senior management meeting next week.’
“We met his deadline with a revised proposal providing everything he wanted. On Thursday morning, I rang to check our offer had arrived. ‘Mark has gone away for the weekend,’ said his PA. I rang again midday on Monday. ‘I’ve got your offer,’ said Mark, ‘but haven’t had time to read it.’
“A week went by without a word, so I rang Susan, who sounded irritated. I felt slightly guilty that I was pestering her. ‘The deal must be signed off by my divisional director,’ she said. ‘I can’t see her until tomorrow.’
“We heard nothing for three weeks. Then Susan rang. ‘Mark has decided to completely change the deal,’ she said tersely. ‘We are close to signing with one of your competitors – to be considered you must submit a better offer by 8.30am tomorrow.’”
Doug’s story made me think. As a result, I sent this note to my management team:
The Timpson Code of Ethical Trading
Timpson will discriminate in favour of companies who deal with decency and good manners.
Equal authority: We expect executives to have the authority to make quick decisions – without delays from senior management or committees.
Easy to contact: During a deal, we expect: everyone to pick up the phone; no one to hide in a meeting; immediate response to voicemails and emails; and no one to take holidays without notice.
Total honesty: The truth and nothing but the truth. We don’t deal in lies – big or small. Even little fibs are irritating, such as: “No one told me you called” or “I was in a meeting”.
Be polite: Whoever you are, be pleasant. There is no excuse for sarcasm, talking down, being arrogant or failing to say thank you.
A deal is a deal: We don’t trust people who change their minds, and we don’t like dealing with bullies. For example: “Dear Supplier, due to difficult trading times, we need your support so have decided to take an extra 28 days’ credit.”
Companies talk about fair deals and ethical trading when they are far from fair and certainly not ethical. Do we blame Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice?
Or is there a special MBA course in abuse and bad manners that teaches managers to act like prats?
Bullying, arrogance and dishonesty might create a macho image and win a few deals, but the person getting rolled over will never forget. Given the chance, they will get revenge.
The managers of today should remember that, in the end, the good guy usually wins.
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