We own a branding and design firm with a fairly good reputation in retail. A few years ago, my partner and I, along with an account manager, were attending a meeting with a fashion designer just at the beginning of her licensing phase, her company president and a consultant. This consultant was actually a retailer with a big reputation -- both for his retailing swagger and for losing his family's business.
The meeting started badly when they kept the three of us waiting while they ate pizza in a conference room -- a glass-enclosed conference room, by the way, immediately adjacent to the reception area.
When we were finally summoned into the president's office, the meeting began without the consultant, who had moved into the lobby to talk on his cellphone. When he finally arrived, he started leafing through our materials, interrupting the conversation and generally acting like Mr. Big.
I watched as my partner, a 6-foot tall, very glamorous woman who doesn't put up with much, actually started turning red. As she was addressing the president, the consultant turned to her and said, with a wave of his hand, "Well, this work is all fine enough, but where's the really new stuff?"
She gave him the biggest smile - a smile that can light a room -- and clapped him on the knee. "You know," she said, addressing him by name, "I've read about you for years and I was actually looking forward to meeting you." She paused to give him time to preen. Then she said, "but you're a real asshole."
The president sat at his desk with his jaw frozen mid-word. The account manager with us looked terrified. I was thrilled, to be honest. But there was no doubt about it, the moment was hanging in the air.
Then the consultant burst into a big guffaw, and said, "I like you! The problem I always had is nobody ever told me when I was wrong!"
It was a pyrrhic victory, to be honest. She scared the daylights out of the president. The consultant was soon out of there, too. And, as my partner said, "I'd never work for an asshole anyway."
I had to agree.