No Bureaucracy

The #NoBureaucracy Discount

As of today, I have implemented my own new rule in order to deal with bureaucracy. I call it the #NoBureaucracy discount.

On just a single day, I had to deal with various activities that I can only describe as bureaucracy.

  • A customer in Germany required that I sign a 12-page contract (in the German language) for just one speaking engagement of four hours. I have never needed such contracts to speak at in-company events, therefore I declined.
  • A customer in Norway requires that I copy and send them the receipts of my travel expenses, even though all expenses are listed on my invoice to them. From an accountant’s perspective, asking for both an invoice and receipts makes no sense. Therefore, I resist.
  • A client in the USA requires that I “register” on their supplier system and upload my invoice. I cannot simply email the invoice to them, and they also require that I have a so-called D-U-N-S number. I am trying to resist, but I will probably have to give in.
  • A new client in Bulgaria requires that I provide a bank statement or other official document showing my bank account with my company’s name on it. I told them that my invoice will satisfy those requirements perfectly, and thus I see no need to send them some other document.
  • My client in Romania has asked me to send them an official tax statement which proves that my company pays tax in The Netherlands. In this case, I know that the Romanian government imposes this silly ritual, therefore I will comply, reluctantly.

Bureaucracy is like a box of chocolates. You never know what kind of stupid rules companies will inflict on you the next time you open an email message.

Until now, I have always done my best to resist and complain in such cases. I see it as my responsibility to make organizations aware that they are wasting people’s time. The least I can do is to be as annoying as they are. Even if I cannot skip over the bureaucracy in some cases, pointing out the annoyances at least gives me some satisfaction. Blame it on the famed Dutch openness and frankness.

There is an ethical issue involved as well. Some might say that the clients with stupid bureaucracies are exactly the ones who need my services. It may be the reason why they invite me! Good point. However, one might also say that those who are unable to admit the error of their ways, and who cannot show any kind of flexibility, are hopeless cases anyway, and it would be better to let those companies die faster. Also a good point.

No Bureaucracy (or Maybe Just Less)

As of today, I have implemented my own new rule in order to deal with bureaucracy. I call it the #NoBureaucracy discount. Basically, I raised all my fees by 10% and all clients can get this money back for showing good behavior. Those who do not ask me for contracts, tax records, NDAs, bank statements, procurement forms, visa forms, travel expenses, birth certificates, 90-day payment terms, or any other form of bureaucracy, will enjoy a 10% discount on the entire fee, to be enjoyed with my final invoice.

I like this idea for several reasons.

My future clients will hopefully feel a good incentive to spare me the hassle, and I gladly compensate them for the little effort involved. If they don’t, they will simply pay about 10% more than those who do. In my experience, it is usually government departments and large corporations that cannot shake off the yoke of mindless rules and policies. I consider it fair that those who generate waste are also the ones who pay for it. (This is inspired by my spouse, who is totally into sustainable energy and better environments. The polluter pays!)

Best of all, with this new arrangement, I will feel less annoyed signing useless documents, copying wasteful papers and filling out stupid forms. After all, I will be paid handsomely for it.

Let’s see how this plays out.

photo credit: Evan Blaser, Creative Commons 2.0


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  • Kamil Posiadała

    I’m also using similar scheme. When I am doing something on a side I charge difficult customers a bit more.

  • http://www.improvement-services.nl Erik Philippus

    Hi Jurgen,

    Probably because I’ve just finished a bottle of Cru Brougeois with my wife, you’re posting made me just smile. Nevertheless, I understand you’re point completely, and I admire your creative solution. Indeed: the polluter pays!

  • Pingback: Five Blogs – 4 May 2015 | 5blogs

  • Joss

    This made me smile too, I despise bureaucracy and I love it that you are finding your own solution for it beyond complaining.

  • Robert

    Love the article, really good ideas, but your example of a US client with an invoice vs receipt for travel expenses is completely ridiculous. Ever heard of an audit? An invoice is not the same as a receipt, not to the IRS; business 101. And, while I hate this paper tracking exercise for my engagements too, refusing this to your clientele for their accounting records and possible future audits just silliness.

  • Robert

    Love the article, really good ideas, but your example of a US client with an invoice vs receipt for travel expenses is completely ridiculous. Ever heard of an audit? An invoice is not the same as a receipt, not to the IRS; business 101. And, while I hate this paper tracking exercise for my engagements too, refusing this to your clientele for their accounting records and possible future audits just silliness.

  • Stephen

    An invoice with payment details and actual bank statement with company name are not the same. It’s part of anti money laundering laws that some countries or companies (financial institutions mostly) have to comply with.

    • Jurgen Appelo

      In that case, it counts as bureaucracy.

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