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The Beginning

HE CAME INTO THE OFFICE THAT MORNING, all geared up for the Monday morning meeting. Normally business starts at 9am but Monday mornings are different. The business review meeting starts at 8am and it can go on for up to 6 hours. At this meeting, all client instructions are reviewed, including the status of different jobs. Client difficulties are discussed, and strategies mapped out for the week. The entire group meets on Monday mornings: Specialty Practices, Strategy, Media, IT, Design…the works; and if you’ve been tardy on your job, you will dread Monday mornings at HDL Consulting. (HDL is the acronym of the first names of the founding partners – Harold, David and Larry).

He is known to be extremely impatient with the niceties of greetings on Monday mornings. Hardly acknowledging good mornings from the receptionist and one or two junior partners milling about the reception desk, he walked briskly past reception, down the oak paneled corridor, into the lobby of light leading to the elevator. He rode the elevator up the 7th floor where the partners’ offices are located. It is also where the general conference room is situate. The joke in the office is that he takes very strong coffee on Monday mornings, (possibly mixed with Redbull some say). He always seems charged and ready to go. The truth of course is that Larry Hamilton wakes up at 2am everyday, works till 5am in his den, and then goes back to bed for what he calls his real sleep – 30 minutes to be precise. He re-awakens at 5.30am, does his meditation for 30 minutes, by which time he’s sorted out his entire day in his head. When he steps into the shower, he’s very much ready for the day and can hardly wait to get to the office. Larry has been known to show up very early in the morning, in pajamas, and very excited. He did that once to explain the solution to a vexing client problem. And then he went back home to shower for the day. Larry’s life is one huge continuum of intelligence interspersed with life’s ablutions.

He’s the youngest of the founding partners and without doubt the most intelligent by far. He’s incredibly brilliant and oozes the confidence of a man who knows he’s brilliant and successful. But what he lacks in patience, the other founding partners make up for in experience and gravity. Not remarried at 38 (he had a divorce), he is every lady’s dream but he is very committed to his long term relationship with his girlfriend Nigella. He thinks forty is an ideal age for him to settle down again.

Nigella has softened him in many ways. When you’re that focused and brutally intelligent, you need the rounded texture of a loving mate. Nigella understands his fears about marriage and won’t pressure him. Having him was enough.

As he rode up the elevator he ticked off in his head all the tasks he needed to accomplish, not least his new curiosity.

In his stack of weekend papers was The Economist magazine of January 27, 2007. Because he does a lot of traveling, he hardly has time to read the papers. His lovely and marvelous personal assistant, Helen Roundtree, dutifully packs his papers and magazines for him. She knows he loves reading The Economist. She could never read it on her own. It is dense, pompous, and too English in her estimation. But because she worked for Larry, and Larry expects to work with extremely intelligent people who are literally on the same page with him, she reads The Economist.

Working with him is quite demanding but she wouldn’t trade it for all the miseries in the world, which is how she describes every other job offer. With a master’s degree in Mathematics, and an MBA from Stanford, she could have worked at any investment bank or corporation of her choosing. But there was something about Larry. Behind all that brilliance is a very caring and tender soul. She considers him a very decent human being who genuinely cares for those who work with him. When her stepmother died, Larry traveled up country for the burial despite his aversion to traveling by road. Everybody knows this about Larry: if a plane doesn’t land there, Larry does not go there. But Larry showed up at the funeral, supporting her with finances even. And it deeply touched her because she knew how busy he was that week. Larry can be that way. She’s a lost cause anyway. She’s ‘married’ to Larry for life.

Being around Larry changes everything. Your worldview changes, you have a sense of direction and purpose, and he has this incredible insight into life. He possesses an uncanny ability to reduce complexity to digestible simplicity, and he is humble about it. He never makes you look stupid, though he can be impatient. That impatience comes from processing information too fast. Things changed for her when she met Larry.

And she rewarded him with loyalty. She remembers the interview. She performed woefully and it was over in 15 minutes. She had never met someone with such analytical skills. She found herself wanting despite all her preparation. You see, his reputation precedes him, and she had spent time preparing. She had even posted help on Gerryland, the online forum for executive job seekers. Many of the community members had interviewed at HDL. She had been warned to come prepared and be on top of her game and that the interview would not be normal. One member in particular wrote: “I am going to give you a piece of advice about HDL. If you’re fortunate enough to get called for a roundtable interview, just be prepared because the interviewers are really good. If you have an opinion I suggest you be sure about your facts or else, you will not go past the first stage.”

The interview was a chat actually. She had a chat with Larry and three executives. But where others saw failure, Larry saw something in her. And when Larry says that, the firm gives him the benefit of doubt. He spotted all the stars in the organisation. She was surprised to get a phone call from HDL the next morning asking her to resume as Larry’s assistant. Just like that. At first she was glad that she made it into HDL, but then she had a sense of foreboding – she was going to work with Larry Hamilton! When you’re Larry’s PA, you are a research assistant. And research for Larry begins with a capital R. And then you take care of every other aspect of Larry’s life. He’s not into food, parties or clubs. And he gladly delegates every other aspect of his life to you to manage. Larry doesn’t know how he gets on the plane. He just wants to be on the plane. Helen manages his bank accounts, his insurance, gifts, flowers for friends, appointments, visits to dentist… Rumour has it that when a traffic officer asked Larry for his car license number on a Sunday night, he called Helen for the number. There are only two other people who totally understand Larry:  Rachael Hamilton his mother, and Nigella. And both women will protect him with their lives.

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