How to win friends and influence people, eventually

It's New Year's Eve, and this consultant pilot fish gets a call from a VP at a big customer site on the other side of the continent.

"The caller explains with considerable animation that he and his fellow execs decided at the office celebration to send the IT operations staff home and start the year-end processing themselves," says fish.

"Things are not going well, and they expect me to talk them out of their dilemmas, as the year-end processing is super critical."

That must have been some serious celebrating, fish thinks. And after a bit of conversation with the VP, his fears are confirmed: With these execs in this condition, the likelihood of walking them through the process is vanishingly small.

Look, fish tells VP, just go home, get some rest, wait for the operations guys to sleep it off, and call me in the morning if they need help.

The VP is still protesting when fish hangs up and goes back to bed.

Still, he follows fish's advice and the year-end processing gets done on New Year's Day. The day after that, word comes from the customer that they never wish to deal with, or even hear of, fish again.

Some months later, customer calls consulting firm about intermittent problems in the data center that have been generating misery for many weeks. Customer begs for on-site help, even if it means seeing fish walk through the door.

"A cross-country flight later, I walk through the door," fish says. "Within a couple of hours, I demonstrate to a tech from the hardware vendor how one disk drive is stealthily trashing an occasional block on the drive.

"The problem is resolved, and the customer and I live happily ever after on the same planet."

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