The trials and tribulations of a middle-aged PACS consultant,
father, and garage sale junkie as he engages in his
never-ending search for sanity in an insane world.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves

I was listening to the radio this morning and up pops an oldie but goodie that Cher did way back in 1971.....

I was born in the wagon of a travelin' show
My mama used to dance for the money they'd throw
Papa would do whatever he could
Preach a little gospel
Sell a couple bottles of Doctor Good

As the song went on I got to thinking- gee, that sounds a lot like my industry.

Gypsies, tramps and thieves
We'd hear it from the people of the town
They'd call us gypsies, tramps and thieves
But every night all the men would come around
And lay their money down

Even the vendors were represented well..

I never had schoolin' but he taught me well
With his smooth southern style
Three months later, I'm a gal in trouble
And I haven't seen him for a while
I haven't seen him for a while

So why do I think we are an industry of Gypsies Tramps and Thieves? Look at the definitions:

Gypsy: a laborer who moves from place to place as demanded by employment.

Tramp: a person who engages freely in promiscuous sex; or as the Urban Dictionary defines it “ Any woman who will open her legs for anyone, except for me.”

Thief: a person who steals, especially secretly or without open force.

Every year when I go to RSNA, HIMSS, and other trade shows I am amazed at the number of individuals who have moved from one company to the next…IMHO half of them should be collecting unemployment checks but instead their incompetence is often rewarded by them securing a better job with a different company at twice the pay. Does this make sense? Of course it does….That is one of the reasons I don’t have a “real” job in this industry.

The Peter Principle is stated in chapter 1 of the book with the same title: "In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence." In the 30 years I’ve been in this industry I’ve seen the Peter Principle applied time and again. This often affects people who lost their jobs due to attrition in a half hearted attempt to show profitability for the company’s quarterly or year end statement. “Look, we made money!! Of course we have no R&D or sales force left but we made money by reducing our overhead!!” The fact that sales wasn’t selling and leadership wasn’t leading that largely contributed to getting you into this fine mess to begin was somehow overlooked…. but these are minor details. Give them a nice farewell package and let them move on to screw up yet another company. This does not apply to all individuals- there are some very good people in our industry who have done exceptionally well and deserve an upward move- but there are some "moves" that I've seen that just completely defy logic.

At times it seems like no one is minding the castle or even cares. I recall several years back when I was asked to come join the sales force of a major PACS company who were holding their annual sales meeting down here at Disney- at the Grand Floridian no less. This week long foray had to have easily set the company back $1M with airfares, hotel charges, luxury meals, etc.- for a sales force that hit all of 74% of its quota. I laugh when comparing this to my times working for Motorola in the late 70’s where we ended up having our sales meeting at a divey Best Western in Cordele, Georgia. We all wondered what we did wrong to deserve this locale- the land of Stuckey’s pecans and shelled peanuts- and the answer came quickly- “You were at 96.7% of quota- close, but we don’t pay you for getting close. When you hit quota you get rewarded, when you don’t you count your blessings you still have a job. You have 90 days to get the numbers up- let us know what we need to do to help you..“ That was it- short, sweet and direct. And you know what? We never missed our quota again.

The contrast between the two companies was stark and is one of the reasons why “big spender company” still hasn’t turned a profit in many many years…and probably won’t for a while either. While “leadership” is finally taking steps to bring spending into control they are doing it the wrong way- by cutting areas that don’t need to be cut, not hiring as many people as they need while burning those they do have out and….but that’s a big company for ya…That’s why I love the little companies…..they think small…and even a few medium size companies who still think like a small company. They see it paying dividends in big ways.

While I'm at it because you hold the title of Senior VP, President, or CEO of the company doesn’t mean you need a limo to take you to McCormick Place or that your require a suite at the Fairmont with fresh fruit platters delivered daily and plenty of space for your handlers to roam about. Get a regular room, meet in the restaurant and take the bus- you might actually learn something about your company as well.

So how does mediocrity continue to thrive in our industry? I guess no one read Ephesians 4:25 “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” If anyone did speak truthfully about the people who were up for various jobs most wouldn’t be in positions they are in now, but the threat of lawsuits is so prevalent that no one dare say anything negative about anyone. There are also always seemingly valid excuses for not making quota, for the company not growing etc. It’s like dealing with my kids when they were younger- it was NEVER their fault and always related to circumstances beyond their control. Thankfully my sons have matured and they now accept responsibility for their actions- most times .

Only once in my decades in this industry have I found a situation that was outside a person’s control where I said you have to leave. This one company was beyond unreasonable when a friend of mine was given a quota for a relatively small territory in South Florida. His quota was larger than what all companies in the entire state of Florida combined would be able to even come close to hitting if all the planets were properly aligned. He was a top performer too and left soon after. Now is making four times what he would have there with one quarter the pressure and at a much better company. He was the exception though, not the rule. Most just move on and do the same thing for few year until the company gets smart and sends them to more verdant pastures- or other companies.

OK, that’s gypsies. Now on to tramps and thieves. In my business- PACS consulting- tramps and thieves are often one and the same. Our business has taken a financial hit like many have plus we are now being inundated with wannabe consultants who head to Fed Ex/Kinkos, print business cards, and viola- they are an instant PACS consultant until they find the next real job and close up shop leaving their customers hanging. Some- but not all- of my counterparts have also started to compromise their own personal integrity by taking on just about any job that is out there to pay the bills. I understand their rationale but…I’m just not willing to sell out that cheaply- or at all.

I have had many jobs offered to me in recent years but more than half of them I pass on because I couldn’t see the value in them and hate taking money from a company for basically doing nothing- even if they see the value in their own request. With damn few exceptions I’ve been in this industry longer than most and can tell in a New York Minute what a company needs and what it doesn’t.

It’s the same with end users who come to me saying “We want to get rid of our incumbent vendor.” My first question is always “What is wrong with them and what steps have been taken to correct the problem?” In 80% of the cases we can save the marriage and move on. Now this doesn’t benefit me at all- I make a whole lot more money do replacement PACS that includes doing data migration and establishing a VNA- but doing what is right for the customer is what is paramount. As the late Michael Jackson sang:

I'm Starting With
The Man In The Mirror
I'm Asking Him
To Change His Ways
And No Message
Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place...
Take A Look At Yourself
And Then Make A Change...
(Na Na Na, Na Na Na, Na Na,Na Nah)

I‘ve only done one project in the past several years I didn’t want to do- a customer survey- but the company was insistent that I do it so I swallowed hard and I did. They hated what I found out (it was less than positive) and they had a hard time believing the results even though I had the e-mails from their clients that documented the findings. I’m sure they will now spend 10x what they paid me to take a more “scientific” approach like they did when they were employed by big boys who had more money than common sense and finally get the results they were looking for. Sounds like the methodology many rankings companies seem to take actually .

Thieves steal but isn’t being paid for something that will not benefit the customer the same as stealing? It is in my book. Is taking money for doing nothing stealing as well? Yes. Now I love retainers and yet hate them for the very same reason. Yes, I can make a company a much better deal work-wise if I know that money is coming in regularly, but please make sure I earn my keep by giving me jobs to do. It’s an integrity issue, pure and simple. You get paid, you do the work. Conversely it annoys me when you do the work and then have to beg to get paid months later too. Thankfully there are only a few companies like that…and most are the bigger companies where you are just a number…and where your invoice that will address next month’s payroll can just sit there because it is so low dollar value-wise relative to the other invoices in the queue.

So- gypsies, tramps and thieves? You bet!! It’s what makes our industry so special.

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