Friday, October 24, 2003

Signature. Handshake. Dinner. Strip Joint
I'm humored when clients I work with want to formalize working relationships by arranging a face to face meeting. It happens rarely, and when it does I tend to hint and suggest that such a meeting is not necessary. The deals tend to be of small significance and I really can't justify the expense of airfare, hotel, and meals for the purpose of closing such accounts. Perhaps it's the "Gen-X" in me, but I'm really not interested in participating in the old-fashioned kabuki dance of wearing the golf shirt, going out for dinner and drinks, telling off-color jokes, belly-laughing, atta-boying, and the like just to secure the deal. To me it seems like a pointless waste of my personal time.

Oddly, the majority of clients who want to formalize relationships in this manner are Indians. My hunch is now that they are significant players in the business world, they want to enjoy some of the perceived trappings of said world. It also brings to mind an interesting anecdote. One summer weekend during college, I was down in Andover, MA visiting a girlfriend. I happened to call home and my dad asked me to do a favor for him. He wanted me to go down to Logan airport and pick up a client of his that was flying in from China. My instructions were to pick up the client, and bring him back to the town where my parents lived and get him checked in at the hotel. My dad figured rather than drive two hours to Logan himself, he'd get me to drive the 30 mins and save him the hassle. So yeah, I went down to Logan and picked this guy up. I even made one of those signs that chauffeurs hold up with names printed on them. On the drive back home we talked about life here and life in China and the conversation was very interesting. However, after a bit he became interested in talking about American women. We pulled in to a highway rest stop (so he could smoke a cigarette) and he had a remark for every woman that walked by. Anyway, we get to the hotel and I helped him with his luggage and went to get him checked into the hotel. It turns out that the person behind the desk was a girl from my high school class. We made small talk and the usual and got this guy checked in and stuff. At this point I consider my mission to be over and I'm ready to head home and call up my friends and see what they are doing. However, this businessman requests that I stay and have dinner with him and that I also introduce him to this girl that I knew from high school. Personally, I am in no mood to do either and I thank him but tell him dinner is impossible. This guy wanted to go drinking and womanizing as such but there were several impossibilities to this as 1) I was perhaps 19 or 20 at the time so no way into the bars, and 2) there was no way I was going to invite this important client of my father's to come hang out with a bunch of drunken college students out in some sandpit, burning wooden pallets while throwing back the 30 pack of Natural Light. It just was not going to happen. So I bid goodbye and got out of there quick. It made me think though, this guy has a wife and kids at home and yet out on business its an excuse to go nuts and forget about them. Odd. I wonder how The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit translates into Mandarin?

I just think it interesting the perpetuation of some behaviors within the world of business. The boys at Enron sure knew how to party. For me, I just want the whole enterprise distilled to its most crucial, salient points. You want product we have? Okay, here is the price. Good? Great, How do you want to buy? Not good? Okay, lets negotiate. Sure this sound like clerking out at Wal-Mart, but the beauty of it is little time is wasted, jargon is discarded, extraneous business formality, puffery, and fluff is jettisoned, and money is made tidily, efficiently, and with less hassle. I've got other shit to do. Next!


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