Excerpt from “Characters”. Character 10: Janitor

Janitor sketchUnfortunately for this company, a benchmark for screen printing ink manufacturers had been established in my mind months before when I attended a similar meeting at an ink factory near Atlanta. The contrast couldn’t have been starker. There were no ink stains on the carpet in the reception area, and the brightly lit conference room with its highly polished table and black leather boardroom chairs resembled that of a high-end law firm or a Fortune 500 head office. Everything about the company spoke of professionalism and quality. And it should come as no surprise that as time went by, I found the quality of their products and business style matched my favourable impression of their premises.

Back in Toronto, as you might have anticipated, the meeting did not go well. Their products lacked quality and their business conduct lacked finesse as much as their premises lacked a janitor. Any possibility of our doing business together perished right there in that janitor-free zone.


Excerpt from “Characters”. Character 9: Alarm Technician

Alarm person drawing resizedIf ever a proverb applied to small business and alarm systems, it’s the one about the futility of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. To invoke another old expression, I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard about a small business calling an alarm technician for the first time the day after a burglary.

An alarm system is a necessity rather than a luxury unless, unlike most small businesses, your business is located in a crime-free area. Not only can it provide an immediate response to a break and enter, but also, merely having it is enough to discourage break and enter attempts.

I had alarms installed in both our branches and not once in more than twenty years did we have a break and enter, whereas neighbouring small businesses without alarm systems were burglarized a number of times.

Is an alarm enough at your location?

While an alarm alone was sufficient in the areas where my branches were located, it’s often necessary to supplement an alarm with other security measures. I have visited businesses in high-crime areas where alarms were just part of overall security systems that included iron bars over all accessible windows; steel doors; security gates over doors; steel shutters; barbed- and razor-wire fences; electrified fences; closed-circuit television cameras; and guard dogs. On a recent visit to South Africa, I saw attached to a gate a large photograph of an angry German shepherd with glaring eyes and exposed canines above a caption that read, “He can make it to the gate in three seconds. Can you?” In a burglar’s shoes I would be inclined to move on.