How badly does Dan Snyder want to win?

Posted in Redskins at 4:22 pm by The Layman

An outcome as fathomable as a politician declining a lobbyist’s invitation to lunch occurred for Redskins fans on Sunday, September 27, 2009 when the Detroit Lions defeated the Washington Redskins, 19-14, to snap a 19-game losing streak.  In the bewildering aftermath, the fans predictably rose as one to demand changes, starting with firing Jim Zorn and benching the starting quarterback, Jason Campbell, and not necessarily in that order.

No plausible alternatives appear on the horizon at this point in the season if Snyder were to decide to fire Zorn.  That inconvenient detail may not matter, however, if the Redskins lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home on Sunday, October 4, 2009.

But the swirling tempest emanating from Redskins Park in Ashburn, VA portends a new chapter in the fascinating evolution of Dan Snyder as an owner in the NFL.  Snyder wants to win, as he has repeatedly maintained.   The wrinkle lies in the fact that Snyder wants to win his way, with his hand firmly planted in every part of the process.  Therefore, he continues to dismiss the idea of hiring a proven “football executive” to run his franchise.  That would mean relinquishing control, and Snyder has been there, done that, although it’s unclear whether he still has the t-shirt to prove it.  Snyder granted Marty Schottenheimer complete control during the no-nonsense coach’s combustible tenure with the team.  Just as Coach “Yes, I said Oklahoma Drill” Schottenheimer appeared to turn the team’s fortunes around on the field, Snyder fired him, simply because he could no longer tolerate sitting on his hands and watching the team begin to win without him being directly involved.

So the franchise soldiers on with Vinny Cerrato as the Executive Vice President of Football Operations.  Cerrato boasts decades of experience in football, along with a budding career as a radio talk show host.  This varied résumé does not seem to help him overcome the fans’ suspicions that he earned the role based on his personal friendship with Snyder.

Amid this house that Snyder has built, the hiring of Jim Zorn, a coach borne of an opaque, convoluted search process, makes perfect sense.  First, Zorn was hired as the offensive coordinator, even before a head coach was named.  Two weeks later, Snyder then introduced Zorn as the next head coach of the Washington Redskins.  Perhaps at the time Snyder believed he had completed a master stroke comparable to Bobby Beathard’s hiring of a then-obscure assistant named Joe Gibbs.  But the hiring of Zorn now seems like an ill-fated decision, as it appears Zorn will need more time and seasoning to successfully make the transition from quarterbacks coach to the top spot.

Perhaps one day Zorn will blossom into a good NFL head coach.  But there’s more to being a head coach than play-calling, especially in Washington, DC, where even Senators and Congressman would concede that the Redskins are the only game in town.  The head coach of the Redskins must tread with care at Redskins Park, like a goat herder walking across an Afghanistan landscape littered with landmines buried from decades of conflict. It seems hard enough in today’s NFL to coax multi-millionaire athletes to strive for something beyond their paycheck; that task appears even harder when the players’ allegiance lie with the owner, the man who paid them top dollar.

Zorn seems to be a decent, honorable man, with a variety of interests beyond football.  However, only 32 head coaching jobs exist in the NFL.  At this rarified altitude only the strongest will succeed; those prepared and ready to assume the throne.  In the stodgy business world before the establishment of the World Wide Web, managers accepted the notion that employees got promoted once they have proven that they are capable of performing the bigger job.  That antiquated notion disappeared faster than the time it took for Snyder to offer Zorn the head coaching job.  Success in the NFL is measured in wins, not in how well-rounded, decent the man is, or how much he is able to mold the whole man.  The pinnacle of the profession cannot serve as a laboratory for on-the-job training or a testing ground for possible candidates.  The only person allowed to enjoy on-the-job training at Redskins Park occupies the spacious corner office.

Fans love to debate who among the many coaches wearing Super Bowl rings currently waiting on the sidelines for the next opportunity would best serve as the Redskins next head coach.  Before that happens, a sea change would have to wash over Redskins Park.  Presumable, a coach holding such unassailable credentials would demand some degree of control.  Additionally, any prospective head coach would have to sort out some thorny issues with Cerrato beyond racquetball court reservations and radio broadcast schedules.  And as always, the specter of “past performance does not predict future success” continues to linger over Redskins Park like an early-morning fog.

This convergence of events now brings us to the point where we can clearly see a possible inflection point in the evolution of Dan Snyder as an NFL owner.  How badly does he want to win?  Does he want it enough to give up the reins again and turn over his franchise to a proven winner?

The division of labor represents an economic theory as old as time.  Surely a businessman as astute as Snyder understands this.  Just as much as he likely also believes that he can handle a bigger share of the pie, even one shaped like a football.

How this scenario plays out should prove interesting.  Given the fact that the current team does not appear willing to compete on the field, watching Snyder’s next move remains the only game left in DC.



Dan Snyder is the Google of the NFL

Posted in Redskins at 6:25 pm by The Layman

My business school finance professor, Dean R. Charles Moyer, once began a class by proclaiming, “Give a manager too much cash and he will do something stupid with it.”  This bold statement instantly captured the attention of a classroom of MBA students, and several lessons emerged over the next hour or so of Socratic discourse.

I recently recalled Charlie’s statement as I followed the turmoil swirling around the Washington Redskins just two games into the 2009-2010 season, several days before a must-win game against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, September 27.  The Lions surely have reasons to believe that the team will finally break a 19-game losing streak by beating Washington this weekend at Ford Field.

Daniel M. Snyder, the majority owner of the Redskins, enters his 11th year at the helm of the franchise.  Over that time period, Snyder has hired six coaches, all of whom have achieved a cumulative record slightly under .500, which when viewed under the harsh light of numbers stands as a testament to mediocrity.  To his credit, Snyder has admitted that he made some mistakes early in his tenure, and that he has matured and evolved as an owner.  From a business standpoint, Snyder has done an admirable job for himself and his partners, building the franchise into one of the most valuable sports properties in the world.

Local sportscasters and sports talk radio hosts insist the fans are too harsh on Snyder, that the fans should rejoice over an owner who yearns to win and is willing to spend whatever it takes to achieve that goal, such as rewarding the most prized free agent of the last offseason, Albert Haynesworth, with a $100 million contract.

But thinking about Snyder’s proclivity to use cash as a hammer in search of a nail brought me back fifteen years ago to Charlie’s classroom as I once again ponder his lessons.  Has Snyder just foolishly spent money on a quixotic quest for the Vince Lombardi Trophy?  Is he simply operating with the bedrock conviction of a successful businessman who has built and sold a billion-dollar empire?  Or is Snyder acting more like a driver jumping behind the wheel of a rental car with his friends egging him on to “drive it like you stole it”?

As a fan, Snyder’s free-spending methods have certainly resulted in some unintended consequences.  This brings to mind another teacher, my old computer science professor Dr. Hanan Samet, who used to repeatedly declare in class, with a smile, “There’s no free lunch!”

All that cash Snyder has spent to lure free-agents and coaches to the team had to come from somewhere.

Well, long-suffering Redskins fans who have pored over the lunch bill with a pencil and calculator have found skyrocketing ticket and concession prices, stiff parking fees, and traffic gridlock at FedEx Field.  Add to those appetizers entrees such as filing lawsuits against defaulting season ticket holders, and you get fans who find themselves pushing away from the lunch table with more than a mild case of indigestion.

Some teams have built a culture of winning and stability, like the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers.  Other teams have earned a reputation for frugality and mediocrity.  The Redskins under Snyder have developed a culture of money that would have made Gordon Gekko beam.  Players and coaches eagerly join the Redskins to secure a huge payday, not to win.  During the internet dot-com boom of the late 1990’s, the goal of every internet technology startup company was to make it to a successful IPO where billions awaited in a frothing stock market.  After the bubble burst and web businesses evolved into version 2.0, the goals of startup technology companies shifted to the similarly lucrative goal of getting on Google’s radar screen in the hopes that the cash-flush giant would swoop in and buy them up.

Snyder has become the Google of the NFL.

Every NFL player dreams of playing well enough to appear on Snyder’s radar screen and ultimately earning the reward of a rich free-agent contract to play for the burgundy and gold.  Only with the Redskins could a player, Robert Henson, respond to boos from fans by tweeting, “…I still made more than you in a year…”  This attitude starts with the man at the top.

I have moved beyond wishing that Snyder would relinquish control of the Redskins.  That scenario seems about as plausible as a Super Bowl victory at this moment in time.  Snyder is a young man, and fans should expect him to occupy the driver’s seat for the foreseeable future.  For sure, winning would quickly erase many of the fans’ complaints, and Snyder could yet still find himself –  if not adored – at least not continuously blamed for all that is wrong with the Redskins.

No one knows where this journey will end, we can only confidently predict that it will be an interesting ride.  Let’s just hope Snyder doesn’t wrap the jalopy around a tree or two along the way.



Get Big Fast – Dan Meets the Chairman

Posted in Get Big Fast at 12:30 am by The Layman

Considering the pre-meeting pyrotechnics in the lobby, the sales presentation actually unfolded without a hitch.  The account executive (AE) and presales consultant had already set up the presentation equipment in the conference room. The audience consisted of senior business unit leaders who knew the drill.  This was an opportunity for the potential customer to gauge the long-term viability of a potential business partner and take the first steps toward acquiring a comfort level with the Atomasis team.  Howell shined in these types of situations and today performed at his charming best.  First, he put everyone at ease by telling some White House stories to open the meeting.  He then recounted the story of how Kraftmark Littles arrived at the decision to invest in Atomasis, and hammered home the point that KL believed and, more importantly, would do everything in its power to ensure that Atomasis would succeed.

The AE and presales consultant followed with a brief, high-level demonstration, or demo, of the key features of the software.  This was purely for gee-whiz purposes; the technical selection team would spend many more hours in detailed meetings poring through the capabilities of the product, asking the really hard questions.  After agreeing on some details regarding the overall direction of the sales effort, and a round of handshakes, Howell, Reidel and the rest of the team walked towards the elevator bank for the trip back down to the lobby.

As the team departed the elevator and rounded the corner, they found Joe Gallano standing in the cavernous lobby.  As usual, Gallano was talking on his cell phone, but his gaze remained fixed in the direction of the elevator banks, like a hunter waiting for the retriever to flush the game birds from the bushes.  The phone calls deserved his full attention, but the meeting occurring upstairs never strayed far from his thoughts.

Despite these weighty thoughts looming in his mind, Gallano could not help but notice his surroundings.  Glossy marble lined every visible surface, enclosing a space seemingly large enough to house a jumbo jet.  Presumably, the architects and decorators intended the marble to project strength, stability and longevity, desirable attributes for a global financial services firm.  Even though Gallano’s faith in Reidel’s abilities never wavered, given the misunderstanding this morning in the lobby Gallano hoped that the marble did not hint of a tomb at the site of one of Atomasis’ big sales failures.

Howell led the way as the team approached Gallano.  Gallano disconnected his phone call and stood chastised, like a mischievous child waiting for his scolding.

“Joe, how nice of you to join us.  I understand you encountered some travel difficulties this morning?” Howell asked lightly, but with a noticeable hint of sarcasm, by way of greeting.  Howell’s mood had improved significantly after the positive meeting with the bankers, but he was not smiling.  He was still clearly furious about being kept waiting earlier in the morning.

“Erskine, I’m very sorry, three of my flights got cancelled.  I got here as fast as I could,” Gallano said, steeling himself for the return blast.

“That’s because you live in a backwoods city with shitty air service,” Howell accused.  Pittsburgh’s airport was one of the busiest in the nation, and served as the main domestic and international hub of US Airways.

Gallano glanced over at Reidel with a helpless shrug.  Reidel grimaced in reply.

“Well, good thing Eric showed up and picked up the ball.  He did a great job, and I think we accomplished what we needed to here,” Howell continued with a satisfied smile – finally.

Gallano again glanced over at Reidel and poured out his gratitude, pride and relief with a barely perceptible wink.  Reidel tilted his head slightly in acknowledgement.

“OK, let’s go.  On to the next one,” Howell commanded as he again led the way towards his waiting limousine.  Gallano and Reidel nodded to the AE and presales consultant, who then walked towards the street to take the subway back to the office.

A shiny black Lincoln Town Car waited at the curb with its engine idling, perched to whisk Howell, Gallano and Reidel to the midtown heliport, where the KL helicopter would be waiting to take them on the short flight to GE’s headquarters in Fairfield, Connecticut.  Dan Gallano, Joe’s younger brother, was waiting at the heliport.  The younger Gallano managed the presales consulting team for the Mid-Atlantic region.  Reidel had not yet assigned an AE to the GE account; he would handle this one himself.

“Joe, you’re moving to New York.  This is bullshit, we can’t have you missing meetings with key clients because your flights got cancelled,” Howell said as he slid into the back seat through the open door held by the driver.  Gallano followed, and Reidel rode shotgun in the front seat.

It had been a running joke, Howell teasing Gallano about when he would be moving to New York.  Gallano had always held his ground and resisted uprooting his family.  It would have been suicidal to renew the debate at this point, but Gallano sensed that Howell had just made his decision for him.  Howell quickly shifted his focus back to the business matters at hand, and to Reidel’s immense relief, they debriefed the Goldman meeting on the way to the heliport.

Dan Gallano waited nervously in the office at the heliport, unsure of what to expect.  His brother Joe had managed to call and warn him that the Chairman was on the warpath, and suggested he had better be at the top of his game.  Dan, at 6-foot in height, stood an inch taller than his oldest brother, and carried a similar athletic frame.  In his late twenties, he was successfully fighting off the middle-aged paunch that his brother carried, and wore a neatly trimmed goatee.  A seasoned presales consultant, this was the first time he had worked directly with his brother in the same company. Although he reported to the AVP of the Mid-Atlantic, he ultimately reported up into his brother.  There were snickers around the company about nepotism when he was first hired, but the fact of the matter was he had proven himself as a damn good presales consultant on several key accounts.  He was picked to do the GE demo because Atomasis needed the best resources on the team.

The KL helicopter’s rotor blades were already spinning, and the pilots were ready for takeoff.  The chopper was a sleek, late-model Sikorsky S-76, painted a light tan, with KL painted in dark navy blue on each of the sides.  It was one of two executive helicopters in the KL air fleet, which also included three Gulfstream G-V business jets that sold for about $40 million each.  KL spent another $10 million per plane outfitting the lavish interior with the finest leather, wood, and wool trimmings, in addition to the state-of-the-art communications suite.

Each of the pilots wore navy blue cotton bomber jackets with KL embroidered in white on the left breast.  Although the pilots and crew enjoyed the above-industry-standard pay, turnover among the flight crews was high due to the demanding flight schedules of the hard-charging KL bankers.  A KL partner could fly anywhere in the world with three hours notice, while within the continental United States, the window was reduced to one hour’s notice.  While onboard, the partner could remain in constant voice and Internet contact via the satellite communications system, while a flight attendant served food and drinks.

“So, this is the little Gallano,” greeted Howell with a smile as he approached Dan.

“Mr. Chairman, nice to meet you, sir,” replied Dan as he stood up and returned Howell’s firm handshake.

“All right, let’s get this show on the road.”  Howell led the way toward the waiting helicopter.

During the brief flight they reviewed their roles for the upcoming meeting.  After Dan finished summarizing his role, Howell looked directly into his eyes, shot him an easy grin, and said, “Danny, if you fuck this up, I’m going to fire you.”  Danny’s eyes widened and his face reddened as Howell continued,  “If you really fuck it up, I’m going to fire you and your brother.”

Not knowing whether Howell was joking or not, and not willing to venture a guess, Dan nodded solemnly as the color drained from his face.  He turned to the window and watched as the helicopter approached the landing pad.  His thoughts were interrupted by the slight jolt as the wheels touched down.



Get Big Fast – Eric Meets the Chairman

Posted in Get Big Fast at 11:53 am by The Layman

Eric Reidel marched his 6-foot, 1-inch frame purposefully toward the huge revolving door leading into the lobby of Goldman Sachs, the blue-chip investment bank.  Tall and athletic, with a handsome face defined by a square jaw and small wire frame eyeglasses, he wore a black, three-button suit with starched white shirt and shimmering silver tie.  Reidel had earned a reputation as the sharpest dresser among the five AVP’s who worked for Gallano, and even on the jaded streets of lower Manhattan he elicited more than a few sideward glances from admiring women as he strode smoothly down the wide, busy sidewalk.  The former college ice hockey player took his appearance seriously, believing that the first step to attaining success was looking the part.  Reidel had worked his way through college selling cars in his family’s automobile dealership; selling was not a mindset, it was a way of life.

Before these big sales calls, Reidel always felt the same potent brew of anxiety, excitement and anticipation bubbling in his core, as if he were back in college dressing in the locker room before taking the ice for a big game.  Luckily, staying focused and maintaining intensity had long been a matter of routine for Reidel.  When your hockey coach’s teaching philosophy included firing pucks directly at the heads of players who were not paying attention in practice, you quickly learned to maintain vigilance.

This morning, however, an added wrinkle awaited Reidel.

Not only was this a critical meeting at a major prospect, but it was the Chairman’s first big call with the sales team as well.  Although his presence ratcheted up the intensity a couple notches, Reidel was secretly thrilled that the Chairman was going on his first calls with the sales team at one of his accounts, in his territory.  His patch.

With his leather laptop briefcase slung over his right shoulder and a stack of glossy presentations cradled in his left hand, Reidel danced nimbly through the whirling door without breaking stride.  Just before diving into the spinning door, he had dialed up Gallano, who at the moment was following the driver of his car service to the parking garage at New York City’s LaGuardia Airport.  The skies had finally cleared, and Gallano had cheated death once again, landing safely and –  more incredibly – on time at LaGuardia.

Reidel also had an earpiece wedged into his right ear, with the phone securely clipped to his belt.  “OK Joe, I’m in the lobby, looking for Howell.  Oh, there he is, he’s sitting on a bench reading something.”

“Beautiful,” Gallano replied.  Now he too sounded slightly breathless, as he negotiated the morning rush of passengers disgorging from the terminal.

“Hey, he doesn’t look too happy Joe,” Reidel remarked as he glanced at his watch and confirmed that he was ten minutes early.

Gallano grunted knowingly.  “He gets ornery sometimes, but you’ll be fine,” Gallano replied without concern.

Reidel walked up to a tall, lanky man in his late fifties sitting on a leather bench against the marble lobby wall.  He was dressed in a perfectly tailored, dark gray suit, with glossy black shoes, and had his head down reading a sheaf of documents.  He looked up with a flat expression as Reidel approached.  His face was narrow and long, set behind round eyeglasses with clear plastic frames resting on an aristocratic nose, and his lips seemed to be permanently pursed.

“Good morning, Mr. Chairman.  I’m Eric Reidel, Area Vice President of the Northeast,” Reidel barked out by way of greeting and introduction.

“Where the fuck have you been?” hissed Erskine T. Howell, Chairman of the Board of Atomasis.

Normally, Howell spoke in a soft, lightly accented southern drawl of his native North Carolina, and rarely needed to raise his voice to get a point across.  That did not mean he could not muster the ability to make subordinates cower in terror.  Reidel was quickly learning that characteristic firsthand.  At the moment, pure venom overwhelmed any hint of southern gentility.

“Sir?  I was told to meet you here at 10:00 a.m. before we went up,” stammered Reidel.  Howell’s opening salvo had caught him full force, and Reidel felt himself wavering like a sailor returning to sea after a long shore leave, struggling to regain his sea legs.

Reidel had intuitively recognized this call as an opportunity to make a positive impression with the chairman of the company.  Sales folks were typically measured in the harsh light of numbers:  did they make their sales goal, or not, that was all that mattered.  Here was a rare opportunity for a board member to observe how Reidel actually operated in front of prospects, and he was already bathed in scathing fire.

Reidel frantically searched his memory for any forgotten instructions regarding the meeting time.

“You were supposed to be here an hour ago, at 9:00.  We were supposed to pre-brief before going up.  Didn’t anyone tell you?” Howell accused from the bench, like a judge admonishing an ill-prepared attorney.

“Oh, fuck…geez…I’m sorry, Eric,” Gallano whispered into Reidel’s ear.  In the midst of his shock Reidel realized he still had Gallano on the line.  Gallano was eavesdropping on the whole exchange via the microphone attached to Reidel’s dangling earpiece cord, an unseen witness to the Chairman’s wrath.  The heat of the Chairman’s displeasure was no less tempered by the wireless airwaves.

“No, sir.  Erskine, I’m truly sorry, I never got the word, otherwise I would’ve been here,” Reidel offered lamely.

“Where’s Joe?” demanded the Chairman, ignoring Reidel’s weak excuse.

“He just got into the city.  His earlier flights were cancelled this morning,” Reidel replied.

“That’s great!  You guys better get this bush league operation together if you expect me to come along on these calls,” Howell spit out with pure disgust.

“Oh, dear God,” Gallano moaned as Reidel stood frozen.

“Well, what are we standing around here for then?  Let’s head upstairs!”  Howell then shoved his papers into his brown leather briefcase, stood up to his full 6 foot, 3 inch height, and marched towards the elevator banks.

“Joe, I gotta run,” Reidel whispered tightly.

“I’ll wait for you in the lobby once I get there,” Gallano replied in a similarly strained voice.  Reidel hung up on Gallano without another word and scurried to catch up to the Chairman.



Get Big Fast – Grounded at the Airport

Posted in Get Big Fast at 5:38 pm by The Layman

(Summer 2000)

The US Airways Club at Pittsburgh International Airport was often crowded, but never more so than early on a Monday morning.  The energetic activity defied the aura of exclusivity hinted at by a space dominated by dark wood paneling, marble floors, and soft, indirect lighting.  In reality, with so many travelers armed with expense accounts looking for a place to connect their laptops and make phone calls, the Club offered scant refuge from the frenzied crowds in the terminal.

In the bustling lobby of the Club stood a middle-aged man outfitted in the full regalia of the road warrior.  Wearing a dark navy blue suit and subdued tie, with a black leather laptop briefcase slung over his shoulder and a black 22-inch wheeled carry-on luggage at his side, he did not stand out among the masses of anonymous businesspeople moving uninterrupted around him like water flowing over a rock in a running stream.  Slightly taller than average at a shade under six feet, he appeared younger than his forty-one years, with a full head of light brown hair and slightly puffy chipmunk cheeks.  He walked with the bouncy stride of a former athlete, having played football and run track at a small Pennsylvania college.

However, at the moment, Joseph Gallano was not moving a muscle, because he was staring in disbelief at a bank of video monitors on the wall, specifically the top left monitor labeled DEPARTURES.  The fourth flight listed, US456, from Pittsburgh to New York City’s La Guardia Airport, just had its status changed from DELAYED to CANCELLED.  It was only 7:32 AM, but the day was already starting to look like it would only get worse.  This was the third straight flight to New York City the airline had cancelled this morning.  A cold front was finishing its sweep across the eastern seaboard, dumping a hard, steady rain along the way and wreaking havoc on east coast flight operations.

As a seasoned national account salesman, Gallano held no illusions about modern air travel in this surging economy.  The romance of the dawn of jet service, when folks dressed up in their Sunday-best suits and hats to regally board shiny new jetliners, had long since faded away like the contrails of a high-flying jet.  Commercial airliners had evolved through the years into modern-day express buses, overcrowded with harried business travelers and rowdy vacationers.  Record load factors moving through the hub-and-spoke route system resulted in frequent delays and cancellations.  And that was under ideal weather conditions – add the chaotic whims of Mother Nature’s storms to the mix and whatever benefits gained from speedy jets was outweighed by frustrating delays in the system.

After seventeen years crisscrossing the country selling software, Gallano had learned to take all of this in stride.  But not today, not on the day he was scheduled to make some of the most important sales calls of his professional life.

Gallano was the Senior Vice President of Sales for Atomasis, a young internet software startup company based in New York City.  After weeks of phone calls between executive assistants, emails, and painstaking coordination of multiple calendars, Atomasis had finally secured an opportunity to deliver a presentation before key executives at Goldman Sachs and General Electric.  These meetings represented critical early milestones in the long and complex software sales cycle.  An account executive, or AE, could spend weeks beating the bushes at a sales prospect to arrange this type of meeting and have no success.  Achieving this milestone bestowed greater visibility on a prospect, and sent the sales process into high gear.  High-level executive support did not ensure a sale, but no sale ever closed without executive support.  Most companies did not make multi-million dollar purchase decisions without the approval of some type of executive steering committee.

Therefore, securing this meeting instantly moved this sales prospect into a more visible part of the sales pipeline, and Atomasis increased its attention and effort accordingly.  The Atomasis sales team was even more revved up than usual for these upcoming meetings, because they would be bringing their own heavy hitter, Erskine T. Howell, the Chairman of the Board of Atomasis.

However, everything could all fall apart if Gallano did not make it to New York on time.

But before Gallano could sort out the flight situation, he had to call for backup.  He wedged his mobile phone earpiece into his right ear and punched a button for a preset phone number.

“Joe!” answered a slightly breathless voice into his right ear.

This shorthand, familiar greeting was something his subordinates had picked up from Gallano.  With caller ID on cell phones, they knew when Gallano was calling, and greeted him by name, dispensing with any generally accepted office protocol greeting.  Since they all spoke to Gallano at least ten times a day, wherever they were, a superfluous greeting such as even “Hi” served no purpose.  Once they reached each other, they quickly got to the point, sometimes continuing conversations from earlier calls.

“Eric!”  Gallano replied.

Eric Reidel was the Area Vice President (AVP) of Sales in charge of the Northeast region.  These important accounts were smack in the middle of his area of responsibility, and even though he had assigned an AE to work with them, it was ultimately his responsibility to close the sale.  In other words, “kill it and drag it home,” as the sales guys loved to say.

“Where are you?”  Reidel asked.  It sounded like he was walking around in the city somewhere, judging from the horns blaring in the background.

“I’m at the Pittsburgh airport.  It’s all fucked up here.  I’m not going to make it to New York on time.  They’ve cancelled three of my flights already.”

“Ah, shit.”

“I know.  Where are you?”

“I’m just walking into the lobby of our building.”

“Good.  Look, you’re going to have to do the Goldman call without me.  I should make it there on time to go to GE.”

“OK, no problem Joe.  I’m all over it.”  Reidel’s confident reply effectively masked his apprehension.  He was well aware that Howell, the Chairman of the Board of Atomasis, as well as a General Partner of Kraftmark Littles, was accompanying the sales team to the meetings.  Reidel had heard the stories, as they all had, about how the former White House Chief of Staff whipped the current President’s administration into shape during its first term.  However, he had never actually talked at length with Howell, outside a brief introduction and chat at the sales kickoff event in January.

“Howell will be waiting in the lobby of Goldman’s building.  I was supposed to meet him there at 10:00 am.  Swing by a little early and meet him.  Let him know I’m on my way, that my flights got cancelled.  I’ll call Betsy over at his office and try to get through to him.  He doesn’t carry a fucking cell phone.”

“I guess when you’re a guy like him you don’t need to.”

“Yeah, right,” Gallano chuckled.

“OK, I’ll print out some last minute copies of the presentation deck and head on over to Goldman,” Eric assured Joe.

“Thanks Eric.  Call me when you get there.”

“OK, will do,” Reidel replied as he heard the connection click off.

Once again, Eric was there for Joe when he really needed him.  As he walked up to the front desk to find out what was going on with the flights, Gallano took a moment to congratulate himself on bringing Reidel aboard.  He was one of Gallano’s first hires, an experienced sales manager, polished and smooth.

“Hi, I’m Joe Gallano, I was on 456,” Joe said to the desk agent.

“Oh, I’m sorry about that Mr. Gallano.  Our next flight is US534, departing 8:45 am, arriving 9:30 am.”

“Great, put me on that one please,” Gallano replied resignedly.  What he did not bother to tell the agent was that if this flight did not take off on time, he would probably no longer have a need to show up in New York.


Get Big Fast – Introduction

Posted in Get Big Fast at 5:25 pm by The Layman

Get Big Fast is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to real people or events is coincidental.



Late Night Dash to the Grocery Store

Posted in September 2009 at 3:50 pm by The Layman

Hopscotch is a child’s game.  But last night I played it with the focus and perseverance of a professional as I made my way across the parking lot in the driving rain.

Hop, splash.

Hop, hop, splash.

The aim was not to avoid the puddles; it was to step where the water was shallowest.  My umbrella seemed to vanish in the face of the relentless downpour, but I clung to it like a vestigial limb.

Hop, splash.

Hop, hop, splash.

Finally, with a final hop I jumped onto the curb and closed my umbrella, putting it out of its misery.  I grinned as I walked into the grocery store, my flip-flops heavy with water, my pants soaked to the knee.  Because a pizza party is not complete without ice cream.  And ice cream cannot be enjoyed without a cake cone.


Summer Thunderstorm

Posted in September 2009 at 2:21 pm by The Layman

The clouds boil in a cauldron of ominous black and indifferent gray.  I wait anxiously at the final traffic light, assessing my chances of beating the imminent downpour.  I pull into my parking space, and exit briskly to the cadence of the booms echoing across the looming sky.  I scamper through the door, as large drops of rain begin to paint the asphalt behind me.