Simon Carr: The Kitchen Capitalist

I'm now several people - all of them unrelated
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The Independent Online

The colour! Not again, you cry (you're so loyal). But yes, yes, the colour's still violently wrong. What's the matter with these chimps? They've sent pustulent purple over from China instead of midnight blue. How often do I have to abuse them? Why would they think I'd want something the colour of varicose veins? I've sent them the actual Pantone number (the inter-freaking-national Pantone number) - mortal man can do no more. Pantone is recognised by every single, every individual, every... hang on, it's my fault. I seem to have edited the colour but sent them the original Pantone number. It's entirely my fault. These Chinese manufacturers are angels. Please never doubt them again. I am calm again. Look at me. I'm growing morally, as I vow never to let wrath get the better of me.

I go to my computer screen and edit the Pantone from heinous venous to something so close to black it could appear in an Armani catalogue. I e-mail the CMYK percentages to China, and confirm the integrated circuit spec. I am in control of myself again. Everything is in hand. The production schedule is interrogated. Flights for January are considered, to go and supervise the pressing.

Switches diagrams are approved. The inventory of the microprocessors is confirmed. The new voice files can be processed into the P2ROM. I'm boasting now, did you notice? What an odd range of micro-skills I have assembled. How entirely useless they are for anything else.

You need to be several people to do this sort of thing. One of you needs to know what the thing ought to look like; and another version of yourself needs to be interested in the optimal sampling frequency of the digital processor; while yet another (subtly different) version of yourself is required to shout at Taiwanese distributors of Japanese components as they're driving home from work on the other side of the world.

Looking back through the diaries of the venture there are times when it all seems unrecognisable. I myself come across a bit odd as well, on occasions. No, really. It turns out that the person who does the first bit is almost entirely unrelated to the person who does the second bit.

The first bit is like a controlled explosion using a faulty detonator, a defective controller and an ability to repeat the explosion a dozen times a day. The second bit is all this engineering; if we weren't able to shout at people, it would be no fun at all. The third and fourth bits are yet to come. Apart from parts of the marketing, we're in for an entirely new, gruelling relationship with the state (accountants, lawyers, compliance officers). It's too much for one person: that's why companies are popular; they're the only alternative to multiple schizophrenia.