Managing Director

Naval-gazing Karma.

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I’m getting stares. A waitress has just said, “look, he’s sitting there with his imaginary friends. “A Birdhouse In Your Soul” – a wacky favourite of mine – is playing around the restaurant.

Ladies and gentlefolk, I am in Chester, in a very nice hotel just on the outskirts of the town – and there’s a reason they’re staring. I have brought my laptop to the table, in an fine example of geekery. In fairness, I do have online work to do, and the wireless internet isn’t working in my room. I could have caused a stink about it, of course. Just like I could have kicked up a fuss at the petrol attendant for charging me for someone else’s petrol earlier today. I could have torn a strip out off a colleague who managed to stand on an important certificate I’d dropped at the office. And I could have had some serious words about my company expecting me to come in to work for the entire weekend a few weeks ago.

But I’ve always been calm, been a little laid back. And I’ve found, certainly recently, that calmness is definitely the way forward. By not complaining about my weekend of work, I’ve been rewarded with a bonus and a letter of thanks from the Managing Director. As a reward for not kicking off at a colleague, I’ve managed to get a fresh printout of the certificate and a mention that I was “a nice chap”. By going along with the mis-charged petrol, I managed to get the petrol free (as it’s a company car, they WILL be pleased with me). And finally, by accepting that problems happen, my internet charge is being refunded, I’m moving rooms and, as I join in the mocking of my geekiness at the table this evening, the staff have said how nice it is to have “someone who’s not angry at everything.”

As I said in a slightly drunken stupor to someone the other day, life’s too short to get shirty with people. Problem’s happen. Some people get lucky, others don’t. You’ve only got one life – spread the love while you can.

And so endeth the sermon for this week.

Out of the Frying Pan…

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So, as I’ve hinted in previous posts, our Managing Director has left after two and half years of fun and frolics. And who can blame him – he’s only in his mid-thirties, career-focused and in demand. Bigger companies can offer bigger wages. On his leaving day, we all crowded round him while he was gently ribbed about his time here, and later on that evening we crowded round a small bar up the road and bade him farewell. He looked quite excited about the change, telling us about his car and his nice new office in Hemel Hempstead.
So, in an idle moment this Monday morning I found his new place of work on the internet. You’ll see an overhead shot of the area. The yellow line is the road the head office is on.
Oh, and the red line is where the burning, blown up Buncefield Oil Refinery was, subject of the “largest explosion in peacetime Britain.” last week.
Apparently, he is “working from home” at the moment.

Email Karma

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Debbie, my desk buddy at work, has been away for a week sampling the delights of New York with her boyfriend. Cleverly, this time she had forwarded her phones and email to our manager Mark, in case things were missed while she was gone.
Arriving back at work this morning she waded through outstanding things, while regaling us with perfect tales of iceskating in Central Park and shopping in Macy’s and Bloomingdales. During the morning, our new Managing Director announced he was leaving for the airport – and it dawned on us that there was no-one in management left in the building. Emails flew around the office about going home early, what plans there were for tomorrow night – our monthly office “bonding session” in the pub – and how it was generally great that there were no managers in.
After half an hour, an email came into Debbie’s inbox from our manager Mark.
“Debbie,” it started. “You might want to think about turning me off your email autoforwarding now.”

Favours for Favours

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As I sat in a 3 litre 5-series BMW at the Stoke crossroads in Guildford, tucked into some House of Commons Victorian Mints and mulled over on my recent lunch with Boris Johnson, a smile spread across my lips. This, I concluded, had been a very good month.
Let me explain, firstly, the vehicular privilege I’ve been dealt. Over the past couple of months, several people have been replacing their company cars at the office. Car dealerships have been eagerly offloading cars on a regular basis for the potential buyers to sample, the arrivals of which – for someone who isn’t due a new car for another year and a half – has been torture for me. Naturally and selfishly enough, I wanted a piece of the action – and every time a new car rolled up, I’ve been as helpful as possible to the Financial Manager, in the full knowledge that he is the Keeper Of The Car Keys. So far it’s been working unbelievably well. My current haul of week-long “test drives” includes two new BMW 3-series beasts, an Audi A4 and a Lexus GS300 which, despite the caramel colour of the exterior making it look like a large Werther’s Original, was far and away my favourite and typically way out of my league. The whole car thing has taught me a very vital lesson, though, and that is that just because a car has a BMW or an Audi badge doesn’t actually make it any better. My trusty Peugeot 407 does many things better than the BMW 3-series for far less money. I suppose its the wheeled equivalent of choosing designer clothes. No actual benefit, but less people point and laugh.
The BMW 5-series, though, is a corker. A definite first place tie with the Lexus. It is black, with a black leather interior. The car was my Managing Director’s before he left the company 10 days ago – and I spied it looking lonely and redundant in our office car park last Thursday afternoon. Cue a helpful computer-based favour for my Financial Manager and hey presto, the BMW keys were in my hands. I’ve been swanning around in it all weekend – showboating it at traffic lights, getting many “you can’t afford that” looks from passers-by and generally being a typically awful BMW driver. It’s been very useful to be on the receiving end of BMW-based abuse though. Firstly, it turns out that the car handles so well and makes you so confident that you can’t help but drive arrogantly. And secondly, it’s very easy to feel victimised. When people brush past the car, I half expect a vindictive key scrape down the side. Whenever I try to pull out of a junction, I have the disconcerting feel that everyone is ignoring me on purpose, and if they had their way I’d never be able to pull out at a junction. Still, it’s a small price to pay. Worryingly, I’m starting to like these cars…
And then there is Boris Johnson. Those who’ve been regulars will know that I am a big fan of Bozzer.
And as the amount of visitors to my Boriswatch site grow, it’s clear I’m not alone. In return for various geeky favours to Boris and his right-hand woman Melissa, I have the pleasure of popping up to London for lunch and a chat with them, usually dragging Simon B along for fun. I also visited the ITV studios for his chairing of the quiz show Have I Got News For You a few weeks ago (the report is here on Boriswatch). And now that David Cameron’s seen sense and promoted him, Boriswatch popularity is going through the roof, which puffs my geeky heart with pride.
So, all in all, a good month. I didn’t even mention the Stuff Magazine Show I visited in London (where Nick and I found several things we wanted that would drain our bank balances) or the old friend that presented Top Of The Pops. Maybe next time…

In which I learn that nothing’s permanent

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Working life can be a little humdrum sometimes. I’ve been lucky enough to always enjoy the jobs I’ve had, and this company were always going to get my vote – young, growing, and with great people guiding it. After one and a half years, I’ve settled in nicely. But nothing prepared me for the twin-pronged shock I got recently. Firstly one of my close colleagues claimed she was going shopping with sister – but instead managed to get married without anyone knowing. And then in the same week our Managing Director – at the impossibly young age of 34 – decided his career needed a boost and announced he was leaving at the end of November. I suppose its a feature of a young and growing company that those in power are still ambitious, but it’ll be a big shame when he leaves. Still, as we all reminded him when he announced his resignation, we’ve now got another excuse for a party…

The Corporate Event

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Work is going well, there’s no doubt about it. I’ve been in my new post for two and a half months, and suddenly Michelle and I are whisked up to The Belfry for a weekend of revelry – all paid by the company. How could we say no?
It was knocking on the door of eight o’clock on a sunny Saturday morning, and Michelle and I were struggling to rise. The Company Weekend was starting in 5 hours – and the general idea was to turn up at a hotel, listen to the obligatory presentation, before setting about demolishing entirely free drink and food for the rest of the night. The thought if the upcoming fun spurred us on, and we arrived 200 miles away within 4 and a half hours. Speeding – us? The hotel is set in spectacular grounds, regularly used for the Ryder Cup, and we swung past the security into the hotel complex, suitably impressed. After mistaking the in-grounds nightclub for the hotel reception, we eventually booked in and made for the designated conference room.
I’ve learned two things about corporate events. One is that they usually involve a bit of teamwork – and this was no exception. Split into our “teams”, we were told that for the next 2 hours we were to build and market a breakfast cereal, which we would present at dinner. This required unusally high brainpower for a Saturday afternoon, especially with the Managing Director on our team, but we eventually cobbled together a cereal (“Crackawhack”), a marketing strategy – revolving around pimps in playgrounds selling our highly addictive cereal – and a few posters. Oh, and a jingle, which I was informed I would sing later on that night. Oh joy.
We retired, knackered, to our rooms a couple of hours later and waited for dinner. Little did I know how debauched the evening would turn.
The clock struck six thirty, and we sat down to be met with wine. Well, it would be rude to resist, and the entire room was fairly sozzled by the time were due to conduct our presentation. Things degenerated into hazy chaos, as each team tried, and failed, to present their ideas. At one point, two managers managed to lose their inhibitions and most of their clothes as they danced around the tables.
Michelle and Mark, my manager, decided to top off the night at the local nightclub, which was surprisingly impressive. Sloaney types strutted around, cheesy music blared out, and I managed to get away without buying a round for the rest of the night. At around 1am, we stumbled back to our room, leaving Mark and the rest of the funsters to dance into the night.

Air Conditioning Calamity

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Ooooh, hot, isn’t it? I’m enjoying sitting in traffic jams for the first time in my life, thanks to the healthy portion of air-conditioning my wonderful car pumps out.
Which is more than can be said for my company’s Head Office. I pop up there twice a week for regular support problems and meetings, and the entire top floor has no air-conditioning, but does helpfully have at least 20 warm computers happily pumping out a lot of heat. The prominently placed thermometer (parked outside the Managing Director’s office, probably as a subtle hint), hit 34 degrees last Thursday. And it only stopped there because that was the end of the scale. Multiple fans have been set up in the vain hope of ridding the office of its tropical climate, but all that sadly does is push the hot air around the room.
I had a look at the laws on maximum office temperatures (yes, yes, i had a few idle moments this week). And amazingly, there’s no legal maximum temperature limit. It could be warmer than Marrakech in there (and from personal experience, that’s a scorcher), and there’s nothing you can do about it. Apparently, the American company that owns the UK branch told the MD that “we spend money on stores, not offices.” Bit of a false economy if it’s too hot to work, though…

Tea with the Managing Director

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First day back at work, and I wangle a drink or two with the Managing Director, visiting our office for the day. MARVELLOUS. The rest of the office, of course, are horrendously cheesed off…