The Telephone Is Ringing (Small Company Life)

Saturday, August 7, 2004

Working for a startup means we forego some ‘luxuries’ of business life, like having a receptionist in the office to answer phones. We all have to answer the phone. I purposefully keep my phone at a location out of arm’s reach, giving everyone else who keeps a phone close by the first chance at answering.

There are a few reasons I try to avoid the phone.

First, I get tired of talking to the cold-calling photocopier sales people. There is nothing worse than being neck deep in a database and having one of these overly cheerful people call and tell me how I need a photocopier with a re-circulating automatic document feeder. Yes, of course, our office could use a re-circulating automatic document feeder, but what the office really needs is a new laser printer with a warm up time of less than 15-minutes. Unless they are giving away a free photocopier, talking about it over the phone is a waste of time.

To understand another reason why I avoid the phone, I have to give you some background. The company founder, who works part-time in the office, is a practicing physician - a gastroenterologist to be exact. I also have to tell you his name, because you might find this amusing. His name is, and I swear I am not making this up, Dr. Butt.

On occasion, the doctor will call a patient from the office phones to discuss their condition, or their colonoscopy results. Some patients, like the ones who are stark raving mad hypochondriacs, will see the phone number on their caller ID and write the number down. They think if they call this number, they will talk to a doctor or someone with medical training. When they do call, they get people like me, who have no medical training and feel lightheaded when I see a needle.

Telling some people that you are not qualified to give them medical advice does little to slow them down. Some people don’t seem to want advice, actually. What they want is just to be able to describe their problems to another human in graphic detail. This includes the finer facts of their fecal incontinence, or their irritable bowels, or the blood in their stool.

Quite frankly, I’m not paid enough to listen to this sort of talk on the phone. I’ll ask the person to please hold, and forward the call to our sales person. Sales people can talk about anything, even before right before lunch.


Comments
Andy Saturday, August 7, 2004
Ok that's f#cking hysterical! Do you guys write medical software of some sort? Even at large corporations sometimes people get through to your office though. Don't ask me how, I have no idea but I once had to field a call for high speed data install to a rural customer. After the customer got all done with me he said "you guys have really friendly technical support" I let him know that I was actually the Market's GIS developer and somehow somebody had given him my number by accident. This doesn't even come close to fielding calls on gut problems though. Heh. I would have to probably just turn the phone off, I'm pretty sure I could deal with that for about a day and then I'd go nuts.
Scott Allen Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Yes, we work on "business intelligence" software for hospitals. I've been in quite a few hospitals over the last two years. Oh joy!
skicow Tuesday, August 10, 2004
I'm with Andy, I work in the IS department of a large manufacturing plant, and I get calls for people wanting to buy 500 pounds of chain on my phone. What's up with that? In my case I'd have to think it boils down to a front desk secretary who gets a call for Sean 'Blah' in sales, and forwards them to me since my name is Shaun 'Ack', hey same first name, must be the right choice! *bonk*. But now that I've read the position you are in Scott, I will happily take those calls for chain and thank the gods that I'm not working at a hospital.
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