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Fear is a Lousy Motivator

With the dumbing down and banalization of English nowadays, problems have been banished from the lexicon and replaced by euphemisms—legislated away by popular acclaim. Instead, we call problems by their bastardized title: “issues.” Example: “We have a payment issue with our customer. A large, much-anticipated sum has been delayed. Hence we can’t pay you, dear Supplier, for the one-day turnarounds you gave us recently (thanks for the superior service, by the way! Oh, and do we have your AS9100 certificate on file?).”

For most small businesses, that’s a catastrophe, not an “issue.” Imagine the subcontractor’s General Manager telling her employees, “Gee guys, we hoped to run payroll this week, but since Behemoth Aerospace didn’t pay us (because they can do that), and won’t for 120 days (their stated terms), you’ll have to wait awhile for your paycheck. Better news in October (said in July). Until then, chin up.”

Do you think for one minute that Behemoth Aerospace waits 120 days for payment from the Feds? Why is it that companies best able to pay and flush with cash, resist paying to time-honored Net 30 terms? Is this something taught in the vendor exploitation module at Harvard Business School? It’s certainly not in any engineering syllabus I’m aware of. Ethics? What ethics?

Or this: “Yes we know you quoted this job last November, and now we’re placing an order with you in April with additional, previously unknown requirements. However, we cannot accept your revised quote reflecting those new requirements because our customer has already placed their order with us. They would have issues with any changes (read price increases) now.” Right, but we have our own issues with your evident lack of a spinal column. So the question is, why are suppliers so afraid in instances like these to speak the plain truth to their customers? Fear of losing face?

Terrified of losing business? Avoidance of confrontation?

Is obsequious sucking up some distorted, 2016 rite of passage? I fear invertebrate tendencies are becoming the new normal. A fine, self-inflicted mess we find ourselves in. The irony is that upright customers will find the truth bracingly refreshing, and welcomed. They have endured B.S. aplenty. Remember what FDR said about fear in 1932?

We are what we become.