Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Stub 4.3: The only thing more expensive than a good lawyer is a bad one

“Hey boss, is there any chance you can come back at about eleven? Kloake and I have something we want to lay on you together.” Eric Martens asked him at the first-to-second shift hand-off meeting.

“Yeah, sure.” Raymond said distractedly. He was still trying to come up with ways to avoid laying off half of his work force.

After dropping Margie off at the front of her apartment building, Raymond went back to the job site. He waited for the end of the shift-to-shift meeting. He kept his mouth shut. The two shifts had a method to the hand-off and anything he said or added would have wasted time without adding anything.

“Whaddya got?” he asked when the meeting was over.

“Eric and I have been thinking about your problem.” John Kloake, his third shift paint team leader said.

“What problem?” Raymond asked, baffled.

“We know you have to lay off 35 workers. Its not like we don’t watch TV and can’t do math.” John said.

“Ok, what is on your minds.” Raymond said.

“First, I gotta give you credit because it was originally your idea. You know how you pay us $2.50 for every thousand square feet we paint over the bogey?” John said.

“Yeah.” Raymond replied.

“What if we flipped it around. What if you sold us franchises of ‘Rojas Painters’ for a dollar and then we paid you a $1 for every thousand square feet we painted.” John said with a huge smile.

Raymond frowned. “Seems like I am paying you $2.50 a thousand, why should I accept less?”

“Well, we batted that around an we have a couple of reasons. One is that you will get $1 for every thousand square feet that gets painted. Not just the ones over the daily bogey.” John said.

“The other thing is that by only giving you a $1 per thousand, that leaves us with enough headroom to train more teams and sell them franchises under the same deal, except we get a $1 per thousand and you get $1 per thousand.” John said. “And if they train teams, those teams can buy a franchise and we all get $1 per thousand.”

“So you are talking about a multi-level marketing structure like Amway or Tupperware...except with franchises.” Raymond said.

“Exactly!” Eric said.

“Why would anybody agree to such a deal? What is in it for them?” Raymond asked.

“Name recognition, access to material and tools, credit, a ‘system’ for painting, clean-up and training. Heck, just Corrine’s system for masking and clean-up will save them that much in time and materials...and lots of other things.” John said.

“So what do you need from me?” Raymond asked.

“You gotta find a lawyer to draw up the papers. Then we sign them.” John said.

Then Eric chimed in. “Venice is the lead Island’s project. John and I were figuring on bidding on the next two projects and leaving you and Preacher here. We figured we would run our roster up to 25 the week before we split and would leave with fifteen each.”

“Then you only need to find five more painters on each shift to bring your project to full strength. New projects start slow. We will train and add shifts just like we did here.” Eric finished.

“Ok, you got me with your plan to bid the new projects. I will find a lawyer.” Raymond said.

The next afternoon, Raymond asked Margie if she knew any attorneys. It was no surprise that she knew several through her work. She even knew one of them socially because they had attended grade school together.

Rather than go “out” Raymond and Margie met with Aaron. Aaron quickly deduced Raymond’s needs and printed out a generic franchise contract he had stored on the hard drive of his computer. He circled those areas where Raymond, John and Eric needed to customize the the application. “Pencil it in and I will change the wording.” Aaron promised.

“As long as you are here, I want to bend you ear on a certain political matter.” Aaron said.

Raymond thought, “Oh boy, here we go!”

“I know you are the chairman of the Sedelia Economic committee but I get the impression that you are leaving money on the table and don’t even know.” Aaron said.

That got Raymond’s attention. “What do you mean, ‘leaving money on the table’.”

“The ports of San Diego, Long Beach and Los Angeles feed the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern railroads. They pay Cali a fee for every ton that gets unloaded and shipped. It used to be a lot more tonnage but Cali got greedy and raised rates. They also started flexing political muscles and made it really complicated from a labor standpoint so mostly UP and BN ship through Portland, Seattle and Vancouver.” Aaron said.

“What! Are you telling me that they are still paying Cali? Why?” Raymond raged.

“It is because Sedelia never sent them a cease-and-desist letter.” Aaron said.

“Why are you telling me this?” Raymond asked.

“Somebody, an attorney, has to write and deliver those C-a-D letters and I was hoping you would put my name forward for the job.” Aaron said.

“You sound pretty familiar with the problem.” Raymond admitted.

“A good lawyer can smell money. I took the liberty of researching the topic. It is all on the internet if you know where to look.” Aaron said.

“I also took the liberty of highlighting the parts of the Cali code that hamstring the port operations. I also propose that I write a Letter of Clarification informing the rail companies that those codes are null-and-void and deliver them at the same time.” Aaron said.

“And, with your permission, I suggest we bring our rates down to be in-line with Portland and Seattle. Our tonnage should go up 400% if we do that. Right now the rail companies accept the extra two day transit time to avoid the fees. Even if we picked up all the Asian exports to Texas that would more than double what we are handling now.” Aaron said.

Next Installment

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