We confide in our strength, without boasting of it; we respect that of others, without fearing it.
No worthwhile business relationship, whether with your own people or customers and partners, can endure without mutual respect. And as I've learned firsthand, showing adversaries that you regard them with admiration can resolve even violent conflicts.
The story I'm about to relate broke into violence when two grown men began wrestling with each other and fell to the carpeted floor of a hotel conference room. The brawl took place in a South American capital city where we were trying to renegotiate a management agreement with the hotel's owner. He was a volatile character, who carried a revolver on his hip and a chip on his shoulder.
The fight broke out after the owner got into a shouting match with our local attorney. The bystanders were understandably hesitant to interfere until the owner's revolver slipped from its holster and skittered across the floor. The combatants were pulled apart, but stopping the fight did nothing to resolve the dispute. After several months, Brenda Durham, our corporate lawyer for South America, Alex Stadlin, and Chuck Kelly, our executive vice president for Latin America at the time, suggested that I pay the owner a visit to patch up the relationship.
I flew to his hometown and spent two days traveling with him, visiting his businesses, dining at his club, and mingling with his friends. As we got to know ...