Sunday, July 6, 2014

Impossible! A Rolls Royce Never Breaks Down!

Original source :
Posted : March 2009
Author : Richie

So the story goes that a man borrowed his wealthy friends Rolls Royce to make his family vacation that much more special. Unfortunately somewhere in Europe the car broke down and he had to put a call back home to the Rolls Royce headquarters in England for assistance. They were extremely professional and courteous and they immediately dispatched a pair of expert mechanics who made their way across Europe, and barely a half a day had passed until the two mechanics were there at the vehicle working to fix the problem. It didn’t take them long until the car was up and running and they set on there way once again. The man was thankful that Rolls Royce had provided such a prompt high quality service and that their family vacation wasn’t ruined, but he was also worried about how much that high quality service was going to cost him.

Immediately dispatching two expert mechanics across Europe couldn’t be cheap after all, but he’d already decided that as his friend had been kind enough to lend him the car then he was going to take care of the cost of the repair himself, so he’d made sure the mechanics had his billing information. A few weeks later they returned from their vacation to a big pile of letters but none of them were the invoice from Rolls Royce. In fact another six months went by and he had still never received and invoice for the emergency roadside assistance. Worried that his friend might have ended up footing the bill by mistake he called the Rolls Royce headquarters. Once he was done explaining the issue to an accountant who could find no record of the invoice he was asked to stay on hold for a moment whilst he was put through to a manager. Once again he explained the situation, this time to the manager, and no sooner than he was done talking the manager exclaimed “Sir this is Impossible! A Rolls Royce never breaks down!”

Don’t you think that’s just a great little story? But more than that I think it is has a great message as far as Best Business Practices. I first heard that story many years ago when I was just a kid and I even think that when it was told to me it was just as an innocent joke. But that story’s stuck with me throughout my working life, I am always conscious of the moral of the story as if it were from the teachings of Confucius himself, and I’ve found myself telling that same story on various occasions at work.

Don’t advertise your mistakes
Maybe the first time I told the story was a few years ago when the company I was working for had just acquired another company and our CEO decided to start some ‘website wars’ where both companies would look for bugs and issues we could find in the each others websites and email what we’d found to everyone in both companies (tedious and demoralizing of course. I already said it was the idea of a CEO!). We started to fix many of the issues the other company had found straight away, little things that required no thought for the most part, but my boss couldn’t leave it at that and he started sending out an email to everyone in both companies to let everyone know we’d fixed a problem. And not just the one email with a list of the 20 items we had just fixed and rolled to production, but a separate email for each bug fix! I didn’t get it, how can you be so proud of your mistakes? So I emailed him the Rolls Royce story and I think he got the message because the emails stopped. And later that week when our CEO asked us if we’d fixed the bugs we were simply able to reply ‘What bugs?’

Don’t let your incompetence compromise a projects success
Another time I told this story was when we were estimating hours for a fairly complex HTML interface. The design called for custom scrollbars and the person in charge of putting together the estimate decided to make the statement that we didn’t do custom scrollbars, that they weren’t part of our teams repertoire, and if we were going to do them it was going to cost a whole lot of money. The account guy shrugged and asked creative to remove them from the comp, and creative saw their whole design go up in smoke and came to me for a lifeline. I was shocked to say the least, how can a web team not have custom scrollbars as part of their arsenal in 2007? So I told him the Rolls Royce story, and I explained to him that if as a department we really don’t have the ability to do something this standard then we should keep that fact to ourselves and go off and learn the skill immediately. Needless to say I ended up implementing the custom scrollbars myself, along with the rest of the site, and in the end it went on to win a handful of awards. And I don’t think anyone involved doubts that we wouldn’t have one a single award had we allowed the integrity of the design been compromised.

Always look like you know what you’re doing
And even if the whole story is nothing more than a billing screw-up, nothing more than the Rolls Royce accounting department never raising the invoice, then let the moral be to joke it off and don’t let your incompetence come across to the client. If you’ve gone for 6 months without even being aware that you hadn’t been paid for a job, and you only know now because that client has brought it to your attention, then I think your company can afford to eat it. In the name of good business relationships it’s worth it, you will forever have at least one guy out there singing your praises, and you just can’t buy that kind of publicity!

~Blog Admin~

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