Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Convulutions of Truth

Big business transactions are affairs of half truths and concealment. Each player concedes as little as they have to. It is a game of infinite subtlety mixed with displays of brute strength. People, who outside the room can be good friends, inside the room undergo a change of personality all related to gaining advantage. I was in a meeting yesterday that was a prime example.

The details are irrelevant, my side was in a position of selling, the other, of buying. The article for sale was deliberately concealed, though both sides in actuality knew full well the truth. The concealment was a commercial necessity, as what was for sale didn’t know it was for sale. If the item knew, or worse the market knew, its commercial value would drop. So it could be discussed only in round about terms, half references and financial conflagrations.

What I found most amusing was the way the other side for the first half of the meeting had to sell itself. A primary goal of the meeting was to determine if the suitor was suitable. Were they a worthy candidate to purchase such a fine and precious gem? So the lead of the opposing team spent a full half hour discussing his personal merits, and the financial stability and suitability of his firm.

Having spent the night before watching an episode of Attenborough’s “Life of Birds,” the comparison to a rare Amazonian bird, puffing up its crop, and strutting about its small patch of tree branch was inevitable. There are days when the boy has to stop himself from laughing out loud.

The second half of the meeting was even more curious. A colleague and I had the distinct pleasure of discussing our gem in only the most round about terms. We could talk in the abstract about the possible types of services it might offer, and hypothetically what sort of technology and IP it might possibly have. It was like trying to describe an elephant to a blind man.

“The tail, oh it is a most prodigious tale. Connected cleanly to the animal right above its rectal cavity, it is bunched to powerful, indeed multiply redundant muscles to ensure it may always swish, regardless of damage or failure. The tuft at the end is like the finest silk, and is known to be attractive in the extreme to other members of its tribe.”

“Is it a horse? Oh we so wish to buy a horse!”

“Ahhh, no good sir, unlike a horse’s tail it has a stretch covered in the softest skin rather than hair, but that in no way detracts from its purpose. As an implement of fly detraction it is most useful!”

And so on, and so forth. We spin enough information to intrigue, without giving enough information to identify (even though the buyer clearly knew the exactness of the item for sale). The meeting was concluded, we were satisfied that as a potential suitor we could let them continue (though that had been pre determined), and they walked away entranced with the vague knowledge of the gem for sale (though they had already known). Form was satisfied and the process moved ponderously on.


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