“Cindy, where is my stupid USB charger?” I called out through my open office door. My secretary (she refused to be called executive assistant claiming in her day she went to secretary school and she was a secretary and liked it that way; she was also old enough to say things like ‘in my day’.)
She responded in her usual long suffering, if not somewhat put upon, tone, “did you look on the stupid floor by the outlet?”
I just rolled my eyes; of course I had, I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t know where it was. I went on, “I really need to find it before I can leave to catch the plane to Vegas!”
She didn’t even dignify that with a reply.
Just then there was a polite knock on the door frame and a thin and very neatly put together young man stood waiting for me to invite him in. Simon was unfailingly polite and I just nodded at him,
“Simon! Come on in, what can I do for you?” He took two steps further into the office, clutching a manila folder in his hands and asked deferentially,
“Casey, a word?” I nodded and told him,
“Sure thing, what’s on your mind?” He just looked around the office a bit nervously and I felt some of the cheer dribble out of my face.
“Well its not me so much...” he started slowly, then paused before going on “as the Board”. I nodded, thinking to myself, of course it was the board. I fought the urge to sigh mightily and reminded myself not to shoot the messenger.
“Oh?” I asked politely.
His gaze again flicked to the side before he went on, “well, they still really want you to consider the offer from Nikochan Industries. The consortium has doubled their first offer and promise to keep all the mid and upper management after the buy out.”
I shook my head wearily; ever since a Japanese tech company had been making overtures sounding as if they wanted to buy the company, the Board of Advisers had been drooling at the monetary potential. Fortunately for me, when I set up this company and later the advisory board, I insured I had final say and veto power. I didn’t want the consulting and engineering firm I had labored so hard to build going to some soulless conglomerate on the other side of the world. I had set up the Board of Advisers so it could see to the executive upper management running of the thing for me because I quickly grew weary of being exclusively an executive. I didn’t need or want the lime light and hadn’t enjoyed worrying about the details of day to day operation. I was much happier as a guy who went where I was needed and got my hands dirty, figuratively and literally. I’d thought creation of the board and my less central role a rather ingenious solution at the time. As the company grew, I drifted further from being a central company figurehead and fewer and fewer people were aware that this mild mannered mid-management techie was, in fact, their boss and frankly I preferred it that way. Now however, with this buy out on the table I suddenly wished I had kept a firmer hand on the reins.
Still none of this was Simon’s fault so I swallowed the snarky remark I wanted to make and instead asked him, “What about the other employees? The techs and sales and development departments?”
Simon’s pained look said it all.
I rubbed my eyes and took another deep breath. “Simon, I’m sorry they have been using you as a messenger boy, and believe me if I didn’t have to leave right away I’d be telling them this directly, and I will in a strongly worded mass email as soon as I hit the ground in Vegas but right now-- please inform the board that up to, and until Nickochan, or anyone else can come up with an offer that does more than make a few at the top wealthy and cover the Board Members collective butts, we’re not selling. Okay?”
Simon actually looked relieved, “Sure thing Casey, that’s what I told them you’d say, but you know...” He trailed off and shrugged one shoulder. I could only agree; the board was beginning to be a problem, I’d have to deal with it as soon as I came back from the trade show in Nevada.
Cindy just then graced me with her presence. She waltzed into the room right past Simon, ruffling his hair as she went by. He looked at me, annoyed yet resigned; I swear the man combed his part with a ruler and the matronly Cindy took an obscure delight it mussing it whenever she had the chance. She then walked directly to the wall outlet, bent a bit laboriously over and stood up USB cell phone charger in hand. She gave me a long look, asking me, “so who are secretaries?” I crooked a small smile at her, completing the ritual,
“Secretaries are people who find things that aren’t there.” She nodded,
“Darn tootin’ we are.” and came to set the cord on my simple dark wood desk. I tilted my head at Simon telling her,
“Board wants to sell, again.”She grimaced,
“Of course they do, bunch of self important stuffed shirts.” I smiled again wider,
“I don’t know, would you still love me if I just fired the lot and gave the whole company to Simon here?” She tilted her head as if considering it and Simon actually paled a little. Finally Cindy answered,
“I still get my retirement?” I just nodded, grinning now. She clapped me on the shoulder,
“Fine idea Mr. Ryan! Want me to go get you some pink slips right now?” I laughed and shook my head,
“Nah, I’ve really got to get to the airport, I’ll deal with the board when I get back.” Simon just straightened his tie and asked me a bit nervously,
“That was a joke, right Casey? I mean, you wouldn’t really give me the company to run would you?”
I looked at him, trying to decide whether to be honest or flippant, I settled on honest and told him seriously, “You know Simon, I just might, that Board has gotten a bit big for their britches, power hungry and more concerned with their own wealth and power than our company or its employees. You however have always had the welfare of this place and our people first and foremost. It is one of the things I most value about you.” He looked a bit stunned.
“Oh.” was all he managed to get out. I grabbed the charger, stuck it in my already full laptop shoulder bag and came around the desk to put a hand on his shoulder.
“Don’t worry Simon, I think I can deal with the Board just as soon as I get back from the trade show, I don’t think you’ll be CEO any time soon.” He looked happy and relieved. He walked with me as I headed out the door and Cindy just gave me a sketchy wave as she studied her monitor, probably catching up on her soaps online again.
Simon asked me as we approached the elevator, “So will you have lunch with your female friend at the conference?” I fought the urge to blush and just told him,
“We plan to, we haven’t missed one lunch date yet since that blizzard hit Detroit four years ago.” The door opened with a ping and Simon waved to me as I stepped in,
“Have a good trip, make us lots of money!” I smiled and told him as the doors slid shut,
“That’s the plan!”