Thursday, December 9, 2010

Clients From Hell: Part 2

The work for a suddenly spun-off company started out interestingly enough until it hired a client contact. If this were a drama, I would be the murder victim, done in to cover up a series of lies.

The original client was a real-estate syndication company, which at one time controlled properties worth more than $9 billion. The company also had six publicly traded real-estate investment trust (REIT) funds, for which I handled quarterly dividend news releases. After experiencing significant financial troubles in late 1989, one of its major investors forced the resignation of the CEO and president and appointed one of its executives to run the company. We were out, and a high-powered New York agency was in. I kept in touch with my client contact, who told me the new account team was clueless  “If this were an car company, it would be like having to explain rack-and-pinion steering to them,” he related. 

Four months later, seemingly out of the blue, I received a phone call from another person I’d worked with at the company. The new guy was out, the former president was back in, and they needed me ASAP to write the news release and handle the media relations  I cabbed it over to company headquarters, where we wrote the release and set it up for next-day distribution  Strangely, I wasn’t finished yet. A young man tapped me on the shoulder and told me he needed a news release too.

Because of the parent company’s financial problems, the boards of directors of the six publicly traded funds had decided to sever their ties and administer the funds themselves through a new entity. Working with the lawyers for this new company, we drafted a news release that evening that would be distributed during the next few days  For a brief period of time, the agency oddly represented the parent company and the new company  Given the bulk of the work would be with the latter, we ceased working for the parent and started with the new client, which I’ll call The Funds.

The Funds kept us busy, and after about a month it hired a contact person. He had been laid off from the parent company months earlier – along with 500 other people – and was home collecting unemployment compensation and helping take care of a newborn daughter. The Funds were nervous about being viewed as a clone of the parent company, so its president and our agency president worked out an arrangement whereby he would be paid by the agency and The Funds would reimburse us. Because of doubts about The Funds’ financial stability, my boss told me never to hand over the check unless we got one in return.

The contact (“Dave”) and I started well together, tackling multiple projects for each of the six funds. After a short time, however, he and his group became increasingly demanding. He complained about completing a large print job after opting to save money by not using a high-speed offset press. At a meeting discussing another project, one of their smart-ass lawyers said I might require my assistant to work on Easter Sunday to get it completed. Since there was no such urgency, I told him that wasn’t going to happen.  He replied, “I’ll bet if I called [our agency president] he’d order her to come in.” In a split-second, I replied angrily, “No he wouldn’t and I don’t suggest you try.” Dave never said a word.

Here’s where the trouble started. I began seeing quotes from him about how he was present at The Funds’ creation and played a major role in separating it from the parent company. In fact, he didn’t make the scene until at least a month later. From there he graduated to speaking engagements on the subject, both in town and across the company. By then, I was off the account, as he told the agency president any number of lies (he didn’t believe them) and had me removed. For example, the agency had its annual summer party on a Friday, when The Funds were thinking about announcing their dividend declarations. I told Dave to let me know if that would be the case so we could have somebody at the office to handle it. Dave reported I said, “We have our summer party on Friday, so if you want to distribute the releases you’re out of luck.”

Like many things in life, it worked out for the best.  I no longer had to put up with his passive-aggressive behavior and still received the commission for bringing in the account (it helped pay for our daughter’s bat mitzvah). So Dave, although you now run a seemingly successful real-estate business, remember this: you are a liar, a coward and an ingrate. I’m sure you’ve conveniently forgotten about how you begged me like a child for your paycheck because The Funds didn’t have our check ready, citing how badly you needed it after being unemployed and having a new baby (wish I hadn’t given it to you). I’m sure you still believe you were a major mover in the formation of The Funds, even though you didn’t show up until much of the heavy lifting was done. And I’m sure you’ve forgotten how gutless you were to make up those lies, when all you had to do was ask for somebody else to run the account so you could keep up your fairy-tale saga.

This is one instance where I strongly believe in karma.  End of rant.

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