“Business isn’t Hard, it’s the People that Fuck it up”–my boss

spreadsheets< Designing kitchens should be easy: once under contract, we obtain information, design the kitchen and/or bar, price the equipment, hopefully get another contract for that portion of the project if the client doesn’t go to some low-ball outfit. We then order the equipment, do some field coordination and install said equipment when the kitchen is ready. Once everything is connected and inspected, we fire everything up, do some training and the place is ready to crank out some food. Simple, right?

No, Because along the way, there are a multitude of land mines to step over with possibly an occasional grenade tossed in for good measure. What should be simple brain, office and field work becomes a quagmire of Cover Your Ass.

Why? Because of people, you guessed it. There are a lot of people who touch what we do: Architects, Engineers, General Contractors, Sub contractors, Inspectors who can potentially throw us under the bus, but most important are the clients. There are the Uninformed clients, the Hurry Up clients, the I Know Everything clients, the Ego clients, the Spreadsheet clients and the Cheap clients to name a few.

Today I’m going to focus on the Spreadsheet client. This client is numbers only, all straight line, black-and-white, no thinking outside the box. Here’s a conversation between me and a new board president of a country club I designed, who’s trying to get up to speed to send the bid packages out. I’m guessing he was an accountant in his Up North life, before retiring to sun and golf. What’ he’s been doing, it became evident to me after a few emails, is trying to apply mid-design budget numbers to the final equipment list on, you guessed it, a spreadsheet.

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Me: “Hey I decided to call to answer your question about item 17.1. But you know, trying to apply those old numbers to the new list is a futile exercise. You’re in budget now, we went through that exercise before finalizing the design, no need to worry.” (Trying to be diplomatic.)

Spreadsheet guy: “Well, there was an item 17.1 on the old list but not on the new one.”

Me: Looking at my equipment list and seeing I dropped off a gas hose from the existing range and salamander-broiler combination, “Well, I probably determined upon further inspection of your equipment that the two pieces were tied together and only had one gas connection.”

Spreadsheet guy: “But do I need it?”

Me: “No, not as long as both pieces are tied together.”

Spreadsheet Guy: Dead air.

Me: “Look, there’s a gas pipe in the wall, right? Each of the two pieces can either tie in into the wall or they can pipe together first, then into the wall with a single connection.”

Spreadsheet Guy: “Well, how will I know for sure?”

Me: (A four hundred thousand dollar project and he’s worried about a 165 dollar gas hose.) “You’d have to look behind the equipment to see if they’re piped together.”

Spreadsheet guy: “I don’t know, you’re speaking tribal to me.”

Me: “Okay, look, it’s like the two pieces of equipment are married. And we don’t know for sure if they’re sleeping together, or in separate beds.”

Spreadsheet Guy: Dead air.

Apparently Spreadsheet clients also lack a sense of humor. I’ll have to remember that.

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