Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mngmnt Dsster, Thts Me

I am, apparently, a Management Disaster. I was informed of that tonight. Over a $6 martini. Well, it was advertised as “$6 Stoli drinks” but they charged an extra two bucks because the Martinis have more than a 'shot' of vodka. Go figure. In the end, it wasn't something that I was totally unaware of. I mean, there were times when, sitting in front of a sofa, a bed, a big table, with dozens of expense receipts laid out chronologically, or according to amount, in an attempt to be organized, I realized that I had no real idea how to put them all together and make a proper bill out of them. The older I get, the longer I am in this wacky business, the more difficult it seems to be to actually organize a bunch of receipts and make an Invoice from them. It remains a stenographic, accountantesque struggle to try and make sense out of a bunch of bills, from hotels, cafes, taxis, rental cars, and the occasional assistant. There is no question that we have an abject need for an assistant, an 'intern' though I'm not sure if that person should be from the photo school, or the business school.

I still have a nagging craw like memory of a management class I took in 1967, which spoke glowingly of the ability of the human trackers to be able to understand just HOW people would think and react on virtually any issue. It never really seemed to me that you could predict just what a group of people would buy into, but with science being what it was, there were more than enough alternatives to make such predictions unlikely at best. And this year, all we read about are the millions of dollars spent on Research and Polling in the Presidental races. The one thing I suspect is that Harry Truman's campaign probably spent zero dollars and zero cents on Polling. Gallup was still a young cuss, but his hunch in 1948 was that Tom Dewey would beat Truman by five to fifteen points. Well, he missed that one, and since then I guess I have stood with the folks who don't quite believe what the predictors are predicting. The Deciders know, but do the Predictors? Somehow, I still believe that the body politic has enough P & V in it to make the final summations a wild guess - just what does through the voter's mind when they enter that voting booth? That's just me. I mean, we can predict lots of things, but when it comes to voting, somehow I'd like to feel like there is a bit of unknown still in play. I almost pray for it. I like the idea of uncertainly lurking. And maybe that's why I am unable to delegate, and create a management structure around me which I'm comfy with. I just wish there were some way that as soon as you spent money, and got a receipt, you could copy it and it would race to a spreadsheet, ready to add itself to that job's expenses. When you end up waiting weeks to do it, hell, you can't even remember what city you were in. I mean, was it New Orleans, Omaha, or Seattle, or all three? The chances of mixing it all up, and having forgotten to write it in a Day Timer, is such that the odds of being lost in Expense space are huge. My dad always said: Make a list, write it down, cross it off when you do something. I think his life was a trace of crumpled up lists, each representing a series of finished tasks, which had been laid to rest after accomplishment.

My lists just forgot to be created. Well, in my head, there were a few neurons, no doubt, who felt they had tried to do the right thing. But the older one gets, the less likely those 'lists in your head' stay absolutely straight. Things get left off. You forget to cross them off, sometimes doing them twice. One begins to understand just what points are to be made by having some help. I mean, a semi-spreadsheet handy young man or woman who could take the dozens of bits of paper, and make sense out of them. And it's not like the job gets any easier. Most magazines used to have some kind of “per deim” concept, which generally meant that you were allowed, with no receipts, $25, 35, 50... the amount grew slowly over the last few decades though always way behind the reality of what it cost to eat on the road. Now days it is hard to find someone who won't demand the receipt, or some kind of piece of paper for virtually every expense. We may not be in the Computer age yet, but we're certainly in the Bookkeeper's age. And it's not fun. You have the feeling that all the paper pushers whose lives revolve around the moving of paper from an In to an Out or Maybe box, have little else to do besides monitor what we turn in. The curious thing is, for a number of reasons, the change in policy doesnt' really do what it's intended to do. If I can no longer just collect, say fifty bucks a day and not worry about backup, what is the point for me to go to some “popular family restaurant” as the definition sometimes goes (Olive Garden, Friday's etc) which would just BARELY let you eat for the alloted money, and still have to turn in back up. If I'm going to bother to turn something in, dammit, I'm going to get my money's worth. I'll be tempted to spend a few bucks more, and turn in something substantial, maybe taking out a client or subject for a meal, than to pinch my pennies just to be under the fifty dollar limit. When you are on a political campaign, you oft times are fed on the 'bus' or the 'plane' but just as often, you find yourself in the “you never know when you'll eat again” situation. It's not like you have a lot of time, even, to have a meal at the end of the day.

It's part of the terrible ongoing tyranny of the digital world. You shoot your pictures, you unmount the memory cards, you put them in a card reader and “slurp” them into your computer, having pre-written your details about what the captions should be.. then once they are in the laptop, you have to open up that folder of all the pictures, and start to edit them. If they are a bit dark, or too light, you need to open them in Photoshop, and correct them enough to not embarrass you when an editor sees them. Then save those 'selects' to your laptop, again, and hook up to the distant site (usually a magazine's FTP server) and Send the Images. Depending on how fast your line is, that can take up to several hours. You don't really have to stand around and watch them transmit.. that's like watching paint dry, but if there is an issue with the connection, you need to check it now and then and make sure you didn't wait around 3 hours for nothing. The bottom line is, I go to bed at 1:30 or 2:00 am far more often than I ever did when I could drop my film into a shipping envelope, and wait for a courier to take it to the plane. I think the draining aspects of the new 'workflow' (that's a new word for the new century which describes the 'flow' of the 'work'... duh!) are very deliterious to the brainflow for most of us. (That would be the 'flow' of the 'brain.')

It's hard not to be to snide about all this, but there is a point to be made: when we are doing our job, it requires hard work and a keen mind (no, really, it does!) To have to deal with the issues of every little bit of paper with a receipted bit of ink on it makes the whole process even more strenuous. In the end, you will never get back all the money you spend. There are just some things you don't get receipts for: tips for airport bags, tips for hotel bellmen, the baggage cart at the airport. Next time you ask a redcap for a ten dollar receipt, let me know, because I'd like to be there to film it. So, if you are a natural management disaster like I'm told I am, you can't believe the amount of follow up work which is required. Maybe part of what we should be doing is running Internships for aspiring accountants: hey, we could actually take THEM to Lunch and explain why every now and then a person needs a little break. Accountability is a great concept; maybe we should call it No Photographer Left Behind. We're just sayin'.....David


m_harding said...

My mom used to keep all her receipts stuffed in her bra.
You could try that?
She'd probably let you.

My accountant said his best clients are artists. Because they KNOW they REALLY NEED him.

Did you get a receipt for your Martini?


Anonymous said...


I would like to have seen your mom just before tax time with ALL those receipts in her bra. Did she buy a special set of 'tax bras' to hold them? How would she explain this to the sales person?

"Madam you are a C cup, why are you buying a DD?"

Ha ha ha ha ha

David, I feel your pain.

W, for tax whipped

m_harding said...

ahh hummm,

I geuss what i meant,was not that you could use my mother and her bra (not that other men haven't), but that you could use her idea.

If you do, i think something black and french laced would be nice. It would go well on top of your black photo vest and match the holga.You could probably store some 2 1/4 film in there too,along with the receipts.

If you do adopt the idea please send pictures, I have a cousin in prison and he could trade them for cigarettes.

W: you'd be amazed at the accountants that line up at tax time...