Tag: toner

Is the lowest price always your best option?

Is the lowest price always your best option?

 

From time to time, I share with you pearls of wisdom learned through the school of hard knocks.

We all do it.  We look for the best price on things from hotels to rental cars to stuff.  Consumables like food from reputable sources you might do better at a big box store.  When shopping for groceries, I pay attention to coupons vs., the added luxury of services that are offered.

Some stores are pushing the industry of shopping for groceries on-line. They do this by one checker open while ‘nudging’ you to take your selections to the self-checkout, which rarely work correctly.

Sam’s has probably one of the better systems. Using the bar code reader, one can efficiently facilitate their purchase, and I would add a giant asterisk to this statement.  I know few people who want to price, bag and pay for their things, only to be stalled exiting the building, waiting in a long line for some person to take forever to do an inventory of your items, and all of those people in front of you.   This, to me, is a bridge too far, especially when I already pay a membership fee.  All things considered, I will not renew.

While big-box stores killed the mom and pop businesses, so too will the likes of Amazon and other online services, kill bricks and mortar establishments?   The impetus for doing such things comes down to the P&L and morons seeking 15 dollars an hour salaries for entry-level jobs.  They obviously have stopped teaching economics in school, and they surely have stopped teaching critical thinking.

 

In my line of work, I provide several services.  One of them which is the reason for this blog is File Date Stamps.  I also offer other legacy products to municipalities and other businesses who use such things. I serve a dying industry, as we move to do everything electronically.

Leaving forensic computing and disaster recovery my next items to push, those two are also outsourced to other countries who can exploit people without unions and protestors to raise hell.

The Rapidprint and Widmer products have been around for well over thirty years.  Both are robust machines that serve many customers.  With minor attention to replacing ink ribbons and not knocking the things on the floor, they require little maintenance.  Some customers who use these hundreds of times a day, however, cause wear and tear that at some point needs to be addressed.

The year wheel last ten years and I have replaced year wheels in the same machines three-times and counting.  Where else can you purchase a machine that lasts over 30 years?

As a highly trained engineer, my company handles thousands of these clocks in a service capacity.  The catch is this.  Companies must make a profit, or we will not be around to service them.  I could teach someone how to repair them in hours, what takes decades is knowing from the very feel of the wheels if they are right or not.  From the look and sound of the imprint, I can tell you what is going on.  That expertize takes years.

I know of a customer through one of my vendors who purchased a machine online, at some cheap price.  The dealer is responsible for the warranty issues per our contract with the vendor.  That is part and parcel of how this all works.  They allow us a discount, and we must absorb the cost incurred with warranty issues… from the machines we sell!

This customer purchased this machine from some internet-only dealer and had an issue and was told to deal with the vendor.  Nope… not the way it works, and they were not happy.  I don’t blame them but… they looked for the lowest price and not reputation. Sending it to another vendor for repair, eating the cost, the machine broke once again sometime later.

Without going there to see if it is something they are doing, vs. a botched repair job, the vendor would have little way of knowing.  Offering to repair it for them at no charge, the customer balked at the cost of shipping it back to them.

Contacting me, who is in Texas, I told them I would provide the service at no charge, even though I did not sell the machine.  The idea behind that decision is to take care of the customer, and have that customer from then on.   Word of mouth is how I grow my business.  Can I do that for everyone… no?

Doubling down on the $20 shipping charge to get it to me, they are now in some stalemate.  The vendor offering to assist them did not sell it to them, and it is not even their brand of equipment. This vendor goes well out of their way to help customers with the same goal in mind, turn them into their customers.

The original seller is who they should be contacting, but of course, they don’t provide any service, so the customer’s ‘good deal’ has backfired, even though another vendor and I have offered to rescue them from their dilemma.

Is it wise to purchase a machine from some internet vendor that does not provide service?

“Do you feel lucky???”

A word about shipping…

Having intimate knowledge of the different carriers, your package, whether it is diapers or light bulbs, is dropped up to six feet several times during its voyage from the dealer to you.  The heavier the parcel, the more likely it is to be damaged.

As a rule, I insure packages sent by me.  I have had them crushed in the process.  One machine which was packaged in the factory shipping box, had the metal casting broken.  The problem is most customers are not aware of the claims process.

If you get a packaged that appears damaged, take pictures of everything before you open it, and then through the process.  If there is damage to the ‘item,’ you will need those pictures along with the original packaging to file a claim and get reimbursed.

On rare occasions, the jostling of the machine through the shipping process can cause internal damage.  If your new or repaired device does not function straight out of the box as intended, there is a good chance that in the process the ‘500-pound Gorilla’ got too exuberant.  Machines sent from my shop are bench tested for two weeks before they are shipped.  My percentage of warranted returns is less than 2%, and in every instance, it was due to shipping and handling issues.

In known bad areas of the country, I will double box the machine.  Please let us know if you suspect your postage, UPS or Fed X handlers employ the proverbial gorilla.  The cost of double-boxing is minimal, considering the frustration of getting a broken machine back from a sale or service.  We have all seen the video where the delivery person launches your package toward your door from over twenty feet away and leaves.  Those warehouses are hot or cold, and those people don’t have too much skin in the game.  Much like the baggage handlers at the airport, they don’t seem to care.

If you are in Louisiana, you probably remember this event from the picture above.

We very much enjoyed meeting those of you that were there and look forward to serving your needs without pestering you.

We are planning a tour of your state in the upcoming months.  Please take a look at my site for products and or services and let me know if you would like a visit.  www.timedok.com  Unlike most, I will not bother you if you don’t need what I offer.  As a businessman, I too have to screen calls and ignore the 866 numbers.

Most of my customer base is word of mouth, and that bodes well for what I do.  I will go the extra mile for my customers… If you would like that kind of service, check us out… It is DOK with a K!.

 

Cheers!

The CIO

Frequently young people ask me what it takes to be in IT or even the CIO.

Over thirty years of OJT has taught me a thing or two about management.

When I was working in Corporate America, often times I would do things that were for the “good of the company,” that my subordinates may not have liked.

In one of my previous post I speak about documentation being the bane of IT people.  As a manager of this group, documentation is key.

Many times I go into a situation to “trouble-shoot” and when I ask for the network documentation, I am met with blank stares.  If I task you with driving from Baltimore to LA without a map or GPS, the odds are good that even with the occasional road sign to assist you, you would make a few wrong turns along the way. While this is a real simplistic metaphor for the problem, you get the point.

While I encourage the creation and continual update of a “run-book,” most IT people laugh. One of them even told me straight up “that will never happen.”  He was terminated soon after that remark.  Attitude is a key component of any employee, and crappy attitudes I can do without.  It happened, it just did not happen with him.

The data center and the associated infrastructure does not belong to you the geek; but the company.  You are entrusted with its care and feeding.  The direction of how, when, and why, comes from somewhere else. Understanding your role in this universe is salient advice, that I would give any techie that wants to stay employed.

While I have stepped on a few toes over the past 30 years; most of my previous employees would follow me to a new company if I asked; and have done so on many occasions over the years.

What does it take to be the “guy in charge?”

It takes a person who firstly loves technology.  Eating and breathing the newest technology I believe is a trait that is indicative of a successful CIO.

Second, it takes business acumen.  Technology is great; having the business prowess to realize that there is a bottom line and in order for the company to stay viable, purchases should be made with business objectives in mind.  I cannot tell you how many times I see things that were ill-advised purchases, which were no longer in use, and lost revenue.

Having a vision of where the company is headed is key to purchasing the correct hardware and software.

If you have read any of my other blogs you know that I believe in leading by example.  Gaining the mutual respect of your employees is paramount.  Sometimes a new broom must sweep clean, and that too has been the case on a few occasions.

Be smart enough to utilize a VAR.  The business case is simple…

Yes, they markup their products that they sell you however; you gain the expertise of their staff who see what works and what does not.  They are in multiple businesses and have the advantage of working with all of the latest and greatest. They stand behind what they sell you.  If it breaks, they deal with it.  They deal with all of the major vendors and know what is coming down the road.  Having access to their insight is invaluable.

Never buy from internet “cheapie” stores and here is why?  If they have it and it is discounted, there is a reason.  It may be buggy or is no longer supported or outdated.

If you want to take a chance for your home stuff, go for it.  Business applications are more traffic intensive than your home network or pc.  If you have routing issues or excessive collisions at home, the odds are good that you will never know it unless it becomes critical.  In business, you have possibly hundreds of computers hooked to the network thus stressing the networks ability to perform.  Do you really want to do that with cheap, no-name or outdated hardware?

If you want to shop your toner, go for it, other office supplies; have at it.  Networking equipment, do not be tempted.  The few dollars you “think you saved” will most probably cost you big time in the end.

Realize that there are things like hardware asset management and make sure you follow through.  Repairing and putting new software on old hardware is a fool’s mission in that the license most likely dies with the hardware.  Old hardware is already outdated and slower than what you would have today.  There is also S.A.M. or software asset management, which also is a key element to the bottom line.

  • Desktops last no longer than five years.
  • Laptops, around three years.
  • Smartphones about two.

Since the software cost much more than the hardware you can see how keeping that old boat anchor alive is probably not a good idea.  XP is dead, get over it and move on.

This is one reason why leasing for large companies might make good sense.

I once worked for a CIO who did not even have a PC at home.  He reminded me of the old guy that did not even want a cell phone as there was nobody he wanted to talk to bad enough to have one.  My point is that you must have a balance between the financial aspects of the business at hand, and the technological aspects.  This guy cost the company millions of dollars because he was so inept where technology counted.  While he did not have an abacus on his desk; he definitely was old school and inflexible.

Too many times I have been in companies where the CEO or owner wanted to play IT rather than run the company.  The CEO did not get there by being stupid but, IT is not his forte’; it is yours.  Unlike we “the nerds of the world” who eat breath and defecate this stuff on a daily basis; he or she may read something in some periodical and think, wow this looks good “do this!”

Your relationship with this person should be on a solid enough footing where you can tell them the truth of the matter.

Falling back to re-group and gather pricing, TCO and an ROI is always a crucial part of the decision, not to mention, does it make business sense to do it in the first place.

Don’t be afraid to tell the truth.  I have had a yes man working for me that I had to get rid of.  I depend upon my subordinates to debate with me if they think that I am wrong.  They might very well loose anyway but, differing opinions are necessary, and crucial to the process. Having the humility to listen to them is part of being a good CIO.

Project management is a key part of being an IT manager.  Yes, you can hire a project manager but let’s face it; it is really not all that difficult.  We have all of these certifications for everything in the world.  While a piece of paper gives the clueless hiring entity a metric of your ability, it is not the end all be all.

I have inherited “certified employees” that were academically sharp but, not able to do the job at hand. They can read and regurgitate information but could not turn a screwdriver. Book sense and practical; not one or the other.

I was a project manager before there were such things, at least certified project managers.

I ran as many projects as 30 at one time, most in a spreadsheet, well several spreadsheets.  I knew what it was going to cost and how much I was going to have spent on each and every milestone.  I knew who would be doing which task at what time and how long it should take.  If I can do that in Excel, do I really need to hire a PMP?

In order to be a good manager having the ability to do each and every job, makes life much simpler.  You cannot be “BS’ed.  Can you do it as fast as someone who does it day in and day out?  Probably not but, you could do it if needed which gives you a leg up and makes each and every employee under you “expendable.”

I don’t mean to sound harsh.  There is this attitude among most IT guys that if they are the only person who can do it, they are sacrosanct. So, they don’t document their job and of course they don’t let on their tricks or where the bones are buried. Nobody in any company should be untouchable.

This is dangerous for you the CIO and damned hazardous for the company.

This is why the owner or CEO of any company should have a disaster recovery plan and test that plan with people other than his or her employees.  If a technical group of people can bring your company back from the brink, in an offsite location, in a short amount of time, than your documentation is solid.  If not, than your guys have some “splainin to do.”

Plans such as these rarely work perfect the first time and I expect that.  That is the process by which the documentation is refined in such a way that it will work.  No one can get every detail the first time around but eventually you can nail it down in such a way that the company would survive if a disaster was declared.

These have been my precepts from day one of management.  There are lots of things that go with this but you can see the logic and of course you can see how this would intimidate the person who may be out of their comfort zone to start with.  This is one of the problems that I am forced to deal with when I am called in to do a DR plan.  The employees are seldom on board with giving me information, which means that I have to go and get it. This is where I end up stepping on toes.  If I have to go dig it up, it is much more costly and it extends the project time.  Nobody wants their “mess” exposed during the audit so it is seldom easy to get through this process.  Even though upper management is on board, the employees are most of the time, evasive if not truculent; and unwilling to share.

So my last thing that I would offer is patience.  Weekly meetings with upper management your progress will ferret out issues like, uncooperative employees.

-Best to you and those that you care about.