Day 31 – The events on XYZ imbroglio

Let us return to XYZ Corp. Their proposal still remained indisposed – to visit the factory first and then to decide if the business can be done with us or not. My constant efforts to make either VP or CEO to take a decision on the matter were not fruitful.

XYZ’s buying representative based in a small town in Gujarat in the meanwhile started showing signs of impatience. I realized during one of my conversations that he finds our price extremely attractive and is keen to finalize. Being a buyer’s representative (who is paid only a nominal service charge by XYZ), he does not get fixed pay or perks. So he made an overt (unreasonable! in my opinion) demand that he would like to be reimbursed for air-fare to and fro the nearest city close to our factory. The customers do want to be unduly pampered even before they start the business relationship. Would I do that?

His demand helped me to a large extent to cover up the indecisiveness within my company on their proposed visit. I used euphemisms such as company policy, CRM procedures etc and said this needs to be discussed with the Divisional Director. Conveniently, I made the director disappear to an unknown European destination during the course of my phone call with XYZ rep and told him that I would have to discuss the request with him on his return. Actually the Director was very much in the office, happily sipping the bitter tea in his cosy chamber.

At last, the VP budged suddenly, mailing me that we can ask XYZ to come to the factory. What could have prompted the VP to be positive on XYZ now? I got the answer in the afternoon while being a witness to a phone conversation. This happened during a tête-à-tête with CEO and Director. Both of them were on speaker phone talking to VP. It appears that MNO are very upset that only 30% of the contracted volume was produced by us. They now threaten to cancel the contract (which by the way has a fine-printed clause that at least 50% of the volume should be produced, if not MNO has the right not to lift any quantities….wow…big companies!).

By evening, XYZ rep called. His boss in USA had instructed him to cover as much material as possible quickly, due to the big shortage of the product in the market. So the rep wanted to make a dash to the factory on his expense now.

It was almost as if I made no effort in all these. Things change constantly. Some times to our advantage and sometimes otherwise. But situations change for sure.

Day 22 – CEO’s war and love

While I was contemplating on what can be done to clear the stocks as was asked to by VP, he was very prompt to send me a reminder early this morning– “any developments? Pl inform asap.” I replied nonchalantly to VP – “No developments so far. Shall inform you as and when things develop”.

Is he trying to push me to a corner? What are the benefits for him to be nasty with me?

I always sensed that there is cold war between CEO and VP. While both do not know what each of their role is, they want to finish off each other for unknown reasons.

Had a casual chat with Ms.H who is the secretary for the CEO.  She narrated what happened a few days back.  The CEO had asked one of the HR assistants to find a suitable candidate to replace the VP. CEO naïvely believed that the petite HR assistant will find the candidate and come to him directly without discussing anything with her own boss. But the girl directly went to HR head and presented the papers. HR head as per the HR procedure sent the paper to the Divisional Director (with whom I had tea earlier!). The Director had no clue about why replacement is being sought for VP and asked the CEO – “what is happening?” who must have felt embarrassed and muttered sorry. CEO then vented out all his anger on the HR assistant and tore up the papers.

The HR assistant is a dear friend of M, the girl who does export documentation in the division. She must have narrated the episode to M, who has a few friends in the factory. We can safely guess that this must have reached VP’s ears.

While telling the above, H suddenly showed her mobile phone to me. I initially thought that  she is showing off her newly bought phone. She asked me to go to the messages folders and read them. I was hesitating. She herself opened the folder and made me read the messages. Shockingly, her mobile is full of lewd SMSes from CEO; some of them were indeed in bad taste!

She did complain about this to one of the HR managers, who himself got sacked in the meanwhile for harassing a female receptionist with suggestive email messages and salacious email forwards. So H is still contemplating whom to complain and take this further.

She did hint CEO that she would complain about it to Chairman. But he did not seem to be perturbed. In retaliation to her threat, he started dominating her even more by finding fault with her for nothing and shouting at her in front of others for feeble reasons.

H in the meanwhile managed to find some poise and was getting on with him. His SMS have not stopped yet though. When I asked her how long can she bear with this, she grinned and said that she has to bear it until she gets a better job.

Day 21 – Email wars.

XYZ corp issue will have to wait for a while, as I would like to see how the events unfold eventually.

I started focusing seriously on work. To my delight, the potential customers showed interest in our company. In a matter of few days, more than 10 purchase enquiries piled up.

Now the question is who will be my sales support. The complete sales support framework is missing. How do I get started?

One of my ex-bosses used to say there is a power in the written word. He always used to suggest that if guys do not respond well over phone, then emails and letters work like magic.

Started mailing to practically everyone in the company – VP, Mr.B, Production, QA, Supply chain. All mails copied to CEO as well. While I rattled out emails busily, no replies were forthcoming.

It is in my nature to lose patience quickly. But this time I decided not to give-in. So I decided to reach out to B (the sales colleague who is based in the factory) and seek his assistance. On day 19, I called him up more than twenty times on phone. Not even once the phone was answered. At around 6.30 pm, B called me back apologizing profusely for not being in a position to call back earlier. I asked him if he was tied up with some important work. He said whole day VP kept him busy for nothing. On day 20, I did not contact him much and restricted the calls to only thrice. No reply as usual. But this time he was really nice and he emailed to say that he will reply on pricing etc on day 21.

Today, I anticipate costings, specifications, replies on technical clarification sought by customers, etc.

At around 3 pm, one by one, the mails started pouring in – from B as well as from VP.

“We have unsold stocks of 700 tonnes (produced in 2007) which need to be cleared off. Can you please do the needful?”

“We had produced some stocks for customer 123, and he did not lift it yet even after 1 year. The order got cancelled last week. Do you have any buyers for it?”

“We have a contract to buy 600 tonnes raw material from a producer by the end of next week. Can you find customers for the end product in next two days”

Emails were coming in at good speed. I mailed them back asking replies for my customer enquiries. I got out of office messages from both.

What is the message being conveyed here? That Do not expect replies and support for your new sales initiatives? Or do not go so fast and we are not ready yet? Or is it B’s insecurity showing up? If it is B’s insecurity, why is VP backing him up?…hmm… too many questions to ponder on!  Food-for-thought ? or sure-fire way to lose motivation?

Day 16

Yesterday I could not reach the VP with whom I was to consult the stalemate over whether to allow XYZ corp to visit the factory or not. I spoke to him today.

him –         yeah CEO told me that you will call me.

me –         XYZ corp wants to see the factory and if satisfied will confirm 50 tonnes business.

him –         Which XYZ Corp?

me –         The one for whom you advised me that we would be offering some material, since MNO Corp are delaying the call-offs.

him –         Oh..yeah. but remember MNO Corp is a reputed and large company. We should not be upsetting them.

me –         Absolutely. But what do I tell XYZ Corp who has already shown interest on  50 tonnes that we offered?

him –         You confirm that. What is the issue?

me –         They would like to see the factory. I discussed with CEO on it and he said that I should speak to you.

him –         I now remember. That’s not possible.

me –         Why not?

him –         The customer will come here and we have to make them stay in the Hotel. There will be expenses.

me –         True. Pls remember the value of the order is Rs 2.5 million. Good profitability. No headaches. They will send their own truck to the factory for picking the goods.

him –         Do you know how expensive the Hotel Tariffs are nowadays?

me –         OK. I will tell them we cannot entertain the factory visit. They either confirm the order without conditions or we are not selling to them.

him –         You cannot take such a rigid view when doing Sales. One has to be flexible.

me –          ??

him –         You have to be methodical when handling such customers. That’s what I did when finalizing MNO Corp deal. There was no glitch. Done deal.

me –          ??

him –         See we have produced 150 tonnes already.

me –         But we took order for 500 tonnes.

him –         It happens in processing industry. When the raw material is short, what can we do?

me –         What about delaying the call offs?

him –         It happens in business and we have to accommodate customers sometime. Remember, we get our salary because of customers. We should never forget that.

me –     Well said. What do I tell XYZ Corp now?

him –     Why don’t you discuss these matters with the CEO to whom you are directly reporting?

I could not get any decision from either of the two big-wigs. I should think of a strategy to get this business going. Any ideas?

Day 15

Excerpts from a phone conversation

–         Saw the mail from XYZ corp. How much volume are they talking?

–         They are ready to lift 50 tonnes at our price, subject ofcourse to approval of the factory. They would like to visit us.

–         Hmmm…no issues…but we do not want to be taken for a ride!

–         I’m not sure I follow, how can we be taken for a ride in this?

–         It has happened in the past, where the customers have visited us, but never bought anything after they left.

–         That means they did not approve our facilities.

–         Remember that you have to have eye in your head while talking to me (What is the meaning of this expression? I have never heard it before)

–         Hmmmm

–         Are you clear?

–         Should I tell the customer that they cannot visit us and they have to buy without seeing the factory?

–         Listen…you are not allowing me to talk.

–          ??

–        There is no harm in having them visit the factory. But we should make sure they buy good volumes.

–        As I said earlier, this customer buys in excess of 2000 tonnes from the industry. The list of items and quantity they buy is already with us which I have shared with you. If you want, I can ask them to send an email confirming all the items they are interested to procure from us.

–….dont do that….we may not be in a position to do all the items they buy.

–     then what should I tell them?

–     See I have no issues in talking to them…but 50 tonnes is nothing. MNO corp wanted 3000 tonnes, we said we can give only 500 tonnes.

–     Ok, then let me tell them they can’t see the factory and 50 tonnes is too less.

–     no. You are hurrying again. I have no issue with 50 tonnes….but the price they give is less….see we have negotiated so well with MNO corp and got a good rate.

–     I have quoted Rs 5 per kilo more than that, sir.

–     yeah yeah….tell them 50 tonnes is too less.

–     But I understand that we will not be able to produce the full qty of what we agreed with MNO, this 50 tonnes we have offered only because XYZ is ready to pay better price….

–      is it?  We should be talking to big guys.

–      XYZ is the largest wholesaler with national distribution in USA. You can check about them in the market. You will know.

–      Yeah I know…I know them very well….They are based in London. I know.

–       No sir, they are in New York.

–       Yeah yeah you are right.

–       I dont understand why they want to visit the factory. All these buyers are silly. They waste our time and energy.

–       Let me tell them then we are not interested.

–  You are hurrying…..I have no issue….am I making myself clear (Note : all his favourite phrases! He has uttered them in one go!)

–          ??

– Do one thing! Talk to VP and then let me know what he says. I am about to board the flight. I am headed to Bangalore for a lunch with Jt.Secretary.

I then dialed the factory to talk to VP.  The operator told me that he has gone to attend a “mundan” ceremony of one of the staffs’ son. It took sometime to collect my thoughts. What should be the line of action now?

I am not hurrying. I have no issue. It is clear that I am going to continue reading the e-Book that I was reading earlier (before I received the call from the CEO!).

Day Six

At last, I could meet up with the man I dreaded about very much – the colleague who is handling the existing customers, basing himself in the factory. Let us call him B for identification. B did not have two horns as I thought. No, not even long teeth, protruding the lips…or black face!….he looks normal…having a country charm about him. Shook hands with him, and he did not utter a single word…just smile that’s all….he seems to be a man of few words…

The Vice President was also there. This time he spoke animatedly, unlike in the first meeting when he sounded very reserved.

CEO was mentioning earlier that I will get a chance to say hello to the visiting customer from Europe. Like all other things, this time also he did not surprise me. I was neither called for the meeting and I did not know when did the visitor come, whom all did he meet with and what were discussed.

By 1 pm I was brooding if I should exit the cabin for going to lunch or not. I was hesitating because they might call me over the intercom. While I was being indecisive, suddenly the Vice President entered the room…saying goodbye. He informed that they are all going for lunch with the visitor. Now I too, could have mine at peace, without the nagging worry of being called while out on lunch.

I like this company…no pretensions…no intellectual talks…what you guess is what you get…I did not expect to be called and it happened exactly.

Day Four

Two things influenced me today – a factory and a mobile phone. One stimulated me positively and the other negatively. Let me start with the negative (So that I end on a positive note).

The Mobile phone issue continued today too. I went and asked the accountant-cum-finance manager-cum-administration manager, of our division if the CEO has discussed any thing about my mobile phone. The guy sincerely must have spoken to the CEO. Hesitantly, he came back to tell that the company can reimburse only up to Rs 5000 for a mobile phone. Welcome to the world of measured magnanimity! May be, it is a wise thought not to allocate big budget for an ordinary instrument of daily use. But I should not venture out  any where near colleges and educational institutions and compare my phone with the ones those of students loitering there.

Visited a flexible packaging factory with a colleague. It is a large factory…having well integrated facilities – art work designing, cylinder making, cylinder proof making, PET printing, pasting with metallised polyester or any other material, Poly extrusion, Pouching, Zip-pouching…..In one of the halls I saw more than 12 units of multi-colour PET printing machines working and churning out various types of PET Films of various well-known brands. It was majestic.The rhythmic sounds produced by various pouch forming machines working at the same time was mellifluous.

I guess the positive spirit may have nullified the negative mood. I was feeling neutral on my return from the factory visit. So neutral that, not doing any further official work did not bother me…No I did do one official work…that of attending to a call from the CEO over intercom, asking for some superfluous information and followed by vague instructions. I am not able to elaborate what he did tell me…because I do not remember it now.

Day Three

The day had some pre-decided agendas. On arrival, the CEO himself called. Was introduced to The Director responsible for the division I am working for. It was a courtesy call and pleasantries were exchanged. Was offered tea and I added very less milk to it, so had to drink a dark brown tea. Did not finish the cup when we left the Director’s cabin.

The meeting with the CEO had no surprises as expected. As usual, he never comes to the point straight. Despite my conscious effort not to judge him, I failed. He is not conceptually sound, and is not having any strategic approach. His persuasive talk in dissuading me not to interfere in the factory based sales manager’s work did not interest me much. I just put on a mask and refused to react to anything. He continued to irritate me when he tried to suggest that no new mobile phone will be given to me. I reiterated somewhat nicely (concealing my irritation) that I am expecting a black berry phone.  This prompted him to erupt like a volcano; ridiculous, illogical, vague and diversionary arguments flowed out. I had neither inclination nor passion to reply him back, so just came out of the room.

The laptop was finally released to me. As expected, it was a used machine. The previous user must have shown all his pent-up frustrations on the poor laptop….. the edges had become completely dis-coloured and the alphabet V was missing. N and F are to be pressed with lot of passion. The battery has attained old age and gets depleted of its energy in no time. Interestingly, like the laptop, the software used are also a bit stale….still using IE version 6! Fortunate that software does not have a shelf life.

The meeting with the stockist was ok. The father and son-duo that I met with came across as nice and pleasing guys.

“Delusion arises from Anger” says the Bhagavad Gita. Good that I remember it throughout the day today, otherwise I would have lost my cool and shown my anger on the laptop, like my predecessor…