Simon Carr: The Kitchen Capitalist

I was trying to blame you for this, readers
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The Independent Online

The story so far: the author has sold his house to finance a manufacturing project in the hope of making a small fortune to finance his old age...

You remember you advised me to send the prototype to Wales last week? You said it would be all right, do you remember? Nothing has so far got lost in the post, you said? So I went down to the sub-post office and waited in a Saturday-morning queue for 20 minutes, stifling my laughter at the least helpful postmistress in Britain. A foreigner handed her a stamped envelope, at which point he saw the van arriving outside to empty the pillar box; he asked for the letter back so he could give it to the postman. If he missed the postman he'd lose two days. "It's against the law for me to give it back to you," she said, stamping his letter and dropping it into her bag.

I was still chuckling when she handed me the Next Day delivery bag and chortling all the while I was writing out the addresses. Shoulders heaving when I put the bag on the counter and she said: "I'm closed now." That shut me up.

But four days later, this was my end of the conversation with Wales: "For ****'s sake! But I've got the receipt! It's ******* next day! Guaranteed!" I was working out how to blame you for it, I regret to say, dear readers; after all, you did say it would be all right.

Then, after five full minutes of teeth-grinding despair, you would have heard: "What do you mean cross-purposes? What do you mean it has arrived? But you told me it hadn't arrived!" It was the parcel from Germany that hadn't arrived. My parcel had arrived the day before.

I can't help thinking this isn't the right dialogue for a new, multimarket global business worth £100m. It seems to belong in some other narrative entirely.

Communication problems are hardwired into the enterprise. When you can't be understood in Wales why should Guan Dong know what you're talking about? If I were starting again - and goodness knows anything is possible - I would do all the prototyping in England, if only because of our English. You can see why I didn't. What would cost £5,000 here cost £150 over there. It would be a crime against capitalism to do the work in England.

On the other hand, the packages, I calculate, have been three months in transit this year. Here and there. Back and forth. Ten days at a time (which is what five working days means). All this process surely could have been accomplished in six weeks at Complete Fabrication, outside Cambridge (I recommend them, incidentally). And without 3,000 e-mails.

But the Chinese people who made the prototype are making the product. That must help, you think? It's their bill of materials? Their packaging of circuit board, chips and speaker? Everything fits with their production process? You're talking me into it again. You were right about the parcel arriving in Wales, if only just.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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