And… I’m back in the room, or at least writing again. I can’t believe it’s been three months since my last blog – I blame Christmas – so here’s a quick update. As previously mentioned I’ve been working on a couple of projects, neither of which were going as I wanted, and after re-reading and making various amendments and alterations I wasn’t satisfied. So, they have been filed in a ‘To sort out file’, and I will go back to them as and when I think I can sort them out. This left me in a quandary, as although I always have many story ideas floating around, I didn’t think there was anything that once started wouldn’t end up in the ‘To sort out’ file too, and I found other ways to fill my time.
While cleaning out a cupboard I came across the first note book I used when I started writing, and amongst the shopping lists, doodles, and reminders, I had noted down some story ideas. Nothing grabbed me, but I found the first draft of Meredith’s character, together with a basic biography of his past life, and that set me to thinking. Could I go back to the beginning of Meredith? Was there a story there? Should one go back? I certainly wanted to with Meredith, and when I thought about it, the answer I came up with was, yes.
Things often have to be taken back to the beginning to get them back on course, and there were many examples all around me. When my computer goes wrong, I’m told to ‘turn it off and back on again’, or ‘install and then reboot’. With phones we’re told to uninstall apps and start again, and all this going back to the beginning is reflected in the business world.
Following the recent banking crisis, things went back to basics for staff. Instead of being targeted and judged on their ability to get mortgage referrals, or increase the value of loans to boost profits, they were to be judged on customer satisfaction and retention.
My friend and I both worked together for a sizable corporate company many moons ago, and whilst of course they wanted to see income rising, and profits increasing, they also wanted customer service to be at the heart of what we did, to both retain those customers and cut down on complaints. It was a good sound business, and as a result it was sold on several times during the period I worked there and depending on who was at the helm, it was on and off the stock market. Each wave of new top management wanted to make their own mark, but to appease investors and the stock market , the focus switched a little more to the bottom line each time. The customer became less important, after all there were always more customers out there, profit today was king, and problems caused could be sorted tomorrow.
Many changes in procedure, staff, and administration were made, and for those of us at the coal face, they were not always for the best. Customers seemed to be paying more for less, and complaints were common place. The staff worked longer and longer hours just to keep the KPI’s rolling onward and upward, and that profit line growing. Toward the end of my time with the company, it was decided that now was the time to float it again. There was a need to strip out costs, and over a period of a couple of years, regional centres were closed, and or merged, administration was farmed out to India, and each month a new round of redundancies was announced. I became one of those statistics, and although it was a shock, it took only weeks for me to realise I was never going back that way again.
My friend who remained there, absorbed shock wave after shock wave, and each time we spoke, another face had moved on, stress levels were rising, and if things hadn’t changed I think she would have too, but someone had a brainwave on how to improve the company which may have saved her sanity, or did they?
They didn’t. What they did was go full circle, right back to where we first started. The customer was to come first, as if service levels improved, the money will follow, which it invariably does. Of course some things have changed, technology for one, but the basic premise on how the business is to be run was to go back to the beginning. Now my almost stress free friend, sits at the meeting table listening to how they will reinvent the wheel, and smiles encouragingly. She’s been there, and done that, and I’m delighted for her.
Thinking about all this was all that was needed to set me off on the first draft of my current project. I was in essence going back to the beginning, switching it off and back on again. I would write a prequel. I would find out how Meredith developed his personality and attitude to life, and I already had the outline. It was fingers on keyboard, and out he tumbled. I’m not sure of the title yet, probably simply Meredith, nor do I know how long it’s likely to take to complete it, but this one is not headed for the ‘To Sort File.’
Now I must dash, he’s in trouble at school.