The meeting was over. The contracts were signed. His business was sold. In fact, he had just sold it for considerably less than he had expected to.
What had gone wrong?
The younger man across the table from him wondered for a moment why the seller hadn’t gotten up and left. He, the newcomer, now owned the place, after all.
“What went wrong?” The voice was tired, old, faded.
“I suppose you expected to sell more quickly and at a higher price.” Matter of fact. Calm. In control.
“Yes. It should have worked. All my life it has worked.”
“What? What worked?”
“My negotiations. I’ve bought and sold any number of companies. I have years of experience on you.”
“The resume doesn’t impress me. The data, the facts on the ground, the bottom line. Those impress me.”
“The bottom line was somewhat better than what you based your offer on.”
“Do you actually believe that?”
“Of course I believe it! I know this company. I know what it’s worth.” The vigor was back.
“And dozens of men and women, business leaders, have believed you when you made such claims.”
“Because I’m successful. I’m important. Just my name has value!”
“I suppose you have to believe that. But I don’t.”
Several varieties of anger made their way across the older man’s face. He wanted to call the younger man inexperienced, to promise him failure. To negatively compare the younger man’s status with his own. But he was sitting in this room that now belonged to the younger man. “You have no respect for your elders.”
“At what point have I shown disrespect?” The question was curious. Not surprised, angry, ashamed. Just mildly curious.
“By calling all my claims lies.”
“The claims were false.”
“But thousands, maybe even millions believe my perspective, my judgement.”
“That doesn’t make you right. It may make you popular, but it doesn’t make you right.”
“You see! Disrespect!”
“So pointing out facts is disrespect.” The younger man was wavering on the point of cutting the conversation off, but he was still curious.
“I’m a great businessman! A young pup like you has no business challenging me!”
“You know, you’ve made a career of that kind of statement. You challenge people to tell you you’re wrong. You bluster. And it worked. It worked right up until there was nobody left who hadn’t been burned by your ideas, and the one man with the money to buy you out wasn’t buying your ‘perspective.'”
The older man jumped up. “You insolent young pup! Nobody! Nothing!” And he stormed out of the room. He looked behind him. How many people had followed him out of a room when he stormed out? But nobody followed him this time.
There comes a time, thought the younger man, when the balloon deflates. Too bad so many people lose their shirts in the meantime.
(Featured image credit: Openclipart.org.)