Stale-mate or Work-in-progress?

The work has not been going right for me. I sense a lull in flow. The passion with which I went about eliciting enquiries seems to have subsided now, mainly due to lack of any major success so far. Apart from the savoury company which bought a small volume and a trader in Hyderabad who had ordered a truck load, there was no other note-worthy success.

Some people say that the work is a process and not an end. Do I place much emphasis on visible results and not simply focus on the process? This could be the case.

My clinging to gain instant recognition is hard to go by. I do not seem to resist the idea of recognition and crave it unceasingly. If I do not get, I strive for it so badly that I tend to unbalance the process itself as it unfolds.

Do I see a pattern here on what happened in my earlier job? During my first six months there, my work was noticed very much. A sizeable first order brought in euphoria. And then much inquiries followed. Few foreign trips materialized. But after that, the enthusiasm died down when none of the enquiries fructified. Few heartburn of colleagues ensured that my job allocation got altered unreasonably. Then I started losing momentum. The pattern is obvious.

What could I have done better in my earlier organisation?

I should not have lost momentum at my lack of success. I should not have viewed my senior as a friend and should not have started venting my frustrations. I should have maintained a healthy distance with him. I should not have shown excessive competitiveness with my colleague. I should have regularly cleansed my jealous emotions that arose on seeing the colleague booking more business. I should not have carried the so-called sense of superiority in me with regard to the colleague. I should have refrained from criticizing the colleague openly. Instead of focusing exclusively on results, I should have focused on learning and observation.

Does the past give any clues about what should I do?

– The start is usually good. So I am a good beginner. But I seem to be having troubles finishing. So I give up and start looking for change. The change is not helping me at all, as the patterns re-emerge. (Analysing more deeply, even the notion that I am not able to finish may not be true….in my previous organization, I had got a very major deal with huge profitability just a few days before being relieved..)

– I have this tendency to look for friendships inside the organization. Some times in Bosses, Sometime in the colleagues. I seem to be searching for friends in a fiercely competitive place called – Organisation. When I do not find a friend in Boss or in the colleagues, I view the environment as harsh.

– I tend to colour the events with a lot of emotions. So my view, at times, are not balanced. I always tend to wear my emotions in my sleeve. This ruffles others who do not understand my point of view. I do not understand the simple fact that everyone cannot and will not understand my view.

– In the process, I always set my self very high standards. I am not able to accept my own short-comings and be able to live with it. If I am good to myself, If I am moderate in my expectations, then I will be able to accept others – be it the Boss which has his faults, be it the colleagues who are competing. Only in accepting the things and people as they are, lies the mechanics of improving whatever one thinks as imperfect.


Am I really feeling the lull now? Why am I feeling it?

Let me list out the business opportunities which have brought me to a stand-still at this point of time. May be, listing them out would make me look at them objectively thereby help me gaining different perspective with which those opportunities can be approached at.

– The Canadian customer pushing goal-posts every time I think he is about to finalize. First it was on pricing, now on the packaging format…… is he chasing a real business opportunity? If it is a real and present opportunity, why is he not clear about two main components – price and packing?

– The savoury preparations company in Bangalore keeps asking for two new products. The Purchase Head was chasing me for a while on phone but when I sent him the product images for his confirmation, he became silent. When I called him to remind him on this, again he sounded interested. But no communications later on. Did we take a long time in responding to his needs? Has he in the meanwhile started working with a different supplier?

– The Pizza chain agreed to test our second sample (after our first sample was approved and our price quote was considered ridiculously expensive! – ). But the rejected the second sample as unusable. Our QA manager also agreed with their observations without any counter-arguments. So I presume type B samples may have been really bad.

– The fast food chain in Mumbai still has not sent us the images of their current raw materials for our technical team to check. Our guys are also equally belligerent that they will not make samples unless they receive the product images from the client.

– The Ketch-up and Sauces brand has taken unusually long time in evaluating our samples. The needed improvements in our sample were communicated after a long wait and many phone calls. The concerned staff in that company are always traveling. So when I call them – they say “X is in Patna today, Y is in Kochi, Z is returning from Cuttack tomorrow.”…This sounds very strange because the people I follow-up with are mostly R&D personnel. When the guys are always on the move, when will they work?

– The importer in Japan has passed on our samples to his client, waiting for feedback. In this case, no stale-mate yet.

– The flavour-extracting company had asked for our standard specifications of a particular product. The technical head of theirs and our QA manager are having difference of opinion over most permitted Total Plate Counts (a microbiological measure ) in the product. They both are tired with their arguments and stopped exchanging emails. The project has completely come to a stand-still.

– Two inquiries received from Italy and Turkey are yet to be replied to, as I am waiting indefinitely for pricing from the factory.

– The American Retail sourcing company have cancelled their agreed visit to our plant twice and am still waiting for them communicating a new date.

– Another US Client visited the plant and was impressed about it. Bur did not accept our quotations though. Not sure what they have in mind about working with us. If they show some signs, then we can walk the extra mile…they have been aloof and indifferent.

Hmm…not bad…I have been pursuing many leads…. why should they be viewed as stale-mates? Shouldn’I consider them as work-in-progress?

Calm mind, Clear Understanding, Not giving-up mentally, Keeping patience, Clear focus……what more do I need to keep going?……persistence against odds….actually, nothing is at stake….just to keep on working…that’s all…

The Reality Show

 The two days that I spent in the factory have revealed few more things of which I was not aware so far. The finance manager who is one of the cartel member is a complex personality. I have noticed his closeness to CEO. CEO considers him his man in the factory. I saw his different side this time.

On the first day evening, he joined us for dinner. CEO was at his usual self uttering stupidity after stupidity in the name of humour. When we went to the restaurant, we found one corner and was sitting there. While the server was giving us the drinks, the CEO had a glimpse of a woman on the opposite corner holding a beer glass in her hands. “wow..the lady with a drinks” -The CEO muttered and then said to us “I think we are sitting in a wrong corner…might feel suffocated soon…let us shift places”. We moved over to adjacent table where “the lady with the drink” was sitting.

Strange are the ways of CEO’s thinking. Just because the lady consumes Beer or alcoholic drinks, she is looked at as glamour woman. The poor lady with the Drink had come with a small boy who would not be older than ten years. I did hear the lady uttering some rhyme to this boy while the CEO was continuing his stupid talks with the finance manager.

The talks slowly got diverted to official matters. The Finance Manager started bitching about the VP and then about B himself. He kept harping on the continued depreciation of Euro these days. Most of the volume of exports that we do are denominated in Euros. The prolonged depreciation has been hitting our bottom line. While the export contracts are done on an annual basis with a fixed price, the currency depreciation that may happen later will cut the price realisations.

While the currency management is a matter of financial department, our finance manager kept blaming B for not re-negotiating the contracts with the customers and get price increases.

CEO : “B was telling me that he has managed 1 euro increase from one of the customers…is it not helping us?”

FM :”no sir, it is not so. It was earlier a FOB shipment, now it is changed to Cost and Freight terms with some nominal increase. whatever increase we got will be nullified by the marine freight we would be paying”

CEO : “is it? I did not know this. Raise this topic in tomorrow’s meeting…I shalk ask B for explanations”

The above conversation was a complete surprise to me. I always had thought that the Cartel is closely knit. It seemed there are ambitions and competition among the Cartel also. In my view, Finance Manager is just cribbing about B and the customers without doing anything using financial instruments such as Forward Contracts.

I do know that B has been giving monthly shipping schedules to the finance department for planning cash flows.  Finance Manager does not seem to be interested in managing currency risks using hedging instruments, but more interested in blaming B.


Next day, when I reached the factory, I entered into B’s chamber. We discussed about sales related matters for a while. Thereafter, B asked me about the dinner yesterday. Usually B does not speak these topics. I said to him that the Finance manager (Let us call him FM for convenience) joined us for the dinner. He said he was aware. I wondered aloud how.

B : “FM himself came to me this morning and told me about it”

me : …

B : “did he complain to CEO about the price increase that I got with Danish customer?”

me : “he did….but how did you know”

B : “he came and told me about it”

me : “that’s strange….but why did he back-bite first with CEO and then inform to you as well?”

B : “because he knows very well that I would anyway come to know about his complaining…he is scared, that’s why he informed me in advance”

Then B explained about the formula of price increase he got. Actually B did the right thing and acted like a shrewd commercial guy. The customer wanted to convert the FOB delivery terms to CFR (Cost and freight). At that time, B had used the pretext of higher logistics cost to get a price increase which is more than the real freight component itself.


In the meeting, FM raised the issue as planned. CEO uttered irrelevancies and then asked for explanation. B was ready for it and he had carried the workings and correspondence copies with him for the meeting. Appropriate explanations were exchanged. Every one was satisfied.

The observer in me had a hearty laugh. what is this called?  A well-orchestrated and pre-scripted meeting…just like the popular reality shows!

Words and Silences

One day, it was decided that I and CEO would travel to the factory and interact with the staff there for a couple of days. I was not clear why I should be visiting the factory. I did not particularly ask the question and just decided to go with him.

On the way to the factory, CEO was on a very preachy mood and started emphasising the need to stay cool irrespective of any situation. He also said keeping one’s emotions under control is vital for success. To me, it looked as if his tone concealed more than it wanted to show. Many times, I have noticed he switches into preaching mood either when he wants to demonstrate his domination on the listener or when he wants subtly to push the listener to agree to something.

On reaching the factory, the first meeting went off without any incident. I did notice that VP was avoiding eye contact with me. He did not address me even once during the conversation. Then CEO suddenly addressed B and asked him if he could use his usual charm demeanour and talk so that these two guys (indicating me and VP) become friends. This was not expected.

There was an air uncomfortability inside the chamber. When CEO exited the chamber, it seemed B did not know how to start the conversation. poor B, what does he have to do with VP’s hate towards me? I think it was a dumb move by CEO. Both I and VP was taken by surprise by this. I also did know for a while how to handle the situation in which I was thrown in through the designs of CEO. is he trying to prove that he is a master strategist? or is he hinting at me to sort of my issues with VP myself? what happened to his repeated requests earlier to find some replacement for VP? has his efforts to get rid of VP have met with the resistance of the Director?

I grinned and started talking to VP – “we had no major incidents in our interaction so far, except for the heated argument we had over the fast food client (“The Rough Weather”). Our differences of opinion may have sparked emotions in both of us. Then when you mentioned something which I thought was unparliamentary, I also retorted back. If you think I had insulted you or something, then let me apologise unconditionally. I hold you in respect for you are elder to me and also my senior in this company. what more I can say….”

VP’s response was rather muted and evasive. Instead of being authentic, he went into avoidance mode. He asked irrelevant questions – “are you not getting answers to all your emails from the factory managers? are you not getting all the samples you are requesting?….I really do not know whats happening here”…he was incohesive…was keeping his face rather stiff…. The conversation was uncomfortable. In order to put this to an end, I made an overture….”come on sir, let us shake hands”…..I extended my hand to him…but he did not give his hands. He said  “I cannot shake hands with you”. Lamely, I pulled back my hand. then the uneasy silence continued for a few minutes….then I stood up, went towards the sofa kept for visitors and sat on it. I took out my laptop from my bag and tried to check my mails. Wi-Fi was not connecting.

Then VP asked “what is your agenda for coming here?”. I shook my head to indicate I do not know. He sarcastically said “so you have come without an agenda”. I did not respond back.


The next day, the CEO chaired a meeting consisting of all Factory departmental heads. When the meeting took up things that I was working on, I was asked to list the issues I am facing. I complained about high cost structure which is not enabling me to get some breakthroughs. Then the meeting discussed the individual product costings and VP took the lead. In the meeting, it was decided that I should try to finalize some trial businesses at low prices just to get started on my side of things. It was not that I agreed everything with what the team members in the meeting were saying. Mostly I kept quiet.

Then when I asked if I can send out the quotes now itself, one by one conditionality got added : (1) The pricing will be valid only for three days. Any orders confirmed within three days will be executed at these “low” prices. (2) The “trial” business has to be for minimum order of two container loads each (3) a margin of at least 5-8% will have to be added to the suggested low “prices”.

After the meeting, CEO was proudly asking me in private – “see how VP has changed his attitude and co-operating by agreeing for low prices” I nodded my head fakely.

While I was typing out the quotations to the target customers, my mind was asking me – “am I getting into the web spinned by the VP? is he challenging me silently that I wont be able to finalize even if we cut the prices drastically?….what if there was no results after this “historic agreement” to work at the realistic low-level pricing?…….”

Then there is over-powering voice within me which sounded saner than the logical and suspecting mind – “If no desired results come about, even if VP thinks he has defeated you, how does it matter? are you here to prove anything to anyone? If you think you are thrust in an unwanted power struggle between VP and CEO, what can you do about it? If CEO tries to show off to people in the factory that you are his chum…so be it. You were never his chum. You are neither with CEO nor with VP. You are pursuing your own path and are on your journey. Just stay in the process as long as you are here. Process is about doing what you think is right. Getting the results is not your responsibility”

While the saner voice was speaking to me inside, my phone rang – A customer from Hyderabad was on the line. He had confirmed a truck load of goods a week back. I had not received the agreed 25% advance. He was apologetic and said he had finally remitted the funds now. He was asking me to check with our bankers if the funds had hit us.

On the same day evening, I received a mail from a  Canadian client asking if they can confirm a business at prices 10% below our quoted price. 10% was only a negotiation margin which I had kept. I knew what my reply is going to be.

The Commas without Fullstops

The CEO is very inventive on how to defer avoiding taking any decisions.  I have been seeing  this from the beginning itself. Of late, his indecisiveness has reached peak proportions.

On one particular deal, he tested my endurance so much by being unreasonably rigid about extending a small credit terms to a good customer. I was convinced that this customer is credit-worthy.

When I had almost given up on the deal, the customer came down a bit and offered to pay on delivery of goods. It was late in the night when customer spoke to me. So I decided to email about it to CEO.

Next day morning, CEO called me to his chamber promptly. I thought he would be happy with the progress made with this particular client. But he said this was not acceptable and now wanted 100% pre-payment before the goods leave the factory. Inside me, there is upsurge of anger and was about to erupt outside as words any time.  Luckily, his phone rang at that time.  As he was about to pick that phone up, he said I will call you later. I came out quickly. I must thank the phone call, lest I would have really brought out the anger outside.  Althought I did not let out the anger, the anger persisted inside and I was able to sense the losing of energy from inside.

After a couple of hours, he again called me to his chamber. This time, he wanted to discuss the language of my email which I sent to him the previous night.  I found it really silly when he mentioned some fullstop, comma errors in my English.

He wondered aloud – “While emailing is convenient, the quality of the correspondence goes down. In a speed, we just type whatever that comes to mind. We do not think and write. In my younger days, I used to dictate the letter to our secretaries, then we will read the draft, make more changes after careful thought and then only the letter will be finalized. In this SMS era, there is hardly any quality in communications”.

While he was about continue his intellectual musings further, my phone rang. I excused myself and came out to talk on phone. I did not go back to his chamber later. Phones are a boon!