'This has been a tough year'. Those are the words that began my last diary entry, thirteen months ago. Little did we know it was not going to get better anytime soon.
A couple of weeks ago I got an e-mail which I discarded into my junk folder. Luckily they wrote back as they wanted permission to use an extract from this website in some teaching materials. They were the prestigious Cambridge University press. Yesterday, even though it was a Saturday and New Year's Eve, we got the first of two payments from a Chinese customer. At the beginning of December we made the last payment on our car, a luxury we treated ourselves to three years before when we thought our company was finally on its way after getting a million dollar offer for exclusivity on one of its products (which we turned down we were so certain of our future).
Most of this year has been spent extricating ourselves from a 'partnership' we entered into with another China company, but which quickly proved to be parasitic in nature with us being the host having its life force being slowly drained from us.
So here we are at the beginning of a new year, almost free from debt, with a nice - paid for - car, free from all ties and partnerships to do as we please with our company, with a stimulus to keeping this website up to date, and with time to write more and get back to all those books that swim around inside my head.
When you look at what is happening elsewhere in the world (to say nothing of our continued military dictatorship here) it should not be surprising that ways of doing business have also changed. The great research and development companies of the past have all gone or are just acquiring companies with the ideas and novelty they require. That is good for us, as we are hopefully one of those companies. We are making attempts to make ourselves more valuable to would-be purchasers by trade marking and filing patents for our products. We've moved all manufacture to our subcontractor in Singapore giving up all aspirations to have a big factory here. Thailand does not have the environment for that and is going backwards in its openness so things will not get better anytime soon. It is a great place to live, if you accept certain restrictions on what you can say and do, and Ploy has been able to find gainful employment to help pay the bills as well as give her a sense she is also contributing (after also having been cheated out of reasonably substantial sums of money over the past three years).
But the lesson we have been so slow to learn is we have to be much more ruthless in our business dealings. Why would a mutually beneficial partnership go so bad as it did this year. Because the other partner 'tries it on'; because that is 'just good business sense' to him. He saw us as weak because we kept giving in until he pushed too far (as the company offering the million dollars did). Fifty-fifty made no business sense to him (and as we were providing all the products and he was selling them, 70:30 might have been a better percentage anyway). So we concede to 50:50 but he doesn't stop there. It seems the same with most customers: pay late or not at all, ask for more and more and more without paying more. We have spent three years learning we have to stand up for ourselves more, be more ruthless, even be nasty. I hate it, it doesn't have to be like this, but if we are not like that we will perish. Why should we have to send multiple e-mails just to get paid for something we delivered on time that works perfectly. But rather than lamenting why this is so, now we expect it and we respond accordingly. Kill or be killed.
So welcome to the new nasty us. And the new nasty us got paid. So be it. It is the way of the world. The UK has voted to put up huge neon signs saying we are xenophobic and proud of it. It expects to thrive outside of Europe when the only things it now does is hoard ill-gotten money for criminals and export jam. The US has painted 'We are Cretins' on the moon and seem itching to fight someone, anyone, and start a new arms race. Here, we have a self-appointed 'prime minister' who is so unsure of himself he
And to be fair, as neither Ploy or I like people that much, we are rather good at it. The world had better be prepared. It reaps what it has sown.
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