Tuesday, November 13

Business As Usual

I just thought I'd share a 'typical day in the life of' with you. After 22 years of doing business here I probably can make a few wild generalizations...some practices endearing, others just aggravating.

It all started when I met two would-be entrepreneurs. As the saying goes, behind every olive tree in Italy... you'll find someone dying to go or already out on their own. Typically, and like so many of them, here they are, one day working in a bank, or a ceramics factory, and the next, they're off producing leather handbags for Prada. And in this, I know for sure, that if the govt didn't do everything in their power to impede this entrepreneural spirit, right in their very dna, well, this country would be like Japan.
So, our entrepreneurs, leaving their day jobs, came up with a nice widget.

It just turned out that that week, someone had contacted me asking if I knew anyone who sold those very same items. So, before I put them in touch, I thought I'd provide them with a crash session in marketing their widgets. They were totally flabbergasted-and I have no idea if that word even exists in the Italian language. I have yet to meet an Italian entrepreneur who first set out to study the market, competition, pricing, all necessary details before putting out their 'Open for Business' sign.

Once we covered that, I asked them to prepare some pricing to see where they stood in the ballpark. I received a call whereby they asked if we could meet face to face. Unfortunately, I couldn't. And, although one of the more endearing qualities of doing business here, it costs you half a day. So, I pulled an American. Can't I just give you the parameters over the phone? I pleaded.

Sure enough, I won that battle, but not the war. I could tell, I could just tell that no one was taking any notes. Lo and behold, I received a few more calls to 'clarify' that everyone had understood the laundry list. And here, I knew, that even a meeting would not have helped--no Italian worth their sale would ever be caught actually taking notes. Never. So, I put up with the repeat listing.

Ready to make their offer, they called and asked for a meeting. Again, not being my business at all, I begged for mercy and asked that they please send in the offer. And, don't forget to include a 10% commission for me, after all, I'm not a Franciscan monk. Already prepared for the reaction, I held the phone out a bit. What?!! That seems like a steep fee!!!!

Yeah? Well, considering the commission on high ticket items is usually around 30%, and any agency will always ask for 15%. Consider yourselves lucky. Not to mention the fact that this single order represents more than you'd be able to sell over the next 7 years. Two to One, My lead.

Another call: Well, who should we address the order to? Me. A new attempt to go over my head: Well, wouldn't it be just easier to send it directly to the buyer? No. Three to One.

I receive the order. No sign of any commission fee for me. I call. Well, of course, it's in there! I didn't want the client to see it. You can trust me, no? After 22 years, I'm sorry, you guys have a great expression about Verba Volant, Scripta Manent... And, don't worry, the client already knows I'm not a Franciscan. Fine, I'll resend. Four to One.

But, here's the catch: should they get the order, and get paid, how will I ever be sure to get my money? Even with contracts, this rarely happens. 3 cherries. They take the pot.


Anonymous said...

That's between a rock and a hard place, if I've ever seen one! Start praying, or chanting (wait, that Gregorian, not Franciscan). Good luck, honey.

Anonymous said...

i am sure you can trust your new business associates. it's not like they are liars and cheaters . . .
:-) c.