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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.