Bulgarian Kalin Pentchev leaned into his cell phone conversation as he scribbled numbers on the top flap of a shipping box. Speaking quickly in his native tongue, the big man jabbed the air in front of him for emphasis.
"Look, I will tell you this. If you come down on your price, I will sign a contract to guarantee that my company will purchase one hundred thousand pounds of your cheese in the coming year."
He drew circles and blocks around the numbers as he listened to the impassioned response from a feta cheese producer 3,500 miles away.
"You need to think about that?" Kalin said at last with a fair amount of exasperation. "Well, don't think too long; it's already April and this year 2003 isn't getting any younger. You're not the only producer in Bulgaria, my friend, and you must understand that I will be signing a favorable volume agreement with someone, and soon. Right. Okay, you get back to me."
Kalin smiled as he clicked off. No matter that he had no idea how he could possibly sell that much cheese in a year, or that he was playing hardball with one of the only producers he felt he could trust back in his homeland. As was his nature, Kalin was moving forward like a tightrope walker performing daring feats without a net, protected only by a supreme faith in his own ability to overcome whatever challenge he encountered or set for himself.
As he resumed packing orders of East European food products to be shipped to his customers all over the United States, ...