One of my clients is moving office next week. The place they're moving to used to be the local public health laboratory (think "secondary school chemistry lab" and you'll have the right picture - benches, gas taps, porcelain sinks, and so on) so there was more than a little work to do to make it into a travel company's office.
What's struck me is the sheer efficiency of a number of the trades. I know I perhaps shouldn't be surprised when people do a good job, but frankly I am - mainly because of the number of times over the years I've had contractors who've turned up, wearing ten-gallon hats, on horses, if you see what I mean.
First is John the electrician (from Esau, a Chester company). This is a bloke who quietly gets on with it, who lets you know BEFORE killing the circuit you're using to test the new kit you're trying to install, and who overhears you wondering aloud: "Wonder when these sockets will go live", sticks his head around the door, and says: "Oh, I can do that next if you need it".
Next is the Air-Con Guy. He's "the air-con guy" because he came into the server room, apologised for getting under my feet, politely asked if I minded moving my gear a couple of feet so he could get his ladder in, plumbed in the air-con unit, tested it, explained how to use the remote, and went away - but completely failed to tell me his name or the name of his employer. Turns out that he's a bit of a John - my client had asked him whether there was any chance of getting the server room air-con on today, and he'd said: "Well, I'll do it next if you like".
Finally we have Cat Five Phil. Now, I've never met Cat Five Phil, so I certainly don't know who he works for (if anyone wants to know, email me and I'll find out). This is because once I'd discussed with the client where we needed network outlets, and they discussed it with him, he got on and put in the cabling, the outlets and the patch boards. Then he tested and certified it. Then he went away. Okay, he was a teeny bit above what I was expecting, price-wise, but (a) he was recommended to us by a company that thinks he's good; and (b) he was a zero-maintenance contractor.
Then we have BT. "We'll be there on the 20th to commission your three analogue lines, two ADSLs and your ISDN30", they told us. And you know what? They were! By the end of the 20th, the analogue and ADSLs were in, and the ISDN30 nearly worked (they came back the next day, found the problem, and finished it off). And although I could only get one of the ADSLs to work reliably, some time spent on the phone to BT (more about that in a future blog entry) got the lights flashing on that score too.
Isn't life grand when the people you're relying on do such a good job?
Oh, I must just mention the other side of the coin. This wasn't a tradesman, but a visitor. He somehow found his way to where I was, and asked me harshly: "Where's the lab"? This kind-of caught me out, as the building hasn't been a lab for some months. "Sorry mate, I haven't a clue", I responded, "I've only ever known this place as my client's new office, and he bought it something like three months ago". Our friend wasn't overly impressed, and off he went on a bit of a rant that he had an appointment and nobody had told him they'd moved. The thing is, I seemed to be the target of his rant - at the end of it I actually felt a bit guilty for not having a microscope to hand and/or a degree in microbiology.
So just in case anyone reading this wants to bring me, say, a dodgy-looking chicken for salmonella analysis: it's not my problem, you need to go to Birkenhead.