The Phone Call

After working for five years in corporate America, Anthony was excited to return home and join his uncle’s alloy manufacturing business in Mexico City.

On Anthony’s first day at the office, his uncle Carlos welcomed him with open arms. “Welcome to the family business, Anthony,” Carlos said. “It’s so good to have you back. From today, I want you to oversee the operations and finances and take the burden off my shoulders.”

Anthony was nervous. “Are you sure, uncle Carlos?” he asked. “I barely know anything about the alloy manufacturing business. I’m probably not qualified to take on such a massive responsibility yet.”

“I’m sure you’ll learn quickly,” Carlos replied with a smile. “You are the first one from our family who has worked in America and I’m certain that you will improve the way we’ve been running this family business.”

Anthony shook his head as he hid his nervousness behind a faint smile. I hope I can live up to your expectations, Uncle Carlos.

That evening, Carlos threw a grand office party in honor of Anthony, announcing him as the next person in charge of the business. While Anthony received a warm welcome from everyone, his fears and insecurities had increased exponentially.

“Anthony, I want you to meet Mr. Martinez,” Carlos said as he introduced an elderly gentleman wearing spectacles and a light-grey suit. “Mr. Martinez has been with our company for over forty years and if you ever need any help, he will be there for you.”

Anthony shook Mr. Martinez’s hand. “Pleasure meeting you, Sir,” he said with a smile.

Mr. Martinez nodded. “Congratulations on taking over the reins of the family business, Anthony. I began working with your grandfather when I was your age, and then with your uncle. I’m looking forward to seeing you taking this business to greater heights with your impressive education and experience in America.”

Anthony let out a heavy sigh as he felt burdened under the heap of expectations. “I’m not sure it’s all that impressive,” he mumbled.

Mr. Martinez sensed Anthony’s hesitation. “What’s the matter?”

Anthony shrugged. “I don’t think I truly deserve this grand party,” he said. “I know nothing …”

“Life is fun and exciting when you’re learning and challenging yourself with something new every day,” Mr. Martinez interrupted as he patted Anthony on the back. “Lighten up and enjoy the moment and this new chapter in your life.”

Over the next six months, Anthony learned every aspect of manufacturing alloys — from the melting of scrap metal, testing the chemical composition, and eventually turning the scrap into a refined alloy, ready to be delivered to the biggest automakers of the world. He spent hours reading and understanding the company financials, trying to optimize production, reduce costs, and increase profit.

One afternoon, at the quarterly meeting, Anthony sat nervously, staring at all the experienced people in the conference room.

“Automakers have reduced their production capacity and the past two quarters have been brutal for us,” Carlos said, irritated. “We need a strategy to cover these losses if we want to keep our heads above water. What ideas do you all have?”

Anthony sat quietly as all the senior managers shared their ideas and suggestions to cut back on company losses.

I don’t think I even deserve a seat at the conference table. I haven’t contributed a thing in the past six months. he thought.

“What is the point of this meeting if none of you have any unique ideas to tackle this difficult situation?” Carlos asked angrily, as he brushed away the stereotypical suggestions of his team and turned to Anthony. “What do you think, Anthony?”

Anthony went blank upon hearing his name and a deep sense of anxiety filled his mind and heart. It was almost as if his racing thoughts had impaired his speech in a split second.

Say something, you moron! he thought angrily.

Carlos quickly drifted away from that awkward pause. “Like always, I’m going to have to find a solution,” he slammed his palm on the conference table and stormed out.

After the meeting, Anthony sat alone in the conference room, questioning his self-worth.

I’m not fit to run this business. he thought as he put his head on the table, tears rolling down his eyes.

Mr. Martinez noticed the glum look on Anthony’s face and walked toward him. “Is something wrong, Anthony?” he asked as he tapped him on the shoulder.

Anthony looked at him with a long face. “I don’t know what I’m doing here, Mr. Martinez,” he replied. “Everyone is older and more experienced than me in this business. I didn’t have a single idea during the strategy meeting and now I feel like I’ll never be able to live up to my uncle’s expectations.”

“I think you’re overthinking this,” Mr. Martinez said. “You’ve done exceedingly well over a short period of time, exceeding all our expectations. You have figured out the business model, understood the entire manufacturing process, and have already reduced additional costs associated with waste management, which can take several years for others to understand. That’s a sign of progress.”

“I don’t think I deserve to lead this family business, Mr. Martinez,” Anthony said as he let out a heavy sigh. “I’m sure uncle Carlos feels the same way about me and would rather have an experienced employee helping him and take control of the business.”

Mr. Martinez thought for a moment before responding. “Would you like to go for a walk with me?” he asked. “It will help you blow off some steam.”

“I guess,” Anthony shrugged.

Anthony and Mr. Martinez walked a few blocks away from the office and stopped by an intersection.

“Anthony, I’ve been thinking about what you said to me earlier,” Mr. Martinez said as he pulled out a small piece of paper with a phone number on it. “Why don’t you call this manufacturing company and ask if you can apply for their position of head of finance and operations?”

Anthony looked at him, confused. “Whose number is it?” he asked. “Why am I doing this?”

“Just do as I say,” Mr. Martinez replied with a smile. “Remember, you’re desperate for this job — lie about your experience if you have to.”

Anthony wasn’t convinced, but Mr. Martinez had turned into his most trusted confidant and advisor over the past six months. He pulled out his smartphone and dialed the number without asking any more questions.

“Hello?” a man answered the phone.

“Good afternoon, Sir,” Anthony said. “I was informed that you were looking for a head of finance and operations for your manufacturing company, and I wanted to express my interest in this opportunity.”

“I’m sorry, I already have someone working for me,” the man on the phone replied.

“I’m an extremely motivated individual and can work ten times harder than your current employee, Sir,” Anthony said with confidence. “I have over twenty-five years of experience and can contribute significantly to your business.”

“Thank you for your interest, but I’m sorry. I’m satisfied with my current hire,” the man said.

“I will work at half the salary you are currently paying,” Anthony persisted. “If you could just give me a chance and I assure you, you won’t regret it.”

The man on the phone sighed. “No, thank you. I wish you luck in your job search. ” he said irritatedly and disconnected the call.

Anthony looked at Mr. Martinez angrily. “I was rejected!” he shouted. “I thought you were trying to motivate me with this exercise, Mr. Martinez. Were you just trying to humiliate me?”

Mr. Martinez smiled.

“I never imagined you could be so evil,” Anthony grunted and began pacing back to the office.

“Do you know who it was on the other end of that phone?” Mr. Martinez shouted.

Anthony glared at him, clueless. “Does it matter?”

“It was your uncle Carlos,” Mr. Martinez replied.

“What?” Anthony asked and quickly turned back toward Mr. Martinez. “Why was I applying for a job I already have?”

“Your uncle believes in your abilities and if he was dissatisfied with having you by his side, he would have certainly considered the twenty-five-year experience you lied about over the phone and invited you for an interview.”

Anthony paused for a moment to think. “Wow, that does feel encouraging,” he said as a smile reappeared on his face.

“Comparisons with others is an act of violence against the self, Anthony,” Mr. Martinez continued. “Instead of comparing yourself with others, compare yourself with who you were yesterday and keep improving. That’s the secret to success.”

Anthony imbibed those pearls of wisdom and walked back to the office with rejuvenated enthusiasm. Over the next year, he worked to improve himself each day and took complete control over the business.  His feelings of fear and insecurity had disappeared as he stopped comparing his progress and achievements with others, and believed in himself.

Anthony changed the company’s strategy to expand its outreach beyond the auto industry and cater to a broad range of industries and consumers. Not only did the company recover all the losses from the lack of demand in the auto industry, but was able to weather the recession with this new approach.


Fear and insecurities can hamper growth. We should only look to compare ourselves with what we were yesterday, and continue improving.


  1. Have you ever felt fear or insecure because of the people surrounding you?
  2. How did you combat these feelings and improve yourself?
  3. Are you afraid of seeking a mentor or advisor to help with these emotions?

This parable and short story is a draft from the new book “The Family Business Messenger”, being published in early 2022.

For more information on the final book release and book launch, please email

Copyright 2021, All Rights Reserved, Reg Athwal, RTS Books

Please get written permission to re-post, re-distribute, use in part or full or to reference this story.

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