A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Work

Paul Buri, RSA

Paul Burri, RSA

I was teaching an evening business class and we started talking about some of the problems that seem to pop up almost daily in a business. One older gentleman in the front row raised his hand and asked me, “When do you get to the point where you don’t have any more problems?” From his demeanor I had to assume that he was serious but it was such a naive question that I had to struggle to keep from laughing. Then I had to tell him that the only time you never have any more problems is when you die.

Here are a few more funny things that have happened to me along the way while I was managing various businesses.

One Friday afternoon I interviewed and hired a young man as a shop helper (the lowest job in the company). I told him to report to work the following Monday morning. Promptly at 8:00 o’clock the next Monday morning he came in to my office and I gave him the usual employment and withholding forms to fill out and then I spent another half hour explaining about coffee breaks, vacations, holidays, etc.. About an hour later I walked him out to our shop and introduced him to Bill, his new supervisor. About an hour and a half after that, I looked up to see him standing in the doorway to my office. The conversation went like this:

Me- “Hi, what’s up?”
Him – “I’m quitting.”
Me – “Really? How come?”
Him – “I’m not getting ahead.”

I was running a small company that was a contract sawing service. Customers would send us bars of material such as steel, aluminum or brass and we would cut it into slabs for them. We charged by the cut so it was important to keep an accurate count of how many pieces in each job. One day I took my new truck driver to our loading dock where the bed of the truck was loaded with many boxes of cut material. Pointing to the bed of the truck I said, “Count these for me, please.” From there the conversation went like this:

He said, “All of them?”

That question surprised me for a moment but then I said, with a huge grin on my face, “No, I tell you what. Let’s save some time. Count half of them and I’ll multiply by two.”

And he did.

One day I was interviewing another candidate for a job and just as we were almost finished, he asked me, “How much do you pay?”

I answered, “I’ll pay you what you’re worth.”

He answered, “Oh, I’d never work for that!”

And he got up and walked out.

One of our customers for the contract sawing service never failed to try to get a lower price for our services. Remember, the company merely cut up a customer’s furnished material and the price per cut was mere pennies per cut. Every time this particular customer would call for a quote and we gave it to him his response was, “Can you do it any cheaper?” One day I decided to have an answer ready for him and when he asked his usual, “Can you do it any cheaper?” I replied, “Sure. I can do if for free.” expecting to add, “…but if we do, we won’t be around very long to do any more cutting for you.” Instead, his reply left me laughing when he responded, “Will you furnish the material too?”

It is incidents like this that help make up for the “impossible” customer, the dead-beat customer, the overflowing toilet and the bounced check.

©2017 Paul Burri


Paul Burri is a retired inventor & entrepreneur, writer, columnist, life-long woodworker, photographer, general know-it-all

Paul Burri Woodworking Collection

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