Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Against My Better Judgment, I Keep My Promise

Oh, I may regret this, but what the hey.   I talked over the last couple of days (link, link) about the idea of a "bubble quiz" to test knowledge of "business."   Formulated more precisely than before, I think what I'm struggling for is a list of the kinds of things "business people" know that they kinda sorta maybe wished the President knew.  Or, if not "knew," precisely, at least understood in some broad intuitive sense.

I invited contributions from some of my buds, mostly involved in the bankruptcy trade. They came up with some good offerings, albeit with some overlap (evidently we think along parallel lines). I have to acknowledge that I'm not satisfied with my list: I think it is probably too limited, a failure of imagination on my part (inside the bubble?). I note also that when I say "business," apparently I mean "small business"--one-person or one-family operations, nothing Jack Welch- or Steve Ballmer-ish.

So, think of it as a start. Note that unless specified, the proper punchline for each question is, "what do you do next?"
If you've got any interesting contributions, toss 'em into the comments. Maybe I'll do a revised version. Anyway, here goes:

What's the employer's share of FICA?

What's Section 6672?

You ruin (!!) run a restaurant.    One day you come to work and find that none of your cooks have shown up.   What do you do?

You catch your secretary with her hand in the petty cash.  You tell her she's fired.  She says go ahead if you want to, but she'll complain to the authorities that she you (!!) demanded sex from her.   What do you do?

You fire an at-will employee because of incompetence; that is, for cause. Employee files for unemployment.   Any decision in his favor will be adverse to your pocketbook.  What do you do? 

Angry customer files frivolous lawsuit.  Insurance company declines to defend.  You don't know any lawyers who do this kind of work.  What do you do?

You're $400 short of payroll, and your next tax deposit is $600.  Do you "borrow" from it, since you think you'll make up the shortage next quarter?

Vendor is short on your order.  When you complain, vendor makes it clear  that if the shortage is made up, she won't do any more business with you.  Se's got the best product out there.  What do you do?

An ex-con, a pregnant woman with sleeve tatoos, and a chap who speaks only marginal English apply for an entry-level, minimum wage job.  There are no other appicants.   Can you just withdraw the notice, wait a month, and see who applies then?

Employee is surfing Internet on company time.  Nothing illegal.  Still does  it after warning.  Fire her?

People!  Help me here, please!  I want to spruce this up.


dilbert dogbert said...

Ruin a restaurant? Good one!
A friend of mine runs as restaurant in SF and had his cook quit. He asked a friend what to do and the friend said: How about the wait staff? They know the menu. My friend bumped up the wait staff and it worked. Great group of Mexican Americans. Happy Ending.

Ken Houghton said...

"She says go ahead if you want to, but she'll complain to the authorities that she demanded sex from her."

Oops #2.

I note for the record that none of those (except 26 USC 6672, and that one's borderline*) doesn't apply to Community Organizations/non-profits either.

That is, none of them is anything other than a cost of social interaction, not specifically a cost of doing business.

(I'll also quibble that most of them are better indicators that you're not doing well running a business, since 95% of running a successful business is properly managing your cash flows. That these questions come from people who deal with bankruptcies may have skewed them.)

*Try telling the guys at Staples or Costco that you're buying for the local non-profit without having the letter wuith their ID that documents that.

Anonymous said...

I've read your posts on this subject with various levels of bafflement. At first, I read this list of questions and shook my head wondering how any of these things relate to the very different job of being president.

But now I think I understand.

These questions all relate to powerlessness. You want a president (and by extension any public servant) to know what it is like to be the underdog. They should act to reduce the burdens they place on those who lack power. I think that I agree to this more general point.

The focus on business and small business in particular is a bit too narrow and rubs me a bit the wrong way. For many of your questions, there is an equivalent where the small business owner is in a relative position of power over another. Whether it is an employee who is not allowed to take a bathroom break or a customer who is threatened with a lawsuit unless they remove a (justified) negative review.

New York Crank said...

Wait a second, just wait a second! You're telling me that my secretary is threatening a sexual harrassment suit, my cook quit, I'm short money I owe the IRS, thugs and tattooed ladies are demanding jobs on my premises and my vendors are ripping me off.

And you're asking me what I should do?!?!

There's only one thing to do. Call in Marvin The Torch, burn the place down in the middle of the night, take the insurance money and run.

Yours crankily,
The New York Crannk