"Do you think it's wise to have consultants running our IT department?" Holger asked. It was an honest question, worded as diplomatically as possible. Holger's company had more consultants on hand than actual IT staff.
"Holger, these folks are experts," his manager replied. "It isn't cost effective to hire-on this level of expertise full time. We may pay a little more up front, but when we don't need the consultants anymore, we can hand it off to our internal people."
Holger left that discussion pretty sure he had just been called incompetent. Maybe I should ask the consultants if they're hiring, Holger wondered to himself, thinking of the big money they pulled down relative to his salary. The thought was still percolating in his head when he sat down with the two newest consultants, Zack and Jack for their status meeting.
Holger hooked his laptop up to the projector and ran through a few recent changes in the configuration database, discussed the implications, and then moved onto other topics. He stopped paying attention to the computer, and it eventually dropped to its screensaver. Moments later, there was some snickering from Zack.
"Having some computer trouble?" Jack asked, mockery in his tone.
Holger glanced at the projection screen and saw that his screensaver was was running merrily. It merrily painted a BSOD to the screen, with plausible driver dumps, merrily churned the disk a little, like it was saving the contents of RAM, and merrily ran through a simulated reboot sequence. After which, the process repeated itself, merrily. "Oh," Holger said, "that happens sometimes. I've got it under control. No worries."
"Yeah, whatever," Jack said. The meeting continued.
The product of the meeting, like too many other meetings with consultants, resulted in the need for another meeting. "Let's see what my calendar looks like," Holger said. He grabbed the mouse, killed the screensaver, and called up his email client.
Zack gasped. "How did you do that?" Jack marveled.
"Oh, that?" Holger said. With his best deadpan, he said, "I got tired of waiting for the reboots to complete. I put together a tool that does an automatic fix and restart, letting me just continue right from where I left off."
Holger waited a beat. After a moment, he was certain that these consultants would realize he was pulling their leg.
Zack was up in a flash and quietly closed the door. Jack leaned across the table towards Holger and asked, "Did you make that on company time? And does anyone here know if you did? Because before we go back into that hallway, I want to buy this off of you."
"You don't have that kind of cash," Holger said.
"No, but I can put it on the expense account and then pay it off when I get VC funding," Jack said.
Holger spent the next fifteen minutes declining their offers to buy his tool. In the process, he discovered that the consultants had creative and unethical ideas about how to quickly get funding, and that one of them had a trophy wife that would do anything for the kinds of profits they were talking about. "And I do mean anything," Zack said with a leer.
Finally, Holger "confessed". "Look, you guys are generous and all, but I've already signed a contract with another company. Even if you could beat their offer, I can't break a contract."
"Sure you can!"
Holger left the meeting without any interest in finding out if their company had any openings.