Movers and shakers

19 April 2006

If you’re a mover and shaker in any field you are going to come into conflict with others. It’s inevitable. The reason is change. By definition you are moving things around, shaking things up which means change for those who were happy with the way things were.

And people hate change.

Today I had to stand my ground with a business bully and do some moving and shaking of my own. This client walked in off the street many many months ago and commissioned some artwork for a project he was wanting to develop. I did the work for him and allowed him extended credit largely due to his plausible explanations that he was involved with some grant scheme which forbade him paying any sub contractors until the scheme had been ratified. Basically, I had to wait for the grant to come through before I got paid (yes I know it’s his problem and not mine – but hey, I’m a nice guy).

The result was that I had been far too lenient with him and he now took me for a soft touch. Eventually, when his extended credit started to be measured in years, I figured it was time to make a stand. When I argued my case – which was perfectly reasonable to a reasonable person – he started to come out with excuses, explanations and accusations which made no sense. I don’t know if you have ever been in that kind of surreal situation where you know you are being reasonable and the person you are negotiating with seems to be talking to someone else, who you do not know, about an issue you know nothing about. It becomes frightening because ordinarily you deal with the known. When you come across the unknown you have to be wary in case there is danger of some kind. A man thinking in an alien way is dangerous because he becomes unpredictable.

I was nonplussed at this stage; you cannot reason with an unreasonable person. I carefully considered my options therefore and decided that whilst there was still the possibility of seeing some money I would go along with his delusion, automatically agree with his reasoning of why I should be ‘fined’ for not doing what he demanded of me and gratefully take whatever money he grudgingly decided to pay me. After I had made sure his cheque had cleared I could discard this unquestioning compliance I had adopted and reconsider my options.

As it happened, I got an email from the people handling the grant (so it was true), asking me if I had been paid as they could not release the money to him until all sub contractors had been fully paid. Well, I don’t know how stupid he thought I was but anyone with any business sense could see what I was going to do. If he needed that last bit of cooperation from me does he think I’m going to willingly provide it after being treated in such a cavalier manner and whilst a part of the debt is still owing? Of course not. And so I had the unpleasantness of having to ruthlessly negotiate the remaining debt of the invoice with him. Which I did. And it was very unpleasant.

So movers and shakers need an iron resolve and an elephant like hide to ignore the resentment. It is no wonder so many inadvertent movers and shakers (due to some discovery they make or information they unwittingly possess) struggle to maintain their sanity in the furore they inevitably precipitate. I now have a renewed respect for such men as Giordano Bruno and Charles Darwin who knew what they were letting themselves in for.

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