Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Conning the Con Call

i remember one time, okay many times, i been stuck on some really fucking stupid conference calls. but one time in particular, jesus, it was like fifty different parties on this call, at 8 AM, for a conversation between two people, neither of which was me. so why the FUCK was i on it? i eventually hung up. but i had asked the banker whether we needed to be on. and of course, they said it would be good for us to be represented. translation: "i'm too lowly/retarded/lazy to think about ur question and i'm not paying for your time anyway so i'm just going to ask you to join". this is the default thought process in our field. sure, our world is going to pieces, our natural resources are depleting, energy crisis impending, not enough people recycle, but when it comes to the world of finance, expense is no object. literally. it's some ethereal concept that's gets passed on to the next sucker like a hot potato bc cash is created from thin air and everyon's pockets are lined with it. but really, that mentality doesnt work for me, and not just because i dont really get a cut of that golden lining, but also cuz i value my time and didn't end up twisted and thinking impossible is nothing....

anyway, i dunno how got to that...i'm writing about how to extricate oneself from stupid fucking calls. i dunno why so many people, especially bankers, feel like it's so much more efficient to "have a call" about something rather than email or writing a letter. honestly sometimes i feel like writing a letter wd be better, cuz then at least it forces people to think about what they fuckign say before they say it, and then actually make decisions rather than resolve to think about stuff. which ends up happening a lot.

k nuff gripe. i guess there are a few things i do i try to do shorten/get off calls. of course depends on the circumstances - like if u r on a call where:
  • other people from your firm are on
  • the topic is ancillary to your role
  • involves more parties than necessary (including u)
  • it's an 'update' call for a cap mkts deal
  • call will probably be conducted mostly in another language (that you don't speak)
  • it's optional and for your own benefit, so someone tells you
in all these situations, seriously, fuck the call. someone will followup, prepare an update or do something it's a waste of ur time. my god i remember on one deal, i forget if i wrote about this once, but the bankers on the deal really REALLY wanted to get the deal done (whose fault was it that they were too incompetent to realize that they should have planned it better for the past six months) and then mandated not just weekly update calls, but daily update calls. because, of course, so much happens in the span of 24 hours that we require everyone to stop what they are doing and get on a call for 45 minutes to go through an agenda where half the people say "same as yesterday". it's telling when the calls go from 45 minutes to 15 minutes, when the people that are supposedly mandating the call are noticeably missing from said calls, and when after everytime someone asks a question the invariable response from the askee is "sorry, i wasn't listening, can you say that again?". and to add ludicrousness to crazybrainness to bananas, there were times when there were other calls, called by the bankers, on 'important' issues, whose timing conflicted with the update calls....just guess what happened. that's right! update calls were moved to later that day, because it obivoiusly doesnt make sense to have one call to cover everything or that the 'imporatnt' call coudl actually be a sufficient update.... THAT said, if it's kinda  slow, i may dial into these calls, write a blog entry and bill the hour....

now there are other situations where your presence is quasi-needed, like when there's a smaller group, you may be the only person (but again not so important you are on), you are covering for someone else, etc. No matter if it's this case, or even one of the situations above but u feel bad about just not getting on - sometimes you just need an excuse. here are some good ones i've had success wtih:
  • the line/connection didn't work (maybe they didn't get enough lines, maybe your line is bad) - works well when u r dialing in remotely. couple this with a few dial in + immediate hang-ups, so u get that tone in and tone out, hey at least you tried!
  • blackberry problems. everyone's been there. ever had ur bb freeze? ever dropped the pos and it literally falls apart? i wd drop my thing five inches onto a carpet and the back would fall off, the battery would come out, the keypad would pop off, all the individual keys fly out of the keypad...u get the picture. and then the best/worst thing, once u reboot, it takes like ten minutes to start up again. anyway, just turn ur phone off so that people who try to call u to tell u to join will assume ur having problems. and trust me, they'll get over it.
  • scheduling conflicts. if this is during the day, chances r u cld have meetings, other calls, fire drills something. if u r the main guy, this will prolly just postpone the inevitable. but if u r just one o many or the call is really ancillayr to u, life will go on without u.
  • just say no. if the call is stupid, and u r working with someone that also has some decent common sense and is not jsut some monkey, u can probably huddle and tell the requester that a call really is not needed and the time would be more well spent actualy doing work. a lot of times this can work if u r dealing with the right people. especially if u r talking someone out of, say, the daily update call by suggesting as straightfaced as u can an hourly update call.
  • pull the ethics card. worsk fro meeting too. the rule is that lawyers cant be present or listening in unless counsel for the counterparty is also present. works better for meetings cuz there's a lot more involved than getting on a call.
  • dial in conspicuously, drop off surreptitiously. like my banker buddy who balled with me, got on his call and contined to ball. if u say that ur on in the beginning but somehow got disconnected and cd not reconnect etc. wroks well.
  • run away. if u r dodging ur own phone rather than a con call, just don't pick it up. whether it's someone who cd potentiallly give u more work or just a wild card or if its friday afternoon, just bolt. tell ur secretary to cover. go to the hospital. go for a coffee. if its important theyll email u. if u get an email to call someone back. ignore. if its really urgent they will make the effort to call u. likely eveyrone is just trying to get shit off their plate and give it to you. fuck them! do ur own goddamn work!
anyway i think the only time a call is really necessary is when you want to avoid, say, putting things in writing, or have some legitimate discussion/negotiation that warrants real-time responses.


    1. AnonymousJune 01, 2011


      How do you feel about tactics like planning for a long call by tossing on the ole bluetooth headset and going for a run along the water during the call? Good thought? I'm so excited to get back to private practice!

    2. Academic monkeyJune 02, 2011

      i've found the best invention ever for the con call is the mute button. you can completely continue living your life however you want while the call is droning on in the background, since you probably aren't going to have to chime in anyway. And still bill for the hour.

    3. To anonymous: why r u getting BACK to private practice? THAT sounds terrible...but perhaps if you have perfected ur monkeying skillz and are billing ur relaxing runs on the waterfront, go for broke! and yes, that is an excellent idea.

      in fact, for any long call where u dont expect to participate (except maybe for an occasional, 'i agree') but for which u actually do want to or should listen, u can and shld do antyhing. i studied for the bar by listening to the ipod course on the treadmill, at the gym, playing video games, at the range, and i wd generally do the same with con calls that fall in tihs category. preferably tho, for con calls that demand my presence bu ti hink r a waste of time - i wd try hard to convince others of the waste of time, and for those that dont demand my presence, ill just ignore the call completely - pretend you don't get the invite or were just busy or something. or dial in, play ball and bill the hour.

      and yes, the mute button is critical! but when ur on ur cell and dont have that big red light that tells u ur on mute, i end up constantly checking to see that i actually am no mute. one time i almost starting mouthing off when i was accidnetally NOT on mute. and i remember one huge cap mkts con call late on a saturday, and halfway through, it becomes very apparent someone is watching Machete or some similarly ridiculous was fucking awesome. but can be embarssing if ur not shielded by the sheer size of the working group or if u have an easily identifiable voice. one trick is to use the conference facilitie's internal mute - usually by pressing * and then some number, so that your line is muted, rather than really on your phone's microphone mute.


    Monkey away: