Audrey and James were in their final year having commenced August and looking forward to finishing May next year and as it was customary to take time travelling abroad for a while before settling down to a career for those in the upper class of society James decided to use that transition period working at the Stewart plantation. His enthusiasm for that line of business had dimmed somewhat on return to studies at college. But he had in mind proposing to Audrey during his time working for her parents and thought she’d be happy with that. He knew Audrey was becoming impatient for him to declare his intentions but wanted to concentrate on his studies and get the highest grades possible.
He could have been a day student as his parents’ home and business was in the same city as the college. But when James first dated Audrey he decided to move into boarding at the college so he could have even more time with her. Naturally Audrey got to know his parents through weekend visits, and they immediately warmed to this potential new addition to their family. She was well bred and socially acceptable. In that they were both majoring in business she’d be a useful addition to the family business. They were not threatened by James’s intent to spend time working at the Stewart plantation after graduation. Perhaps they may extend their investments in something similar someday so James’s vacation experience would add to his storehouse of knowledge.
What they didn’t know was Audrey was drawn to using her knowledge in the Stewart enterprise and continuing to try and influence her man into setting his heart there too. Her elder siblings had no interest in the orchard, and she was next in line in the inheritance pecking order in her thinking. She’d be the business manager and her younger brother would look after the production and sales side of the business when Albert retired in her thinking.
Since their successful family gathering at thanksgiving Albert had been thinking about what to do about his own future. Cynthia was beginning to struggle a bit and it frustrated her as she was a hands-on person. Albert had moved in someone to care for their home needs like cooking and cleaning, but Cynthia had followed them around watching everything they did until those employed had given up and resigned. So far Cynthia had disposed of two home assistants that way but with failing health she was beginning to realize she needed that help and was responsible for no one wanting to work for her. Eventually they found someone of a mild nature Cynthia immediately took a liking to and the two women bonded. Cynthia left this woman alone and didn’t attempt to interfere with her work and the woman Gwen did everything possible to make the old woman happy and comfortable.
Albert was relieved to have that matter settled and concentrated on plantation management. He too was beginning to feel the effects of advancing age for the first time and fought against it. Doctors had told him heart condition being part of a family history was what he had to be cautious about and Albert added an exercise and diet routine to his already crowded schedule. He felt exhausted and began to see the need of a succession plan so there wouldn’t be any interruption to family business and fortunes. The foreman would keep production in line, but the business side needed a future one in charge of accounting.
Obviously, it wouldn’t be his eldest son or daughter as their careers were already set. Audrey was finishing business at college this coming year and he sensed her probable husband James had somewhat of an interest in the plantation. James had already indicated he’d like to work with Albert after college finished in May and that would be a time to evaluate his usefulness. Then there was his youngest son Brian who did have a plan to stay on working the plantation and was finishing his final year of high school. What would happen to the plantation if he was incapacitated and Cynthia unable to function as she had helped him in the past.
Albert decided to go to the city and consult with his accountant who’d served him well with tax and corporate advice over the years and then cross check any advice he received with the law firm they retained. It was a profitable journey and Albert set things in motion on that trip.
He’d form a private company with all his children given equal shares in the company along with Cynthia and himself. Parental wills would determine what happened to parental shares in the event of one or both deaths but each of his children would feel they were given equal consideration. Audrey would be able to handle finance but thinking it through his youngest Brian was more familiar with production and sales so he’d be the best one to take over overall management and he wondered how Audrey would handle that decision as she was strong willed and may want to take over. How would her intended James fit into this picture. That could be a problem as he had no experience up to now in their business, yet Audrey would expect him to be in a prominent business position with her. The private company could go ahead but he’d need to give much more thought to actual management. As of now he could still manage that himself.
At Audrey’s graduation with all families present Albert arranged for a private function room at the hotel they were staying in. In the morning they celebrated James and Audrey’s recent engagement with James’ family and the two families bonded well together. In the afternoon they had a meeting of the Stewart family members and their spouses, and their lawyer explained Albert’s plan for a private company in which all family members would have an equal share. The siblings were surprised but pleased as this would lessen any tension when the question of division of assets would be dealt with on death of their parents. No mention was made of executive management of the company at that meeting though each wondered who’d replace Albert when he retired. They understood regular board meetings of company members would ultimately be responsible for decisions on executive management and employment. Everyone left that meeting feeling Albert was making wise succession plans and they’d wait to see how his decisions developed.
The next event for family celebration was Audrey and James wedding which took place at the end of James orientation to plantation maintenance and production. He’d enjoyed the experience, and it was very special being able to share that time with Audrey who’d chosen to return home and work while she had the opportunity to look forward to her wedding with James in proximity.
They’d completed many of the motel rooms arising from the old seasonal worker buildings and James occupied one. The days of Mexican laborer’s flocking to the property to harvest citrus in season were long gone. It was now handled by a few who maintained the trees throughout the year and backpackers looking for seasonal work as they travelled the world using supporting harvesting and packing machinery.
James’s enthusiasm was mainly in being close to his intended bride though he enjoyed the work. However, he was more enticed by his father’s plans for him. As all his other siblings had been given a home on marriage, he naturally anticipated it would be his fortunate lot and while this had not been plainly stated yet he was confident of the outcome. Father had also indicated his son was to be placed as understudy to the one managing their travel business out of their many business ventures. He wanted to get a broad understanding of the family empire and that was as good a place to start as anywhere. He resolved to wait until they were married before sharing that with his new bride anticipating her joyful response.
But when the wedding had concluded, and all were enjoying themselves at the reception James father stood and asked for the wedding guests’ attention. As anticipated it was disclosed a home had been purchased for the newlyweds to move into and James would be employed in their travel business as understudy to the manager who was due to retire in a year. James stood and thanked his father on behalf of he and Audrey. He turned to his new bride expecting she’d be overcome with emotion at this generous gift. He was shocked to see her reaction as she sat soberly with eyes averted.
On their honeymoon first evening they forgot everything else as they became totally committed to each other and Audrey was so delirious with happiness she forgot her disappointment. The honeymoon was a breathtaking adventure in Hawaii and on their return, they were taken to their new home and documents of ownership handed over. The home had everything a woman could dream for and suddenly Audrey forgot all about her dream of overseeing the plantation at home someday. She was further surprised to be offered a junior administrative position at the family engineering firm and on checking out the job fell in love with her modern office and found the chart of responsibilities handed to her to be interesting. On James and Audrey’s next visit to her parent’s home she gushed with enthusiasm about her marriage, new home, and job.
Albert breathed a sigh of relief. There’d be no friction in placing Brian the youngest in executive management now and as Albert was still healthy enough to continue to manage the plantation, he would send Brian to college to get his business degree before handing him understudy management so he could mentor him into the job. With Audrey now settled in the city they’d have to find someone on site to handle records. Cynthia could no longer help with that task. He made a note to advertise the position so he could choose from the best available. Then he had second thoughts Alan Smyth the foreman had a wife Milly who’d helped Cynthia out whenever the going was tough, and records had to be kept up to date. Her children were grown up now and she was familiar with their recording systems, so had no children to take responsibility for now and spent time helping Alan on the plantation. He’d approach her before placing an advertisement.
Milly had worked for an accounting firm before Alan proposed and bought her with him to the plantation when he was hired as foreman many years ago. Milly said yes to a full-time position, and they agreed on a generous salary package. She proved to be a valuable addition to the Stewart enterprise. Cynthia was delighted and kept Milly well supplied with drinks and treats during the day and conversation whenever she was well enough. Milly reorganized office and records and bought more efficient systems into operation.
Albert called for a meeting of his children now voting members of the board of the new private company. It was unanimously voted Milly be confirmed as accountant and Brian was to become the understudy to his father with a view to taking overall management when Albert indicated he was ready to retire. The succession plan was now in place, and Albert was confident his son guided by his siblings as board members would take his beloved plantation to greater success in future in the Stewart name.
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