by Mira Desai
Jim sniffled loudly, settling deeper in his leather chair. “Yes, if we could learn a bit more about your business, go on…”
Jake scratched his head and said, “C’mon now, you can’t keep growing unless you paint the numbers. Deck ’em up, y’know.”
The AC seemed to hum unnaturally loud. Past the glass paneled windows of the boardroom, the lights along the seaface came alive one by one.
“We’re told your business is the most profitable amongst your peers. Naturally, we’re interested--” Jim said in his deep baritone, looking at the quiet man across the conference table.
“No taxes! Ha ha ha…What do you pay, man, like ten percent?!” Jake asked, butting in.
“About four.” The quiet man toyed with a paper clip.
“FOUR! Thirty - forty, that’s the industry number. You spend four! Why?” Jake asked, thumping the table, his voice rising.
The quiet man said, “We use legal tax breaks.”
“You run a predictable business, not much volatility quarter to quarter, we were told…” Jim said, shuffling papers, trying valiantly to bring the conversation back on track.
“No taxes, no competition, so naturally you must print money!” Jake intervened, rocking back in his swivel chair.
The AC rumbled and hissed across the silence. The bearer walked in with a tea tray.
“I understand your business has loyal customers,” Jim continued valiantly. “Maybe you could tell us about your international business?”
“The US is an excellent market…” the quiet man began.
“Nah! The sector is bleeding! You make money? Do you dump?” Jake asked, pushing back his curls.
“From the numbers it looks like you bring in the same focus across your business areas,” Jim said, his nose positively red by now.
“That’s right,” the quiet man replied.
“Sales up tenfold and profit up seventy times! How? Cut quality, sell cheap?” Jake barked. His eyes threatened to pop out of his head.
“The company is listed, you could look up the filings,” the quiet man replied, unruffled.
Silence. Each tap of Jake’s pencil resounded like a drumbeat.
“You have a strong design and development program, I’m told. Perhaps--” Jim said.
“Hell, you’ll go broke doing design. No one does design, not outside the Valley. Just good money down the drain. Zoop!” Jake said.
“We have active projects in advanced development,” the quiet man confidently.
Someone knocked on the door: the allotted hour was up.
Next day the stock surged 15%, thanks to Jim and Jake.
published 19 March 2016