Sunday, July 13, 2008

Chance encounter

I was at the Cancer Center on Friday for blood work and a urinalysis. After the phlebotomist drew blood, he handed me a plastic cup and I went off to the bathroom to fill it. I sat down, my mind wandered, and all of a sudden I realized I was still holding the cup, but I’d peed in the toilet!

I then had to sit around drinking water and waiting to fill my bladder again. As a result, I missed my train back to Westchester by a couple of minutes, and trains only run once an hour in the middle of the day. So I found a seat in Grand Central’s food court to catch up on some client work, berating myself for such a boneheaded move, until….

I caught sight out of the corner of my eye of someone carrying a bicycle downstairs, headed toward me. It looked like the one my client rides to the office, I thought. Then I looked at the person behind the bike and sure enough, it was him.

We chatted for a few minutes, and before he ran to catch his train I said, “Let me leave you with an idea: Is there any way I can put in more hours for you? The last year has been hard on me with all the cancer stuff I’ve had to attend to. I need to increase my income."

“You mean an arrangement to work twenty hours or so for a fixed amount? I’d really like that,” he said. “I could offload a lot of stuff to you and have more time to work on the things I’m supposed to be doing.”

His problem is that the company where he heads the small IT department has invested in a custom web-based project that’s overrun its time and budget and hasn’t started making money yet. The company's owner has instructed everyone to scale back expenses.

“Let’s talk about it when you come in next week. I’d like to figure a way to sell the idea.”

I was so jazzed when he left. The encounter felt like a sign. I’ve been going to this client site only once a week lately. I like going there. The man I work with, the one with the bicycle, is bright, an eager learner; I've taught him a lot about Visual FoxPro and he likes what I do for them. But once a week means I have to pick up dropped threads of thought every time I go back. The consistency of twenty hours would make me more valuable to them. And it would make bicycle-man more valuable too; it would free him up to be a more effective IT visionary.

Plus, it would nearly triple my billable hours there. It would go a long way toward covering the expenses I’ve been struggling with.

I hope we can work this out.


Tamar E. Granor said...

Good thoughts coming from here that it'll work out. And good for you for raising the topic.

Ceil said...

Thanks Tamar. Working out an arrangement with them would be ideal for me. It would leave me free to do other billable work, and other things. The idea has a lot of good to offer, but "good" is not always the basis for business decisions.

I had been getting mixed signals from this client. I'd offer to come in a second day to finish something I was working on and bicycle-man would say "How about next week?" He finally confided that he needed to scale back my hours.

"Not because of me, I hope," I said to him. (If so, I certainly wanted to know!)

"Not at all." And that was the first time he told me how worried the company owner was about the .NET project that hasn't panned out yet.

So I had a feeling before I asked that the idea would be well received. I hope we can sell it upstairs, so-to-speak.