The midday sun shouted its radiation down out of a cloudless sky. A group of executives took shelter under canvas umbrellas on the terra cotta terrace of Whip Technologies' new campus. For nearly an hour they had dynamically discussed e-commerce while poking mistrustfully at their arugula.
"Well, I'm definitely not in Kansas anymore," the new CFO observed. "Catered, outdoor strategy lunches. Raw fish. Designer fruit salad. What's next? Corporate surf safaris?"
Candy picked away at the remains of her lunch: three pieces of California roll and half a bottle of San Pellegrino.
"Hey, that's not a bad idea. I think you're getting the hang of it already." She smiled at him. She had better; he was the product of a six-week executive search. HR had to poach this one from an aircraft company in Topeka.
She continued laying it on. "It's great to have you on board. Anything I can do for you, let me know."
"OK, I'm letting you know now. You know any nice, single women?"
So much for Midwestern restraint, Candy reflected. "You get right to the point, don't you?"
"I do when I'm on a deadline. I'm sitting on a pair of $300 Stones tickets for this weekend. It was part of the salary negotiation. I said Stones tickets would help me make up my mind. I was joking. They were serious."
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At 1:04 p.m. Candy sent an e-mail to Gabrielle -- a PR goddess at Cisco -- inquiring about available, cute females from the technical marketing department.
Subject: Recruiting talent
Whip Technologies has a new CFO. He just moved from somewhere in the Midwest. He's got it all: cute, nice, single, Stones tickets for the weekend. No date, though. I told him I'd try and hook him up. Any prospects on your end?
Gabrielle was on the inside of any scoop, one ear to the ground at all times. She knew one in particular: Mimi, a size 2 Vietnamese marketing exec who'd been whining for months about the shortage of cool, smart, hip, nice, well-paid, good-looking guys in the Valley, all the while dating a succession of UPS and FedEx delivery guys. Realizing the scarcity of single CFOs on the market, Gab went straight to her Pilot for Mimi's number.
In the meantime, Candy speed-dialed Deanna, a junior partner at Oryx, Herringbone & Stuffitt, a Menlo Park law firm specializing in intellectual property. Deanna, as it turned out, had a colleague -- Kristin, a blond, long-legged paralegal -- who had been desperate and dateless for months. Deanna jotted down the CFO's specs and told Candy she'd call back.
As Candy put down the phone she noticed that her 1:00 -- Jenn, a 30-something, brunet freelance graphic designer -- had walked into her office a few minutes late, overhearing the end of the conversation.
"Hey, I want a shot at the CFO, too," she declared.
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At 1:12 Gabrielle called with her candidate's number.
"Hey, I just got your e-mail. I've got a great match for Mr. Corn-fed CFO," she announced. "Her name's Mimi. Cute, sassy, petite and highly motivated. Your guy's gonna love her."
"He just might," Candy responded. "But I've got to hear back from the other bidders first."
"Oh, you bitch. You're working the network, aren't you?"
"Hey, this is the Bay Area, remember? Thirty percent of the guys are gay, 30 percent are terminal geeks and the rest are married or never leave their offices. We've got to give all the girls a chance. Let the market do its magic."
The AT&T operator broke in.
"I have Deanna and Kristin on conference call. May I connect?"
"Go ahead, operator," Candy said. The line popped twice. "Gabby, Deanna, Kristin, I've got another player here, Jenn. We're going speakerphone." Candy punched up the external audio and gave a shotgun introduction. "Everybody, meet everybody."
"Hi, everybody," they said in unison.
Gabrielle escalated immediately. "Hey, kids. How's it going?" Gabby only sounded casual. She wasn't about to let her own candidate get squeezed out. "Give me a sec, OK? I'm going to conference in Mimi on my end." She put the group on hold for a moment, then dropped back in. "Everybody say hi to Mimi."
"Hi, Mimi," the women chanted in unison.
"Hi," came Mimi's sing-song voice, a little tentative.
Deanna, accustomed to quarterbacking meetings, took point: "OK, everybody. We're meeting today to discuss something of importance to everyone here: who gets the CFO with the Stones tickets. Let's all listen to what Candy can tell us about him."
The aggressive start caught Candy a little off-guard. "Well, to be honest, I don't really know him all that well."
Everyone groaned on the line simultaneously. Candy quickly retrenched.
"Hold on, now -- he seems like a really great guy. He's brand new -- he's the new CFO at Whip Technologies. We talked during a strategy lunch. Maybe during a couple of meetings, too. I mean, he seems neat -- made a couple of smart comments, and he chose the vegetarian entree at lunch."
This last detail was met favorably, judging by the babble of the conference call. Candy was a mistress of spin; interest was on the rise.
"So, is his photo online?" Kristin asked.
Mimi loosened things up with a joke: "Yeah, and do you have a PowerPoint presentation on the guy?"
The women began to probe for particulars -- car, fitness level, stock options, the size of his bonus pool. Jenn, because she'd worked in the valley a while and knew better the potential hazards, asked about personal hygiene.
"Teeth OK? Does he have those gross hairs in his ears? Any indication of back hair? Big garlic fan?"
"Hey, he just arrived from the Midwest," Candy assured them. "He reeks of fabric softener and Ivory soap. No discernible after-shave. And no -- I repeat no -- body jewelry or obvious piercings."
This brought an amplified sigh of relief from Jenn, as well as the others.
"Well," said Gabrielle, moving to consolidate a position, "I think it's time to drill down to core issues. I think Mimi should get the first shot. After all, she was first in line."
This provoked protests from Jenn and Kristin, who began arguing for some kind of lottery procedure. Candy did her expenses and read e-mail while the rest of them debated.
But at 1:16, the bottom fell out of the negotiation.
"What about his last relationship?" asked Jenn.
"Yeah, what's the catch here? Something sounds fishy," Mimi said.
"Details, Candy," Kristin demanded.
Candy was stuck. The rules required full disclosure. "I think his assistant said he's divorced and has two little girls back in the Midwest somewhere, but it's amicable, it's all good with the ex-wife."
Like accountants, Kristin and Mimi quickly ran the numbers and backed out of the deal. "Gotta go, done that, but thanks," from Kristin and "Gee, I'm really sorry, but maybe in another few months if I haven't met someone," from Mimi.
"So Jenn wins by default," said Candy, hoping to close the only remaining deal on the table.
"Cool," said Jenn. "I love the Stones, and I don't care if it doesn't work out. I'm just coming off an abusive relationship and can't commit now anyway." She took a breath. "But he sounds like a good buffer experience."
"OK, thanks everybody for your participation," Deanna said, capping off the meeting with her corporate stamp.
The women all hung up in a volley.
It was 1:17.