Get the most out of family

   I walked into the main office the other morning and noticed a fresh new face.
   "This is Gina," said Ms. Ferguson, my loyal office manager. "Sheís the one I told you about."
   Ms. Ferguson tells me many things, few of which I remember. "Nice to meet you" I replied. Not wishing to look too uninformed, I left it at that.
   I retreated to my office and asked Ms. Ferguson to join me. "Refresh my rotten memory," I said. "Whoís Gina?"
   "Remember, sheís the one I found to help us better understand our computer system."
   The fog lifted. Gina was our new nerd!
   I rushed back out of my office and pumped her hand vigorously. "Itís so nice to have you here," I exulted. "Iím sure you can straighten things out. Let me know what I can do to help."
  Gina, in true nerd fashion, was oblivious to my slobbering. She is not an employee, only a consultant. And while a good, reliable computer consultant is not easy to find, Gina added another dimension that warranted true affection Ė she was Ms. Fergusonís cousin.
   Happy days and free advice are here again!
   What a find! The fact she is charging us less per hour than her regular customers is only a pittance of her true value. Thatís a one-time savings that I could probably find by shopping around for a few weeks.
  The real value comes in the months and years ahead. Picture this conversation between Ms. Ferguson and Gina at 7:30 on a Sunday evening:
   Ms. Ferguson: Hi, Gina, howís everything going in your life?
   Gina: Oh, fine. How are you?
   Ms. Ferguson: Great. Are we going to see you at Christmas?
   Gina: Well, itís five months away but I hope so.
   Ms. Ferguson: Iím really looking forward to it. Oh, by the way, how can you back up data in the network from the C-drive to the A-drive?
   Whatís Gina going to do, get her clock running? No way. Ms. Ferguson gets the info, no charge, and the problem is solved.
   And thatís not all. While free emergency phone calls, day or night, are a huge advantage, think of the wealth of gratuitous information that will pass from Gina to Ms. Ferguson when they get together for family gatherings.
   Remember, Gina actually loves computers. What else is she going to talk about after all the family gossip has been churned?
   The more I thought about these advantages, the more I thought about revising my employment applications. Iíd have to check with the Department of Labor, but my initial reaction is thereís nothing wrong with asking applicants to list all of their relatives and their respective talents.
   Then it dawned on me. I already have 45 employees. Figure an average of an extended family of 10 per employee, and thatís a pool of 450 potential free advisers! Hello, bottom line!
   "Ralph," I intercommed to my general manager, "come into my office, quick. And bring your family tree."
   "My what?"
   Ralph wasnít into genealogy. When he got to my office, I was ready for him.
   "Do you have mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles or cousins with any talents you can siphon for the benefit of the company?"
   Ralph was a little taken aback, but after explaining Ms. Fergusonís value of being related to Gina, he understood. He thought for some time and came up with a couple of suggestions, but they were weak.
   "Thatís your whole family," I cried. "Youíve got to come up with something better than that."
   He wracked his brain while I gave him a lecture about how difficult it is to survive in small business these days. You need to surround yourself with people who can add those little intangibles that boost you above your competitors.
   "Iíve got it," cried Ralph. "My second cousin Jerome Ė heís an electrician!"
   This was too much. An electrician as part of our family! He might even call us back immediately, or cover an emergency on weekends!
   Ralph and I hugged and danced a little jig, knowing his job and my company were a little more secure.


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