The Peninsula is a beautiful hotel. It does, however, feel a bit cramped. The lobby seating foyer feels more like a little alcove. A couch and two chairs. The chairs are terribly uncomfortable. The couch is the only realistic seating option if you are going to be there for a while. I was going to be there for a while. Then there is the little girl, probably 5 years old, running around and up and down the stairs in the throws of what can only be a major sugar high. I am sorely tempted to hurl one of the throw pillows on the couch at her. Instead, I try to entertain myself by doing as much business on the phone as I can.
I toy with the idea of getting up and buying a book to read, but I know that the moment I do the entire team will walk in. I have no idea how long it took but they eventually walked in, bright as day, pleased as punch with themselves.
Tom, the VP of sales, is their unofficial ringleader. I've only met him once before. Dave and Hal, on the other hand, both know me. I walk right up to them before they even have a chance to gauge my approach.
Step back for a moment and consider the scene. There is something highly backwards about private equity when it comes to hierarchy. Here I am, not even 30 yet, and I have more clout than the CEO of their firm. The perception, right or wrong, is that heads roll, divisions are diminished and products eliminated at the whims of young, MBA'd upstarts like me. If we are prone to get big heads quickly in private equity, this is why. Here is an "experienced" sales team, terrified by the likes of me. Or, perhaps more accurately, the power of the entity standing behind me. I, of course, play it up whenever I can.
"We have a serious problem and the Senior Partner has asked me to come down here and speak with you." I always say "Senior Partner," with capital letters on it when I am on a "force projection" mission for the firm.
Tom managed to collect himself, barely.
"Equity. What a surprise! What are you doing down here?"
"I just told you that. The Senior Partner has sent me here to collect you and put things back on track for the meeting tomorrow." I love the phrase "put things back on track." There is no opportunity to argue that things never got off track. There is only the discussion about how to put them back on track.
"Well, I think we have that in hand already," Tom begins. I cut him off.
"The Senior Partner does not share your optimism." I am convinced that slightly modified Darth Vader quotes are a badly under leveraged asset. I have been using them, and I think with good effect. "This is what we are going to do. We are going to sit down, go over the schedule and the presentation tomorrow and then I am going to decide if we need someone else to manage this process in your stead. What we are not going to do is discuss why you three are checked in at the Peninsula, or the anger of the Senior Partner's wife, who has been slaving in the kitchen all day to prepare the dinner that any moment will be slowly getting cold on the large table in the Senior Partner's dining room on 3 plates placed carefully in front of three empty seats in which your respective asses should be sitting at this very moment."
Surprisingly, and to their credit, the three of them obediently took a seat in the cramped lobby alcove and began pitching me their presentation.
Two hours later, it sucked less, but it still sucked. I despaired of the debacle that would be tomorrow's presentation. Whatever, it wasn't going to be my problem anymore.
I called Armin and gave him the long summary. He was very quiet for a very long time after I finished speaking. After a ten second pause that seemed an eternity I broke the silence.
"Armin, they are going to need some adult supervision tomorrow. Left to their own devices I shudder to think what might happen."
"Good idea. Go with them and take charge of the presentation. I am relying on you." -click-