Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Before Nev was famous

There's a television programme on BBC at the moment that seems to have captured the public's imagination. It's a documentary set in a call centre in Swansea. Creatively called The Call Centre it stars the CEO, Nev, who is a larger than life character with some unusual management practices including throwing things at people who yawn, sacking anyone who won't sin and setting up speed dating nights for his lovelorn workers. But he must be doing something right as his business is expanding and he's a multi-millionaire.

So it's time for me to bask in his reflected glory: I was humiliated by Nev before he was famous.

Many years ago, when desktop publishing was just coming into its own and before everyone had a computer, I ran my own very small typesetting business. I worked partly in conjunction with a printer who was also starting out. Nev at that time was part of Linden Church and he ran what seemed to be a thriving central heating business. I asked Nev if he might have any work for me and, when his usual printer let him down, he offered me the chance to produce a flyer for his company. He needed it urgently so I had to work fast.

Because of the urgency I took the finished copy to his house in the evening for his approval before I took it over to the printer who lived on the other edge of Swansea. Nev came to the door and showed me into the living-room where his wife and her parents were. Now her parents were very highly respected members of our church, I belonged to their house group and I thought a lot of them.

Nev took the flyer into his study to look at it leaving me in the living-room. When he came back he said it was okay and asked the price. I told him and he said, 'Oh, that's too much.' (Remember I was starting out, keen for business and already inevitably charging too little because of my natural reluctance to believe anyone would pay for anything I'd done anyway.)
I was so shocked I said, 'Okay, we'll reduce it.'
'No!' he said. 'You can't say that. You'll never be a business woman.'
'Oh! Okay, then I won't reduce it.'
'Then it's too much.'

Nev's wife, feeling sorry for me by now, told him to stop it and I left hurriedly not knowing what I was supposed to charge, not sure if he meant it was too much or whether he was just joking. I drove across Swansea to the printer, crying all the way, feeling a complete idiot, and hating myself - and him for embarrassing me in front of people I respected.

I'm older now but I still don't think I could cope with daily ritual humiliation in work. I guess those who work in the Call Centre are tougher; they all seem to love him. Or at least the ones they interview on camera do. And, yes, I suppose you could say that he was trying to teach me good business sense and if we'd been alone I may have accepted that more.

Incidentally, when I received his payment cheque it wasn't signed: I had to ask for another.


mrsnesbitt said...

Jon has been in business now for nearly 20 years and it is quite interesting to read this and think about the many people we have seen change throughout the time. It is never OK to be rude no matter how successful one is. In the end this Nev will be remembered for being rude, no amount of money will change that. I felt for you Liz xxx

Leslie: said...

I had one parent tell me I don't charge enough for my tutoring, so the next time I had a call for a new student, I upped my price a bit and she hemmed and hawed and I never did get her child as a student! You just can't win!

Liz said...

THanks, mrs n. I can laugh now but I didn't even tell Husband until last week.

No, you can't leslie.