Bruno’s Magic Job Costing Abacus and the £100k Shed

Once, all you needed for job costing and job planning was a sharp pencil and a mind to match. These days, anyone who hasn’t bought a season ticket for the Blog-o-Sphere Express to the Cloud via Twitter Junction and Facebook Park is seen as a technological heathen. Actually profess a belief in pencil and paper job-costing and you’ll be considered crazier than a hyperactive mongoose with heatstroke.

This week, however, the following letter fell onto the doormat of our resident Snail-Mail Catcher, Eddy Currents. The letter was from the CEO of PowerShedzz and aptly demonstrates that being considered crazier than a mongoose is no deterrent to those hell-bent on keeping the Luddite cause alive.

Dear Sirs,

Free demonstration of MRPeasy Software

Thanks. But we build sheds, not waterfront condos. We need Job Costing Software like George Clooney needs handsome lessons. Armed with a professionally sharpened HB pencil, an A4 sheet of paper and my trusty accountant, Bruno, you’ll not name an aspect of job costing we cannot overcome.

Case in point—our new flagship line: The “Knock ’em Dead'” shed. We built 50 in our first week of production. With no more than a bag of zinc nails, some roofing felt, a truck load of sturdy timber, and Bruno. And there wasn’t an e-pad or i-desk thingy in sight.

Each “Knock ’em Dead'” shed is roughly three cubits high by two yards wide (plus or minus 6 centimetres). That’s an area of six acres (I think). Times 4 sides = 24 acres of timber.  We estimated that this and a tonne of nails should do it. Orders were promptly placed with 18 different suppliers, along with a sack of hammers.

Bruno set it all up on his abacus and we hired legendary German shed builders, the Knackwurst Brothers to take care of the construction. They submitted their time sheets through a variety of modern communications media—yellow stickies, backs of cigarette packets, and messages written on their forearms in ballpoint pen, to name a few.

Not once did I resort to taking the InterWeb out of its box (my wife gave me one for Xmas. It’s kept in the garage, behind the old paint tins). And at no time—mark my words—did I use a computer keyboard  other than as a platform on which to set my beer.

Did we hit any potholes on the road to success? Why, yes. Of course we did. But you can’t make a job coster’s omelette without breaking eggs. Likewise, you can’t bang in a tonne of tacks without blackening a few thumbnails.

Anyway, to cut this tale short—using Bruno’s peerless method of job costing, we ended up with a retail price for the “Knock ’em Dead'” shed, of £100,000. This is more than the cost of a two bedroomed flat round our way, which does cast doubt on Bruno’s job costing prowess. Quite apart from rendering the product virtually unsellable.

Bruno and his magic abacus are right now working round the clock to find out how this happened, before we have to declare ourselves bankrupt (you’ll not get this sort of loyalty from Apple or that Bill Grapes fella from Microsoft, I can tell you!)

Personally, I blame a lack of standardisation amongst the sub-contractors for the fact that our company costing method flunked. The one hundred carpenters we employed on the job didn’t get on. Half were committed members of The League of Regularly Intoxicated Craftsmen (LRIC). The other half swore allegiance to the Temperance supporting Nail Whacker’s Guild (NWG). The two groups refused to work together, so were divided into two gangs along trade membership lines.

The League of Regularly Intoxicated Craftsmen started building the shed from one side. The Nail Whacker’s Guild from the other, both groups praying that they met in the middle sometime before Christmas with sufficient accuracy to allow a roof to be affixed.

As traditionalists, we at PowerShedzz believe that artisans must be afforded the right to choose their own measurement systems. So we allowed the Nail Whacker’s Guild to opt for the Danish foot for all linear measurements (this is calibrated at eleven and a half British inches on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and one foot seven inches, Tuesdays, Thursdays and bank holidays. The League of Regularly Intoxicated Craftsmen stuck with the more traditional, Romanian foot, which was originally based on the rolling three month average length of a Bavarian sausage.

A drinking buddy of Bruno’s has suggested some fancy alternative to Bruno’s ‘seat of the pants’ job costing—a black box you drop all the numbers in, before whipping yourself up a skinny latte and chillaxing until a microchip magics up your figures.

‘Where’s the fun in that, Bruno?’ I asked. ‘How boring would it be if everyone could instantly control all of their project costs at the push of a button?’

I have every confidence that Bruno will pull the “Knock ’em Dead'” shed fiasco out of the latrine. If not I’ll fire his ass. Either way, let’s have no more talk of job-costing software. Bruno and me, we’re fine with our HB pencil.

Please do not contact me again.

Hermann Jaegermeister

CEO PowerShedzz

P.S. Due to circumstances that should have been completely within Bruno’s control, PowerShedzz are able to offer, at knockdown prices and for a limited time only, eight tonnes of loose nails. Bulk orders welcome.

George A. is a writer and humorist, living and working for MRPeasy in Scotland