Hans, knees and whoops-a-daisy

Once upon a time, in a land not unlike our own, there lived an exceptional creature named Hans Wendor, whose brilliance and munificence were to be celebrated way beyond its shores. Not only was Hans an inventor of magical contrivances, he harboured a dream that every child in the realm would have the opportunity to own and play with his wondrous toys.

Hans knew from an early age that his talent was unique and could bring immeasurable joy to boys and girls. What better than to manufacture hundreds of thousands of his clever devices and distribute them around the world? He established a workshop and recruited elves who would assemble the toys in return for lollipops and beer.

When the first example was completed, Hans proudly held it aloft. Turn it on, Herr Wendor, turn it on! one of the elves exclaimed, excitedly jumping up and down. Hans extended his hairy forefinger and prodded the On button. The gizmo hummed and whirred and wriggled about until, suddenly, it lit up with a constellation of different coloured lights, and a beeping noise emanated from its little loudspeaker.

Hans and the elves were absolutely delighted. Hooray! they shouted. Lets see what we can do with it. At this point, Hans began to look perplexed. Do? he asked. How am I supposed to know? Im an inventor, not a doerI dont know how to make them do!

Disconsolate, Hans and the elves sat in a gloomy circle on the workshop floor. They realised that if they, the architects and builders of these gadgets, for which they held so much hope, were unable to do anything with themapart from turn them on and off that isthere was little chance of children enjoying hours of merry and enlightening play with them.

Oh, what have I done? wailed Hans. Ive wasted my massive intellect creating worthless trinkets! Gewgaws! Bric-a-brac! Tat! The elves tried to comfort him. They were worried that if Hans lost faith in his project, they would lose their jobs and be reduced to lollipopless and beerless destitution.

Just when all seemed lost, an ant trotted out from under the skirting and gave the redundant device a kick. As before, it burst into life and the ant said: Cool! With the sort of dexterity that only a multi-limbed insect can exploit, the ant played the buttons on the machine like an orchestras star virtuoso. Hans and his colleagues looked on open-mouthed as the ants activities began to reveal the myriad uses for their product.

Who are you, I mean what are you? asked Hans.

Im a member of the Virtuous Ant Ring. My comrades and I call ourselves VARs. Anyway, whats your plan for these things?

We want to give one to every child, as an educational plaything, answered Hans. But youre the only one able to make them do stuff, and it would take you centuries to prepare them all.

Nonsense! cried the ant. I can drum up an army of fellow VARs who have similar skills to mine. We can prepare these things and deliver them to the children as fast as you guys can make them.

Thus an industry was born. The elves stepped up their output and Hans shipped the units out to the worker ants for preparation and delivery to the children. Everyone was busier than they dreamt possible. However, something was troubling Hans. It turned out to be a tiny, benign, winged being, hovering by his right ear.

Your brainpower is being wasted the tiny, benign, winged being said. You should be applying yourself to developing new ideas. Youre an inventor of thingumajigs, not a... a..., she paused to think. Not a distributor of thingumajigs! Hans realised that she was right. He was squandering his ingenuity. What he needed was someone who could bridge the gap between the workshop and the hundreds of worker ants.

Before long, Hans had recruited three crane-flies, who lifted the products from the workshop and dropped them off at the ants places. As they worked, they sang a mantra: D-I-S-Twe Deal In Solely Trade. It was so catchy that Hans referred to them as his Disties. The service the Disties provided left Hans completely free to focus his little grey cells on newer, shinier, more glittering devices. He still had to deal with the Disties, of course, but there were only three of them compared with the hundreds of worker ants he used to deal with.

However, despite the fact that the crane-flies were efficient, and the worker ants seemed happy to be supplied by them, something was niggling Hans. It turned out to be a tiny, red-horned, winged being, hovering by his left ear.

You want to put your feet up, mate, said the tiny, red-horned, winged being. Get somebody else to deal with those crane-flies. Delegate! In fact I know just the candidateone I created myself.

Hans, who had slid quite comfortably into a less busy role since appointing the crane-flies, rather fancied the idea of putting his feet up some more, and was sufficiently intrigued to agree to interview the prospective manager. In no time at all, he found himself looking at a dapper little man in a smart suit and well-polished shoes.

What were dealing with here is a win-win situation. By putting our ducks in a row we can leverage more blue-sky time and square the circle outside the box with a quid pro quo, yeah? The chap exuded confidence, and although Hans was having difficulty in understanding some of the finer points he was making, the lure of a reclining armchair was too great to resist.

Youre hired, said Hans.

The new manager astonished everyone with his energy. If he wasnt writing long reports and abbreviated memos, he was delivering presentations to elves and crane-flies, and generally rushing around. Hans retreated further into sloth, content that everything was running like clockwork. After what may have been months, or could have been years, he was woken by a knock at his door. A child was standing there, looking hopeful.

Hello, said the child, Is this where I get my thingy?

Hans was flummoxed. Er, thingy? Yes. I mean no. You see, youre an end-user and theres a procedure. He explained to the child how his workshop supplied products to the Disties, the Disties supplied to the VARs, the VARs made the things work, then supplied them to the end-user children.

The manager said I could fetch my thingy direct from the workshop because Ive got my own worker ant to make it work, said the child, somewhat tetchily.

Hans entered the workshop just in time to see a worker ant leaving with a huge consignment of his marvellous devices. In one corner his manager was holding court over a small audience of children. Through the window he could see in the yard outside a throng of children, worker ants and a crane-fly, all arguing and fighting over cartons full of twinkling, whirring machines.

Whats going on? he bellowed.

The most senior of the elves approached. Its your blooming manager, he began. He decided that the route for getting our products to the children should be more flexible, so he supplied anyone who asked. And now the children are sending the things back to us expecting us to make them work. Im sorry, Herr Wendor, but we just cant cope any moreyour mans an absolute nincompoop, a half-wit, an idiot! Now the crane-flies and worker ants are beginning to source machines from alternative workshops. And, as it happens, the fellers and I are moving too. Adieu!

Well, dear reader, you know what they say: the Devil makes a berk for idle Hans. Happy Christmas!


Ralph Donohue is managing director of Paradigm Distribution. Paradigm Distribution offers trade customers the world's best available products for auto ID and data capture applications. More than simply delivering the best products at prices designed to maximise profits for channel partners, the company has earned a reputation for providing unparalleled pre- and post sales support, including access to technical experts to ensure that partners' businesses win orders and fulfil them successfully.

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