Mr. Big didn’t call very often. More often, he didn’t have time for my calls. And I managed his money.
All of it. An eight figure relationship requiring careful planning and attention.
Complicated, challenging and rewarding.
A dream client by most measures. Mr. Big was a great guy. I valued his business, his countenance, and his friendship. He was a successful entrepreneur that you could learn a lot from — if you just paid attention.
Like us all though, he had an Achilles heel. For him, it was his temper. And he didn’t try to keep it a secret. His modis operandi was bark first, ask questions later.
Fortunately, these outbursts were infrequent. Less fortunately for me, they never occurred while I was on vacation.
Only two things got Mr. Big going: slowdowns in his business and lousy markets. They put him on edge.
Mole hills turned into mountains.
The otherwise unnoticeable was noticed.
And when both irritants struck at the same time…I had a rabid pit-bull on my hands. The phone would feel hot to the touch. Mr. Big’s voice would boom in mind-numbing, quadraphonic sound.
Mr. Big’s “moods” could even unravel my unflappable assistant. My partner knew better than to offer help.
Once, I can recall my assistant saying,
“Mr Big, you don’t have your monthly statements because the month doesn’t end for another 10 days.”
His fits of rage evoked calls for paperwork…he was old school. For years, I would simply try to appease Mr. Big during his tirades…
- “You’re right, Mr Big.”
- “Of course, Mr Big.”
- “I’ll take care of that, Mr. Big.”
- “We’ll fix that, Mr. Big.”
Not really responsive, my answers were the equivalent of grunts and groans. Mr. Big didn’t actually want me to say anything. He just wanted to yell.
“Handling” Mr. Big during one of his “episodes” became one of my career goals.
What was REALLY getting under skin?
It certainly couldn’t be the stuff he said. There had to be an ugly underbelly to this beast. A true worry he just couldn’t express.
During one of these fitful tirades, I decided to go see Mr. Big. Perhaps meeting the dreaded enemy head on might help. Not exactly. Though the decibel level was much lower, Mr. Big was loaded for bear. He had prepared a “list of concerns”. A quick escape seemed impossible.
Thank goodness for divine inspiration.
“Mr. Big,” I stammered, “when you get this angry you don’t make any sense. Nothing I say seems to help.”
Stunned, like a parent being scolded by his child, Mr. Big grew silent.
Realizing my next words better be good, I glanced at my agenda. Top goals were usually listed in priority order.
“Mr. Big,” I started confidently, “your top priority has always been to be in a position to retire whenever you want. Do I have that right?”
“Well, yes,” he admitted with a question on his face.
I decided to swing for the fences. “Do you know that you can pull the retirement trigger any time? You’ve been in great shape for years.”
“But the stock market is in the tanks, interest rates are next to nothing and my business isn’t doing very well right now,” he countered.
“Doesn’t matter, those are things for other people to worry about…not you.”
Mr. Big rose quickly, shook my hand and thanked me for the visit. The brush off was confusing. Had I made the right play? The next day, my first call was from Mr. Big. He apologized for rushing me out the door. And thanked me for getting to the heart of the matter.
“You hit the bullseye,” he laughed, “I didn’t even see the target.”
Not bothering to remind him this point was part of our regular reviews. Reaffirmed on countless occasions. I just said, “thanks.”
“Next time I get like that,” he finished, “please tell me the same thing. You’ll add years to my life.”
We never let it get that far again. A writer-downer lesson….
If the client is always right, you have to know what they really want. Even when they’re not sure themselves.