“Sasha, where’s the money?!” yelled the Forbes Top 100 businessman at me.
This was over 20 years ago, in his fancy office.
I stayed calm, looking at him with a cool smile.
This show happened every year. I led an ad agency, and he was our big client. We built a vibrant brand from scratch for him. Product sales shot up, even though ad spending was modest.
Back then, I was searching for a compensation plan that aligned both our interests. So, I took a risk and suggested tying part of our remuneration to the new brand’s sales.
With that motivation and a tough challenge, our team made a creative breakthrough. The new brand gained a significant market share. The only thing I didn’t consider was the client’s mindset. He grew up in an environment where value was forged through ‘tough negotiations’ instead of creative collaboration.
At the year-end, we had to confirm the bonus amount and terms for the next year. So, he would send me an invitation to his ‘Kabuki Theatre.’
He acted outraged about distribution speeds, nitpicked technical details, and complained about high overheads (which I couldn’t verify). In short, he tried to convince me that, yes, sales were growing, but there were no profits, so the bonus had to be cut.
The first time, I was shocked by the unfairness of his claims. But then I grasped his approach and started acting differently. I needed to calmly withstand his pressure, like a lighthouse in a storm. Seeing the futility of his ‘game,’ he eventually backed down. Now we could make a deal. By the way, his respect for me grew each time.
I call this winning strategy ‘Fur outside, steel inside.’
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