Mexican Delight

A couple of months back; I had contacted a prospective Mexican customer. The customer showed interest in some of our products. After initial exchange of information, there was no much progress. Then one day, the customer requested for certain product samples to be couriered to their Brazilian subsidiary. After we had couriered the samples, the customer wrote one day that their General Manager is intending to pay a visit to our factory in March.

This development made CEO get overly excited. I noticed his excitement silently. This was bothering me also to some extent. When the customer was planning his itinerary, they sought our suggestions through emails. The CEO was chipping in with needless comments and ideas to me on how I should plan their visit, their movment from office to factory and dinners. On one occasion, when I suggested that the customer should catch an early morning flight to the city where our factory is situated, CEO protested and then suggested something which in my opinion was not very safe.

He said that the customer needs to be driven by road to the factory. The factory is located in about 6-7 hours drive from our office. With foreign visitors, that too on their first visit to India, it is always better to make them travel by plane. This will be quicker, safe and comfortable. That’s my view. When I aired it, the CEO needlessly became angry – “don’t talk like Stupid!” In a normal and formal conversation, this was unnecessary and insulting. I replied “please mind your language”. He kept his phone down abruptly.

Next day when I met him in the office, I got the feeling that he was not comfortable to face me. He did not mention anything on heated exchange of words the previous day.

His angry comment may have been a posturing, so that I remain subservient to him on these issues. He expects me to take instruction from him without giving any counter-opinions. What he expects is Blind Obedience! My calm but firm answering may have made him weak-kneed. What was the need to cut down the phone conversation? Either it may be to avoid further heated exchanges or may be to digest the shock that I objected to his undesirable verbal expression…..or the realization that I have seen through his secret plan of keeping me away from the customer when he visits India, thereby CEO gains more closeness with the Mexican customer.

While the customer was finalizing the itinerary, he asked the name of the executive who will be accompanying them during the flight to the factory. I sent out a mail to CEO asking him to advise me. He replied saying that how does it matter who accompany them and just tell them that things will be taken care of when they arrive here. This indifference also gave out a message to me. He does not want to give me an impression that he is too keen to travel with the customer.

The customer again sent a mail, asking firmly the name of the person who will travel with them and the hand phone number. CEO this time smilingly told me – “tell him I shall be flying with them and share my phone number with them”.

Although all along I knew this is what would be happening, still it made me feel sad. Contacting the customer, talking to them regularly, creating interest in our products, co-coordinating business – all this will be done by the Business Manager. But when it comes to entertain them, it will be CEO! I could not reconcile mentally to this gross injustice and abuse of authority.

I was drafting the mail to the customer and at the precise moment when I was typing the name of the executive (who would be accompanying them to the factory) as C.E……the intercom buzzed….the tea drinking director was on the other side. He politely asked me to come down to his chamber. The CEO also was sitting there in Director’s chamber as usual.

Director said “As it was you who has been liaising with this Mexican customer all along, I do feel that you should be receiving them the customer when they come here and also fly with them in the flight they take to go to the factory….it will allow you to spend quality time with them and understand them more….Mr.CEO, what do you say? Am I correct?”

CEO immediately nodded his head with full of enthusiasm. “Yes yes..That’s the right thing…..” and addressed me and said “arrange your flight tickets and inform the customer”.

I walked back to my chamber with a sense of gratitude on how events turned up finally. The events move on without anybody’s control. CEO’s high-handedness, my helplessness in dealing with the high-handedness, the customer’s strange insistence to know the name of the person, my sadness which delayed the sending of the email to the customer based on CEO’s original instruction…..everything seems just perfect now!

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