Simon Carr: The Kitchen Captialist

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The Independent Online

What could go wrong? What could possibly go wrong? Waiting for the last two components to arrive (from Mars, perhaps - they're taking so long), I can indulge in a little recreational risk assessment. It's what you're supposed to do, after all, in the "business plan" that people talk about.

What risks are there? There is a risk that no one will want to buy my product. This risk is so small it's not worth considering. So that's out of the way.

A collapse in the US dollar? I prudentially switched to dollars last year. The currency has already sunk enough to have lost the price of a round-the-world cruise with champagne every night for the dancing girls. A further collapse won't have any effect on the project as the production contract is denominated in US dollars. In fact, if I ever get any British sales revenue, a US collapse would suit me very well. Millions slump into poverty, Carr gets his kitchen repainted. That sounds fair.

A collapse of the Chinese manufacturer after they've got my money? Their finance director absconds with my cheque? The odd thing is that I've paid very little to the Chinese and yet they've made me three prototypes and held 20,000 components for a year without charging. I have trusted them quite recklessly and they've behaved with a sort of old-world honour we haven't seen since Lloyd's underwriting went the wrong way 35 years ago.

China invades Taiwan? That would be a disaster, an international disaster - unless it didn't disturb my production schedule. And why would it? The factory is on the mainland. It is very unlikely Beijing would launch a missile strike on its own novelty industry.

China can't manufacture the item to the necessary high-quality specification? This is certainly the view of Wales, who wants to make it there with government grants. I assess this as a definite risk. I suppose I could open up the prototype and look at the workmanship. But then, if it was solder-splashed and horrible I'd have to worry and fret and that would be very unpleasant. And China would say the final production would be much neater and Wales would say, "If you believe that, you'd believe anything", and all sorts of bad karma would spill into the world. It is my spiritual duty to ignore this risk altogether. It's ethical business.

Miscellaneous risks: the plane taking me to supervise the production run falls out of the sky. The plane is full. I can't blag a business-class upgrade. The production supervisor eats a bad egg the night before the production run and feels unwell. Ah. Now. Yes. That's the only foreseeable problem that really worries me (I had a meal in Guangdong and it was horrible).

So there we are. The only thing that stands between me and a fortune of uncountable, country-house-and-park millions is one bad egg at the bottom of China. The tension is palpable.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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