SUITE 1984 READING CLUB
What Goes Around Comes Back Around
It costs nothing to be nice
The year was 1991.
A time filled with rotary dial landlines, snail mail, fax machines, and electronic typewriters. Pagers were the luxury of a privileged few.
I was the area sales manager for a global office automation company.
It was a normal workday. I rode to the office on my scooter, as usual, feeling childishly happy to see all the traffic lights showing green as I approached. Was it a portent of something good about to happen? Sure we could use one or a few of those, right?
I parked my scooter in the basement parking lot. Hoisting my bag on one shoulder and gripping my briefcase in my right hand, I walked towards the elevator.
Then I changed my mind and took the stairs to the third floor, where we had our office. I breezed in and made a beeline for my table.
As if on cue, the phone started to ring.
There were still fifteen minutes to go — and here was the first caller of the day, already.
So much for coming in early to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee and wrap my head around the day’s schedule.
Seeing that my assistant was not in yet, I grabbed the receiver and asked, “May I know who’s speaking, please?”
It was Mr. Rao from one of our government clients with whom we were negotiating a large order. As usual, he launched straight into his problem before bothering to identify himself.
Just yesterday, before I left the office for the day, I had sent him a detailed offer with the clarifications he asked based on our last conversation, keeping in mind his penchant for dissecting every little point.
As I listened patiently to him rambling on about his daughter, I wondered, why couldn’t he read the letters we sent him before he made his marathon calls? The calls often amounted to nothing — I mean, nothing related to business. Half the time I felt as though I was his therapist, just soothing him.
But gotta do what you gotta do
Oh well, I thought, might as well get it over with. The conversation eventually turned to the offer I had sent him and I answered his questions until he was satisfied and finally ended the call. It had lasted exactly an hour.
Sighing, I picked up my favorite pen and pulled out my priority list for the day to add a few notes. Would there ever be a day when I’d check off more than ten out of the twenty-odd items on that list?
This is why I went directly from home to meet clients so that I wouldn’t have to play Rubik's cube with my schedule — shuffling, and rearranging meetings.
Shaking my head, smiling to myself, I looked up to see Kumar, our boy, grinning at me cheerfully. We greeted each other and he went on his way to bring me my special cup of strong coffee.
In anticipation, I browsed my appointment diary trying to figure out the best way to cover it all, when the phone rang again.
At this rate, how would I get stuff done?
I could hardly ignore the phone.
Sighing, I answered. Turned out to be a wrong number. Ugh!
But I was glad I could get on with my work. I quickly scheduled the day’s tasks, simultaneously making notes and jotting instructions on sticky notes for my colleagues.
Then I tackled my overflowing mail tray as best as I could, segregating it into “For Action” and “Later,” putting a follow-up date on some, and trashing a few.
Soon, I heard the welcome musical clinking of coffee cups. I looked up to see Kumar with three cups on his tray with Lakshmi, my assistant, close at his heels, grinning at me.
They always found it amusing that I wanted two cups of coffee. Well in my defense, the cups were pretty small and I liked a healthy 350-millimeter dose at least.
Over coffee, I told Lakshmi about Mr. Rao’s call and then briefed her on some urgent paperwork that needed to be done along with a list of phone calls to be made. We chatted companionably as we sipped our coffees and got ready to begin our day.
Then the phone rang again
Motioning for Lakshmi to stay put, I picked up the receiver. If it was Mr. Rao again, I wanted to deal with it right away, as I was trying to close that big order within the week.
But it wasn’t him.
An unfamiliar voice identified the organization the call was from and requested me to hold while she connected me to the individual who wanted to speak to me.
As I waited, I enjoyed the strains of a Beethoven symphony and idly twiddled the phone wire, I thought, what good taste in music. One usually heard something pretty boring or annoying that grated on the ears or worse — became an irritating earworm.
Then the music stopped abruptly, interrupting my thoughts and I became alert. The voice at the other end — a rich baritone that sent my mind on overdrive visualizing its source — greeted me and asked,
“May I know who’s speaking, please?”
I identified myself. He introduced himself and stated the purpose of his call. He wanted to meet me as soon as possible as he had an urgent requirement.
I probed for more details and as we talked, I scribbled a message for Lakshmi asking her to reschedule all my appointments until 2 p.m. tomorrow. She made a funny face at me and smiled. Giving her the thumbs-up sign, I finished my call.
What was going on?
By now, Lakshmi was bursting with curiosity about the call that had just come in. I told her and we semi-hugged each other across the table. I packed my briefcase quickly with all that I needed and headed out to meet the client.
Their office was just a short walk from our building and I was there in ten minutes.
I looked around appreciatively as I was ushered into the client’s office by his secretary. Irrelevant detail, but I noticed he was 100 percent eye candy as he walked around his table to shake hands. As we reintroduced ourselves, I conversationally asked him who had referred him to us.
His response had me speechless. To say that I was stunned would be an understatement.
Anyway, the meeting went very well. I was especially thrilled because this organization was one of the mega accounts on my wish list and was really tough to make a breakthrough into it.
As the meeting concluded, I gleefully placed the stack of papers in my briefcase — a huge order with an advance check — shook hands with the client, and left.
I headed back to my office. I couldn’t wait to share the news with Lakshmi both about the order and the source of the referral.
In minutes, I waltzed into the office with literally a spring in my step and a song on my lips.
But first, I had a phone call to make
I dialed the number. The voice at the other end said, “Hello? May I know who’s speaking, please?” I identified myself and said, “Mr. Rao, I called to thank you for the referral.”
I was grateful. In fact, I was overwhelmed at being rewarded for my patience with Mr. Rao.
It pays to be nice. Always.
My karma had caught up with me.
What goes around, comes around.
You get what you give . . . at least most of the time!
Thank you for reading! 💚
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