“I think you have it wrong.”
The hostess brings me to him. One of those places where you step up to sit at the table. The place was packed, all sorts of ages represented, the music surprisingly not disruptive. I had never met the man, but sure had heard much about him, and was both curious and nervous.
We shook hands. His meaty, firm, dry and warm. The forearm brown and muscular. Mine? A bit pale, thin, but taut. He had a big smile on his face. Friendly, relaxed, anything but self-important.
As the head of a critical engineering organization in a division of one of Germany‘s largest and most famous global companies, he had every reason to be formal, intimidating, testing, as if to say „I client. You service provider. Me master. You slave.“
Nope. None of that. All signals were positive. At least those in the first few minutes. Then he picks a fight with me. Verbally, intellectually, of course.
„You know, Herr Magee, I was against you doing any work for my organization. But my people had reported such good things about you, that I just let you continue working with them. You know, I think it‘s all about corporate and not national culture. I think you have it wrong.“
So this is not any kind of a master-slave relationship.But then he challenged me right from the start. What’s happening here? What’s the basic nature of a customer-supplier relationship in the German business context?