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Drink more tea at the negotiating table

2017-08-21     Source:

By Ricky Zou

Mr. Pat Brennan was awarded Diamond Award by Apache.


2 o’clock in the afternoon.

A dozen of people sit in a tiny conference room of Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC), discussing the extension request of 2 Development Leases of Apache Egypt. The atmosphere of negotiation is a little bit tight, I can see someone is sweating. I’m sitting quietly behind my boss, Mr. Pat Brennan, AKA “Big Pat”, Commercial Manager of Apache Egypt, and await for a new round of match between Texas Cowboys and Mamluk Cavalries.

A waiter opens the door and takes everyone’s order of drinking. When the waiter comes to Big Pat, he smiles and says,”Tea, please.” “Of course, tea for Pat!” says some of our EGPC friends in chorus, and in laughter.

No one, even Big Pat himself, can remember how many cups of tea he ever had in EGPC. Serving Apache for 37 years, and Apache Egypt for 20 years, Pat is now 64 years old, but he is still as fit and energetic as a 30-years-old, just like a Robert De Niro wearing a pair of glasses! Big Pat is the name card of Apache Egypt, not just well-known by the Prime Minister, Minister of Petroleum, heads of other international oil companies in Egypt, but also by janitors and securities at EGPC. When we visit EGPC at Big Pat’s leave, we are always questioned with joking like ”Where is Pat? You don’t attach importance to us, do you?” “We will not do this without Pat, let’s meet next time!” It’s not difficult to see Pat’s influences in business!

Commercial is one of the key departments of Apache Egypt, working closely to the General Manager, in charge of the communications and business related issues with Ministry of Petroleum, EGPC, partners such as Shell, ENI. The main responsibilities for Pat and his team is to bid for new blocks; apply for development leases and issues such as review, extension, relinquishment; joint operations, crude oil & gas transportations, etc. But, a department with this extremely high importance only has 3 US supervisors and 3 Egyptian local employees. Last September, good news showered upon me: I was chosen from the 10 SINOPEC Secondees to work in Commercial! And my Commercial-learning journey started.

The first lesson from Pat is “Drink more tea at the negotiating table.” This is really not as easy as it seems. One of Apache leaders’ attribute is “Fire in the belly”, means keeping passionate, enterprising, work with high efficiency and quality. “But, EGPC is a state-owned Oil company, they have their special culture.” Said Pat, ”You can never get angry but only keep being a gentleman. Even when you are having a thunder storm in mind, just always try to drink a tea to make yourself calm and sensible, and get back to the negotiation with a nice smile!” What he said reminded me an old Chinese saying:

"The man who is with a thunder storm in mind but appears like a peaceful lake, can be a Great General!"

Our Big Pat is the Great General in Apache’s oil& gas activities in Egypt, and the most trust-worthy man of all GMs. And right now, this Great General in negotiation with EGPC is drinking the 2nd cup of tea, and his remaining time in Egypt is just like the tea water in his cup, less and less. As being a grandpa of 2 little girls, his request of retirement had been declined by the company many times, but approved for this time, on condition that he will support in the states and return to Egypt to 4 times a year. He is quite needed here! Few weeks later, his successor will come to drink the tea at EGPC. And maybe in the future, the Lipton tea will not be the only option in the teapot. Perhaps people will enjoy a cup of Chinese Jasmine tea or Oolong.

The negotiation goes very well and EGPC approves the extension request! Big Pat, with one hand holding the tea cup and another on my shoulder, talks to me: "Ricky, drink more tea at the negotiating table, and get your best position to get done what you need to get done!"





  少顷,一名穿戴整洁的服务员进门,依次询问桌前的人们要喝什么。轮到老派时只见他嘴角轻扬,“Tea,thanks。”对面埃方竟有几人异口同声道:“Of course, Tea for Mr. Pat!”


  商务部是阿帕奇埃及公司的机要部门之一,所辖职能包括区块竞标、联合作业、仓储、管输、开发租约的申请、审查、延期和退出等各项工作。而就是这样一个工作千头万绪的部门,仅有3名美方高管和3名当地员工。去年9月,在埃及公司的不懈努力下,促使阿帕奇向现有国勘派遣人员破例开放了一个商务部经理助理岗位,而我就是那枚lucky boy,自此也正式开启了向老派拜师学艺的生涯。

  老派给我上的第一课,就是“Drink more tea at the negotiating table.(谈判桌前多饮茶。)”这话看似平常,却道出了老派多年来在谈判桌上精神修炼的门径。“Fire in the belly”是阿帕奇高管的一项重要素养,意思就是要保持干劲、积极进取,在工作中体现为高质、高效,拒绝繁冗拖沓。“然而,这一点对我们的合作方朋友不一定适用,”老派娓娓道来:“他们有自己的文化和节奏,遇到分歧绝对不能发脾气,而是要时刻保持绅士风度。郁闷了、生气了、着急了,绝不能表现出来,这时候,就多喝几口茶吧,让自己平静下来,再重新回到谈判桌上,慢慢聊。”这让我想到一句中国的古话:“胸有激雷而面如平湖者,可拜上将军。”


  谈判结束,EGPC最终口头同意了两个Block延期,我们也长舒了一口气。老派拿着茶杯跟我手里的杯子碰了一下,“Ricky, drink more tea at the negotiating table, and get your best position to get done what we need to get done!”




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