Corporate Planning in a Crisis
Two days after his cell phone alerted, he had a new message and he glanced at it. Anita? How had she managed to acquire his cell phone number he couldn’t recall giving that out as he routed all business through the office phones and only gave the private number out to big clients and professional friends. He smiled. This woman should have been a detective not a rural entrepreneur. He paused to try and figure out how she’d got his private phone number. Then it came to him. Claude his golfing partner and friend of his father had it and he was Anita’s uncle.
He paused to read the message. She’d taken his advice and arranged with a police friend to bring a tow truck operator with him and have her Porsche taken to one of the large garages in Brownsville. Apparently, this had caused quite a commotion at home with the mechanic shop showing resentment over the apparent mistrust of their skills. But Tony’s hunch proved to be correct. The brake system on the car had been tampered with so hitting bumps along the road at high speed would have fractured the system and left her without brakes potentially and a life-threatening accident.
Her police friend had made discreet inquiries with the men in the farm repair shop, and they revealed the foreigner had said he was an expert in Porsche maintenance, and they’d let him complete the service. The foreigner was confronted and vigorously denied any wrongdoing. Her father and brother had been alarmed when they realized the document being urged on them to sign was quite a different story to the way it had been presented. They were not very interested in legal matters leaving it to professionals and Anita for their simple legal requirements and this had been a good lesson to them to be less trusting. The foreigner had been sent packing threatening to ruin their business by setting up a company in Australia with huge cash backing to potentially undercut their prices. She needed to see him as soon as he’d dealt with problems arising from his father’s operation. Tony sighed in gratitude he could put this client on hold for a while until he reorganized.
He’d been doing a lot of thinking in the interval since his father had been taken to the city for heart surgery. The operation was successful but not without complications. It would be a while before his mother could return home with him and there’d be months of rehab at the local medical centre with father not permitted to return to work. His father who he was now able to be in contact with accepted he’d no longer be back to head the office and restated his position Tony was in charge.
Ben had been working with Stella while Tony worked on interviews with prospective interns. He’d interviewed two already and some were making their way from distant places and would be available for interview tomorrow. There were three scheduled for the next day then he’d share his conclusions with Ben, and they’d do the final interview with two chosen out of the five interviewed Tony thought would fit into their organization culture.
He had some time to spare today and thought to follow through on an idea that had been exercising his mind. When his father had purchased this building on the top end of main street where there was more parking it had consisted of two stories and a large underground basement with large parking lot at the back. In the refurbishment to turn it into a modern office the street level was huge enough for all the offices interview rooms and workstations needed to run operations. Tony had toyed with the idea of making part of the upstairs level into his apartment, but they’d been trying to get around the fact local government regulations didn’t allow for residential without a lot of costly modifications. So apart from a few items of storage it was a vast space unutilized along with the basement.
He selected the phone number of Hugh Black Public Accountant and heard the familiar voice answer. Hugh was ten years younger than his father. Hugh Black and Don Edwards Tony’s father were friends. He’d interned with the Edwards practice then migrated to the capital city on receiving his CPA. But his wife was a country girl and never fitted in with life in the capital, so Hugh eventually returned and bought out one of the competitors to the Don Edwards Accounting practice. The Edwards and Black families were close friends and worked together with the local chapter of CPA facilitating continuing education programs. Tony requested an appointment and Hugh suggested he come to his office when office hours closed at 5 pm.
That evening after exchanging pleasantries Tony got down to business
“Hugh, what are you going to do with your business when you retire? Your son operates a successful car sales franchise, and your two daughters are in other professions so obviously the family name won’t continue in accounting.”
Hugh looked at him suspiciously. “I’m enjoying my interaction with clients and the community too much to sell if that’s what you’re driving at.”
“No, I have an entirely different proposal. As you know my father won’t be able to play a part in the accounting profession on an active basis now with his heart attack. He’s indicated to me that he is retiring. Maybe he could continue with the free work our practice does for the various charities around town to give him an interest but no more late work or stressful assignments and if he has that interest still, he’d probably do that at home. As you know we give those who are interested in an internship before qualified and moving on to their own practice work experience as they progress on their CPA exams, and they need supervision. Then we have several town branches scattered around the country as well as business audits and tax returns. We also have considerable unused space in a prime position where parking is not a problem. How would you react to a proposal to merge our operations with you becoming the senior consultant me as your associate and Ben who indicated a desire to buy in. He’s young but a real smart guy and a keeper.”
Hugh eyed him cautiously. “What’s the catch Tony?”
“No catch and willing to negotiate the details on a fair basis between us if you have an interest.”
“You’d make me the senior consultant in such an arrangement? Your father would be very disappointed to see you in a lesser position.”
“You and dad have been friends for years and you have a wealth of accounting knowledge and more experience in company formation than I have. Our firm doesn’t specialize in that. You are presently the president of our CPA Chapter in this area so would bring us added prestige. We could negotiate a fair share of the proceeds. We’d need to value the assets each bought on board and the respective client’s we bring into the partnership. Maybe there’s merit in a private company. We have the whole upper floor that is undeveloped and could organize the basement more effectively for records. Not sure if your software is compatible for merging clients so that would have to be looked into and Ben is a whiz with IT.”
Hugh thought for a while. “Our facilities are really old here and I have to spend a lot of money to refurbish, and with the town growing rapidly in population parking is becoming a real problem in this part of main street. You are serious I’d be the senior consultant?”
“Yes, I’m clear on that and once dad hears the proposal and because you are friends, I’m sure he’d be happy. It’s really making a decision on your part Hugh. You’ll find I make a good partner who has lots of ideas and drive and in all good time when you’re ready to quit I’ll become the senior. Just a matter of determining the assets we’d all be bringing into the merger and what format the practice would organize under. Let me know if you rule this idea out so I can seek an experienced CPA looking for a good investment.”
“Well, I’d have to sell the business here on my retirement as there’s no one in the family to leave it to. My initial reaction is positive. I’m interested in talking as I’ll continue to deal with familiar clients in a refurbished place with better facilities. Let me think the matter over for a few days and if I still feel good about the proposal, we’ll need to set up meetings to think and organize. Is it OK with you if I ask my friend Sam the architect to look over the space we currently occupy and come to your business office to look at possibilities as to how this could be merged into your present operation? I’d like to look myself.”
“No problem, Hugh. My suggestion is that this be done when you are quite clear the idea appeals to you and at night-time or weekends when there are very few staff working. We may need to employ someone to manage the merger with all the disruptions this will cause in refurbishing and noise because we still have to keep our mutual clients serviced without interruption.”
“I’ll let you know in a few days Tony.”
Next day Tony called Stella and Ben in for consultations late in the afternoon after his last clients had been dealt with and reported on his interview with Hugh Black the evening before. At this point of time, it was just a talking point between them, and he didn’t want to make an announcement to staff yet. Ben sat in thought and Tony asked what his thoughts were.
Ben spoke. “We are already under pressure with your dad bowing out of the picture Tony. I like the idea but can’t visualize how we can keep up the work pressure and deal with this massive merger with present staffing levels. Charles is only with us for less than three months and the remaining interns need oversight. I recommend you ask him to extend his time here for a year as he gets along well with our clients and has a sharp mind and excellent academic history. That will take the load off you as you and Hugh Black deal with the merger. I have some ideas to contribute if you care to let me share them. Is this going to be a partnership or are you going private company. I know Hugh specializes in companies and would like to be involved to learn more about it from his practical experience.”
“Good idea Ben. Would you approach Charles and sound him out on his willingness to stay on a bit longer and find out what his salary expectations would be. We must be careful not to push our salary bill up too high considering the amount of money we will have to put out in capital improvements to this building. That’s another thing. We may have to look at a temporary loan from the bank for these capital improvements.”
“I’ll get on to it now but will have to tell him a little of the planning behind our request and ask him to keep confidence so staff are not made anxious with rumours about something that may not happen.” He went out in search of Charles hoping to find him at his desk still.
Stella spoke. “You’re really under pressure these days Tony and I’m worried about your health. You had no lunch. Come and I’ll cook you a good meal at home to get you away from the office. No fast food for you this evening.”
“That’s really kind of you Stella but I must finish some desk work as I’ll be even more stressed if I fall further behind, so I’ll have to give your kind thought a pass this time. Anyway, you need to relax rather than be cooking up a meal for someone after a tiring day yourself.”
Stella switched off the light in his office. “Dr Stella is taking over. Let Ben work with Charles and maybe we can delegate some of your work tomorrow. You are coming with me now and if you don’t, I can’t guarantee staying in this position as your secretary as it hurts me to see you killing yourself with work and not looking after your health properly. If your health fails, the business goes down with you and we are all out looking for a job.”
Tony laughed. “You’ve developed into a real tyrant Stella but you’re probably right. I do need to be sensible and let the work wait a bit until we can organize things better. I’m coming. Never been to your place so I’ll follow your car.”
Soon they were at Stella’s apartment and entering the building. She pointed up stairs. “My apartment is upstairs on the left.” She wearily climbed the stairs and opened the door to her apartment beckoning him to enter.
He went to the balcony and looked out over the street. “Great view and I can see the river park at the far end of the street. You chose well.”
“It has three bedrooms one I use as a home office. Want to be my apartment mate? Think of the money you could save renting your apartment and I have the better view. It comes with cable TV and fast internet speed.” She busied herself preparing an Italian meal and the smells began to make him feel hungry.
“You’ve become very bossy at the office Stella, so I don’t know if I’d survive here.” Both laughed.
Stella served the meal and Tony finished his with loud appreciation and protested as she piled more on his plate.
When they’d finished Stella spoke. “You go home and sleep now. I don’t know if I should trust you to do that so perhaps, I should follow you to make sure.”
He laughed. “I’m beginning to fear my secretary. I promise to go home. See you tomorrow.”
Stella watched him leave from her balcony then went inside. She’d pull out all stops to win this man but needed to reel him in slowly.
To be continued
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