Life can be so deliciously ironic sometimes, friends. To illustrate, I give you a short summary of the events of the last 2 weeks.
After developing a super plan with Ahmed and Paulo for turning around the local banana sales operation, I became increasingly incredulous regarding what Hugh Marlboro had asked of me. Just to refresh your memories ('cause it's been a while since I've blogged, I know...), on the heels of telling me he had no intention of extending me a contract or offering me a decent salary, and that moreover he simply "didn't know how to put me to good use in the Empire", Hugh Marlboro proposed that I be put in charge of restructuring one of the key areas of his business. He wanted an operational plan, a management plan, standard procedures...EXACTLY the kind of work that I do well. And yet, he expected me to perform this massive task in 30 days on a salary that barely covered my living costs, all the while thinking that at the end of the month I'd hand over my reports and recommendations on a silver platter, and be content to walk away?? Mmmm, yeah. I think not.
I told the boys that my work, just like theirs, had a price, and that I intended to secure fair compensation before embarking on such a project. Ahmed and Paulo agreed completely.
Before presenting the proposal we'd put together, I went in for a private meeting with Hugh Marlboro. I told him that the boys and I had a sound plan, that we were a super team, that we could definitely turn around his local banana sales. However, I explained that my leadership and skills now had a price significantly higher than what I was willing to work for before our big talk the previous week.
I asked Hugh M. if he had a proposal for my compensation in this project, and his eyes practically bugged out of his head. He was totally not expecting me to stand up for myself. After quite a pause, he said he had no idea about a proposal, and did I have something in mind. You bet I did! I'd spent the last day figuring out an amount that was reasonable in terms of the work being performed, yet high enough for me not to feel like a sucker. I did a quick calculation on Hugh Marlboro's calculator, then turned the screen around to face him. "This is what I feel is fair for my work." He stared at that number for ages, and all the while I gripped my notepad so he wouldn't see my hands shaking with adrenaline. Finally, Hugh M. spoke. "I can't afford to pay this. It's simply not a possibility." I felt a bit disappointed, but satisfied that at least I'd brought up the issue.
Hugh Marlboro may not have been willing to pay for my work in the local banana sales, but he did have a proposal of his own. "I'll pay you 3x your previous salary for the 10 days you've worked so far this month. Come tomorrow morning and I'll give it to you in cash, and you can clean out your office. Then we'll start with a clean slate. If we want to work together on a specific project in the future, we will figure out the terms. But for now, at least we have nothing pending, neither of us owes the other anything." I accepted his proposal without hesitation.
Hugh Marlboro then asked to see the proposal that Ahmed, Paulo and I had put together. "Sorry," I said. "If you want to see the details of our plan, then you can hire me as a consultant for this specific project. Otherwise, you are free to move forward with Luigi heading the operation, or whomever you see fit."
Before I left his office, Hugh M. offered me his hand and said, "You are a hell of a businesswoman. My door will always be open to you. It's been a pleasure."
I walked out feeling good. I was free to search for my next job, and even without my participation in the local banana project, Ahmed and Paulo would be moved up to supervisory positions with improved salaries. And, to top it off, I'd gained a level of respect from Hugh Marlboro that I certainly didn't have before, not that it really mattered at this stage of the game...
I went to the Banana Empire headquarters and had the surreal experience of cleaning out my office, taking my pictures off the wall, and saying goodbye to my colleagues with less than 24 hours notice. Everyone was shocked to hear I was leaving. I was having serious bittersweet feelings about the whole thing...
I went home and started updating my CV, trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do next with my professional life.
Rico and I have been working for the last 2.5 years developing and doing fundraising for an expansion project for Hugh Marlboro's Banana Empire. We submitted the elaborate business and financial plan last year to the Big Investing Company for consideration, and it was through this process that Hugh M. got to know my work in the first place.
BIC is known for its bureaucracy, and the multi-million dollar project had to go through analysis and approval by the institution's regional office in South Africa, and by their agribusiness headquarters in the US. Several months ago, Hugh M. lost patience and got fed up with the drawn-out process. He was ready to give up, frustrated with BIC's runaround, and basically was ready to tell everyone from the institution to go screw themselves. Luckily, he confessed this desire to me before actually acting on it, and I was able to convince him to let me and Rico completely take over the process. We were close to getting the project approved, and Rico and I certainly didn't want to abandon ship, especially since we have a success fee on the line!
Last Thursday, two days after Hugh M. effectively fired me, we got some good news: BIC's credit committee in the US had approved the Banana Empire expansion project for funding! Several million dollars would be dedicated to the project pending a final review of the company's figures and Hugh M.'s acceptance of the loan terms and conditions.
As my mom put it, the timing on this news was delicious!
5 Days Later:
Ricardo and I went to have dinner with my friend T., who manages a fund that invests in local small businesses at the Maputo office of the Big Investing Company. Rico is interested in a potential career at BIC, so he wanted to do some networking. He got some good tips on an opening in their corporate division, and T. told us about her frustrations in the division she runs, namely she's lost all of her staff in the last 6 months due to local banks offering better salaries and lighter workloads. She told us how she is desperate, doing all of the investment evaluation work herself, how she has 5 projects to finalize by the end of June and has no idea how she will manage it, especially since she can't find qualified people to hire here in Maputo.
I talked a bit about how I don't want to lock myself into a full-time job before the wedding in July, that I would likely do consulting work - but where? - until then. I fretted a bit about my professional situation, then it hit us: T. and I could easily solve each other's problems! She needs help doing investment analysis (which is right up my alley!) until June. I want to work as a consultant until June, preferrably in a position that will make me good money. T. told me to send her my CV, that she would urgently push a contract for me through headquarters and that I could start on Monday.
So that is how I came to work for BIC as a short-term consultant, doing almost the same thing Hugh Marlboro had initially hired me to do yet was incapable of taking advantage of, and earning easily 4x the salary he was willing to pay me.
Today T. said that she's been praying to God for help in her program for quite some time now, but that she never imagined that help would come in the form of such a poor decision on Hugh Marlboro's part. She said she ran into him the other day on a site visit and almost gave him a hug, that's how grateful she is to have me available to work with her on the BIC fund.
I started my new job yesterday and it is going well. It's a challenge, I am busy, and I am satisfied with the conditions of my work. It's not the never-a-dull-moment of the Banana Empire, but it is definitely a good deal.