The Story of Ray Markman – Part 6
Friday, 3:30 pm
I reach across my scarred WWII Air Force desk and refill the empty tumblers for Alexander Harbinger and Loop Lonagan. The bottle of single malt is more than half-gone and I’m in a hurry. The hour of the duel is closing fast and Loop promised an important story. I need it for my research on Ray Markman before these two beat each other senseless.
They sip their scotch and remain seemingly peaceful. It bring to mind a picture of diplomats at a negotiating table—polite, formal, all hostilities hidden beneath a veneer of protocol.
Finally Lonagan begins. “The thing impresses me most about Ray is he knows howta take a loss. He says, ‘If you never lost money, you never did anything.’ And he’s dead right.”
That makes me smile. “Sounds like trader talk.”
“Yeah maybe but it’s still duh truth—trading floor or corporate office. I know it cuts against all logic. It ain’t easy for a guy to learn. But winners know how to lose.”
He swallows a slug of his whiskey. “So Ray comes across this fantastic product. Falls in love with it.” Lonagan shakes his head. “That’s always a mistake. It’s an axiom on the trading floor—you never let yerself fall in love with a deal.”
“I can’t blame him.” Lonagan displays a sheepish grin. “Hadda learn it the hard way myself. Anyhow, he wants to mass market it. The inventor ain’t got no money so Ray buys an option on it. Now he owns it on the cheap. Then he puts his heart ‘n’ soul in it. He makes the rounds of all his advertisers—real rich men. One thing for sure, Ray’s got contacts. But for one reason or another, they all turn him down—every one of ‘em.”
Lonagan forms a fist and squeezes like he’s crushing a walnut. “But he ain’t givin’ up. He reads how the Tony Company just sold for 20 million bucks to a big-time player. That’s like maybe…” He squints, “…maybe half a billion in today’s money. It’s the outfit created the first home permanent. The big player announces he wants to invest in risk businesses. Well, Ray’s figures—‘Hey, I got a risk business’—so he goes and sees the guy. Doncha love it? He just goes out and sees this guy worth half a billion. Guy’s impressed with Ray, but insteada funding his product, he offers him a job.”
Harbinger holds up a finger. “Ziss is yet another example. He works for ze man. He cannot claim he never worked a day in his life.”
Lonagan drains his whiskey and slams the tumbler on the desk so hard, the glass splinters. “Shuttup Alex. I’m tellin’ this story my way. He turns duh guy down soes he can work on his startup project. But after a while he has to give that up on that and he takes the job after all.
“Anyhow, he don’t see it as work. What about you, Mr. PhD? You feel like lecturing is work? What about research? It’s a challenge, right? There’s rewards. You get up early in the morning and can’t wait to get started. ‘Course maybe you don’t. Maybe yer just waitin’ for tenure soes you can loaf the rest o’ yer career.”
I know I’d better intervene before things get violent. “Back off, Loop. Alex has a right to his opinion. You two get to maul each other at 5:00. Right now I want to pick your brains while you both still have brains to pick.” I slide across a new tumbler and the bottle. “Think you can hold off till 5:00 pm?”
Lonagan sloshes whiskey into the glass. “Could be you’re right. Maybe I’m settin’ my sites too high. With that big-time education, nobody expects no common sense outova a guy—‘specially a big German goon like Alex.”
It looks to me like Harbinger’s blood pressure is rising fast. I need to reign in Lonagan. “Loop! Can’t you stick to the point?”
Lonagan smiles. “Okay, I’ll play along. Where’d I leave off?” He leans back and his chair lets out a grinding squeak as he raises his feet to my desk. “Oh yeah. Ray’s gets busy and makes good on a buncha projects for this guy. So he figures the time’s right and he pitches that old product to his boss. He never gives up—just waits for the right time.”
Lonagan chuckles. “This is good—the guy makes up a survey, right there on the spot. Sends Ray out to do consumer research. When Ray comes back, his results are too good to be true—like batting a thousand. Everbody loves the thing. Everbody. Hey, I’d like to invest in it myself!”
He licks his lips and rests the tumbler on his belly. Some whiskey sloshes on his shirt. “Now, his boss says they’ll form a company. Ray’s gonna be president and run it. The boss brings in brand managers from the Tony Company. Also a muckity-muck from a big ad agency. Then he goes away on a trip—expects everything’ll be ready when he gets back.
Ray works the team. Gets a lawyer and draws up the articles of incorporation. Draws up a national plan with the brand managers. Gets everything buttoned up in three weeks before the boss comes back from his trip—”
“You continue to use ze word ‘boss.’ You again identify him as an employee, not an entrepreneur.”
Lonagan looks at Harbinger out of the corner of his eye, clearly telegraphing an insulting sentiment. His voice comes out in low tones. “He’s pitching a product venture. If my language ain’t precise enough for yuh, just cut me some slack, okay?” He turns back to me. “Now, Ray’s got everything set for duh big meeting but nobody else shows up. Nobody. Can you picture that?
“Right away, Ray knows somethin’s really wrong. Everbody knows somethin’ he doesn’t. And sure enough, his boss decides not to do the project. Even though everything looks great. Everything’s ready. Don’t give no reason for it—just dumps the idea. Maybe somethin’ on his trip made ‘im change his mind. Maybe he didn’t wanna be in that line o’ business—maybe alotta things—I dunno. End result, Ray gets stiffed.”
He swallows more scotch. “You know as good as me, after a thing like that a guy needs to move on. He offers Ray a position with another one o’ his companies, but Ray says no. So duh long ‘n short of it is he’s outava job, his wife is pregnant with their second kid and he’s stuck with this product nobody’ll buy. All ‘cause he fell in love with a deal.”
I’ve seldom heard Loop go on that long—at least in a coherent manner—and it takes me a moment to get my thoughts together.
Harbinger is scowling down at Lonagan. “Can you please come to ze point?”
“Yeah, Loop. What are you driving at?”
“It’s like I said—duh loss don’t get to him—it don’t make him give up—he keeps makin’ companies. He ain’t got no quit in his body. If he can’t make one thing fly, he finds another. There’s plenty other ways to do business.”
Harbinger and I don’t say anything and Lonagan looks from one of us to the other. “Don’t you guys get it? Ray knows ya gotta fail a lot to succeed.
“He can leave the losses behind ‘im.
“He knows how to fail the right way. With style.”
Find Chicago Venture Magazine at www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts are welcomed and encouraged. This is not investment advice – do your own due diligence. I cannot guarantee accuracy but I give you my best.
Copyright © 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved