This transcription belongs to Episode #4, please watch the complete episode here!
Morgan (Host): Hey everyone! I’m back with the fourth episode of the beloved by clients podcast, now renamed to client horror stories. Speaking of client horror stories, the one and only awesome, Jason Pittock is here. Did I pronounce your last name correctly?
Jason (Interviewee): Perfectly!
Morgan (Host): Jason is here and he was about to tell me a client horror story. So I said, “No, no, let me press the record button on zoom so the world can hear it.” Let’s dive right in, tell us the story, Jason.
Jason (Interviewee): Thanks, Morgan, and thanks for inviting me to the show. So you know I started working pretty young, I guess because of my. My dad and mom pretty much came from nothing and they were always working and entrepreneurship. I wasn’t always an entrepreneur, I was an employee for many years, but always sadly ambitious. I do have a very horror-filled story to share with you.
Morgan (Host): Oh, I’m excited!
Jason (Interviewee): Yeah so basically this story is in the darkest depths of Buenos Aires, Argentina. So around 2014 – 2015, I was working in a corporate interior construction company. Basically what we did was interior furniture. We do a lot of the design work and like the project management of the buildings, but the majority, we were manufacturing furniture to the project spec and basically delivering it, installing it, and the rest of it. I was also in sales and marketing and actually was responsible for juggling both teams.
It was a great job, I really enjoyed it, I absolutely love working with architects, I love working with designers, did a lot with planning organizations, and I really liked that, you know? But I was quite ambitious with sales, and the problem when you’re doing construction, interior construction, is not really about sales. Unfortunately, there’s a whole other side to it, which is delivery. So you can outsell and underdeliver, but you just don’t have the capacity and you don’t have the contractors. And this particular project, basically we had this customer who was a real estate developer. He was very famous because they do some of the biggest buildings in Palermo which is a very nice neighborhood in Buenos Aires, probably one of the most expensive real estate in Argentina. And they just build buildings, they build buildings for offices, and they also build buildings for Airbnb.
Morgan (Host): Do they build buildings just for the Airbnb guest?
Jason (Interviewee): Investors, that’s correct! So Airbnb investors in Buenos Aires are I think is the fastest-growing Airbnb hub or was until COVID.
Morgan (Host): Pre-Covid, right?
Jason (Interviewee): Right, because I mean, it’s pretty stable like 15% return a year in dollars is pretty good for people to invest. We never really got involved with what we’d call residential interior furniture because we’re always focused on commercials. And in 2015, we had a very ambitious goal, revenue-wise, I created this goal for the team, the business development, and the rest of it. I knew this lead was there, I knew this customer was there, and they had to do a couple of buildings.
I don’t know how many so I was talking with the sales team like “Hey, let’s get a meeting with them, let’s start looking at the specs, and see if we can quote it.” So we’ve got a meeting with them and I just straight away hit off very well with the owner, actually, the president of the company, the owner, like this was a family business. It’s is him, his brother-in-law, another guy, and they have a business with about 300 employees which was already a pretty big business.
Morgan (Host): Pause, I have a question I wanted to ask you. I don’t know where the story is going, but I’m excited. I’m wondering if at this early stages, when you first met them, was there anything that happened that in retrospect were yellow flags or warning signs but you didn’t realize at the time?
Jason (Interviewee): Right, so I was quite young at that time. I was 21 or 22 and I was very ambitious so I was very quick to make friends. I made a very good relationship with them like I went out for dinner with them went out for drinks, which was a yellow flag as you would say. Very quickly they had my personal mobile, even my Instagram, immediately they had pretty much multiple touchpoints of my life.
Morgan (Host): So wait let’s discuss that for a second. What’s the yellow flag there? Because often, when you’re prospecting, you must be friendly to build a relationship with them.
Jason (Interviewee): Well, one thing I’ve learned, especially recently, is that there is a difference between friendship and companionship. I think friendship is intimate and professional companionship is professional companionship. So you’re a companion in a deal like you’re a companion so you’re side by side, both got aligned goals, and you would do anything for that person to deal, but you’re still not their friends. You know, I have a very clear line now in who I consider a friend and who I consider a business associate. I actually moved to Buenos Aires once this deal was starting to become signed off. I was actually living down south and flying into Buenos Aires every Monday going out every Friday. So I even moved to Buenos Aires when we started looking at the magnitude of this deal.
This wasn’t three buildings, this was seven. Seven buildings of around 12 and 15 floors each. So that’s the size of the deal and we were supposed to do furniture for these buildings. So if you work it out, you’re looking at around 90 floors of furniture, multiplied by about eight flats on the floor. It’s a very, very large project and when we saw the figures and we did the quote. We saw the margin, we were looking at a pretty nice margin, we’re like “Wow, this is just like the deal of the year!” The team was ecstasy about it and we’re just like “Wow/” the Commission’s are going to be great, everything’s gonna be good, and we’re just gonna own this deal. Anyway, we successfully closed the deal and we pretty much reviewed everything. We’ve spoken to our contractors, we pretty much thought about everything, but we were quite uneasy about the delivery because we knew it was going to be tough because of the timeline these guys don’t really have any leeway.
You know you have to deliver on a certain day, if not, they’re going to screw you over with a contract, interests, and everything. Anyway, they sent through the contract for us to look at before negotiating T’s and C’s, but pretty much we reviewed the contract. The contract looked pretty standard and we then literally signed this deal. I’m talking about back in those days, it was like multi-million dollars, but for us, it was huge. We’re a smallish company and this was a big deal for us like the deal of the year. So we were very ambitious.
Morgan (Host): I’m getting really nervous
Jason (Interviewee): Yeah, so we started to do some tools, you know once we land a customer like that, probably we have like a lot of handover meetings to the project management team. When we sat down with a project manager and showed them the deal and the project, she took a deep breath and said “I’m pregnant.”
Morgan (Host): Oh,
Jason (Interviewee): She added, “I can’t handle this deal, this job.” This is our lead project manager, like the ace of the team. You’re talking like the Shoemaker, the fastest car on the track. You know, like in construction, everything, as I said, is sales, but everything else is project management. Like project managers are the key players in your team. They’re the people that make the money come in because if you don’t deliver, you don’t get paid. I mean, there’s a great deal but you have to deliver because you get paid like a down payment and then everything goes on delivery. So if you can’t deliver, cash flow goes dry and that would be a huge problem.
Morgan (Host): Project management in construction is much more complex than in internet agency land because there are huge things that need to be dropped off at huge scales.
Jason (Interviewee): Yeah, you can have a warehouse that can just be broken into pieces and can get stuck, you know, so many things that can go wrong. So, going back, she backed out, and straight away that was like the Titanic hit a bit of a, you know, some little iceberg down there.
Morgan (Host): So question; is one learning from that, to make sure that four key roles you have multiple people or secrecy to not be so dependent on one person.
Jason (Interviewee): Yeah, I think it came to light very quickly, that what we’ve done extraordinarily wrong, was when we’re sitting down with this customer, looking at the project and we didn’t involve her right. This was because the sales team and the marketing team had such a good grasp of what to do since we knew our stuff, we knew about the cost, we wanted to make the profit because our commissions were generally based on preference. So we knew what project management we needed to do and what we didn’t need to do. But what we were really worried about was the moment when she backed down. You know, that we’ve lost our Messi.
Morgan (Host): I liked the Messi reference. but by the way, I want to emphasize that’s another good learning, to basically involve the project managers earlier rather than later.
Jason (Interviewee): Or involve just as many people especially when\you’re doing a big deal, it doesn’t really matter what industry you’re in. I don’t think there is any negative side to involving a lot of people, at least put them in the know. Just sit down and bounce off you know, take 15 minutes. So we didn’t bounce her off. She knew something about it, but she didn’t have any idea of the magnitude. Again, we’re looking at seven buildings, anything between 10 and 15 storeys, and eight flats, eight Airbnbs per story. So we had these four or 500 flats to fit out, all furniture, melamine, you know MDF board and all the other things.
Morgan (Host): I’m getting so scared of what’s going to happen.
Jason (Interviewee): So basically we had to go out and hire another senior project manager or you know, somebody who’s gonna run the job. That went extremely bad, we’re ready now, two weeks into the schedule. Nothing can be moved forward on the project management and all we’ve done is secure materials. Then we finally stumbled across a couple, literally a couple that worked together and they specialized in this type of project management, so we went along and hired them. They had quite a good understanding of furniture and what the industry was in, so we felt straightaway a bit more reassured.
The customer did as well and things started to clock into place. We were in two weeks out like, we are going to be okay now. The delivery of the first building, for example, was like three months down the line from where we were at that moment, so we had time. Everything started to plan out, everything went pretty smoothly then, until we came and delivered to the first building. We also don’t manufacture ourselves, we subcontract all the manufacturers and other manufacturing to the manufacturers. Anyway, we came to deliver the first building. A lot of people have turned up, people were there, we offloaded all the equipment, offloaded all the furniture, and when they got to the first building, the lift was broken. So we’re already you know, we’re already in a very difficult space, it was already two weeks out, and now, for example, the lift was broken, which is a very normal thing in these types of projects like it can happen, they send a technician, the next day it works, but I hate to say this because like this karma was just telling us to, “Cancel the project now, cancel the project now, give the money back, this is gonna go bad.” I really, really started to feel very uneasy, just too much bad luck, you know, it was just like bad luck was following me around.
And I was so young, as far as I can tell, I was like 22 or 23, and these customers are like experienced real estate investors, very experienced in project management, and very experienced in construction. We were really tooled up to projects by about 1⁄10 of the size or one 1⁄3 of the size, and with our main plan missing, it was just so chaotic. We built a good relationship with these project managers, but basically, that was the first of multiple different issues in that first building. Issues like plans were built wrong, plans were drawn wrong, and interpreted wrong in the factory. Measurements didn’t meet the furniture specifications and pretty much the first building ended up being four weeks delivered late.
Morgan (Host): So basically it turns out that the couple wasn’t that good because these are the sorts of responsibilities that they should be on top of.
Jason (Interviewee): No, this was not really their fault because we threw them in the deep end, you know like it was just expected. You can’t imagine hiring two people in a couple of weeks, throwing them into the fire, and thinking that they’re going to deliver. It’s just not gonna work, it’s not gonna work. Anyway, we delivered that first building and then we had a call from a customer saying, “We want to meet you guys.” After that call, we’re worried, like we were very, very worried. So we had a meeting with them and I remember turning up at that meeting.
I knew who was going to be there because he had put on a group chat, and in that group chat was actually one of the owners of the company, literally the guy who would pretty much put a signature on every single check like he was one of the founders. We met in a small coffee shop in Palermo and these guys even built that coffee shop. This is how strong they were, they went in there and there’s no one there because they built the place and they rented the entire place from the guy. So I got in there, I was the only person going to meet the customer. They said, “We just want to see you and we don’t want to see anyone else.”
Morgan (Host): What’s interesting is that they only wanted to see you.
Jason (Interviewee): Yeah, because they knew I was actually, by that time, I was in a senior position in the company. They knew pretty much the backstop with me, then there were the business owners, and that was pretty much it. They sat down and said “Look, we closed the deal with you so we want to sort this out with you. We don’t want to sort this out with your project manager, even your interim project managers, your sales team, or your delivery team, we just want to talk to you.
We’re very worried and unfortunately, we’re going to have to create a second contract with terms and conditions that says you are going to be liable for any of the losses and the delays.” Anxiety hit me and I just knew where this was going. Like, you know, we work in construction and delivery is always problematic like it is just a fact. But it wasn’t this level of difficulty. You know, when you play a game, you feel that level of difficulty that sort of toggle up and down, this was like right at the red light. So I went out of that meeting and I had wet hands. I had sweat marks around here, I was shaking, and I was in a position of extreme pressure. I was very young and had little emotional support or resources at that time. So I called up my dad and he pretty much has run his own businesses since he was 20 as well. And I said, “Look, you know, this is what’s going on., can you give me a hand like you just tell me what I should do?” Well, he just said, “You need to sit down and look at the absolute worst-case scenario and tell the customer.” He also added, “Set the expectation low and like really, really bad. Then when you can work up from that, it’s gonna be a lot easier than working down. Which were actually very wise words.
It’s better to say the worst and then over-deliver than under-deliver. Anyway, I went and sat down with a team and said “Look guys, we’ve got this contract. They send the contracts to me by email literally like 15 minutes after meeting them. Please sign it and If not, you’re not going to be going into the next building. This is when another problem started happening, and that was when the cash flow started kicking in. We’ve now been delayed a whole week, sorry, a whole month more than the schedule. We’re already scheduled to be in the second or third building, not the first, which we still have six months to do. So we managed to sort of articulate pulling more teams together and people and it was just absolute mayhem. Like we suddenly had this schedule and like we have to meet the schedule. We wrongly didn’t do what my father said which was to go and say “Look guys, we’re not going to meet this. We did that and played the scary hat and we said “Okay, we’ll sign the contract.” This was an absolute mistake because we then had one of the toughest lawyers prosecuting us, and that’s a clickbait for what’s about to come.
Morgan (Host): A clickbait for the end of the story. By the way, another lesson could be that your parents are wiser than you think, and like no matter how old or young you are, they may have good insight.
Jason (Interviewee): 100%
Morgan (Host): And by the way, you know the famous Mark Twain line about that? I’ll tell the listeners anyway in case they don’t know; “When I was 18, I couldn’t believe how little my parents knew. But when I was 21, I couldn’t believe how much they learned in three years.”
Jason (Interviewee): So those three years were very long years. Yeah, so we didn’t really adhere to the advice that we’ve been given. So we sat down with the teams and I told them “Guys we just need to pull this off. Come on, we’re young and we’re energetic.” We’re a team of about six like we’re running the project in between sales, project management, and delivery. And then there were all of the contractors and project managers in each building.
Morgan (Host): Another pause, I have a question about that meeting. Do you think their worries and fears, based on what happened up to that point, were justified and the contract was fair, or do you think they were using a classic asshole technique where when someone makes a little problem, you jump on it to take advantage of it?
Jason (Interviewee): Oh, I’ll get to that now. At the moment, I think they’re being totally fair. They did turn into ugly frogs in about three paragraphs from now. But the reality is that they were being fair, you know, they had invested money, they paid us a downpayment and we should already have been in the second or third building, but we barely finished the first. They became very “A‑ish” when we came to two or three buildings down the schedule, that’s when things really started to go bad.
Morgan (Host): Okay, next paragraph let’s go!
Jason (Interviewee): So we sat down with the team, cracked open a few beers, and I said “Guys, look, we need to figure out how we fix this. This is the deal of the year and we can make a good butt of money out of this.” Because bear in mind, time equals money, especially in Argentina when you are in devalued currency, this deal was done and fixed in our local currency. So every time that you’re cashing your next checks, it was really devalued, maybe 4 or 5%., so you had that all worked into your costing to project. Anyway, the point was, we sat down so that we could fix the problem. Luckily, somebody said something very interesting. He said, “Instead of us going, building by building, let’s get more contractors and deliver two buildings at once.
Like if we can project manage one building, we could definitely sort of project manage two as well.” So we said, “Okay, but the only bottleneck we have then is production, you know, manufacturing.” We literally jumped in our cars the next day and spoke to the manufacturers and told them “Look, we need to do two buildings at once. They replied, “We don’t know if we can do that, but we’ll have a meeting, figure it out, and we’ll let you know.” They replied to us and they said, “Okay, we’ll do what we can and we’ll try and deliver two buildings at once.” So, floors 1 – 5, 5 – 10, and 10 – 15 on two buildings. So we’re sort of back on schedule, we’ve signed the contract agreeing to these terms of conditions, which are literally like this. If building number two wasn’t delivered by the 31st, there was a 1% value of that building deducted day in, day out, so every single day that’s like 1% deducted off of our pay.
Morgan (Host): Oh no, oh no.
Jason (Interviewee): So building number two and building number three were sent into production. We measured up both of the buildings and sent it to production. They came out to production pretty well, on time these guys did a really great job. But unfortunately, when they turned up at the site, more problems started to happen. The first problem that happened, which was absolutely, completely, 150% out of our hands, is all of the furniture was stored over the weekend in a basement, like an underflow ground, really nice parking; it flooded. It flooded about 15 – 20 centimeters and thankfully all furniture was wrapped in plastic, right? This is like really tough plastic. But the problem was that all of the bottom packs are always the biggest pieces, and it wasn’t like we could just say “Okay, floors three, four and five got waterlogged and we can make them again.” No, there were pieces that we needed for every single floor.
Okay, so they’re like, for example, let’s just say a frame that goes behind the cabinet is two meters higher or one meter wide. They’re the ones who are at the bottom of the palette, right? So the water came up and soaked important pieces behind all of the floors for one of the buildings. So we said okay, like again, realign, a really stress level went out. The client also realized this because he lost 1000s of dollars in cement and things that literally got waterlogged. So we said, “Look, this is not our responsibility because there should have been a drain, you know?” So we actually didn’t have that read to offset us financially, because they actually recognized that stuff that was flooded, that wasn’t our issue. But again, it delayed us and those days weren’t gonna change. So we rushed into building number three.
Morgan (Host): Could the 1% daily fee still be triggered because of that delay?
Jason (Interviewee): Oh, 100% they still deducted the 1%.
Morgan (Host): By the way, I just want to add that the story is awesome and I’m kinda scared for what’s going to happen next, but I want to add the parenthetical for the listeners that sometimes people think that “Oh, the boss and the client are making so much money and I’m not.” But what often a lot of people don’t realize is that contracts commonly include provisions like this, that you can very quickly lose all the money, so there’s a massive risk on that side as well.
Jason (Interviewee): I think so, and that’s why there are so few successful entrepreneurs in the world. I mean in any business, there’s always a huge upside and risk, and that’s people learning to live and sleep with risk and some people don’t. It’s absolutely fine to have a nine to five, but when you’re an entrepreneur, there are risks. So when we came to deliver building number two, which was one that got flooded, but building number three was pretty much finished. This was because I told them, “Okay, we couldn’t do anything with number two because everything was waterlogged. Let’s do number three.”
So we sent all of our team’s number three, they did it super quickly and delivered on time. That was great, but now we have to fix number two. So we juggled the production, the bits that we had to remake and put it up. By that time, this second stage of the delivery was out by three weeks. So in one month, the three weeks delayed the whole chronogram of the seven buildings. So as you can imagine, we can descend the plan to build numbers four and five. So again we had a little message saying “We want to meet Jason again.” By the way, by now, we’ve already lost about 8 or 10% of the down payment, you know the 50% or 30%, which is a very high percentage so probably $10,000 — $8,000 I don’t know I can’t remember figures well now, but it was a lot of money for us then that still is today. I knew we were single-figure weeks away from him to deliver all seven buildings.
So we should have finished this project in the next six to seven weeks. We still had buildings 4,5,6 and 7 to them so four buildings. And I was like tg emails from them, you know, messages, and this is when things got really ugly. This email came saying, “I want to meet Jason.” And I replied back, “I’m not going to see you guys on my own because we need a team. Like this is not just me and I can’t handle this just on my shoulders. I need you to understand that I need to depend on the team. And that’s when things got really rough because they hired a lawyer, a prosecutor.
Morgan (Host): So they hire a lawyer at that point, like before even the second meeting?
Jason (Interviewee): Yeah, they hired a lawyer. I mean, we’d had project meetings, but not like I’d say where I met the owner and literally talked about, you know, damaging the high level. Project meetings would have happened every week, but I wasn’t in those meetings with the team. So the guy says “Look, I want to meet you.” This is just really messed up. You know, and this is when they started, all the friendship disappeared, of course, and it went very personal. For example, I remembered when we finished building number three. So we were already delivering building number four and we were off schedule. Things were going wrong just left right and center. You know, for example, I would go away for a weekend and they were stalking me because I’d get an email saying, “Hey it was very fine seeing you at the beach, but like we’re delayed.”
Morgan (Host): That’s messed up, very messed up.
Jason (Interviewee): Yeah, you know, I was like “How did they know?” You know, like, maybe because I put something on my Instagram or my Whatsapp state. I don’t know, like, it started to jar with me a little bit, you know, like “Hey do I still have a life?” Like, I mean, things can go wrong, but this isn’t a prison. It’s not like we are not delivering, we’re only behind and delayed.
Morgan (Host): That’s powerful. Do you have another example of how they stalked you?
Jason (Interviewee): Yeah, I do. This is quite worrying, this one. Supposedly they are a multi-million company and when they paid us, they paid us with checks. If you’re in Argentina or listen to the show in Argentina, you’ll understand what I mean. If you’re not, I’ll explain it very briefly. In Argentina, there is a law that allows you to put your name, a figure, an amount, and a date. That date is when you can cash the check.
Morgan (Host): You can’t cash it before the date.
Jason (Interviewee): But what you can do is send it to a supplier or to somebody. Now, the business was looking at buying a vehicle and they used one of the checks from this payment months before had passed on to a car dealership, like Volkswagen or Toyota or whatever. And then I knew they bought this vehicle and I got a message from one of the guys saying, “Hey, it’s a nice vehicle that you guys have just bought. Is that with our money?”
Morgan (Host): WOW
Jason (Interviewee): Because when a check is cashed, you can see who’s cashed it like what company has pulled the funds, right? And of course, you know, just say, for example, Volkswagen or whoever had deposited the check, right? And then obviously saw the check number. “Oh, that’s the one we gave to Jason’s company, whatever.” And they’re like, “You should be prioritizing us, not buying vehicles.” That was their comment. So it got a little creepy, well not creepy, just got very uneasy. And you know, the worst thing about it is that these guys at the same time, they had like they were affluent, you know, these guys moving around in very affluent circles very, very prominent.
And they were becoming very personal like they were talking very rudely. Very uncomfortable. Anyway, it got to the worst situation when we came to the last two buildings, building number six and seven and they were the biggest buildings. So we had to do it in stages like chunks. So we were probably like three months behind schedule. This job should have been delivered in say six months and we’re already in month number nine. It was bad like it was terrible. It was absolutely terrible. Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. It was like we weren’t supposed to do this and mother nature gave us a perfect storm. Yeah, we flew into absolute chaos. The business became chaotic because the worst thing that happened was the business lost focus. The sales team got down, they were sad and they were messed up because of the way we’re being treated and how bad this deal was going.
Finance got messed up because everything affects finance. Finance is the lifeblood of a company and if there is no finance in construction, there would be no delivery, there would be no cash. But we still had to pay for materials, we still had to secure prices to maintain our profit margins on the project. So everything started to go wrong, everything started to unravel, and it was extreme pressure. It was a very critical moment for me personally and it was the first time I turned to a therapist in my life. You know, I’ve been to like a personal therapist but never been to like a professional therapist for business-related stress or financial stress. I hadn’t been paid for about four months and I hadn’t been paid my way.
Morgan (Host): You weren’t paid because the company was putting every cent towards trying to make this happen?
Jason (Interviewee): Yeah just so we could finish this job. I said “Look, I don’t pay me. I can live for a year without getting paid or six months just don’t pay me. Use it until the job is delivered.” I knew there was a big balloon of cash at the end so I wasn’t too worried at that point and I didn’t know that balloon was going to pop either.
Morgan (Host): More could be for the end of the story.
Jason (Interviewee): Of course, we are marketers, right? So I remember literally calling my old psychologist that I had you know when I was in my late teens just about life. I said “Look I’m in a really bad way.I can’t sleep and I was having anxiety attacks.” I don’t know if you know what anxiety attacks are Morgan, but for anyone who is listening, an example of an anxiety attack is when I get in the back of a taxi, a cab, or an uber to go from one side of the city to the next. And after two three blocks, I’d say “Hey, stop. I’ve got to get out.” I just couldn’t take it you know, somebody closing the door would trigger my mind. And I was also thinking, you know, I was gonna die, I was gonna run out of oxygen, just collapse you know, I was gonna burn out, just fatigue out and that would be the end of me.
Jason, a 23-year-old boy in Buenos Aires, just blips out. Thankfully, I came across this therapist. They gave me the number of this guy and they said is one of the best. I actually still have a lot to do with him now, he is the best in Buenos Aires and what’s interesting is that he specializes in politics and in business, like business-related leadership issues and things like that. They said that he might be able to help me out so I went and spoke to him and I told him the whole story. Pretty much what I’ve told you guys up to now, because that’s where I was at that stage. He just said “You know what? This is going to be the best thing that’s ever going to happen to you.” I said “What? I feel like I’m about to die.” He replied “This will set you up for the rest of your life. You just need to figure out how to overcome everything so you get out the other end of the line.” He added, “This will be your training and this will give you the endurance and the training you’ll need for everything else you’re going to touch for the rest of your life.”
All right, his name is Carlos and I was like “Carlos,” sorry he speaks perfect English and Spanish. We’re talking English. I said, “How? I mean, there is nothing good that’s come out of this. He says “Business and life have two things in common. You have to learn to deal with difficult people and this will teach you perseverance. This will teach you a lot of different things that you would never have learned if everything is just going fine, you know? If all your sales are in the right direction and are sailing along, you would never experience this. You’re in turbulent times, you know like this is life or death financially for you. And it was for me I was literally living out of my savings.
Morgan (Host): By the way, I want to add this great insight and we’re framing it and it’s the same insight behind beloved by clients and this whole series. It’s all about helping you listeners on how to deal with really difficult people so I love this framing of it.
Jason (Interviewee): All I can say is that, if you guys out there are dealing with shitty or horrible people, they do exist. And not always people will appear difficult, but it can become very difficult because things happen. And again, as you said things can trigger in people’s minds and heads, and people and change and things can turn very ugly. The difference is if you can somehow just take one thing away from it, at least not everything is lost. I look back on it today and I remembered it was four o’clock on a Thursday afternoon in this guy’s office in Buenos Aires, just said “This is the best thing that will ever happen to you.” He asked me about my life and he asked me about my upbringing. I told him a little bit about my migrating to Argentina.
But overall I never had a life, other than I guess when I was around my teens, I never really had a life where I could say this was a real hardship. You know, like pretty much college I mean studying when Okay, secondary school was quite fun. I had some issues because I’m a little bit overweight and I used to get bullied but that was about the worst thing that happened to me. Yeah, being beaten up a few times or just being bullied. That was the worst thing that ever happened in my life. One of the things that happened, I lost a friend and was in an accident and that was a difficult time for me, but this was real pressure because something can happen to you once, but this was happening day in and day out. Monday to Saturday. Not Monday to Friday, no, no, no, no, these guys on Saturday, we’re calling me up. They were persistent.
Morgan (Host): Also, the construction industry is also very tied in with the mafia, in Buenos Aires, and everywhere. And like if things are really bad, they could hurt you well.
Jason (Interviewee): Yeah like psychologically, it’s not nice. Anything can happen in construction. I always say anything can happen with that principle so I got out of it. But anyway, we were delivering the last two buildings. They were so big, like so huge. I can actually even still remember one of the square meters, we’re looking at about 50,000 square meters of real estate. So pretty big buildings, not skyscrapers, but 15 – 16 story buildings with like 12 flats per follow. So yeah, 200 – 300 flat buildings. Anyway, during these moments, we were pretty much already cash flow dry. It was very tight to deliver. Like the timing was just, you know, we were just scraping it. Just making the dates, they went out micromanaging everything, they were micromanaging each floor delivery, each flat delivery, they had a checklist they’ll be going through every single day.
They’ll be sending it out to us by email. Our team was very, very aggressive like the back and forth. This is when I met the lawyer face to face. Okay. I turned up at the building. My job was to go once a week to review progress. I turned up there. I remember I was in a jacket like sport, you know like I had a shirt on. I think it’s a blue t‑shirt and then I had this jacket over top and then I had dark jeans, some shoes, and my bag. I turned up at the building, I knew we were already late. Like we’ve been months late, we’re like four months out. But there were always issues like, there’ll be issues with the construction company, for example, we need to move into another floor but the floors were unfinished or the plasters hadn’t finished. Or the guys were doing lighting, and we were putting in the furniture and they hit the furniture and that door fell off and then we had to replace that door and problems just problems, problems, like mainstream and so many of them.
They were incalculable and how many fires that you had to be putting out or the project delivery team were putting out every single day. Bearing in mind, we’re talking about working with two people we’d never worked with before and our main project manager and her team weren’t available. She was out so obviously, we had to move them out of the projects. So I turned up at this meeting, it was on the site, I didn’t know that they were going to be there, these guys, but I turned up there and just walked into the building. He was gonna see some members of my team there and like I heard my name, Pittock Jason, so I went in. The owner of the construction company and the architect that designed the freaking buildings was also there. The architect was renowned in Buenos Aires and he is very well known. Like you can Google his name, he is in the newspapers, and he’s a very well-known architect.
Then there was the guy that is the investor of the buildings, this one guy who’s the investor. Then there’s the head of the construction company who literally manages the project and he is an absolute legend. To be honest, he was the only guy I could say, through and through, who didn’t change his tune and his character. He was always tough, but he was fair. He actually was the guy who I’d say if there was any respite, I found it in him. Then there was this lawyer. And you know when I watched suits, you know, and I thought lawyers were like these sort of good looking, smart, polish shoes, you know, sporty type, and ambitious. But no, no, no, this was a 65-year-old, slick hair back, no aftershave, shirt untucked, very white jeans, brown shoes, and jacket over the top with visible food stains.
I was like, you know, I’d seen this guy in emails and I Googled his name and this guy was just an absolute beast, you know. Because you got to understand these guys now had a problem with their customers, because they had to deliver them to investors, and they’re like four, five, and six months out. The investors want that flat because they want to run out and get their return on investment. And so he’s protecting them at the same time prosecuting us. So I was expecting the worst of the worst. I was expecting to be just torn down and so I turned around when they called my name and I just thought “This is it, you know, these guys are gonna lay on me. They’re just going to cut me up and just going to destroy me.” I was already defeated, you know I had sleepless nights. I just knew that this was just the worst thing that I’ve ever done, ever happened to me in my business life, my career. I just think this is it. You know like, my whole life, it was just tough and just say I’ll go work and do some juices in a bar and I’ll be happy and I want this is it I can’t have obviously I’m not cut out for business, I can never make it.
Anyway, I walked over there and they called me “Sir Jason?” and I was like “Yeah, I am Jason”, he said, “Yeah, come here.” He literally grabbed me by my hand, he took me up the stairs to go into the shop. I was like, “They’re not coming?” He said “No, no I just want to talk to you. Do you mind if I smoke?”Okay, we’re inside and he smoked. It’s a building site, you know, and people smoke inside. He took out his Chesterfield cigarette, so if anyone’s listening to this, Chesterfield cigarettes are like the cheapest of the cheapest cigarettes you can buy. So he took out the cigarette and he was like “Do you want one?” I was like “No, I’m okay” He lit the cigarette and it was raining and windy so he couldn’t light it. I sort of helped him shield so he could light his cigarette and he suddenly looked at me, I will never forget what he said. He said, “Do you realize the mess that you’re in?” That’s it and I said, “I think I do.” I was literally nearly breaking down like this guy hadn’t even asked me who I was. You know, he knew who I was. He’s one of the toughest lawyers in Buenos Aires.
Like I already Googled him and I saw him in the contracts and emails. He says that this whole building has 300 families that should be living in this building four months ago. 300 families that should be here, rented or whatever, but that 300 People need their flats. He then said, “The construction company has a problem and that problem is with you as well.” He says, “But I’m going to tell you something, I’m not going to be after you, but rather I’m going to defend the company and that means defending you. I was like, “Wow. Now, this guy is just such a good guy. Like he’s understanding me, you know.” The construction was always pointing fingers and stabbing me in the back and everything. And this guy suddenly realized, “Hey, wait, you know, this isn’t just them. There are actually other problems and moving parts on this that, you know, means a lot that is contributing to this bottleneck.” Unfortunately, this guy didn’t, I don’t know if this is common in lawyers but if there are lawyers listening to this, I’m sorry, but he flipped like two weeks later he was a different guy. But this is when things were turning really ugly and he suddenly appeared to be very supportive, truthful, and understanding I should say. Anyways, we walked around the building and he said all these things like “Yeah once you’ve got finished, where’s the material? When’s it turning up? Can you get another team?” He also said, “Look, from now, I want you to come every single day and every time you come, I want you to call me here’s my number.”
I was like, “Okay if that’s gonna keep them off me, I’ll do it. You know if these guys aren’t going to call me on Saturday morning at 7 am or 8 am when I’m just waking up, then I’ll do it.” So, I did, I went to that building site every single day, till the day it was delivered. And the interesting thing was that the guy did turn nasty. You know, the lawyer did turn nasty. He did turn, he turned bad. He did bad things and he was aggressive to me. But I went to that building site, still, it was completely and utterly finished. And I even physically worked and helped offload things and oversee things and completely left my job and my crew on the sideline for two months. Actually, it was a month and a half. It was about seven or eight. It was about six weeks or two months till the project was finished, and we delivered it. By that time, pretty much most of the balloon payment at the end was debilitated because of the interests and because we went over the delivery. And the guy sued us.
They sued us for around a proportion of the job, about 50% of the value of the job. So there was no financial way we could pay for it. So what we did was obviously we got a lawyer and we told him about all the things that have gone wrong that were completely out of our control and we made a case. But there was no settlement, I mean it was true that they were pursuing us for these claims. They withdrew the claims and it was there, but it was the absolute worst time, you know, I had never in my life been forced to work Monday to Monday. I’ve worked Monday to Monday because I was pursuing something I’m passionate about. But this was different because if I wasn’t there on a Saturday or a Sunday, they would call me up on my mobile. Even if I was in my house with my dogs or with whoever, my friend and my family, and they would say why aren’t you at the job site? Now I understand it in hindsight, they used the architect to get close to me. And then he said, “No, you call me every day at your job site and that will help appease the situation.” You know, but it was a way of controlling me and controlling the team into what they wanted.
And not what actually we could physically do. But we ended up doing it and we ended up delivering this behemoth of a project just to get an equation. This was like about a year and a half turnover in one job. And we’re selling about 10 jobs here. So this was like 10x of what we’d ever done before. So yeah, I was in my early 20s and It was just a hell of an experience. I mean, I’ve never ever experienced anxiety at that level and it wasn’t just managing the teams and working with the employees, I was also hearing about how this team of people that they had been working through, how they treated us and our employees and our team. But it was just that everything could have gone wrong and then you know, the personal pursuit right till the end. You know, like I had comments before like we know where you live, I had that.
Morgan (Host): This is a very powerful story, thank you for sharing it and you’re a good storyteller too. Question, being older and more sophisticated now, and having gone through this experience, what would you have done differently? There are some obvious things like you would have not taken the contract, you would have listened to your father’s advice. But beyond avoiding the situation where you would have not signed the second contract, but given that within that, do you think that you could have or should have done anything else differently?
Jason (Interviewee): Yeah, I should have been a bitch. No, no, no, I think the whole thing here is that the whole manipulation process was to get me to where they wanted me and that’s when we lost control. You know, in business right? If you’ve watched House of Cards, you know, this is the same thing, it’s power, right? Unfortunately, there’s a side of the business that when things go wrong, it’s about a balance of who’s got more on somebody else. And that’s how politics and how many things work in the world, right? And the reality is they had everything on me that they could have, you know, and I was literally not stubborn. I was like, “You’re right, you’re right. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
I should have put my foot down and should have said, “You know what, screw you. If you want us to deliver this, step the hell back. Let me figure out the real terms and how we can deliver this. And if you want to go and damage our company, we wouldn’t deliver a single piece of wood anymore.” But I didn’t, and instead, I let them run over me. I couldn’t take it because I didn’t have the stomach juice to say, “Step back.” I was scared and I was absolutely frightened. You know, and I always used to say to people that I used to compete in kickboxing. I was always fearless and I always had the stomach to do things you know, and here I was completely the opposite. I was scared, I was frightened, I would say yes to everything. I’ll say you know, “Yeah, we’ll agree to that contract.” Ride in the team around me to support my insecurities. That was a big mistake, you know, I mean, if Jason today, this happened, I will just say “Step back, If you want me to help you, If you want me to finish this, I need you to understand what you can do to me and what you can’t. Because what you do to be there is completely hindering the final ball, that’s the difference.
Morgan (Host): That’s a powerful lesson. I’ve often seen variations of the same pattern that when clients are unhappy, they slowly micromanage more and more and more until the client effectively takes over. And it’s powerful to recognize that in the early stages of that sort of micromanagement. And that’s when you realize, either like you’re messing up in a, in an in a huge way, or they’re overstepping their bounds That’s a powerful lesson. Any other lessons before we wrap up?
Jason (Interviewee): No, I was just gonna say that I think that was a little bit late in the day when I got emotional and asked for spiritual support. I would say to anybody who is in any position of responsibility, in any organization or any role, not just marketing, not just sales, not just finance, not just operation, product, or engineering, to not underestimate the power of having a professional counsel for your mental, spiritual, psychological health. At the end of the day, we’re all, in a community sense, like energy balls, you know, little balls of energy. And when you’re dealing with such negative energy, it affects your mind, your body, your soul, and everything in you. And I will just say, even if it’s just a little riff that you’ve had with your boss, your customer, your employee, your contract, whoever it is, go and talk to somebody about it. It makes a complete world of difference, you know. Bottling it up in yourself is just militating, that ball of energy you’ve got that is powerful and good.
That’s all I had to say, I contacted that therapist on building number four, I should have contacted that therapist on building number zero, you know, I should have had that asset before. Now I have an issue. I have everything. I know where I can turn. I know how to do it or at least I don’t know how to but I’ve got some of the tools to figure it out. I didn’t have any tools then and I guess you know, I was young and ambitious and that’s some of the cost that you pay.
Morgan (Host): I think a lot of people in our modern world look down on having spiritual guidance. But I think it’s very underrated. Whether it comes from a professional psychologist or psychiatrist therapist or a spiritual guru, like your priest, Rabbi, Pastor, or there are lots of other sources of spiritual support.
Jason (Interviewee): It could be a friend, it could be your very good friend.
Morgan (Host): Friends and families, that’s another source. I happen to be really into stoicism and classic thoughts and like and like rereading a lot of the ancient Greek and Roman wisdom often gives me patience and fortitude to quit the New York Public Library lions. And that’s what you need, patience and fortitude.
Jason (Interviewee): Yeah, as I said from a very young age, I’ve always felt very fearless. Having that fortitude or that mental fortitude, I used to be completely fearless about stepping into a ring and getting my head punched in by somebody else. Getting my legs, you know, hit by low kicks and things like this. But this was totally different because this attack, sorry, this attack, this error in my life I wasn’t strong enough. One thing is to compete in a sport and feel strong because you’re good at football or rugby, or softball, wherever, kickboxing or boxing and martial arts. At the end of the day, if you’re attacked from an angle that you’re not developed and you haven’t got the strength and the emotional fibers to deal with that, then you’re only as strong as your weakest link. And that was my case.
Morgan (Host): Absolutely! You implied a point there that I want to say explicitly because there is a point that often, people see themselves as being really strong and they are, but it turns out, you see yourself as being emotionally strong, but it actually turns out, you’re emotionally strong in this area, like in boxing, but as soon as it goes to a different area of your life, you become weakened. I have friends who are like the most intense, asshole negotiators investors, squeezing every penny out. But when they are with their girlfriend, they just meltdown, and just like suddenly, they will do anything that this girl says.
And by the way, variations that I have been wanting to tell you, I’ve been running political campaigns and also I’ve had multiple lawsuits against me like, often not even knowing my name, like different companies to try to get who’s behind these different campaigns and like, it freaks me out like taking on like, big, bad, powerful, corrupt people and then they give me these big-name lawyers. I’ve been in been in that same situation as you saw, so I understand that fear.
Jason (Interviewee): Yeah and I think there’s one more thing I’d like to throw out there because I would just say, you know, that experience with that lawyer has taught me as well is that there isn’t any such thing as somebody should be like this or be like that, you know? People are so unique. I had always expected a lawyer to be a certain type of character and a certain type of breed. We seem to treat industries you know, like dog breeds. Like a mastiff looks like this, a bulldog looks like this box, a boxer looks like this, and a German shepherd dog looks like this, but that’s not the same with human Sapiens.
We were so variable like all of the elementary chart, it doesn’t mean that a marketer is just going to wear a shirt and a hat, you know, he might wear a t‑shirt, a polo t‑shirt, or he might wear shorts and a shirt. I think that was wrong, you know, my preconceived idea of, you know, I never really dealt with lawyers in my life. You know, it’s like, probably the third time I had been involved in some type of, you know, legal pursuit. I never had a pretty unproblematic background and, I think the only time I dealt with lawyers was when I broke my car. But the reality is it was just weird. I Googled this guy, and I sort of figured out what he looked like because there were some pictures on Google images.
And I was like, “Okay, he’s a badass, you know, he’s done this court cases, won this and won that. And this guy represented this person? Wow!” And when I met him, this little guy, about half my weight and about two heads below me smoking, quite clearly had gone to lunch and his dress was just completely random, which is fine. But I’ll just say, you know, don’t have any expectations.
Morgan (Host): That’s a great point and I have to make that same point in different words, which I will share with you and to my audiences, all three of you might find it interesting. First, the academic variation of the same point is any academic discipline there like a whole bunch of rules. Like econ 101 supply and demand, but beyond all the one-to-one it shows in every academic discipline, it’s all about questioning, all like the basic assumptions or actually sometimes men doesn’t hold in these cases.
And it’s the same thing in real life. That “Okay, there’s a whole bunch of Panthro lawyers are like, but as you get complex and higher up, then suddenly, that’s where things get a lot less obvious, and things don’t look like what you’re saying.” Another way of making the same point is to call me wisdom makes you weird. And by that what I mean is like, if you are just like, “Lawyers look like this, lawyers dresses like that,” if you’re just like everyone else, you’re gonna have the same results. You’re not going to be especially good. In order to be pretty good, you need to just come with some weird, unique, and different approach. And sometimes it’s to have the jacket with coffee stains, and the cheap cigarettes and being that type of guy.
Jason (Interviewee): He’s a killer, you know, he was a killer. As I said, and I repeat this, I googled the guy and I was scared you know. If this guy prosecutes like if this guy goes after us, we are done. You know, and he ended up doing it, but thankfully, we had so much evidence of a lot of things that were out of our control that allowed us to retract their claims or you know what they were going for. The point was that, you know, I just had this expectation of this badass person, but it’s so true to say, you know, like, different people get different results, you know?
Morgan (Host): And it’s not just different people, t to get really good at something you have to come at it from a different angle. The only way David can beat Goliath is by like going around the back and using the slingshot. So like if he looked, acted, and spoke just like any other lawyer, he wouldn’t be the superstar lawyer. You would get to see the same results as everyone.
Jason (Interviewee): I actually have a saying which is “screw them all.” And I always tell people, “Just screw them up” like at the end of the day it’s only there because of someone else putting it there before you. At the end of the day, like, he didn’t break any laws, having coffee on his shirt and having a cheap cigarette. It was just more the fact that it’s a society thing like we have expectations and we expect this we expect that.
Morgan (Host): By the way, I just realized now that a few weeks ago, I actually tweeted something similar. My Twitter is @Morgan Freeman. I just tweet like my own observations about life and I recently tweeted that “The marketer’s greatest trick was making you think it’s not marketing.” I think this is a similar point that like the greatest trade plays of the famous double line, that when you get to the highest best versions of anything, you even realize that these are happening. I’ve been in negotiations with super important people for like, really high stakes things and I didn’t even realize I was in negotiations. I was just like, “This person just want to meet me to talk about things and pick my rate and like build a relationship,” but it actually turns out afterward, he was just testing me out to know the real me. Sometimes you don’t realize that this guy is the lawyer doing this. Sometimes you don’t realize an interview is an interview.
Jason (Interviewee): Yeah, 100%, and I think wise people do that. You know, I think wise people have ways of analyzing. I mean, I did some coursework once on about interpreting body language and it actually helped me You know, and it wasn’t even that long it was about a year and a half ago. I read a book and did some q&a. And it’s interesting because it actually does help understand people and you actually start to take it in without even noticing it. For example, you know, I should have realized that they weren’t aggressive because if they were aggressive, they would have told me that they were gonna be waiting for me there to build up the pressure. You see because now if somebody jumped on me in a meeting, it would be kind of weird and unprofessional you know, it’s not the type of things these guys do.
So I think you’ve got to read into the signs and like what I said, don’t have any expectations for anybody. I should have expected the worst, I should have told them the worst, and I should have stood my ground, but I didn’t. I let them run over me, I was weak, but they personally harassed me and that was probably the worst thing that has happened to me in my whole life. One of the weeks, I actually was fearing my personal security, because I knew how bad this was. The pressure was just so much. I mean, of course, it’s self-inflicted, right? I don’t think there was ever any possibility of something happening. But the build-up was just, you know, they obviously had some profile on my Instagram account or WhatsApp looking at my status. That’s just weird, the stuff was just weird and that was just too much. You know, my mind just went overkill. And then you suddenly had these suspicions, which actually probably never ever will happen, it’s like when you wake up in the night, you heard a noise and you were scared, but it was just a leaf falling off the tree onto the roof, you know?
Morgan (Host): Totally. Jason, this was very insightful and this was a great story. You’re a great storyteller. Yeah. And let’s stay on after I say goodbye because I want off the records on some of the names. This was a great story. tank you for coming on, and to be continued later.
Jason (Interviewee): Thank you, thank you. Bye-bye, everyone.
This transcription belongs to Episode #4, please watch the complete episode here!