Tips from a Consultant on the edge

Things I’ve learned over the last 15 years of consulting in fields as diverse as Business IT, Network analysis,  Importing, and Product liquidation, from Universities, to Small Businesses, to mega corporations, to sketchy scrap metal and demo companies owned by Roma who walk around talking about vague ties to Russian Mafya (Roma = Gypsies – oh did I tell you how much I like Gypsies? They have the strangest and most funny stories, often about purchasing brides and strange strip club antics)

0. As a consultant you are expendable.

1. Corporate Procurement is your friend. Never tick off the folks in procurement, especially purchasers. If asked by a client or superior “how long before our order fulfillment, yada yada” simply respond (and bcc a friend in Procurement for kudos)

“Procurement replies to all inquires in the order in which they are received, since they handle requests on an Enterprise wide basis – including two continents 0- I cannot force them to reply quicker than they are humanly capable. I did emphasize the urgency of our request, they said there are only 250 requests in the queue before ours and are expediting matters.”

2. Office ladies ply you with doughnuts and candy. This is a sign of affection, some are very affectionate and attractive and are willing to ply you with even sweeter things, irrespective of their single status it is a bad idea to take such affection beyond the water cooler, just bask in their femininity, enjoy their pleasant chats and flirtation, and leave it at that. Never double dip thy pen in the company ink, no matter how pretty the ink is.

3.Corporate IT – also your friend, see remark one.

4. Purchase orders are binding contracts. Therefore respect them. Dig it? Legally so are offers, quotes are not feel free to use quotes as wallpaper or paper airplanes. Always read the fine print on Purchase Orders.

5. Any overseas supplier asking you for an “ICPO” – a dumb monkey. ICPO means irrevocable purchase order, legally Purchase Orders are binding on acceptance anyway. No one uses the term ICPO except a few confused Russian export salesmen, and hordes of confused brokers. If they ask you for an NCND and LOI then they aren’t suppliers, they are confused pseudo-Brokers and will waste your time.

6. FOB in the USA – it means something quite different than FOB everywhere else in the planet. We Americans are creative with our interpretation of “FOB” and “FOB Points” – however we are laughed at for the creative ways in which we interpret FOB. If you are ordering from a foreign supplier they use Incoterms, learn them, learn them better than your supplier that way you can make them feel like confused Muppets when you dictate logistical terms

7. Terms, sneak them in there. Because once your vendor accepts your Contract or PO they are bound by your silly terms. NO EXPLANATION NEEDED – but for giggles, consider this e.g.

“Disc: 3%
Terms Disc: 3% 15 days/net 30
Disc days due: 15
Requested for delivery: totally like tomorrow”

Disc means discount, they should be clever enough to catch this, espescially when your payment arrives 15 days later with exactly 3% chopped off the top.

If they are silly enough to accept your terms without thinking them over then you get your nifty discount if you pay in 15 days, assuming you already have terms? No you say? Yes, I say. Remember PO’s are binding – if they don’t check with corporate credit to see if you guys still have terms in good standing then, well, whatever.

8. Doughnuts will make you fat. So will cookies, and so will candy, and yes offices are chock full of them.
Intermittent fasting, coffee, long walks at lunchtime, and fish oil capsules, are  partial penance. Most of your physique is diet related, exercise plays a role in body composition, but if your physique is not quite what you want it to be, cut back on the sugar.

9. Financial controllers and accounting managers are your friends, don’t tick them off.

10. Corporate badges frequently get you discounts. At health clubs and sundry other places, if the corporation has the net-worth of the GDB of your average Eastern European country. Discounts are always good.
11. Nothing beats drinking black coffee, staring at the wall, and feeling mean. But you’ve gotta do real work. It’s a zen like state – drink the coffee, and assault your work, pounding out aggression, channel your obsession, feed it with coffee.


9 Comment

  1. Illusory Duniya says:

    What type of “consultant” are you?

  2. Illusory Duniya says:

    FOB means “fresh off the boat”?

  3. […] Kamal S. – “Tips from a Consultant on the Edge” […]

  4. Whatever I’m hired for, and for which I have qualifications 🙂

    I done work in Information technology, computer network and system administration.

    Later I drifted into fields like business to business electronic commerce, wholesale and retail product distribution, which led me to doing work in international sales, and export consulting.

    Some author, whose name I can’t fully recall right now, once said: “specialization is for ants”

    I fully agree.

  5. FOB, has that meaning. the ever present opposition of FOB vs. ABC..[insert ethnic acronym du jour]

    The company of FOB guys can be pleasant, back in the early 90’s I used to hang out with this guy in college, Nasir Zakaria, and his FOB buddies.

    Nice guys, he was the son of some Indian politician, very courtly well mannered fellow. I liked his chai and he had a tendency to make extremely spicy eggs. But he and some of his buddies all had this bizarre fascination with Pamela Anderson that I found utterly idiotic. He’d be like “She’s real beautiful yar”

    I’m like “dude, whatever, she looks like a freaking used up stripper.”

    That would piss him off. Some of these guys had a weird fixation with trying to date some of the most heinous looking blond girls, it was like – if the chick’s blond somehow she’s beautiful. But whatever makes ’em happy.

    Anyway, FOB means something utterly different in business.

    In commerce FOB has the meaning of “free on board” – a shipping contract term that basically transfers all rights and title to goods from the seller to a buyer via a consignee, once the goods are “loaded over ship rails”

    We Americans, being ever so creative fellows, systematically abused the term FOB to apply to, well, just about everything. By the 1920s, the American usage of FOB had drifted from international usage so much that it caused some … difficulties with foreign merchants doing business with American customers.

    This led to, between the 1930s and 1940s, the first official codification of customary shipping terms in the form of “Incoterms” the current revision of Incoterms is Incoterms 2000, though another revision is due out soon. To be titled Incoterms 3000, no doubt inspired by watching too many episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, because that’s what global governance policy wonks do behind closed doors. No secret handshakes or rituals, they just eat popcorn, watch MST3000. laugh their arses off, and pretend to do real work.

    T.S. Eliot’s poem the Waste land features these lines

    “Under the brown fog of a winter noon
    Mr. Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant
    Unshaven, with a pocket full of currants
    C.i.f. London: documents at sight, 210
    Asked me in demotic French
    To luncheon at the Cannon Street Hotel”

    C.i.f London is an Incoterm, it’s an upgrade from F.o.b. in FOB all you have to do is load the goods on your buyer’s ship/train boxcar/stagecoach/mule/truck/lorry

    In CIF you have to load goods, insure them, and pay for their shipment (e.g. Carriage) all the way to their home port.

    So Mr. Eugenides above basically copped the cost, freight, and insurance, for a bunch of raisins all the way to London.

    Hopefully he made a few quid out of the effort, and hopefully his lunch with Mr. Eliot was a pleasant one. I imagine Eugenides was paying the bill.

  6. “Free on board”

    An example

    American merchant, 1870, says “goods are priced F.O.B. Stagecoach, California” he meant “pay me once I load the goods on your stagecoach and ship them to California”

    London Merchant 1870 says “Our terms are F.O.B. Manchester Port” he meant “pay me once I load the goods on YOUR ship in the Port of Manchester”

    American merchant in 1950 says “goods are FOB Timbuktu Mali,” then he means I’ll pay the shipping to Timbuktu, but pay me first.

    An American merchant in 1980 says “lumber is FOB our mill yard,” then he’s grossly abusing the term to the point of utter nonsense because what he means to say is “Pay me and pick up the goods at our mill’s yard, I’m not paying for shipping”

    So the international buyer is scratching his head saying “wtf?”

    A more responsible American usage is to say “FOB Point. Our yard/loading dock, Walla Walla Washington”
    Which lets the buyer know “ok, procure a truck, send it to Walla Walla Washington, and let them load it”

    International Incoterms are designed to prevent all this ambiguity, and everyone on the bloody planet uses Incoterms more or less successfully (Chinese, Arab, and Desi companies tend to be more.. creative in their use of Incoterms, and frequently use Incoterms that have expired from global use 30 years ago.. but they are better than Americans in that they at least adhere to International shipping standards – even if the standards adhered to are 30 years out of date.

    Chinese and Hong Kong freight forwarders are notorious in their bizarre usage of bulk good Incoterms to describe container shipment transport. American vendors, merchants, and supplier companies do as well, but American freight forwarders and actual shipping companies are usually very good at using the correct term.

    The rest of the world pretty much uses the terms correctly across the board.

    American Lumber guys might say “F.O.B. rail siding” which means the supplying lumber mill would load his lumber into the rail car, pay shipping loading and handling up to the rail car siding, and then the buyer would pay for it to be loaded, FROM the siding, and then all subsequent freight charges and insurance, damage, etc. If siding’s left out then the seller would also get it loaded from the rail car siding, into the car itself.

    “FOB Steel mill, Detroit” American steel mill will load his steel into the rail car or truck – free of cost to the buyer. “F.O.B. Boston” the seller will consign the goods into the care of a carrier at Boston.

    “FOB Plant Loading Dock” means you want the buyer to pick up the goods, which again is an utter abuse of the term.
    The proper term is “EXW” or “Ex Works” sometimes in Arab countries they will say “Ex House”

    “FOB Buyer’s Plant” means gobble-gook, it’s nonsense what they actually mean is “Free shipping for you !” and they bloody well should just say so. “Terms: No delivery cost”

    Technically what they really should say is “DDP” or “DDU” or something to this effect, basically Delivered, Duties Paid. Or Delivered Duties Unpaid” Shipped to your doorstep, with a bow and ribbon tied all just for you.

    Or CIF or CIP – Cost Freight and Insurance Paid. So you get to go to your port city and pick up the goods, or in CIP the container of your goods is dropped in front of your door or loading dock but you still have to unload it.

    A couple of picture, one – an associate and I are working on a project at 10pm, but are interrupted because a consignment of Sodium Saccharin shows up (the stuff dieting girls put in their coffee. The stuff is also used to polish nickel and stainless steel, in case you’re curious)

    The shipment’s late, by several hours, and the guys want to unload, but the freight company boys are a wee bit reluctant to help so my associate gets up and grabs a pallet jack himself. I decide to take pictures for posterity.

    Afterwards the freight company hands him an invoice and are like “we can take credit cards sir” so he’s like
    “Um, well, this is net 30 days right? Tell ya what, let me get a checkbook. Oh whoops, forgot my checkbook – don’t worry we’ll put it in the mail. net 30 right? Thanks for helping out guys.”

    I restrain my laughter.

    Other pic’s a bunch of Dead Sea cosmetic materials being unloaded – the container was from a Saudi shipping company so US customs holds it up in Norfolk for 60 freaking days – products are from the Dead Sea, shipped out of a port in Jordan, but US customs freaks out because it’s a Saudi container so of course they hold it up for 60 days and ruin about 1/8th of the product by poking holes in it because they wanna be sure there are no terrorists hiding in the sacks, or no bombs.

    Notice the wet looking holes in the cardboard. Our nation’s finest. While Chinese and Israeli people traffickers are running organs and little kidnapped virgins from Idaho in and out the country, blithely with impunity, US customs are poking holes in cosmetic materials and holding up shipments for 60 days.

    Ah, me playing gunny-sack inspector. The camera caught me from my bad angle…

    I could say some choice words, but am better off not. People typically fear the wrong things in life

  7. Hmm.. the pics didn’t show up, its just as well.

    Another try. Anyway they are an example of a CFR/CPT delivery “Cost and Freight” since it’s on a container and not loaded bulk in a ship, the freight company can, and did, just drop it off at a)My buddy’s loading docks and b) a dodgy storage locker facility in suburban southern ohio. For the record we have a warehouse full of dead sea bath salt to liquidate, minimal order’s 200 pounds (4 sacks) but you are getting it cheap. $1.50/pound – those hot little Russian/Israeli girls in the shopping mall kiosk are selling the same stuff for almost $60 / pound – and their bath salts are adulturated with road salt. I kid you not. Brand names excluded to prevent libel… .

    I take credit cards. Buyer procures own shipping, sold Ex-house Cincinnati Ohio (note the proper use of the term, not “FOB Point Cincinnati” but Ex.)

  8. Illusory Duniya says:

    Kamal, I feel bad that you go to such lengths and spend so much time in replying to me.

    Just letting you know it’s not in vain. I read it.

  9. No worries, as always. Welcome aboard.

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