A Foot in the Door

by John Delach

At about 5:30 in the evening on an ordinary workday in 1989, I was sitting  in my office tying up some loose ends before leaving for home when the phone rang. “John Delach speaking.”

“Hey, Delach, it’s Hayes. What the earliest time you can get here tomorrow morning?”

“Good evening to you too, Frank. Let me check the OAG book, (Official Airline Guide,) to see which shuttle gets into National first, Pan Am or Trump.” The guide revealed that the Trump Shuttle had the earliest departure from LaGuardia at 6 am with an ETA into National of 7:25.

“Great, I’ll pick you up at the airport. We’re going to Tysons Corner for an 8:45 meeting with the risk manager from Monster Defense Corporation, (MDC). He’s given me 15 minutes to pitch him for a shot at their marine operation.”

“Frank, hold on one second, I’m aware that MDC operates five pre-positioned transports, (MPS) for the navy. Do you think this is what he’s talking about?”

“Right you are, big guy. Do you need anything else? Oh yeah, before I forget, his name is Bucky Bartlett. He’s a Red Sox fan and he has the shortest attention span of any person I’ve ever met.”

I gathered up pertinent material, but before I left, I walked over to Martin McCluney’s office. Fortunately, Martin was still there. “I am going down to DC early tomorrow morning and we may have a shot at MDC’s MPS fleet. I think they are similar to the MPS fleet you place for Sea Force. Can you check for any significant differences and be here tomorrow morning by 8:30 to give me a bold cost estimate?”

“Of course, I can, John, if you can give me their values and tonnages. That’s all I need to give you a ballpark number of how much their insurance should cost.”

“Understood, thanks and, God willing, we’ll talk tomorrow.”

I left my house ahead of the morning rush hour, made my way to LaGuardia, parked and entered the terminal by 5:15. The vending machine charged my AMEX card $150 for a round trip ticket. I grabbed a bagel and coffee, cleared security and walked to the Trump Shuttle Lounge where I helped myself to complimentary copies of The Wall Street Journal and the National Review.

Frank was waiting at the curb when I exited the terminal: “Good morning, John. Good flight?”

“Indeed, a good day for flying. Hopefully, the rest of the day will be as good.” Frank gave me the skinny on Bartlett: “I have been pursuing him for months now. It was only yesterday when I pestered him one more time. Surprisingly, he gave me this narrow window if only to get me out of his hair. I meant what I said about his attention span. I’m convinced he’s playing me and this will be a waste of time if we can’t blow his socks off in those first fifteen minutes.”

“Frank, I feel good about getting our feet in the door. There are three separate MPS fleets each operated by a different contractor and we already place the insurances for two of them. McCluney handles one and Steve Beslity is the broker for the other. Steve is out of town, but Martin is only a phone call away to give us an aggressive cost estimate for Bartlett..

Frank drove to the Tysons Corner complex that included a Marriott Hotel. “We have 45 minutes to kill, John. Let me buy you breakfast at the Marriott’s buffet.”

This provided us with an excellent rehearsal and by 8:40, we were seated in Bartlett’s reception area. His assistant led us to his office.

Frank introduced me to Bucky Bartlett explaining who I was and why I was there. “ Mr. Bartlett,” I began, “ Our marine department is familiar with the MPS fleets and I can give you a realistic estimate of accurate insurance costs if you can tell me each ship’s value and gross tonnage.”

He looked in his file before replying then said: “Okay they all have the same value which is ‘X’ and gross tonnage which is ‘Y.”

I asked him if I could call our New York office. Martin answered on the first ring and I waited for his calculations. A few minutes later he produced his estimates. “ John, I am confident we can place their fleet at this price. Their values and tonnages are almost identical to the Sea Force fleet.”

I wrote down the cost estimate, thanked Martin and hung up. I passed the estimate to Bartlett and enjoyed the surprised look on his face. He pondered the estimate for a moment then looked up at Frank: “Interesting, very interesting. Please put this in writing and I will take it up with our treasurer.”

He shook our hands gesturing that the meeting was over.

“Talk about ‘slam, bam and thank you ma’am!” Frank exclaimed after we exited their building. “The S.O.B. didn’t even ask us any questions! John, he’s going to turn our estimate over to his existing broker, Jackson & Poor as soon as I give it to him in writing.”

“Frank, my guess is that our estimate is so much les than he’s paying now that his head is on fire. Jackson & Poor will have a hard time explaining away the differences and when they react, we can go lower. When we do and ole Bucky goes nuts, blame it on me. I’ll put a team together to work with you. Beslity will lead it, McCluney will be our marine expert and you will be our account executive. As for me, I’ll fade into the background. Frank, Bucky walked into a trap of his own making and we can do this”

Frank looked at me, smiled and replied: “Let the games begin.” (To be continued.)