Back when I first got into the software business, programming abacuses, we wrote a system for auto dealers that included accounting for the work of the mechanics. I learned from those mechanics a few things about software and perhaps, business in general.
As you might expect this lesson has to do with tools.
Car dealers charge their customers (sometimes) based on a "flat rate." The flat rates come from, of all things, the flat rate book. At least back then, somebody published a book of how much time it took to perform almost all sorts of jobs done by mechanics on cars. Dealers had hourly rates posted and the job was billed, using our software, based on the more fortunate mechanics were paid in the same manner.
The flat rates were based on some (most likely bureaucratic) study allegedly based on the average mechanic doing the job with the tools normally at hand.
So - what's the point? Smart mechanics beat the system!! They made tools specifically designed for certain jobs. Consequently the tedious task of, for example, of removing a bolt when there is very little room for rotating the wrench, was made quick and easy by welding up some sort of "extender/rotator." Consequently the task shown in the flat rate book at two hours got done in twenty minutes!! The mechanic got paid for two hours; the dealer got paid for two hours, the customer felt okay about it because "the book" said so. Both the dealer and the mechanic made money hand over fist.
Professional software developers typically do the same sort of thing. They take it to extremes - they have tools to make tools to make tools etc. etc.
So what does all this have to do with the direct mail business and/or PSL? The answer is; "A whole lot!"
There are (at least) two ways of looking at software tools used in the day to day operation of your business.
First: I spend quite a few hours every day asking people how they do what they do. Obviously, I'm looking of holes, for ways I might be able to suggest a better way. I am, of course trying to find reasons they should buy PSL.
I must admit I sometimes find it difficult not to utter some deprecating terms like; "Why on earth would you do that?" And the answer invariably is; "It works." If we had a flat rate book for this business how much time would be allowed for the process in question? Now there is an interesting question. The other one is; "How quickly could I do it?"
Merge speed comes to mind immediately - why wait hours when the same job can be merged in minutes? Does time not relate to money; to customer satisfaction; to stress??
But there are a host of less obvious "flat rate" issues. Consider for example mixing and matching jobs in one run - production efficiency and perhaps postal savings. We could go on.
However there is a second and perhaps much more important factor to consider "flat rates." Let's suppose that there was a flat rate book for the direct mail business. Let's suppose that everybody used this book to bid jobs and bill their customers. If you could find a special "extender/rotator" tool then you would have the choice of winning more business by bidding lower, or pocketing more money by saving costs.
NOW, if you happened to have read the last issue of this series - we suggested that when you have questions about how to set up a job in PSL, you call us. In this issue we will say that when you think there just might be a way to beat the flat rate book - call us. Perhaps we can together find one.
Tom Crook's official title at Jet Letter is President but he also functions as PSL's Evangelist and lead VDP Guru.