From Bays to Skyscrapers
It is not always about logic
It’s not necessary that every tricky experience in corporate life should give a logical action point. Many times, the only take away is mere knowledge of a potential situation and some workaround options to deal with tight corners. Here is an account of two such incidents I encountered—both throwing up a near-identical predicament with no logically correct answer to address the status quo. And interestingly, the trigger for these incidents emerged from two extremes—first from one of the tiniest startups we have ever partnered with, and second from our largest customer then!
From San Francisco Bay…
Martin Sacks was the CEO of IMSI —one of our first generation customers. IMSI was enormous, Cybage was petite. And like any low-end-of-the-value-chain vendor, I did not have direct access to CEOs of our big customers in those days. My only exposure to Martin was fleeting glimpses behind glass doors that captured his strategic animated discussions.
Then IMSI started going through a very rough patch. As the company started tumbling down, the entrepreneur in Martin lured him into conceiving another startup, Human Concepts , where he decided to leverage Cybage’s offshore services. The project was small; it did not even require any face-to-face meetings to get started. A few months after the start of the project, I undertook my customary quarterly visit to meet up with all customer POCs for management synchronization. Rajesh Moorjani – one of our original coder-cum-manager-cum-CTO type of ‘package deal’ employees—accompanied me on the trip.
One evening of the trip found us hovering at the SFO Dollar Car Rental counter clamoring for our mid-size car. The rental agent informed us that the car we had booked was not available, but he was willing to make up to us with two attractive options—either an ‘economy’ car at a 30% discounted price, or a little pampering with a ‘mustang convertible’ for a bargain add-on price of only US$6 per day! Temptations tilted the balance, and I drove out for my maiden ‘convertible’ experience!
For the next two days, we merrily exploited our unlimited-mileage deal between our business appointments (notwithstanding our failure to open the convertible’s hood due to lack of awareness of the fact that it first required the hand-brakes to be on). Then, in accordance with our practice of optimized time management, when it came to meeting smaller customers, we had lunch with Martin Sacks over the weekend. It is interesting how the aura of a larger-than-life personality suddenly disperses when you interact with the same person—minus his erstwhile position—in an informal attire/setting.
After lunch, I asked Martin to walk over to our car in the parking lot so that I could gift him a Cybage T-shirt as a souvenir. As I shut the car trunk and turned around, I noticed that Martin had a huge grin on his face. Perplexed, I asked him the reason for his amusement. And the silver words came lurching out… “Arun, here is a piece of advice—next time you are visiting a customer, make sure you don’t come driving in a fancy convertible. It will make your customer feel that he is paying for your luxuries”.
So here is a “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” grand finale question: How does one handle an awkward situation like this? Here are your options: a) Never rent a convertible when you are visiting a customer; b) Rent a convertible, but make sure that you don’t let the customer catch a glimpse of it; c) Rent a convertible, but tell him the story about how this was not the plan, it just happened; d) Stop being pretentious, just flaunt your luxury car without worrying about human vanity! Options are tricky enough; unfortunately, they get even murkier to choose from when the person playing this millionaire game himself happens to be a millionaire! Perhaps the choice between above options requires expert advice, so feel free to share your comments.
In the meantime, it is time for a ‘bloggercial’ break…
To be continued…