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The Case of the New, Aged Designer

An old friend can design like a fiend, but at what cost?

Briderlite Signs’ success centered on sign design. Years back, President Don Brider hired twins Amy and Lynn Topp, fresh from art school, for the art department. The young women immediately excelled at sign layout. Their mastery of CorelDraw, Photoshop and CAD-based programs drove the department, earning them the title of “Twin Pistons.”

As a bonus, while creative people can be a tad moody, the twins had level temperaments and worked well under pressure. Additionally, they were great with clients, who sat with them to see designs evolve.

During this “Golden Age” at Briderlite, Don Brider oversaw production, while brother, Ted, commanded installation and sister, Sue, managed sales. Their complementary management skills, combined with the design expertise of the Twin Pistons, made the Briderlite engine hum.

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual businesses and people.

The harmony ended one day when Amy Topp assembled upper brass to meet. She explained that while she and Lynn loved working at Briderlite, a new opportunity had arisen. A cousin was selling a small sign company and their father was lending them money to buy it. They had never considered leaving Briderlite, but the offer was irresistible.

The Briders pleaded for reconsideration. They enumerated the difficulties in running a small business and offered the twins substantial raises to stay. However, the lure of business ownership proved decisive. Respectfully, they submitted a two-month notice.

The Briders ran ads online and hired employment services to find competent design help prior to the twins’ departure. As time passed, they continued using freelancers. However, clients accustomed to working directly with Amy and Lynn grew restless. A few even jumped ship to work with the twins and their new company.

Just then, Don Brider received a call from one of the sign industry’s leading designers, Anton Balanito. Apparently, Anton, who had worked with Don years back at a local sign company, was returning home to assist his aging parents. Anton had been recruited afar by one of the world’s largest sign companies, Continental Sign Erectors. At Continental, he ascended to art director, overseeing the most formidable sign programs.

In his call, Anton inquired about a work position. Although Don remembered Anton as temperamental, hiring him for design seemed a no-brainer. Briderlite was desperate and Balanito was available. He accepted an instant offer from his old workmate, which equaled the Topp sisters’ salaries combined.

A month later when Anton arrived at Briderlite, Don was shocked seeing the world-famous designer for the first time in years. Once a slim, squeaky clean-shaven geek who dressed in a blue blazer, grey slacks, and bow tie, Anton was now tattooed from his bulging arms to his size-18 neck. His face, what little appeared through a bushy beard and mop of blue-dyed hair, was abuzz with piercings. In place of the old sport blazer was a black T-shirt emblazoned with a mysterious symbol comprising a stylized fish, a hatching egg and an onion cluster. Encircling the peculiar graphic, bold letters read, “BLESSED BY SARKOON.”

Anton pulled Don into a tight bear hug and bellowed, “Great to see you buddy! It’s been too long. I’m gonna help you with some super sign design.” Speechless, with mouths agape, Ted and Sue stepped back. Don, attempting to gain composure, managed to reply meekly, “Great to see you, too, Anton. My God, you look different.”

“Well Don, it’s a long story, but you probably remember my temper-management issues. Over at Continental, the HR manager referred me to specialists promoting a new science — Cognitive Tranquility Reprogramming. That’s how I met renowned CTR guru, Henrique Sarkoon. The rest is history.”

“O-kay…” responded Don. “By the looks of things, I imagine you went through intensive therapy.”

“No,” Anton countered. “It came down to diet. I was eating pure junk. Now, I limit my intake to fish — usually walleye and free-range eggs with healthy toppings of fermented Vidalia onions.” He then explained, “I feel like a million bucks, I have a worldwide group of friends and my volatility has subsided. I can’t thank Dr. Sarkoon enough!”

The Brider siblings led him to his new office, where the twins had sat. Once in, Anton reached into a duffle bag, fetching a clump of sage that he lit afire and shouted, “Nasty spirits… cast yourselves to the netherworld!”

Sensing uneasiness from Ted and Sue, Don pulled them out of the office, saying over his shoulder, “We’ll let you settle in, Anton. These guys will stop back shortly. They’d love to see your portfolio!”

Once in the hallway, Ted and Sue accosted Don. “What in God’s name were you thinking?” Sue burst out. “This guy is a full-fledged nut job!”

“Do you really think clients will like him?” Ted asked.

“Guys, he’s eccentric, but trust me, he designs like a fiend,” Don said, adding, “Anyway, who’s perfect? At least he’s friendly.”

An hour later, Ted and Sue returned to Anton’s office; he was hunched over, fast asleep. “Anton,” Sue called out while tapping his shoulder. “We wanted to see your work, but you’re snoring away on your first day. Geez!”

“Oh, oh, oh,” Anton stammered. “It was the plane flight. I’m bushed — sorry about the extra Z’s! I feel dopey. Anyway, come… check out my work.” Ted and Sue were instantly silenced by Anton’s remarkable sign sketches. Don was right. The guy was talented.

The two then brought their new art director to meet their staff, who greeted him with polite smiles concealing surprise. Anton eagerly “shook” hands — three fist-bumps followed by a deadly, two-handed palm crunch.

At lunch that day, a new odor wafted from Briderlite’s cafeteria and through the offices, art room and shop. In the microwave, sat steaming, a heaping serving of walleye, quail eggs and fermented onions.



What, if anything, should the Briderlite management team do about their eccentric new designer? Attempt to tactfully groom Anton’s workplace habits at the risk of upsetting his “chi?” Or cut their potential losses immediately?


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