Monday, 23 February 2015

How to Win at Business

I’m going to skip my obsessive list of the number of times Rohmer people tell other Rohmer people things they already know.  Or maybe I’ll tack it on later.  There are some pretty good ones.  I’m also skipping my “vodka” list, since it only comes up once, as the ultimate evidence that Julie Roberts is a hideous wizened slattern who’s better off dead.  (How many times does Rohmer tell us she smokes? 50?)

I want to ask you guys if I’m missing something subtle, after all these books, about how a businessman “wins” when he makes a business deal.  Take the way Gator deals with the lawyers for his wife’s late-husband’s late-father’s estate:

“You’ll be on the board of directors and my lawyers, right?”
He watched Williams and Stewart look at each other and smile.  At that moment, Peters knew he had them both by the shorts and in his pocket.

I get that he has them in his pocket.  He just offered them money and they took it.  But how does he have them by the shorts?

He sure showed them, when he cut them in on the deal?

Let’s say I go to Subway sandwich for lunch, and I offer them $5 and to make me a tuna sandwich, and they accept… do I have them by the shorts?

Do I want them by the shorts?

Take… that?

It seems to me that a situation where someone is selling something, and someone else meets their price and buys it is a win-win, whereas a situation where a person has a fistful of another person’s pubic hair is a pretty classic lose-lose.  But I must be missing something awfully basic about Rohmerworld, or maybe something thuddingly obvious (to everyone but me) about capitalism.

It’s the fist pumping victory part of a guy in a suit buying something from another guy in a suit.  I keep thinking there has to be more to it than that, but there isn’t, right?

Should one of us ask Professor Louise Kelly?


  1. "The business of business is business" as Milton Friedman said (or was that Alfred P. Sloan? No matter.) and all of Rohmer's business writing starts from this point - you should be reallllly excited by the idea of a huge deal. It's a measurable win - the most money - so why do details matter? It's the idea that people are playing with huge amounts of money that he's selling.

  2. But there never seems to be a second layer to a Rohmer deal. I'm not a businessman (ask anybody) but I can imagine dozens of general ideas for a corporate acquisition: Once we own company X we'll make our money back because we can run it better than they do; once we buy company X we'll have access to new markets; once we buy company X we'll get their inventions/employees that are on the brink of something; once we buy company X we can sell of the parts for more than we paid; once we own company X we can fire all the redundant employees who do things we already have people doing; once we buy company X we'll be in a better tax position; once we buy company X we'll have more market share because we've eliminated a competitor; once we talk our clients into buying company X we can collect a fee; once we buy company X we'll get our name in the paper and that will help us get chicks... But none of these things ever figure into a Rohmer deal. With Rohmer it's always just: Once we buy company X they'll have our money and we'll have company X. Maybe you're right, Stan. Maybe it's just exciting because of the big numbers. He's the audience at The Price is Right, applauding the refrigerator.

  3. You can’t be missing anything, Chris; there is no subtlety in Rohmer’s novels.

    Gator follows Rohmer's business model in that he’s no entrepreneur. Sure, he’ll be leaving money so that U of T can establish a “School of Entrepreneurship” to be named in his honour, but he disparages the term on the novel's first page. Gator doesn’t actually build anything, he merely acquires (profitable companies only, please). Even his gold mining operations play it safe "(no exploration or development please [sic])."

    What Caged Eagle teaches us is that win-win is the best scenario; win-lose can have disastrous consequences. In Exxoneration, Petro-Canada’s hostile take-over of Exxon yields only the Canadian operations; everything else falls to the Saudis, devastating Canadian-American relations in the process.

    In Retaliation, another win-lose, big Canadian banks launch hostile take-overs of big American banks, all but destroying the Canadian economy, Canadian-American relations and, ultimately, the banks themselves.

    Again, disastrous consequences, but Rohmer also teaches that win-lose is worth doing, if only to prove that it can be done. I think it's all about the size of your wing tip and two big bombs. What I don't get is why Gator won't show us his.

  4. Ewwwww... wing tip. It would be even grosser if it made any sense. Does a penis look like a wing? Not really. Do birds have sex by putting their wings in each other? I'll have to look it up, but I doubt it. It's just mysterious. Now, calling a vagina a pouch...

  5. When thinking of wing tip shoes, I now a strange image in my mind.

    Brian - the thing about win-lose is, the disastrous consequences don't matter if your hero has made him money. In Retaliation, Paul James ends up on a beach, living happily and richly ever after, as the Canadian economy is in tatters. But it's okay - Paul James made a LOT of money.

    Chris - when we reach Death by Deficit, there will doubtless be more nonsensical business deals - rather than trying to understand them, repeat after me: Rummy economics, Rummy economics, Rummy economics....

  6. If you are a bellhop and you buy a stock, the next week you will be rich. Everyone knows that.

  7. The trick of course is to buy a newspaper and see which stocks have gone through the roof. Those are the ones to buy. Not everybody knows that.