Share

Country life

Country life
Blogs

Country life

IT | John Tate | 30 Sep 2011

Down on his allotment, John Tate learns about business relationships.

Each month I receive hundreds of articles to read on technology – many via the internet – so I am aware that I am competing for your attention. To try and lure you into reading my blog this month I have devised a new strategy. First, I’ll cover something personal that could just possibly interest you and to provide a human side to the article. Second, I’ll then provide some pearls of wisdom on an IT-related issue – tying this in to my personal observations with a weak link. And finally I’ll close with a terrible pun.

So first, the personal bit.

As winter approaches I am enjoying the fruits of my allotment. Among the weeds my vegetables have had a pretty good year. The challenge is now consuming the large quantities of beans, tomatoes, sweetcorn, courgettes and cucumbers, and making sure I store my garlic, potatoes and shallots in the right conditions so they keep through the winter.

Now the pearls of wisdom, with the weak link.

Timeless lessons

There are some timeless lessons to learn from growing vegetables. One is that tender plants need treating with care. Put them in the ground too early and they either germinate poorly or get killed by the frost. Plant them too late and they miss the growing season. I grow my seedlings in an unheated polytunnel.

You can bypass some of these problems by purchasing tender young plants that have been grown in a heated greenhouse, but this is expensive compared to growing from seed. Also, some ‘tenders’ – such as aubergines and peppers – just do not work for me as my allotment conditions don’t give them enough protection. I have tried to grow them from seed many times but I always get poor results.

Working on the allotment gives me lots of time to think, and over recent weeks I have reflected on my last column regarding the poor service I received from RBS and BT. Large suppliers, in the main, do not deliver a good service so you need to have a back-up plan if things go wrong.

On a more optimistic note I do have some good suppliers I have worked with over the years. One example is the corporate lawyers I use. They are a mid-sized firm based in central London and I was introduced to them about 15 years ago. Since then they have done all my commercial legal work, including selling a company, dealing with customer and supplier-contracts, and the occasional employment issue.

Having worked with lawyers for over 30 years, my historic experience has been pretty mixed. Problems have included delays in getting help when you need it, and poor advice – often when the lawyer doesn’t really know their subject. These are very similar problems to those which many of us experience with IT suppliers.

However, my law firm has consistently delivered a great service. On the odd occasion when they feel they do not have the skills they refer me to other people, and they have a big enough team that they can deal with any short-term resource constraints.

So why has this relationship worked when my relationship with BT and RBS hasn’t?

Relationships

My lawyers are small enough to have the personal touch but big enough to have depth of expertise when required. I have taken time to ensure my team build relationships with them. We try and look after their interests by paying them promptly. We also thank their staff and the bosses when they really pull out the stops for us, and I tell my contacts about them when relevant.

I have stayed with the same lawyers for 15 years and have absolutely no intention of changing them as long as they continue to deliver a good service.

They are not the cheapest supplier, and have not always been perfect with their service. But fortunately for them, having had a history of dealing with other lawyers, I recognise good service when I receive it. There is an incentive for them to maintain the quality of their work as they know we will stick with them as long as they continue to do this.

With the current pressure on cost control in civil society organisations, this can be a challenging policy to maintain. However, one mistake by a new supplier could wipe out all the cost savings I might achieve from switching to a cheaper service.

So treat ‘tenders’ with care. Do not put them out when you have an established system that already works. And remember, it is sometimes best not to use them at all. By the way – in case you missed it – that was the terrible pun.

John Tate is MD of Changebase, IT adviser to the CFDG and a visiting lecturer at Cass Business School

Comments

[Cancel] | Reply to:

Close »

Community Standards

The civilsociety.co.uk community and comments board is intended as a platform for informed and civilised debate.

We hope to encourage a broad range of views, however, there are standards that we expect commentators to uphold. We reserve the right to delete or amend any comments that do not adhere to these standards.

We welcome:

  • Robust but respectful debate
  • Strongly held opinions
  • Intelligent relevant discussion
  • The sharing of relevant experiences
  • New participants

We will not publish:

  • Rude, threatening, offensive, obscene or abusive language, or links to such material
  • Links to commercial organisations or spam postings. The comments board is not an advertising platform
  • The posting of contact details for yourself or others
  • Comments intended for malicious purpose or mindless abuse
  • Comments purporting to be from another person or organisation under false pretences
  • Gratuitous criticism, commentary or self-promotion
  • Any material which breaches copyright or privacy laws, or could be considered libellous
  • The use of the comments board for the pursuit or extension of personal disputes

Be aware:

  • Views expressed on the comments board are left at users’ discretion and are in no way views held or supported by Civil Society Media
  • Comments left by others may not be accurate, do not rely on them as fact
  • You may be misunderstood - sarcasm and humour can easily be taken out of context, try to be clear

Please:

  • Enjoy the opportunity to express your opinion and respect the right of others to express theirs
  • Confine your remarks to issues rather than personalities

Together we can keep our community a polite, respectful and intelligent platform for discussion.

John Tate

John Tate is a qualified accountant and has over 20 years working in the IT industry. He is also a columnist for Charity Finance, IT advisor to CFG and a lecturer at Cass.

Ian Allsop (62) John Tate (55) David Davison (49) Robert Ashton (41) Tania Mason (24) Andrew Hind CB (18) Gordon Hunter (17) Daniel Phelan (14) Vibeka Mair (12) David Ainsworth (11)
David Philpott (10) Celina Ribeiro (8) Niki May Young (8) Rui Domingues (8) Andrew Chaggar (5) James Brooke Turner (4) Sir Stuart Etherington (4) Kate Sayer (3) Jeremy Swain (3) Garreth Spillane (3) Alistair Gibbons (3) Ian Clark (3) Claris D'cruz (2) Stephen Lloyd (2) Richard Maitland (2) Adrian Beney (2) Iain Pritchard (2) Pauline Broomhead (2) Daniel Fletcher (2) Martin Brookes (2) Tesse Akpeki (2) Nick Brooks (2) Stephen Hammersley (2) June O'Sullivan (2) Dan Corry (2) Peter Holbrook (2) Belinda Pratten (2) Simon Steeden (2) Jonathan Bruck (2) Dan Gregory (2) Mark Astarita (1) Don Bawtree (1) Sir Stephen Bubb (1) Victoria Cook (1) Lindsay Gray (1) Rachel Holmes (1) Nick Ivey (1) Iona Joy (1) John Kelly (1) Michael King (1) Heather Lamont (1) Lucy McLynn (1) Chris Oulton (1) Julian Rathbone (1) Socrates Socratous (1) Richard Weaver (1) Karl Wilding (1) Richard Williams (1) Roger Chester (1) Matthew Bowcock (1) Joe Saxton (1) Reuben Turner (1) Martin Farrell (1) Paul Gibson (1) Jonathon Grapsas (1) Andrew Scadding (1) Simon Hebditch (1) Su Sayer (1) Debra Allcock Tyler (1) Martin Birch (1) Mark Hallam (1) Jonathan Lewis (1) Sara Llewellin (1) John Low (1) Dame Mary Marsh (1) Ruth Murphy (1) Colin Nee (1) Julia Unwin (1) Kate Rogers (1) Malcolm Hayday (1) Filippo Addarii (1) Kimberley Scharf (1) Jakes Ferguson (1) Jessica Sklair (1) Joe Turner (1) John May (1) Julian Blake (1) Rosie Chapman (1) Andy Williamson (1) Malcolm Hurlston (1) Andrew Samuel (1) Chester Mojay-Sinclare (1) Paul Amadi (1) Kirsty Weakley (1) Luke Fletcher (1) Peter Mitchell (1) Billy Dove (1) Andrew Ketteringham (1) Jackie Turpin (1) Lynne Robb (1) Jonathan Crown (1) Paul Emery (1) Ruchir Shah (1) Pesh Framjee (1) Sukhvinder Kaur-Stubbs (1) Moira Protani (1) Vicki Prout (1) Michael O'Toole (1) Dawn Austwick (1) Lisa Clavering (1) Paul Farmer (1) Neelam Makhijani (1) Logan Anderson (1) Andy Rich (1) Sharon Martin (1) Asheem Singh (1) Leigh Daynes (1) Abdurahman Sharif (1) Lynne McMahon (1) Richard Caulfield (1) Carolyn Sims (1)
Less +++ More +++

Learning from history

3 Oct 2014

With the emergence of the cloud, the number of accounting software options is growing fast – just as...

Blending youth and experience

10 Sep 2014

Finance leaders need help from the younger generation to understand modern technology, says John Tate....

Why I didn’t accept an ice bucket challenge

1 Sep 2014

With one survey out last week indicating that more than half of the people taking part in the #icebucketchallenge...

Civil society organisations across Europe are seeing their independence come under threat

20 Oct 2014

Voluntary organisations across Europe are coming under pressure from governments not to campaign on issues,...

Focus on ‘independence’ should not distract us from the fact that charities should deliver more public services

15 Oct 2014

Sir Stephen Bubb says that the voluntary sector needs to be at the heart of designing and delivering public...

Charities must play a part in the growth of the enabling state

10 Oct 2014

With the state adopting a more enabling role Sir John Elvidge says that there is an opportunity for charities...