by Joe Sinclair


In his article on Surviving a Recession in our Business section, Terry Goodwin writes: “Your clients must trust and respect you.  They must believe that they enjoy a special relationship with you that is unrivalled elsewhere”. 

These words evoked a nostalgic recollection of an experience I had many years ago.

It was in the 1980s at a time of biting recession when many sales and marketing personnel such as myself were being sent around the world chasing up collections from delinquent debtors.

A particular bête-noire of my company . . . and indeed of many others . . . was a German ship operator who defaulted regularly on both container leasing and ship chartering payments.  He was a very difficult man to deal with, detested by many who had to deal with him.  For some reason we had achieved a sort of rapport – more identifiable from his side than my own – and he would often meet me in his office for an affable conversation, and the occasional payment, while other creditors’ representatives were kicking their heels in his reception area.

I’m not sure how long into our relationship he learned that I played contract bridge.  Nothing would suffice but that I extend my normal day-return trip to Bremen into an overnight stop so that I might play bridge with his wife, her friend and himself.  The friend, proving to be not unattractive, this was far from a hardship.  And my financial director was enlightened enough to approve my bills for overnight accommodation at the best hotel in Bremen and a dinner for four once a month.

This was habitually on a Friday evening and on the Saturday morning I would present myself at the office of the shipping line where the Managing Director would greet me, enjoy a post-mortem reminiscence of some of the more interesting hands played the evening before, write out a cheque in settlement of the company’s invoice (or part of it!) and then drive me to the airport.

When we passed through his reception area, inevitably there were two or three representatives from other leasing companies, looking as if they had been camped out since my previous visit, and glaring at me as if I were personally responsible for their unenviable situation.

To this day I believe the president of my company is convinced that it was my bridge losses that paid his leasing bills!

Thank you for allowing me to share that.

Joe Sinclair