Enjoy this free excerpt from the Best Selling book "The CEO" by Steve Bederman
It was springtime. Early morning cool breeze belaying the warmth that inevitably blows out of the foothills and into the city most mornings. Denver, Colorado is a high plain city; moderate, beautiful, and peaceful.
He walked slowly down the aisle of the Safeway with his basket in hand while occasionally stopping to read a label and drop a package of donuts into the basket. Walking to the end of the aisle a single drop of sweat formed on the side of his temple. It was warm to him and he knew the sweat would come, wetting his t-shirt under his Armani light blue stripped shirt. Perfectly starched, form fitted, but now moist.
An old man was having a hard time reaching for something on the shelf. The man did not look well, and did not look affluent. A laborer or a shop owner in his better years. Today, just a shopper spending his pension carefully. He was reminded of his grandfather: gentle, quiet, hard. Always a smile. Some days are tougher than others.
The old man was struggling to reach a package on a shelf. He wanted to help. His nature was to help. Reaching over the old man’s grocery cart, he grabbed the item and flipped it into the old man’s cart. Each of them smiled at one another. He walked on to the end of the aisle.
Turning to his right he saw the pharmacy. His heart raced his forehead moist. Time slowed and his skin prickled, his breathing loud in his ears. A beautiful day; cool and calm. He saw no one else at the counter. He knew it was his time. Careful. Be steady, just a young and affluent market maker a leader in his own right.
Today at work, this morning, his employees throughout the world on video conference and laptop video link were beginning to gather for their monthly meeting. They came each month, the first Tuesday, to listen to his vision, his humor, his passion, his demand that they build this company into the dream that he had, that they all now embraced. A company to change the world, a company that listens to each other, and brings jobs to those that don’t have as much. To embrace the goal of a dollar earned the right way and the caring way and the helpful way, to create a new generation of business. A new model and a lightning fast trip to the top of the world where Ministers and Presidents and corporate leaders would look upon them…upon him as…
He walked to the counter, to the young clerk, “Thompson. Mary Thompson” he said, maybe a bit too loudly. Clearing his throat, he glanced at his watch and smiled.
She walked to the prescription baskets, “Johnson?”
“Thompson. My wife is having problems sleeping and I thought they had called in something last night. Hold on, let me call her…” He was not married, divorced for over a year now, he offered too much information.
“Here it is, right where it was supposed to be!” She was warm and serious and young. Probably her first job. And proud. The type that felt she was starting a medical career, not just dispensing pills and filling jars.
The smell of Tide detergent hit him and he looked behind him. The old man was standing too close, waiting his turn.
The old man gave a gentle and caring smile, “Well we’re all different, but we all end up here. It’s just pills, pills, and more pills; keeping us goin. Seems like we all end up here,” he repeated, voice fading.
He had no idea.
“Can I ring it up here or are you doing more shopping?” the clerk asked.
“Oh, if you can take my donuts…eh…no… no more shopping. That’s it...gotta get to the office.” Reflecting on a particular thought he brightly continued, “I’m a CEO, have to set the standard.”
“Do you have insurance? This is expensive. Wow!”
“I didn’t bring my card. I guess we’ll…”
“Oh, I can look it up. Just give me a moment…”
“No, we’ll just send it in to insurance. I’m really running late” The pressure to leave …sweat quickly appeared on his forehead but his face did not betray his impatience. He needed to get out of here.
“If it wasn’t for my supplemental I couldn’t afford to stay alive.” The old man offered.
“So, cash?” she said “It’s $72.80, you sure I can’t look it up…the insurance?
“No, that’s fine.” He handed her 4 twenties then placed his hand on the counter, waiting, pressing his palm into the cool surface. He could feel his hand shaking. “Could she tell?” he thought. “Come on. Jeez, I have to go already” he felt. And he did, to work, to the people, to safety, to another day and until tomorrow, another store, another counter.
“Do you have a store card?” she asked.
“No. That’s all right. I’ve just got to get going.” He sounded more patient than he felt; he hoped.
She handed him the change. “Sorry, I only have singles”
“No problem. I’ll spend it either way.”
He grabbed his package and turned, tripping over a cane placed right behind his left leg, knocking the old man back…the old man falling halfway to the ground…He reached for him and stood him up gently. He dropped his prescription. “You okay?”
“Oh? Yeah...I’m not as steady as I used to be. Thanks.” The old man pushed the package towards him with his cane looking at the label, “Don’t forget your prescription. That’s pretty strong stuff. I take the generic brand. Can’t afford the name. Be careful, don’t drive…” he advised.
“No, no it’s for my wife” as he reached down, grabbed the bag and turned to leave. “You sure you’re okay?” to the old man. He nodded.
“Have a great day. It’s beautiful out!” he said to the clerk.
“Thanks Mr. Thompson. Don’t forget to send in your receipt.” She called after him.
As he walked out the door, the cool breeze blew on his face, his Armani sticking to his chest, still moist.
As he walked to his car he clicked his key and remotely started the engine. He drove a BMW. Not too pretentious. Just enough to say he was a success. Tan leather seats, white pearl body, waxed. Always clean, vacuumed, leather treated.
He got in.
He reached for the bag. He tore it open. He was already feeling better; now unscrewing the cap. Counting out ten of the thirty in the bottle he put them in his right palm, then into his mouth. They stayed on his tongue and melted. The taste disgusting to most was calming to him. He gently chewed and they broke apart. He let them sit for a minute under his tongue then reached around for the bottle of water that was in the holder near the back seat. Through the back window he saw a police car sitting behind him.
Was it trying to park? Was it blocking him? He swallowed the pills, his heart thumping through his chest, his shirt instantly soaked again. He turned around and grabbed the bag and the pill bottle; quickly shoving it under the driver seat. “What do I do? Should I get out or just sit here? Oh shit! Damn! This can’t happen now” he thought.
This afternoon he had an interview with the Business Journal. The story was “The fastest growing private company in the city.” Wasn’t he a star?
He opened his door, not yet getting out, and in his side view mirror noticed the police car pulling into the spot across the lane. Pausing, he carefully shut his door. Reaching and turning the key, he instantly heard the grind. His car was already running. “Oh yeah, already running.” He sighed.
Backing out very slowly and putting it into drive he nodded to the cops walking past his door. They nodded back, slightly, and he carefully drove away. They, on their way for donuts and morning coffee, he was sure. Always sure. Sure he was the CEO of the fastest growing company in the city, and soon the world. No stopping for anyone, anywhere. He had survived and now he would succeed.
Everyone knew it, didn’t they? They’d all be proud of each other and of him. They knew him as their leader. They had never met anyone like him. He couldn’t wait to get to the office and inspire them, tell them to “embrace the moment!” Nothing was more important than this moment; building upon the next and the next. His charge was to drive them, to implement his new model; a new way to challenge the old standards and to recognize him as the visionary, the CEO!
“…no, not really. I do not understand and I am not gonna accept that. I am sick and tired of always doing the proper lawyer thing. This guy is attacking me…attacking this company…our dream… and if you can’t find a legal approach then I will take it and …I will tell you this: there is no way he is ever gonna win this. He apparently doesn’t know me very well. As far as I’m concerned he’s stepped over the line and I’m gonna stop him once and for all!”
Mitch Jacobs was incensed. He was tired of feeling put down and attacked by arrogant Wharton and Yale boys from the east coast. They thought themselves superior, but he could not figure out why. He had fought for everything he had. Nothing had come easy and now people were always looking to reap the benefits of his hard work.
Mitchell M. Jacobs had beaten all of the odds. He was 42, fit, tanned, brown hair cut perfectly just above the collar, and a youthful curl or two hanging on his forehead. He was a gentleman, or better yet, at times, gentle. He had a way about him that people trusted. He had not finished college but no matter, he was definitely street smart. He had struggled: mightily! He had grown into himself over the years and finally had learned “the formula” as he liked to say. Everywhere he went people recognized him. They didn’t really know him, but they thought they did. He was a surprise in the business world. Often charismatic, but prone to the occasional burst of anger, this was one of those times.
Andrew Friedman had simply gone too far today.
Years ago when Mitch took over management of the company from the founders he had convinced Andrew Friedman to “carry him” until he could gain some traction. Friedman was the owner of a New York City based software company that provided a product that Mitch’s tech company, Symbiotic Technologies, depended upon.
At that time, Friedman had “called” his loan to Symbiotic. He wanted his money. $400,000 was something he could lose sleep over. Not knowing Mitch except as a Symbiotic sales guy, Friedman believed that when Mitch took things over, his money was at risk. “I’m not gonna waste my time with some piss ant little company from Denver, Colorado with some guy that has no idea how to run things.” He yelled at that year’s CFO.
In fact, Friedman had gone through a lot of CFOs. Truth be told, he had gone through a lot of managers, period. He was difficult to work for. He was self-indulgent and completely “Andrew centered” as his wife had said in court.
He believed that he was what was important and he wanted all the monies and attention for himself. He was such a stubborn guy that when his wife had walked out on him, because of that same very arrogant nature, he sued her! Not because he really wanted the kids, but because he wanted to keep everything his that was his. He’d planned to teach the kids what life was really about, and he’d show them the kind of woman that their mother was, too.
He sued her in New York state courts for emotional abuse. He answered honestly, when asked by the judge, that he wasn’t even sure how to manage the kids alone and would need a nanny. After all, she had destroyed his confidence and denigrated his character for so many years.
A real sad story! It would be hard, “Judge, I will do much better than she would. She will need to go earn her own money. She has never earned a penny of mine. She has never taken on any responsibility”
He wanted to add, but thought the better of it, “She thinks I’m arrogant? Just wait until she’s alone without me, the kids, and the dog. Even her parents will stop having anything to do with her. She’ll wish she never left; mark my words. You either support me or you are against me.”
So he got the kids, got the dog, and she was almost alone. Last he had heard from his private security she was dating some mid-level manager at some half-baked company. Money talked. He’d never let anyone forget it!
Nonetheless, back when Mitch became the CEO, Friedman had finally agreed with Mitch to extend him credit and to do the “helpful” thing. “Everybody needed a chance.” he had said. Though, the contract was one sided and gave him lots of control if anything went wrong. It was a bet, at high interest gained, but high risk for the both of them. Well maybe a little bit more risk at that time for Symbiotic. Friedman got a long-term agreement that ensured that every Symbiotic sale included his software.
If Symbiotic grew the way Mitch suggested it would then, “We’ll all be successful. If it isn’t, then I can’t pay you the $400K anyway, and you’ll take my assets; which are more than the note.” Mitch recalled saying to Friedman that day when together, they had saved the life of Symbiotic.
It worked perfectly…for both companies! Not only had Symbiotic paid off the $400,000 in that first year, but they were now spending tens of millions of dollars with Friedman each year, and growing. This had turned into the best investment Friedman could recall ever having made.
In fact, nothing had actually ever gone wrong. Yet, for some reason, out of the blue, Friedman had decided today to try and enforce the small print on the contract. No more “helpful” for him. Over an hour ago, at exactly 9:00am, he had had a team of lawyers walk into Symbiotic and hand papers to the in-house counsel, Lou Stanton.
Essentially, it gave Symbiotic 72 hours to figure out how to save their company from Friedman’s attempt at take over.
“How in the world can he live with shutting down his software on thousands of clients?” Mitch asked Lou, more a statement than a question. “He’s gonna kill a lot of businesses. That is just wrong. People are not there for his pleasure or his convenience! Just because he has found a way to use his contract to steal our company is not a good reason to…”
“Mitch, Mitch! Hang on a minute,” pleaded Lou. “We signed that contract with our eyes open. I think our mistake was putting it on the backburner. Getting around to re-negotiating it wasn’t on our radar. We’ve been intoxicated with our massive growth and attention. In all due respect, you’d rather be in D.C. speaking with the Secretary of State or in Pakistan telling them their “needs are interdependent with ours” than planning out the daily details of this company.”
In truth, Lou thought Mitch was more concerned with his own fame than his ideals or even fortune. “I love ya Mitch and I am amazed at what you’ve…we’ve…accomplished. It’s just that when you’re out of the office there isn’t that same focused attention to detail that there is when you are here, that there used to be; that made us different, that changed the “model” as you always say.” Lou was passionate in his own right.
Mitch frowned and turned towards the crystal clear west-facing windows. The white capped Rocky Mountains in view, he carefully formed his words and without looking back at Lou he said, “We are not going to lose this company and I need you to please have a plan by tomorrow morning! Or…I will!”