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Shit Flows Down Hill

Date - 25 January 2016/ Category - Facts Of Life
Facts of life

In a world without accountability, anyone who’s trying to get ahead in life is going to suffer from a basic truth.

Shit flows downhill, rewards flow up and you’re not just at the bottom of the hill, you’re in the gutter.

It would be easy to climb that hill in a world where the results of your efforts are easily demonstrated, but the fact is often it’s not up to you to demonstrate your work.

Your efforts will be put on show by the very people who stand to lose out by your success and as such it can often be spun out to a different tune.

This is a rule that reinforces the bank balances of the rich and successful and for everyone else taints their chances of success. It’s a rule that preserves the natural order of capitalism.

Whether you’re an under rewarded employee who carries more than their fair share of the business burden, or starting your own business and suddenly finding out that to your customers you are the problem of last resort; the rule stands true.

The world would give us the perspective that hard work will get you up that hill but the truth is very different.

The sad truth is, a person more versed in politics than hard work is better placed to climb the capitalist hill we have built for ourselves. Those not versed in politics are destined to remain at the bottom, while lesser capable workers who can speak the right language get promoted to the top.

Employees aside, for the business owner this is a problem you wouldn’t expect. You might be top dog in your office but in the real world your office is at the bottom of the hill when you start out.

As the boss you’re going to have to take your whole office up that hill while everyone else pushes back. If you’ve got the right people on your side then you’ve got a chance to get to the top but more often than not you’ll get stuck in a perpetual cycle that means you go round the hill and not up.

Going round the hill and not up it is more common than you would think. Shit flowing downhill goes hand in hand with the unfettered certainty that history will always repeat itself.

If you’re at the bottom of the hill and running full pelt to impress your customer, you can be sure that your efforts will quickly be forgotten when the smallest of problems unfurls.

The fact is unless you’re customer needs you, you will always be a second thought.

Often these problems are neither your making nor your problem to fix, but the fear of losing a customer, or worse you’re customer not paying on time, will drive you to waste time and money sorting it out.

It’s much easier for your customers simply not pay you than it is to not pay their employees; you are often the last bill to get paid.

Legal action to recover your invoice is simply not an option. It takes months to launch successful legal action and you probably won’t have the cash flow to reach the end; getting paid is more down to hope than certainty.

Even when you resolve a problem that wasn’t your fault, rather than demonstrate how great you are as a supplier, you’ll immediately become tarred by the problem forever more. Unless you eradicate the opportunity for your customer to find a problem then you run the risk of garnering a bad reputation through no fault of your own.

In part this happens because of the filter that’s applied as you go up the hill of success. If you’re at the bottom and your suppliers CEO is at the top; there are filters of management through which your message is controlled.

You’re not the only person trying to get up that hill and it serves no one (other than you) to promote the message that you should get up there first. Find a problem and it’s your fault, fix it and it’s their success.

No matter what your relationship with your customers is you’re job role might as well be classed as a janitor, for ever cleaning up the mess created by the people you need who don’t need you.

Imagine for a moment that you make tables, it’s not enough to simply deliver the parts, you need to put the table together and get it signed off before your client ever uses it; otherwise you’ll leave yourself open to being taken advantage of.

Leaving your clients to construct the table is one thing, but if you don’t get agreement that it’s perfect on day one, you can be sure when the time comes to pay the bill a fault will be discovered.

As a business owner there’s no guarantee that you will get paid by your clients and as such you become the middleman responsible for keeping your business alive and customers paying.

It’s like being sat in a valley, your business on one side and your customers on the other; give too much to one side and your business will fall; running a business is a constant balancing act.

There is no court that can argue for your own unpaid wages or press coverage that cares if you’ve lost a significant proportion of your wealth. There is no guaranteed reward for the risk you take.

Likewise if you do not take care of your customers someone else will. When clients pay late or find faults that weren’t there it negatively impacts your cash flow, but you still have bills to pay; you simply can’t always say no.

For small businesses, the problem of shit flowing down hill is in fact a self-perpetuating one. Because they have to compromise to keep the doors open, they’ll hold up paying other small businesses to conserve cash instead; picking the least important supplier to mess around with and making cash flow their problem in return.

If you want to solve the self-perpetuating problem of shit flowing down hill, you need to first accept that it will always happen. Moaning about it (or writing a chapter on it) simply won’t make it go away.

Much like there will always be a moon, there will always be shit that flows downhill until you get to the very top. You might be able to instil accountability in your own business to stop your team feeling the adverse effect of it internally but not all your customers will achieve the same thing and as such you will still have it impressed upon our business from external influences.

Like any other problem you need to solve it and legislate against it in the future.

You can legislate against its effects by:

1. Charging for returns/faults until they are accepted in house (having to pay for something will decimate your returns)
2. Getting evidence that the product was perfect on delivery e.g. photos, signatures etc.
3. Being a cash positive business – clients will use outstanding payment as leverage
4. Make yourself a necessity – if you’re a necessity then you’ll be paid on time
5. Use your problem solving to get paid – if you’re client has an issue, turn the tables and use it as leverage to get some of your money before you help.

Shit flowing downhill and rewards flowing up is not a problem you will solve before you get rich, but you can do your best to prepare to deal with its impact.

When you start out you will think that the rewards will come quickly, but invariably you will have to deal with more shit than you planned for.

As you grow, the effects of shit from your customers will wain and the rewards you receive will increase, but the problems shit causes will have merely shifted to one of internal politics instead.

If you want to succeed you’re going to need to set your stall out right from the start.

Chapter Summary:

• Shit flows downhill is a capitalist problem
• You will get the blame when it’s not your fault
• If you fix something that’s not your fault you will forever get the blame
• The good things you do are spun by others to their advantage
• Your business will get paid last by your clients and you’ll probably do the same thing to someone else

Read our next blog post “Never trust a runner”.