Hugo Beaufort stood with arms clasped behind his back gazing from his upper office over the vast sea of robots at work on the production line far into the distance. It was a massive operation and he stood bemused at what he’d developed over these past forty years. Not bad for a university dropout he thought then turned and went back to his desk bristling with all the trappings of his trade where he could monitor what was going on through multiple screen displays. He didn’t have to do that as he’d delegated responsibilities for monitoring along the line of production and his second in command looked for flags that needed immediate attention and stayed in touch with those along the line who were dealing with anything likely to interrupt the production line. Just one robot not doing its job and there would be a pile up in the line which could prove catastrophic unless dealt with immediately. That would require the whole line be shut down while the individual robot in line would be recalibrated or parts replaced. Delays caused loss of money and interrupted the distribution of products around the country and the world with further losses to his customers and loss of prestige for their products.
Hugo had been tinkering with electronics from an early age and had a veracious appetite for knowledge in science which his father Tom Beaufort had encouraged. Tom and his family had moved from France when he watched events unfold which he knew would lead to the second world war in Europe. Tom was well off and sold his interests in France and relocated to the US which he felt was the safest place to bring up his family. He was fluent in English so had no trouble establishing business there and continuing to live an affluent lifestyle in his adopted country. His eldest son Hugo had an intense interest in his father’s trade which was the manufacture of electronic parts which gradually morphed into electronic household goods production and subsequent acquisition of a major competitor producing household appliances. Noting his son’s interest, he built a shed in his country estate with all tools for learning the trade and Hugo would rush home from school to spend hours in his shed experimenting and learning from textbooks which were advanced beyond his present level of schooling.
Hugo found school boring, but his father insisted on him attending and punished him if he didn’t. He sailed through his levels of schooling with the highest grades and eventually found himself at university but after two years there and many arguments with his father eventually Tom conceded his boy needed to take stock of his life and gain a broader perspective of life than life in his beloved shed. It was not that way with Hugo’s siblings who finished their higher education and moved into their respective chosen professions in medicine and corporate finance. The other sons were picked up in Tom’s expanding corporation in management and engineering and daughters in the health care industry. Tom realized Hugo was beyond that with an exceptional mind and thought to give him space to sort out his direction in life. He bought him a ticket to their original homeland France where some of the extended family still lived and had prospered after the conclusion of the war.
Hugo enjoyed the atmosphere of estates where his relatives grew and produced some of the finest wines for export and for a while helped his relatives learning the rudiments of the trade. He was a fast learner and his relatives noted that and tried to persuade him to stay and join them in the trade. But Hugo was anxious to get back to the US and his beloved experiments in the field of electronic engineering. Then relatives noted Hugo’s interest in their marketing professional Yasmin Abbas. Yasmin was of French Moroccan descent but distantly related to them. She was fluent in French and German and had a working knowledge of English as well as her Moroccan language and Hugo was taken up with her professionalism. Her olive skin showed her French ancestors had mingled with the original Moroccan peoples and he was captivated by her passion for everything she did.
As he lingered with his relatives Yasmin noted his interest and she began to study him carefully. She liked what she saw and sought his company pushing him to visit around with her as she marketed their products. His relatives watched this with satisfaction and saw this as a possible way to lure him to stay with them and their trade. They encouraged them to vacation together at their chalet at a distant ski resort and nodded with approval as they saw further evidence of a growing interest. They worked on each suggesting marriage and their constant suggestions took root. Yasmin was a woman of action so one day on one of their excursions together she took the initiative.
“Hugo isn’t it time we got married?”
“Would you come back to the US with me if we did?”
“Yes!” There was no hesitation.
Hugo was not one for fussing about such things and suggested a quiet private ceremony as soon as it could be arranged with authorities, but Yasmin wanted nothing of it. She knew the relatives wanted her to entice Hugo into marriage to retain him in the family business, so they’d pay the price for that. She wanted a marriage with all the trimmings and told them that. So, the marriage was a big one with community involvement and relatives from afar including Hugo’s family in attendance.
After the wedding was over Tom Beaufort inquired of his son what plans he had for his future. Hugo enthusiastically told his father about a trip to Germany with Yasmin where there was an exhibition on robotics. He wanted to visit Japan where considerable work was going on in this area and then return to the US to look for opportunities to use that technology in some way. Tom Beaufort was delighted his son was beginning to focus on an area of useful production technology. He’d read about what was happening in robotic development and was interested in seeing how this could be used to cut costs and make a production line more efficient. He would finance the trip to Japan while Yasmin’s immigration details would be worked out.
When the relatives in France learned of the couple’s plans, they were horrified. The plan had been to marry the two off to retain Hugo, but now the marriage would mean they lost their highly valued marketing executive. They were angry and demanded the cost of the wedding be refunded which Tom gladly refunded to them. Then they secretly looked for a replacement for Yasmin and when they had that in place, told Yasmin she was no longer needed there and should vacate her quarters to make way for the replacement. She was happy and made arrangements to meet her new husband in Japan.
While Yasmin was of French origin, she had the spirit of a Moroccan woman and was passionate in her relationship with her husband. Hugo loved everything about his wife and was equally passionate in his love for her. They were inseparable and Yasmin took an intense interest in everything that interested her husband. When they returned to the US Tom took her on as his marketing vice president and the business prospered further under her clever marketing administration. Hugo was installed as the research and development Vice President and little by little he improved the production line but through his love of robotics and intensive study in that area saw the need for an entirely new factory where computer directed robots would do the various components of production more efficiently and the workforce would be retrained or replaced with people who were experts in this new technology. Tom Beaufort found it hard to grasp all that was involved but was able to understand the money benefits which one of his other Vice President sons had worked out with Hugo’s input. So, the company went public with money being raised on the stock market for an expanded factory but the family retaining enough stake in the corporation to maintain a controlling interest and a site chosen in another city where tax concessions were offered to those who started a new enterprise in that state.
One of Tom’s sons found the pressure of maintaining a factory and starting a replacement factory in another state beyond him and under doctor’s orders exited the family business to start his own human resources recruitment firm which he was quite successful at.
Tom put Hugo in complete charge of commissioning the new factory and he collected a highly trained group of robotics experts and other disciplines around him to get things up and running. It was a three-year project sourcing robots and integrating them into a planned manufacturing production line. He and Yasmin bought a house in the city where the factory was being constructed on the outskirts of town. Yasmin was brought in to deal with authorities whenever they ran into problems with regulations on service deliveries like power, water and where communications and environmental impact studies proved to be difficult issues. However, she was an expert in negotiations and quickly won the respect of government authorities they had to deal with. Surprisingly the project came online with only one-month extra time on their budgeted time for completion and within the cost of delivery budget.
Tom Beaufort was present for the initial production start up and was amazed to see the first products roll off the production line with a consistency in product quality not able to be achieved in their old factory. But the banks of computers on the floor and the central control room and sophistication of the Information Technology department to locate and fix problems quickly was beyond his expertise. His son in charge of finances was comfortable with the new factory. That evening the family had a meeting. Tom was feeling his age and announced his retirement. He’d return to their old factory and see to its decommissioning and sale then retire. Yasmin would commute back and forth to help her father-in-law but maintain her position as the marketing and liaison with government. The family agreed to appoint Hugo as president to replace his father and his brother Andre would be the senior vice president with oversight of corporate finances and governance. Hugo’s appointed team of production and information technology personnel were retained with their current titles and responsibilities.
As business grew Andre sought out opportunities to buy out controlling interests in their major suppliers to ensure guaranteed supply chain resources. The bigger the corporation became the more interested corporate raiders became in their operations. Andre was alert to their manipulations of Beaufort stock buys and sells these raiders used trying to destabilize them and soften them up for a takeover, but the majority stockholding of family members was sizeable enough to weather the stock market challenges. Through it all Yasmin proved to be a formidable partner in the family business with increasing expertise in dealing with government authorities when challenges appeared for the corporation. Andre valued her active input in his work. It seemed this woman possessed supernatural talent. But with all her active work for the firm she made sure that Hugo and she had regular time together at work and in the home and planned vacations and get aways together to keep the passion in their marriage alive. The marriage was blessed with two children and Yasmin often worked from home to be part of their lives. It was hard work, but she relished the bonding time with her children.
As the corporation grew and original family members aged, they learned to train and delegate so the corporation had the energies of younger adults as the continuous driving force. Slowly the grandchildren of Tom Beaufort who had an interest in the family firm were bought into employment after completing their education and worked their way up from employees to section managers and slowly advanced into potential top management candidates. Andre’s daughter was proving herself as a potential replacement for him in future and Hugo’s son had followed a career path in marketing. Hugo’s sister who was a doctor had three children. One had a PhD in engineering and was currently teaching at a university. Now and then he’d visit and take an interest in the production and information technology used by the family corporation bringing his students with him on an educational field trip. He’d worked in the IT department during college years to gain practical experience but enjoyed the educational side more than the corporate side.
It was his replacement that was on Hugo’s mind as he looked out over the huge production complex. Yesterday the family had attended Yasmin’s funeral and he was hurting badly inside. Yasmin was his rock and the reason for everything he’d worked for because it was a partnership and they’d built this whole complex together. He wanted nothing to do with it now as he saw her influence and contribution in everything around him. His children had their own careers and homes and his palatial mansion with its manicured grounds they both had developed and loved was a shell with no meaning without her. His father and mother were now at their rest, and he was the next in line for that rest now. He needed to get away from it all in retirement and remembered the enjoyment he’d experienced back in the wine country of France where his cousins, children, and grandchildren now managed properties. He and Yasmin had made their peace with the relatives there long ago and had been welcomed whenever they vacationed in France. Perhaps he could find rest and healing there?
He returned to his desk and picked up his cell phone. The voice at the other end of the line was familiar as he was a frequent visitor there.
“Professor Dupont?” A laugh greeted him at the end of the line.
“Hugo we are so sad at the passing of Aunt Yasmin. She was an inspiration to all of us and we mourn with you. How can I help you today?”
“It would be a big help if you would join the corporation as I’m about to retire and we need someone here to represent family interests with your level of expertise.”
“Uncle I love teaching and I don’t have the experience in the corporation to be president so if that’s what you have in mind, I would have to say no.”
“I understand you not wanting to be president. You have to come up through the ranks to fully understand the complete workings of the corporation, but you could oversee the IT, floor production systems and that’s a major part of my work.” There was a long silence on the line and Hugo waited patiently. This was a big decision for his nephew.
“When are you announcing your retirement?”
“At the next family meeting. Of course, there are shareholders meetings that need to rubber stamp our decisions but with the controlling interest the family has it would have to be settled there in advance.”
“When are you calling the next family meeting?”
“I will phone around now and let you know but you should be in attendance at that meeting. When would it be impossible for you to attend?”
Hugo’s nephew gave a series of dates which he wrote down. Then he phoned around the family members and found a date they could all agree on a week later.
The family members were shocked when Hugo announced his intention to resign and the need to select his replacement. At first, they thought it was a normal emotional reaction to Yasmin’s death and urged him not to be hasty. His guiding hand had greatly benefited the family and they were loth to see him go this way. But Hugo calmly pointed to his age and declining energy levels though his mind remained as sharp as ever. He’d be willing to help them out in an emergency, but they must choose a replacement now. Andre was elected unanimously as president elect and the selection would be presented to the shareholder meeting to make it official. His daughter who’d been groomed for the position was to take Andre’s place as the finance and governance vice president. Hugo’s nephew was nominated by Hugo to take over production and research and development. This was a surprise to the assembled family members, so they looked to Professor Dupont to see his reaction. Surprisingly he agreed on the understanding he’d continue his association with the university as a visiting lecturer and on condition the university who he’d already consulted could develop a partnership with the corporation so their students would have a place to gain practical experience during their studies. This was quickly agreed to. He also suggested the family offer scholarships to promising students at the university on the understanding they would give a year of service for each year of support. After some discussion that was also agreed to.
A great weight came off Hugo’s shoulders after he packed up his office to hand over to his nephew at the end of the university semester when his nephew would be released as a full-time professor and take on a visiting professor role with the university instead.
As his children had their own homes, he decided to sell the family estate and left them to work out the details of disposal. Hugo would move to a smaller property overlooking the Atlantic Ocean but with a large workshop so he could spend time working with robots that could be used for some useful purposes. He patented his works and found a ready market for the things he invented selling the rights to manufacture and receiving royalties. In the next few years while his health permitted, he travelled extensively visiting exhibitions that displayed the latest technological breakthroughs and shared his findings with the family corporation. But when his health began to fail, he remained close to home enjoying a more leisurely lifestyle with the ocean views as a constant encouragement. The children kept in touch with him daily and he enjoyed occasional vacation visits from his grandchildren.
But the day came when his phone was not answered, and his son made a trip to check on him. He found Hugo immobile in his chair looking over the ocean with a smile on his face. In his lap having slipped out of his hand was a picture of his Yasmin. She’d continued to be an inspiration to him through to the end.
The funeral was a large one. He’d made many friends in his productive years around the world in government and the corporate world and tributes flowed.
He was laid to rest beside this beloved Yasmin.
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