Skip to contentSkip to navigation

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

(originally published by Booz & Company)

Dear Monte:

I’m sitting in the back section of a 767, typing this on my flight to Los Angeles. I’ve signed on to their in-flight Wi-Fi, and with any sort of luck, I’ll be able to finish and send it before my laptop goes dead. (Alas, the whole plane has Wi-Fi, but not all the seats have power plugs. My former assistant would have known about these things. Such is life in the new book-it-yourself era of downsized business economics.)

That said, I’ve just downloaded the latest red-lined version of my updated consulting agreement. My guy has looked it over, and I should be sending it back to your general counsel with just a few notes in a little while.

I’ll spare you the details, but so long as we’re on the subject, I think it’s worth discussing the overall spirit of the thing.

Monte, Monte: The 70 percent cut in my monthly consulting fee is more than I anticipated, but I don’t take it personally. I know how hard things are at AmSmelt, and I understand the position you’re in. With the bidding war for the ConSmelt acquisition, you couldn’t have known how screwed up the company was; how badly they’d mangled their relationships, how many people you’d have to lay off, or how much political resistance you’d get from shutting down their West Coast facility. I still think back on the weeks I spent with my team out there, finally hooking the mayor up with a guy in Washington to get stimulus money for a job training program that AmSmelt would help fund. He said despicable things about you, but we pretty much turned him around.

If you ask me, Monte (and I understand why you didn’t), I’d make the argument that this isn’t the time to cut back. I deal in crisis management, and we’re all still in some form of crisis. But then again, I’ve had the same kinds of tough decisions to make: I’ve closed one office, and still have to cut the headcount in New York by 20 percent — most likely including Geoffrey and Charlene, who’ve been doing the day to day on your account. They’re good kids, and I know they’ll land on their feet. We all have to adapt. In fact, that’s why I’m on this plane to L.A. — I’m pitching a solar company in Glendale. They’re the future — and who knows? Maybe there’s some synergy we can pull together with AmSmelt.

Either way, I’m with you, Monte. We’ve been through takeovers, boardroom brawls, marriages, acquisitions, and divorces. I still believe in you. And I only hope we can — damn, the battery is going....

I’m back. Just checked into my room at one of those hotels near the airport. Free Wi-Fi, free breakfast. Nice room.

Anyway, I’m glad we’re going forward with the contract. As your guy said to me: “We all need to adjust our expectations.” Meanwhile, we should meet to lay out the strategy for the next shareholder’s meeting. Ordinarily, I’d fly out to see you, but I’ll call your assistant and block out some time by phone.

I’ll be in touch —

The Biffster

PS: Believe it or not, after the battery went dead, I felt a tap on my shoulder, and it turned out that our friend the mayor was sitting behind me. Or I should say former mayor? He’s moving to D.C. He’s accepted a post in the Department of Labor, and, well, unless you have some objection, I may sign on as a consultant. Who knows? Maybe I can keep Geoffrey and Charlene on the payroll. In the meantime, I’ve sent back the contract. Yr thoughts, pls.

Get s+b's award-winning newsletter delivered to your inbox. Sign up No, thanks
Illustration of flying birds delivering information
Get the newsletter

Sign up now to get our top insights on business strategy and management trends, delivered straight to your inbox twice a week.