"Brazil?" Sue blurted out. "Why on earth would they send you to Brazil? You don't speak a word of Spanish!"
"Brazilians speak Portuguese." My quick comeback was a defense against Sue's disapproval. I focused on the pie dough I was rolling out on her dark-green granite countertop. In truth, I had been just as ignorant a few days before.
"Well, whatever they speak, you don't." Thin, even apple slices plopped onto the cutting board where Sue wielded her German-made Henckels professional slicing knife. "Who else is going from the Boston office?" She wanted details.
"One of the Partners, Bob White, will direct the project."
"Bob White. Isn't his wife about to have their first child?" Her memory was too good.
"Yes, next month," I said, trying to sound nonplussed. "He'll come down after his baby is born."
The knife stopped its rhythmic beat and clattered onto the granite. Sue put her hands on her hips. "In other words, you're going alone. They're sending you alone to a country where they don't speak English...and you are supposed to develop a corporate strategy." The crow's feet deepened in Sue's face. "You may have a Harvard MBA, Beth, but this is not smart. GCC is crazy and you are, too."
To avoid her bossy blue stare, I kept rolling the already thin crust. Sue might be right, but I didn't want to question my decision. Surely Harvey knew what he was doing.
A few days earlier, the smell of pipe tobacco had announced his presence at my office door. Despite being the highly respected founder of Global Consulting Center (GCC), Harvey Osborne had never traded faculty garb for the consultant's suit and tie. He crumpled into the armchair across from my desk, adding a few more wrinkles to his British tweed jacket. Its salt-and-pepper weave matched the bristly eyebrows that overarched his thoughtful eyes. Still a business school professor at heart, Harvey often dropped by to expound on his client's management challenges.
I shifted my attention from number-strewn papers to the man who had recruited me a decade ago. I set down my gold Cross pen, the firm's gift on my recent tenth anniversary. I fluffed the paisley silk scarf that adorned my navy suit. I was ready for an academic discourse, but Harvey had a different agenda and wasted no time in laying it on the table.
"Samuel Cohen, head of GCC-Brazil, has made a proposal to a very large Brazilian company. The country's economy has been in turmoil, with inflation over two hundred percent per year. However, new economic measures are being taken to get things under control. Sam's client, a drug company named BomFarm, needs a strategy for the new scenario. They'll accept his proposal if the team includes consultants who understand how to make money in a stable economy. Bob White has just the expertise they need; he'll be the Partner-in-Charge. We'd like you to get things rolling and cover the project in the field until Bob can get down to Brazil."
Both pride and panic swept over me. I had never worked outside of the United States. My textbook knowledge of macro-economics was rusty and my experience with drugs was an occasional aspirin.
"Why me?" The question popped out and ambushed the cool confidence I should have shown.
Harvey got up and walked to the plaque on my wall. "That's why," he said, tapping the Insight Award that read: "Beth Ann Bartlett, Provider of Insights, Intellectual Depth, and Integrity for the Success of GCC's Clients."
"Those are the qualities we need on this job." Warmth rose in my cheeks as Harvey cir