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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cassandra Cookbook Chapter 4

Still working on articles for  the weekend, so here's another chapter of my opus The Cassandra Cookbook

Chapter 4

On my way down the hall to the Director of Products office I open up the black binder and flip through the proposal Simon wrote. It looks like he’s detailed all the reasons why I want the company to purchase the Cassandra cookbook. Perfect. Today’s meeting with Rob is an important one and I don’t want any mistakes. I believe if we can acquire these recipes ITC could have its first national product line.

Pausing in front of Rob’s door I look over my athletic cut blue Armani suit, white Fendi shirt, and red paisley Hermes tie. When I see my smiling reflection in my black Ferragamo shoes I know I’m ready to make this presentation. I crack the heavy wooden door open and Rob catches a glimpse of me during the middle of his boisterous phone conversation. The stout bald caramel colored man dressed in a navy pinstripe Brooks Brothers suit, white Brooks Brothers shirt, and yellow Versace tie gestures for me to come in with a wave of his hand. I take a seat in the leather chair in front of his glass-topped desk as he abruptly ends the conversation with whoever he’s talking to on the phone.

“Herbie, I’ll have to call you back. My nine o’clock is here.” Rob says hanging up.

Rob smiles at me. We laugh loudly at his professional act as we pound fists. “Hey, what’s up Dave?” he greets.

“Remember that sweet potato pie you had at my house a month ago?” I say.

“You got some more of that? Hook me up with a slice man.”

“I don’t have any right now, but we could get as much as we wanted.”

“What are you getting at man?”

“I think those pies and the rest of the baked goods from that bakery could be our next big product line.” I say handing him the proposal.

Rob reviews the proposal nonchalantly for a few minutes and then slams the binder shut and drops it back down on his desk. I don’t think he’s as enthusiastic about this product as I am.

“You don’t need to be working on this right now.” He mumbles.

“Rob, Cassandra could be the next Entenmann’s if things go right.” I press. “We can make this deal today for a song. If they’re making this much in profits on a Brooklyn street corner, think about how much more money we could make.”

“David, I hear you. But Top Management wants you on the upcoming launch of the Hotties Hair Care line-”

“Aren’t foods ITC’s primary business?”

“ITC is looking to branch out of food products Dave. Research tells us that hair care products are bigger than food products in Black households. We’re getting ready to go for a piece of that market.”

“I still think we should go for this. Cassandra is very profitable. They’ve increased sales every year for the past five years. The products have an established local audience. With increased exposure they could go regional in a year and national in five years. Buying these rights would be a lot cheaper in the long-term than starting a premium dessert product line in-house.”

“Dave, I think the proposal is solid. It’s a good deal for the Baked Goods Division. But you really want to pass on this. For you, Cassandra is small potatoes compared to the Hotties project.”

That was Rob’s way of cryptically telling me he’s heard something through the company grapevine. I’ve been hearing rumors Top Management was considering me for a big project but dismissed them because the information came from assistants and interns. It must be true if he’s talking about it.

“Are they considering me for a position in the new Division?” I inquire curiously.

“They want you to lead the team.” Rob answers smiling. “They’re going to make you Director of Products for the whole Hair Care Division.”

I can’t hide the grin on my face. This is big news. Top Management must really be impressed with my work if they want me to oversee their new flagship line of hair care products.

“I’m going to manage a whole section of the company?” I snicker.

“You gonna be like me.” Rob laughs. “You’ll have your own advertising team, marketing team, and a big ass office. Not to mention an even bigger paycheck.”

“How much money they talking?”

“Starting salary is gonna be at least a hundred seventy five thousand dollars a year. And you’re going to get a fifteen million dollar operating budget and a ten million dollar advertising budget.”

From the sounds of it ITC is putting some serious effort into getting a share of the black hair care market. Top Management has never spent money like this. The whole budget for Baked Goods is barely seven million dollars and I’ve never gotten a separate advertising budget from Rob. And the raise they’re giving me is double my current salary. I’d definitely take the position if they offered it to me.

“I’m in Rob. What do I have to do next?” I say.

“Just get your house in order Dave.” Rob replies. “Do you have any unfinished projects you’re working on now?”

“I was going to start work on that Cassandra acquisition-”

“Hand that off to Simon. You need to prepare for this.”

“He’s inexperienced in some areas.”

“He’s been here eight years. How is he inexperienced?”

“His interpersonal skills aren’t as sharp as they should be.”

“He’ll work out the kinks. He’s more than ready to do an acquisition.”

“I think Laura should do the acquisition. She’s well versed in the company culture and she’s been here as long as Simon.”

Rob grimaces at me. “You playing politics Dave?”

“I just think Laura would be a better fit.”

“You slick David.” Rob laughs. “But I can’t let you cut your girl a break this time. I need someone I can trust on this project.”

“Why are you so sold on Simon all of a sudden?”

“I always liked his work. You were the one who kept pushing everyone else in front of him. Just cause a brother don’t talk much doesn’t mean his work doesn’t speak for itself.”

“I just felt he wasn’t ready.”

“You better get him ready then. He’s going to be to taking your spot.”

“Who’s playing politics now Rob?”

“I’m covering our asses. There’s too much riding on this product launch for me to do you any favors. You want to hook your girl up you do it when you get your promotion. Me, I’ve got to keep the rest of this company strong when you leave us.”

“Laura takes care of business too.”

“Laura will put ITC out of business. Simon is the man I’m going with. I’ve already cut him a raise in salary and issued him a company credit card.”

“You’re moving fast.”

“Hey, things are poppin’ man. Top Management is moving fast and I got to go with the flow.”

“I still have reservations about this. Simon doesn’t know anything but research. I don’t think he’ll do well working with clients-”

“The other Product Managers have interns interviewing focus groups and working on ad campaigns. Our senior research analyst should be able to pick up the rights to a small bakery cookbook for us. He needs to cut his teeth on a project before I give him the Baked Goods Division.”

“Why can’t I use him on the Hotties project? His research is second to none here.”

“I need to fill your spot with an in-house worker. We don’t have time for some outsider to get up to speed when you leave.”

“You don’t want Baked Goods getting sidetracked like Frozen Foods.”

Rob grimaces. He hates to think about that time four years ago when he hired that outside manager to run the Frozen Foods Division and it bit him in the ass. That guy made so many mistakes that it wasn’t funny. From repackaging the products to changing the logos, if it wasn’t broke that brother tried to fix it in his quest to make a name for himself. In the end Top Management fired the new guy and of Rob lost face. There was even talk of him being fired too.

“I’m not making that mistake again.” Rob snarls. “It took us three years to reclaim even half of the frozen food market share we lost. I’m not losing my job because some new jack fool wants to make his mark.”

“You just don’t want that mark to be on your ass.” I laugh.

“It’s not just me this time Dave. Baked Goods has to stay strong just in case Hotties has a rough time during the launch. With Simon managing the Division ITC runs all that more smoothly. We all look good in the long run.”

I think I can get Simon ready to take over my job in time. The Cassandra acquisition is an easy deal; it should be over by the time my promotion is announced. I could supervise Simon and help him learn the job and work on any professional weaknesses until then. Then when I get my promotion the Division will be in good hands. Everything should work out nicely.

“You’re right. This project would be an excellent way to prepare Simon for his promotion.” I concede. I’ll call him into my office today and let him know what the plan is.”

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