After my flashback to the Binary crisis, I was still saddled with easing the inflatable manufacturer Gulley's into the Euro. This wasn't made any easier by the fact that Gulley's Euro coordinator, Tony Magellan, hadn't the faintest idea what the issues were.
After a few days to get my ideas assembled I took the high-risk option of a board presentation. If I did well, I would win brownie points; if I failed, I was doomed anyway. The ever-morose Magellan looked positively comatose as we reached the Euro on the board's agenda. It was sandwiched between a proposal to pull down a redundant bike shed, and the decision on how many lumps of sugar the employees were allowed in the tea break.
I jumped to the rostrum before Tony could stand. Never let a customer speak alongside you; he may embarrass you with unnecessary truthfulness.
"Inflation," I said. "No one knows more about inflation than Gulley's." That got me a small laugh. "We all know how easy it is to blow up a problem out of all proportion. The media love it, don't they? As soon as there's a hint of a difficulty there are headlines of crisis and doom." That got to them. There was muttering about the disastrous rubber whale affair of 1989.
"Take the Euro," I said.
"You take it," came the predictable reply from a pinstriped joker.
"I'd be delighted to," I said. "I also take American Express and Postal Orders. In the end it's money, something we can't afford to ignore. What are we in business for, after all?" Positive rumblings from the crusty end of the boardroom table. "So we can't pretend the Euro isn't there.
Go into a French supermarket today, and you'll see Euro prices alongside the Franc. It's not something they're overwhelmed by, there's just matter of fact acceptance that they need to deal with the Euro and a small provision for it. It can be the same for us.
"Let's focus on the essentials. Make sure Gulley's systems can print the Euro sign, or failing that the word 'Euro'. Provide conversion - no more difficult than handling the half dozen other currencies you routinely put through the systems." This was a bluff; I hadn't the faintest idea what they did at the moment. "Most of all, we don't panic. We can't ignore the Euro, because it makes good business sense to get it right, but we can put it where it belongs." I glanced at the agenda. "Between the bike sheds and the sugar lumps."
The board actually applauded. Gulley's had a Euro strategy; they were ecstatic. I had used the classic consultant's ploy - tell them what they were going to do anyway, but make it sound better. If the report back to SMcTR is as good as it ought to be, I should be in for a rise, rather than the local government account.
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