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.