If you are avoiding the fight you have been hired for, you will end up in a fight you are not prepared for. When push comes to shove, fight for your life!

Somewhere on the internet

Sounds like a platitude but it actually isn’t. I only understood that until I was truly forced to fight for the first time in my life. Of course, it wasn’t physical but legal, however until then I always managed to get around both physical and verbal fights by finding the right arguments to deescalate or convince the counterparty.

The Situation

Once upon a time in the late 00’s, somewhere in the Mediterranean’s, I happened to have a very challenging job and an even more challenging client base. There was Charlie-Foxtrot all over the place and I ended up signing a 3-party agreement for the provision of software in return for revenue share with 2 guys that differed in age by about 15 years but were equal in character.

Both of them were bully’s, erratic, loud and emotional, often delusional, but real goal-getters. They would do their job, i.e. marketing their product, extremely well! Either of them had some backing by real businessman that let them play the front-runners. Over time, I got to know the people pulling the strings and established a great relationship, both business and personal, with them.

It was just a matter of time until the bully’s character would create chaos and disaster and it happened eventually. Is it envy or the necessity of a male alpha persons to defy the existence of other leaders around them? I really don´t know but them 2 fighting forced me to side with one of them. The process of choosing which one was tough because I really liked both of the guys in the background. Eventually I choose the bully that was the lesser evil.

Knowing those 2, I added a clause to the agreement that we could terminate unilaterally at any time by giving 30 days’ notice, which is what I subsequently did. I would sign another agreement with my bully of choice and hoped that everyone would live on happily ever after. Of course, that didn’t happen.

The Consequence

The old bully had a lot of money and could afford entering into a court case. Of course, he would find that one lawyer that is known for being a total jerk and doing stuff just to piss off their opponents, regardless of whether it helps the case. There are a few tools such as garnishee orders. At that time, I didn´t even know what that is. You can basically file a document asserting whatever you can possibly imagine and ask the court to issue a paper that would basically freeze the other guys bank accounts and interrupt their business. Then you have 20ish days to file a real court case, otherwise everything goes back to normal.

They also filed against me personally for contempt of court because I didn’t turn off the other bully’s page. That’s nice because you can actually get arrested for it.

The 20 days passed, and the guy really did file a lawsuit for a 2 million in damages and a hell of a lot of other things. With that being done, he could uphold that garnishee order, which greatly complicated our regular line of business.

I was sure that after the first hearing the case will be thrown out of court on the merits. Remember, I added that specific clause that we could discontinue at any time without cause by giving 30 days’ notice, which was done orderly. During the first hearing the plaintiffs’ lawyer however argued that the paragraph stating that is slightly indented, and although having a dedicated number, belonging to the previous paragraph, being condition to it, which was termination for non-payment, i.e. we could terminate with 30 days only if they don’t pay.

Now comes the worst thing. Although it was crystal clear that this paragraph is a stand-alone statement, disconnected from other articles in that section, the judge agreed with the plaintiff. Ever since I am very petty when it comes to formatting.

So now I have it, a full blown-court case, a half-operational company, a client base that is scared to be affected by this and another bully that is still my client.

The Solution

Just to cut a long story short, the whole thing took nearly 2 years and we ended up winning. A lot of things contributed to resolving this situation but the ones most notable are:

  • Awesome employees: It’s not a nice thing for them knowing that their company may collapse for nothing. I have constantly kept them in the loop, openly communicating what the current state is.
  • Patience: Court cases are chaotic and long, sometimes it takes 3 months between one hearing and the next.
  • Training: When you have to appear in court to testify, you got to rehearse. Standing in front of a 60-year-old guy, explaining what a domain is ain’t easy. These explanations have to come naturally as you have no time and they don’t listen to complex stuff.
  • Focus: The devil is in the detail. Whenever the opposition says something, listen and watch carefully. It’s a poker game, you are not only playing the cards but also the people.
  • Emotional distance: If you are the kind of person that doesn’t sleep well at night because you were doing 52km/h in a 50, a court case is going to be really hard for you. You’ll feel sick and tired, devastated, depressed and uncertain about your future. The good thing about it is, you can train these emotions away, but it takes time.

After a year something weird happened to me. I started enjoying it. I ended up fighting the fight I was hired for and excelled. Beating the chaos and the bully, winning the case and learning the lesson of my life.

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