Reflecting on the Dumb Things People Do
7 Bizarre Encounters in Consulting
I recently completed 40 years of consulting and I thought it would be fun to share some of the bizarre things I have encountered.
1. The Near Execution
Years ago, I had a contractor attend a seminar. He raised his prices and made somewhat of a budget but couldn’t understand why he still wasn’t making money. Upon some consultant digging, I found that the same amount of material was missing every day from the warehouse. I said the warehouse manager had to be stealing. He said it was impossible, that he was his best man in his wedding and they were deacons in the same church. When I confronted the warehouse manager, he admitted it. Suddenly, I heard a shell inject into a shotgun behind my head. The owner was a hunter and retrieved it out of the closet. The secretary could see us through an office window and ran in screaming, “Don’t shoot him, I love him!” After some calming down, I discovered the long-term secretary and the long-term warehouse guy, who were both married, were having an affair. When their kids graduated from high school they planned to run away together. The good news was that all the money was recovered.
The moral of this story is to keep your eye on things. Even people you trust can have emotional drama and be tempted if the business has no cross-checking system.
2. Attrition Promotion
Years ago, we interviewed supervisors at a very large company. We asked one foreman how he was promoted. He replied, “I was hunting the day the crew dumped chemicals in the river, killed the fish and were all fired.”
The moral of this story is just because someone is big doesn’t mean they have better people than you.
3. The Art Enthusiast
One customer had a great craftsman who talked too much. He entered a house in Beverly Hills and noticed a Picasso on the wall. He said he liked the painting and his wife had “Bought one just like it a Kmart.” The customer threw him out of the house. When the boss asked why he said that, he said it didn’t look like much and came from a cheap place. To this day, I bet he still wonders why he was fired.
The moral of this story is to never underestimate the ability of a dumb craftsman who likes to run his mouth to get you in trouble.
4. It seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
One of our roofing contractor customers sent a seasoned two-man crew to repair a high roof in a rural area. Days later, the customer was driving down the interstate and noticed giant initials on the roof. He called the owner who was flabbergasted. This crew was a little rough around the edges, but dependable and trouble free for years. When he asked his crew why they did it, the reply was, “We were sitting up there eating lunch and it seemed like a good idea at the time.”
The moral of this story is that you can make a redneck into a worker but no matter how long they work for you, there’s still some redneck logic stuck in their head.
5. But I had a Work Order
A hard-working citizen bought a house from the city for $1 to be rehabbed. After months of his own labor, it was almost ready to move into. The city mistakenly left it on a list of dilapidated houses to be torn down. A contractor was hired to tear it and others down. The poor house rehabber showed up and his house was gone. The police were not sympathetic when he called to say someone stole his house. When the owner asked the demolition foremen, didn’t the house look good to him? The reply was, “Yeah it looked great, but we had a work order.”
The moral of this story is to be careful what you tell employees to do, some will do it even if it doesn’t make sense.
6. She Looks OK to Me
One of our customers does service work and uses a paperless system. A customer’s daughter ordered a repair and said her father just died. Her mom was upset as the father usually handled repairs. A note to be sensitive was written on the service ticket. The tech did the work and then wrote on the ticket, “She’ll be OK as she has lots of money and two Cadillacs sitting in the driveway.” No one caught and erased the note and the bill was sent. The owner received an angry phone call from the daughter, and even after giving away the service call, she still left the business with a bad name.
The moral of this story is to never underestimate a tradesperson, even with the latest technology.
7. Don’t Ever Bother Me Again
As consultants, we once discovered hundreds of thousands of dollars of theft in a bizarre complicated scheme while working at a large subcontracting company. We suspected the thieves were stealing from another subcontractor company. Not wanting to be sued, we left messages for the owner of the other company. We explained that we weren’t selling anything and just wanted to talk for a moment as we found a sensitive item in an audit he might want to be aware of. The last time, I was told by his secretary that she had a direct quote for me from him, “To stop #!&# calling and trying to sell him something.” A year later, I learned they closed due to financial problems.
The moral of this story is that not everyone is trying to sell you something or take advantage of you. Sometimes taking a moment to really understand the situation or return the call might be in your best interest.
I hope my stories have provided some chuckles, and thanks for listening to me all these years. With some luck and good health, I plan to be around for a few more.