Mike’s head turned to his computer. He had spent the last nine months hoping that he would have dealt with this issue before it came to this. He hadn’t, he had left it for Simon to raise.
Date: 29/10/15 22:03
Subject: Fisica’s next product
After our last conversation, I have been wondering if perhaps you aren’t as finished with my services as you implied. If, for example, Fisica’s next product is actually based on my encryption technology rather than it being a side feature, as originally described, perhaps we should discuss next steps?
Date: 29/10/15 22:14
Subject: RE: Fisica’s next product
Unfortunately I can’t discuss future product direction for Fisica with those outside the company.
He stood up as he pressed send. Simon had worked for Fisica. He had written the encryption tech when he was a contractor. He had been too expensive to keep on, but Fisica’s new product relied on his work. But he can’t know that. He simply can’t.
Mike knew that the right thing was to ask him to be an employee. That was the best thing to do, but the problem was that Simon was just as much of a nightmare as one would imagine. Once he was an employee there was a good chance he’d just want to screw everything up for Mike. Mike knew that this whole thing was a nightmare, but maybe, he hoped, there would be a way to get this product launched without having to deal with Simon. Poor Simon, Mike thought, could a company basically decide that you were annoying, albeit super smart, and therefore decide to use your best ideas, but not deal with you anymore?
Legally he was in the clear, Simon had signed away what he had done. But would the board want the smart guy who invented the tech outside the company and available for hire or inside working for them?
Mike knew that it was time to talk to Jerry. Jerry was Mike’s therapist, and Mike had been avoiding seeing Jerry almost as much as he’d been avoiding talking to Simon.
He went back to the computer and to Jerry’s website, booked the first appointment for tomorrow morning, then he sent an email asking for an emergency meeting with his investors. After that he popped a sedative, drank a glass of red and went to bed. This meant he had a really confused four hours during which his brain was fighting sleep, but then he fell asleep so completely and soundly that when his alarm went off, he couldn’t remember for a clear three minutes who he was or why he was awake at six thirty.
He had a cool shower. (Who actually wants a cold shower? Cold showers are ridiculous.) He dressed carefully. He wanted to be able to maintain the sartorial high ground. Jerry was a poor dresser. He had a thrown together look, one day Hawaiian shirts and cargo shorts, another day a ripped blue denim shirt and jeans. The problem was that in between these crazy combinations, Jerry’s throwaway style could end up looking like very carefully put together non-style. Mike didn’t know why he cared. He certainly wasn’t fashionable himself in the conventional sense. But he liked to feel the best dressed. Working with developers meant he could win most of the time.
Mike pushed open the door of Jerry’s office. On the ground floor was a toilet and a staircase down to the consulting rooms. A sign had been hanging on the door to the toilets ever since Mike had been coming here saying “Beware of the vom”.
Mike walked down the stairs and into the waiting room. The receptionist was mixing a Bloody Mary.
“Is Jerry in?” asked Mike.
“Not until 8am, never before that. Just getting things ready.”
“I’m his first appointment.”
“What you having?”
“Just a water please.”
Mike sat with his water and waited. At 8am the door swung open, Jerry walked up to the bar, gave an evil look to the receptionist, walked around behind the bar and looked back to Mike. He gestured Mike to come over to the bar. Jerry went into the fridge and pulled out two bottles of beer. He passed one to Mike.
Mike said, “I’m fine thanks”.
“It’s not for you,” said Jerry, “I don’t have enough hands to carry everything”.
“I mean,” said Jerry, “if you are on some kind of health kick have some celery, we always have celery”.
“I’m fine,” said Mike.
“Ok let’s go.”
Jerry carried a beer and the Bloody Mary through to his office and Mike followed with the other beer.
Jerry quickly arranged himself on his bean bag in the middle of the room. He had placed the drinks on a small mat and he gestured to Mike that he should approach and put the other beer by the side.
“Careful,” said Jerry, “the raffia is sitting on carpet so it can all go over at any minute.”
Mike went and picked up another bean bag from the pile in the corner of the room and placed it in front of Jerry.
“So what’s up?” asked Jerry.
“I have a problem.”
“Tell me about it,” said Jerry, “you are seeing your drunk of a therapist at short notice after a gap of six months. You don’t need to tell me you have a problem.”
“So tell me.”
“I have a meeting in two hours with my investors.”
“They think I am the reason my company is successful, but actually the technology behind the flagship new product was written by somebody else. This software is the reason most of the investors came in. And I sacked the person who wrote it because… Well I told him it was because we didn’t have enough money, but actually it was because I was threatened by him.”
“And now he’s upset?”
“No, yes, I mean he’s obviously upset, but I think… I think he may have realised that nobody else knows that he’s the one that invented code Fisica relies on.”
“But surely that happens all the time? People invent things when they work places and they pass the rights over to people,” said Jerry.
“Yes they do, and he did. But I work in an ideas business, and my investors think I was the man with the ideas, when actually it was him, I sacked the guy they actually wanted.”
“Is that really true, or do you just think it’s true?”
“How would I know the difference?”
“Good question,” said Jerry, “that’s supposed to be my job, I’m not so sure I like you asking the interesting questions.”
Jerry finished his first beer. Then held his nose and drained the second half of his Bloody Mary.
“This is tough this morning,” Jerry said.
“Some people would say it’s a bad idea to seek advice from a drunk shrink”.
“At least I’ll give you advice,” Jerry said, “most of these guys will ask ‘how does that make you feel?’ and tell you nothing”.
“So tell me something,” Mike said.
“Well if this guy is so important to you, hire him back.”
“But that won’t work, he’s a complete disaster to work with and… Then he’ll know…”
“Surely he already knows that he invented this thing?” asked Jerry.
“Yeah, of course! He knows that, but… but… he doesn’t know that… He doesn’t know that what he invented is what the whole company is focusing on, although he will soon when we put out a press release, and he doesn’t know that the investors don’t know that he was the one who invented it. They think it was me, he thinks they sacked him even though they knew it was him.”
“And if you hired him back?”
“Hey! I thought you didn’t do self-reflective questions.”
“Fine,” said Jerry, “I’m telling you to hire him back, tell me why you aren’t going to?”
“Because he’ll ruin everything. He’ll twist everything around to him.”
“Ok,” said Jerry, “I say you ruined anything that was going to be ruined when you sacked him and tried to get the glory for something you didn’t do. If you aren’t the inventor the only reason you could conceivably be valuable is as a leader not a scaredy cat who won’t face up to the world he actually finds himself in.”
“You’re wrong,” said Mike, “Simon is toxic and it was only my leadership that got that wart out of the firm.”
“Ok, if you’re sure. Time’s up.”
“That’s nowhere near time.”
“I have to take a crap, you can follow me in or not. But that’s where the rest of this session is taking place, I promise you that.”
Mike stood up.
“Thanks for your time, Jerry.”
“Come and see me next week Mike, book it on your way out, you’re going to want to see me next week.”
“Ok, I will.”
“Hey Mike, what are you going to do?”
“I’m going to tell the investors to press ahead without Simon.”
“Ok,” said Jerry, “I’ll see you next week.”