Friday, June 27, 2008

The Big Blue Lady and Solvay Business School

The first thing I noticed at the end of the long drive way was ‘something’ big and blue. When driving up to the ‘blue’ thing I suddenly realized it was the statue of a gigantic woman in bathing suit. It was as if I entered a parallel universe.

The reason why I seemed to be driving to a blue big woman was a complaint email I received a couple of weeks ago. A man complained about the invoice we had sent to Solvay business school, one of the leading business schools in Belgium. I called the man, something that surprised him, and he grabbed the opportunity to not only complain about the invoice but also about our roll in one of their events in the past. Apparently we hadn’t delivered what we promised. Since universities are my thing, I proposed to meet him and sort everything out.

So here I was, driving up to the office of the man who made the complaint, a man who seemed to nurture a 2 stores high big blue lady in his front yard. I parked next to the woman, she was gigantesque.
The entrance hall of the office was even more of a surprise. It was actually an art gallery. Now, in my eyes you have modern art and modern art. The first kind of modern art is the kind you completely fail to understand, the kind you think you can produce yourself if you invested a little time in it. The second kind of modern art is that art that amazes you because you see the point, but you would never be able to create it. The gallery was full of this second kind of modern art. Brilliant stuff. A M A Z I N G.

The whole building seemed empty, besides the presence of 1 woman who modestly opened the door and asked me to wait for my appointment. This was not an office, this was a sanctuary. Whatever business man was behind this building, the set up proved beyond a point that I had entered the environment of a free spirit, somebody who couldn’t care less about his name and fame, who else dares to welcome his suppliers and clients with a big fat lady? The bigger surroundings, i.e. the immense gardens, drive ways, ponds and outdoor monumental art also suggested power and wealth.
In the back of my mind a petite voice whispered I had already seen the image of the reception-turned-art-gallery, but I wasn’t able to remember correctly, was it from television, or pictures in a glossy magazine, …?

When I met my contact I quickly learned I was in the building of one of the benefactors of Solvay Business School (SBS). We talked about the past and the future, until my contact received a phone call. Instead of asking me to leave his office, he walked out. This gave me the time to look around in the broad clean office (absolutely paperless rest assured). A simple poster with 4 lines attracted the eye:

“First Say Yes.”
“Keep Things Simple.”
“Make Decissions.”
“Never Regret.”

While I silently contemplated about the 4 lines, my contact re-entered (through a door without handles). He looked at me and said “I am so glad we are still a small family. I just had Albert on the phone”. Then all the pieces of the puzzle fell together, I was in the office of the richest man in Belgium, Albert Frere (also in the Fortune 500 worldwide). And my contact turned out to be his right hand.

(sculpture of the big blue lady is from artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002))