What I Bargained For

Four stories of successful negotiations.


What I Bargained For: A Top Team

The Talent: Lori Flees, 27, had more than a Harvard MBA going for her when she started shopping the job market two years ago. She had also worked at Intel, where she was a senior business analyst for two Flash-memory products and a member of two product-development teams.


The Offer: Bain & Co., one of the world’s leading global-strategy and management-consulting firms, considered Flees a top prospect from the MBA class of 1997. Its offer: Join the company as a management consultant. Flees also considered offers from another consulting firm and from a building-materials conglomerate.

The Dealmaker: Typically, business-school grads who join Bain start in its general consulting ranks. But Flees wanted more than a cookie-cutter job for Bain newbies. Her long-term plan is to buy and run her own company, and she wants her experience at Bain to serve as a crash course in evaluating acquisitions.

She asked for an assignment in Bain’s Private Equity group, which focuses on leveraged buyouts and portfolio work. Bain was hesitant to go against precedent by allowing Flees to jump directly into its hottest team, but she had been a stellar performer during her summer internship at the company. After some dickering, the deal was done.


The Payoff : Flees is on the fast track. She’s worked on five cases in five months – most of her peers handle just two or three cases in that span of time. The intensity has helped her develop flexibility and broad expertise. “I’ve been on a very steep learning curve,” she says, “and everything has been accelerated by working in this group.”

Coordinates Lori Flees,

What I Bargained For: A Hot Home Office

The Talent: Shane Coursen, 30, an all-star fighter of computer viruses and a key player on the team that developed Symantec Corp.’s popular Norton AntiVirus software.


The Offer: Dr Solomon’s Software Inc., an antivirus software company based in Britain, wanted Coursen to sign on as a senior technology consultant. The assignment: Troubleshoot viruses for the company’s clients and dispense advice on computer-security problems.

The Dealmaker: Coursen, an avid surfer (the wet kind), was reluctant to move from Malibu, California to Burlington, Massachusetts, where Dr Solomon’s has one of its U.S. offices. So he made a counteroffer: He’d stay in Malibu, and the company would outfit his home office with a full-fledged lab for testing computer viruses. Dr Solomon’s, which was eager to expand its presence on the West Coast, agreed. To Coursen’s own custom-built 200 MHz Pentium computer and his 386 test machine, the company added a Gateway 2000 NT server, a Gateway Pentium laptop, seven Zip drives, and two keyboards – all connected to a local area network.

The Payoff: The home lab allows Coursen to remain on the West Coast and to be a master of his own schedule. Dr Solomon’s has gained a heavyweight virus-buster who responds to problems in real time. Recently, when publishing giant Ziff-Davis suspected that a virus was lurking in its systems, its people sent an urgent email to Coursen late in the evening. He was up until 6 a.m. the next day, pounding away on a solution. By the following morning, he’d helped the company whip the problem. “My career is what I am – it’s what I do,” he says. “I worked last night until 2 a.m. I’d never work that late if I was in a 9-to-5 office.”


Coordinates: Shane Coursen,

What I Bargained For: A Car and Driver

The Talent: Robert Ford, a 48-year-old native South African who’s held top-level posts at Intrinsa Corp. and Objectivity Inc. About two dozen companies in Silicon Valley were courting him when he made his most recent job change.

The Offer: A chance to take charge of product-development efforts at Extensity Inc., a hot technology company financed jointly by Kleiner Perkins, Hummer Winblad, and Weiss, Peck & Greer. The company’s debut application, dubbed Extensity Expense Reports, will enable organizations to manage employee expense accounts over the Internet. It will ship this spring.


The Dealmaker: Though Ford was eager to join a trailblazing company, he wasn’t willing to do what it would take to get there: crawl along for three hours a day in commuter traffic between his home in San Jose and Extensity’s headquarters in Emeryville, California.

“Extensity was an interesting opportunity in an enormous market,” says Ford. “But the commute was an absolute showstopper.” He told the VCs that the deal was a no-go. The VCs suggested that Extensity kick in a chauffeur-driven car. Now, every day, a Lincoln Town Car pulls into Ford’s driveway at 6:30 a.m. and drops him at work 90 minutes later. Promptly at 5 p.m., it reappears for the return trip. Ford made one other request: Please, no limos. “That’s more chutzpah than I’ve got,” he says.

The Payoff: Ford uses his commuting time to return phone calls, answer email, and catch up on his reading. “It lets me work a 12-hour day – which is a plus for the company,” he says. “It also gives me 3 hours of uninterrupted think time – which I rarely get in the office.”


Coordinates: Robert Ford,

What I Bargained For: A Personal Project

The Talent: Linus Torvalds, 28, originator of the Linux operating system, which is revered by tech devotees everywhere. More than 5 million computers use Linux, including workstations at NASA that run experiments on the space shuttle. Torvalds, until recently a researcher at the University of Helsinki, was ready to move out of academia.

The Offer: Transmeta Corp., a Santa Clara, California-based company that develops multimedia PC components, pitched Torvalds to join its elite software-engineering team. The high-flying startup’s backers include Microsoft cofounder and mega-investor Paul Allen.


The Dealmaker: Linux is a career-defining project, and Torvalds intends to take his project with him wherever he goes. He was ready to leave the university – provided that his new employer would let him devote some of his work time to refining Linux. For the operating system to remain useful, it must be constantly updated. “Whatever I did,” Torvalds says, “I wanted to do Linux as well – that was non-negotiable.” Transmeta agreed. After all, it too uses Linux. But Torvalds asked the company to put the arrangement in writing: Any improvements that he makes to Linux become his intellectual property, even if he uses company time and equipment in the process.

The Payoff: Transmeta gets a world-class developer. Torvalds gets the assurance that his creation will remain his calling card. “Linux is a big part of my life,” he says, “and it’s important that it continue to be a vital part of my career.” But now that he’s developing “specialties” for Transmeta, there will be more to Torvalds’s career than just Linux.

Coordinates: Linus Torvalds,