Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The most wonderful of all

Of all the wonderful people employed throughout the world by Aim-Meck plc, it is beyond question, that the most wonderful of all, are those who populate the Business Development community. They wear the brightest smiles and the sharpest suits. They carry the smallest laptops, and glue their mobile phones to their ears. They are the best, and they know it.

And the best of the best was Damm Charlatan, a smooth as silk 50 year old, with a large stomach and huge expense account. Indeed his silk was so smooth, that even the mighty Lion was tamed by its gentle caress.

Damm was a very busy man, flying here and flying there, building relationships as he went, sowing the seeds from which an order book might one day flourish. Damm believed that successful relationships were crucial. As he often said ‘foreplay begins at breakfast, and if we want to screw with this guy, we need a whole lot of seduction, I can’t do that on a chicken shit budget’.

Damm was assisted by Phony Lawless, a slightly younger man, with a bigger stomach. Phony was known for his revolutionary approach to his work. He saw opportunities where lesser men would fear to tread. At times his ideas were so unique that someone would say ‘Phony, perhaps you should try thinking inside the box for a while’. In meetings he would usually start an address by saying ‘don’t laugh at this one, but………’

Other than the Currant project, Aim-Meck Onshore Oil had little or no work, and it was the job of these two men to correct this. And as they conscientiously set to work, digging ever deeper into the company purse, trying to seduce, screw and even rape the worlds oil barons, a lone figure came back from Dublin having secured a £50m contract to destroy a large part of Irelands most beautiful coastline.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

No clothes on

It is a common enough saying that ‘bad news comes in three’s’. Unfortunately for Story Maker, bad news was coming in three’s to the power of three. The accounts had more holes than his grandfather’s old string vest.

He hadn’t even had chance to come to terms with the loss of £325k on the Little Bastard contract, when another quarter of a million slipped through his hands. And this time, he couldn’t blame it on Binwelldun. Indeed, he couldn’t blame it on anybody, because no-one would accept any responsibility. The Insurance Department pointed at Job Drop, Job Drop shrugged and pointed at Thecanny Scot, Thecanny Scot winked and pointed to Angel Allowing, and Angel Allowing said ‘it’s all in the past’.

But in the past it most definitely wasn’t. For sat on Story’s desk was a bill for £250k from Aim-Meck Insurance Department for the previous financial year, and in the accounts for the same period was a provision of 50p. He knew that Lion Elfin was expecting a shiny happy story that vindicated his opinion that he was the cleverest businessman in all the world. For although Lion was a good man at heart, he liked nothing more, than that others should be given the chance, to appreciate both his own importance and the greatness of his empire.

For Lion, it was patently obvious that he was emperor by divine right, but he constantly worried that others less intelligent than himself might not appreciate that undeniable fact. That is why he recruited our hero, so that he could go fourth and spread the good word. So imagine for a minute if you will, the plight of our poor champion, who would like nothing more than to proclaim the emperor’s magnificence.

Alas though, what else could he do? Armed with his first set of monthly accounts; as the emperor paraded around in his fine new suit, awaiting the admiring looks of all who saw him, Story was the little boy who shouts; ‘look the emperor has no clothes on’.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Surprise huh?

Story Maker had learnt many times in his professional life that surprises were rarely a good thing. So when an envelope landed on his desk, and he saw the words, ‘this may come as a bit of a surprise’, he knew he should expect the worst.

Inside, was an invoice for £325k, and a note that said ‘this needs to be charged to the Little Bastard contract’, it was signed by Mr Dark Overtones.

Since he knew nothing about the Little Bastard contract, Story called Ferret Visitor. Ferret was General Manager of the Bigchest regional office, and as such was responsible for Little Bastard. The Bigchest office had until the start of the year been part of the Binwelldun empire, now it had been transferred into the Onshore Oil business, where it was thought to be a ‘better fit’. ‘Oh yes’ said Ferret, ‘we need that invoice paid pronto, the contractor is threatening to walk off site’

And that seemed, on the face of it, to be all there was to it. An urgent payment required to prevent disruption to the project. All in a days work.

Story thought no more about it, until a few days later, when he started to prepare his first story.

It was a long and laborious task, Story was working late into the evening and had just started thinking about going home; another ten minutes he promised himself. Then he picked up the Little Bastard cost statement, comparing it to the project forecast………………..and then he looked at the last set of accounts……………..and then the project forecast again…………….and then he understood…………

Story Maker, is our hero, he is a man of many talents. He is certainly a man who knows how to add up, and he knew immediately that what he was looking at just simply didn’t add up.

The next day he called Dark Overtones

‘I’ve got a £325k loss on Little Bastard this month’ said Story
‘Yeah I know’
‘Why did you take all the profit last year, when the job is clearly not complete?’ Story asked
‘We wanted to. We didn’t have anywhere else to take it from’
‘And where was this invoice? You must have known about it, it’s dated 30th November’
‘We hid it until the auditors left. Surprise huh?’

Thursday, May 25, 2006

First day

It was in the spring of 2001 that our hero, Mr Story Maker found himself in a 7th floor office in the centre of Creepy. On his desk was a worn out computer and a rather daunting scattering of papers.

He'd been met in reception earlier that day by Mr Job Drop, who had been 'holding the fort' for the last couple of months. Job told him that he had no idea what was going on, except that his first story was required by close of business on the following Wednesday. He advised sifting through the aforementioned papers and calling the accounts centre in Dearestown. Then he gave a word or two of warning; 'beware of surprises' and 'look to the balance sheet'. After that he was gone.

Just outside the office sat Story's secretary Surely, and two of his staff Phew Handy and Fob Mild. Unfortunately, although they knew their own jobs well, they didn't know the 'bigger picture' having made it their policy to give Job Drop a wide birth. They both took every opportunity to complain about their salaries, always adding that they weren't paid to think. Story asked about the Currant contract, at which point they laughed, 'wait 'til you meet Loud Shouting' they said, 'he'll give you chapter and verse'.

He wasn't due to meet Lion Elfin until later in the day, so Story found himself a pen and some paper and sat down at his desk to make what notes he could from the papers he'd been left. Not knowing what else to do, at the top of the page he wrote 'balance sheet?'.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Our hero

The time has come to introduce you to our hero. As everybody knows, it will be but a poor story that doesn’t have a hero, and this story is certainly no exception.

Our champion however, is not your average heroic stereotype. He doesn’t seduce women with the same carefree extravagance of 007. Although, it wasn’t unusual for Miss Nicci Beauty, the office babe, to offer him her most alluring smile.

He wasn’t a tough New York cop who by chance finds himself in an office building taken over by terrorists and responds in the only way he knows how, killing the evil doers, freeing the hostages and reaffirming his love for his wife into the bargain.

It was unlikely that he would ever be called upon to save the world; his superman fantasy ended when he reached puberty. But he did recycle his scrap paper and he only ate dolphin friendly tuna.

And even though he was renown within the bean counting community for his common sense approach and clever spreadsheets, he was never attributed with the Wisdom of Solomon.

Of course every one who found themselves on the Aim-Meck payroll is a hero of sorts, and choosing one from the many, to guide us on this tour of corporate life, has been a very difficult decision. The judge’s decision, however, is final.

And so, without further ado…………. please give it up for……….. the one and only………….. Mr. Story Maker.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The 6th floor

Aim-Meck Onshore Oil’s centre of operation was on the 6th and 7th floor of this rather illustrious looking office block. Onshore Oil could proudly boast that it had forfeited it’s prestigious Central London location, so as to offer it’s customers better value for money. Now it had opted for the low cost option of this office based in Creepy.

Creepy is described as a New Town, and although to many sceptics, it just looked like a shit town, it did in fact have a lot going for it, investigation continues to discover what these things are. And it benefits from it’s closeness to London as many a failing business migrates into the area, as they can no longer afford to stay in the capital.

For the staff, moving to Creepy had been nothing but a blessing. For most, it meant a commute that allowed them to saviour the joys of the M25. Instead of a cup of coffee and a nap on the fast train into Waterloo, it was now just a ten mile tailback from junction 13 and a lower caffine intake.
A lunchtime spent in the park, admiring the plethora of young female flesh replaced by a more politically correct M&S sandwich discussing share prices with big John the mail man.
And gone too, was the temptation for a rather subversive late afternoon drink, or two, in one of the many wine bars, and the lie told to a hundred wives, when the subsequent late arrival home was blamed on the rail network.

And it was here on the 6th floor, that Lion Elfin came to terms with the disaster that was the Currant contract. And it was here too, in the office next door that Pushi Outi laid in wait.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The comet and the black hole

For Aim-Meck, Binwelldun was without doubt a crisis. It had not won any new work for nearly two years and all it's existing contracts were in deep commercial, legal and financial shit. It had reached it's evolutionary endpoint. The company had, by mid 2001, collapsed in upon inself, to a point of zero volume and infinite density. It had become a black hole.

As black holes go, it was relatively small, not nearly big enough to swallow up an organisation the size of Aim-Meck. It was however, sufficiently large to suck in several million of it pounds. Around two million a month to be exact.

The gods had been forced to act, and had taken the rather unusual decision to send in one of their comets; Mr Pushi Outi. But to their amazement, a big smile and a shiny suit were not enough.

For although Pushi was at the time their brightest comet, who's coma and tail made a wonderous sight as he headed towards the sun, each moment of glory was short lived. For as any astronomer will tell you, a comet is only clearly visible for a brief period of time, before it's light fades as it's orbit takes it beyond the sun into deep space.

Fortunately for Pushi, his orbit was a small one, so that it would not be long before he found himself with a bright bushy tail once more. For the earthlings at Binwelldun however, this was very disconcerting; it was a case of 'now you see him, now you don't'. And so the crisis deepened.

And Pushi had worries of his own. He was clever enough to know that a comet is no match for a black hole. He knew also that his light could soon be lost, if he ever allowed it to be engulfed by the Binwelldun black hole. As we know, light cannot escape a black hole, any more than the Aim-Meck millions can.

The gods needed help. Pushi needed help. They needed a safe pair of hands, hands belonging to somebody who, if the worst happened, was completely dispensible. And somebody too who was never likely to shine.

The gods talked to Pushi. Pushi talked to the gods. And eventually they reached an agreement.

And they said 'send in the clown'. So they sent in Mr Toby Fair.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Every circus

Despite attempts to the contrary, an organisation the size of Aim-Meck will inevitable end up employing people with a diverse set of characteristics. Sometimes the selection process simply fails to eliminate an individual who is actually suitable for the specified role. It is always regrettable when this happens, and usually, once identified, the individual in question will soon be moved to something considerably less appropriate.

Your ultimate success in Aim-Meck depends upon how well you fit into one of two very specific moulds. If you were neither short, stocky and aggressive with a penchant for losing your temper, or a smooth talking, all smiling, teflon coated, yes man who takes no responsibility for anything unless it is guaranteed to shower you in glory, then your career path will be a ‘road to nowhere’.

However, even the most robust procedure will fail on occasion. And such an occasion happened in March 2001, when Mr. Toby Fair was recruited as Onshore Oil’s HR Manager.

Physically, Mr. Toby Fair was in every respect a little man. But what he lacked in stature, he made up for in personality; everybody liked him. What’s more, he was very good at his job. Toby Fair was, to be fair, a very fair man.

He’d never wanted to be an HR Manager. With his funny walks, silly voices and big personality, he’d hoped to be a standup comedian. It was only that his jokes were not that funny that ultimately prevented him.

The gods, angry at first, that Aim-Meck’s recruitment policy should be so flagrantly breached, discussed various courses of action. They couldn’t fire him and there was nowhere to move him. They started to drown him in work, but he always floated to the surface with a smile on his face. He even gained the respect of Lion Elfin. And then along came the Binwelldun crisis, and the gods began to see a way that, Mr. Toby Fair, may be of some use.

For it is universally acknowledged that every circus needs a clown

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Human Resources

Within an organisation like Aim-Meck every corporate function believes itself to be the most misunderstood. And of all departments, none believe it more than Human Resources (HR).

To the gods, it was HR that was responsible for the galloping inflation in labour costs, as they paid each new recruit a little more than the last. A policy that led to an ever increasing staff turnover, when existing employees, decided that they would like to be new recruits elsewhere, after their salary review requests were put through the shredder.

Whilst to the mere mortals, it was HR who would never listen to their numerous grievances, even on the odd occasion when one of them did answer the telephone. When Serial Moaner complained that his stapler was much smaller than all the other Process Engineers, he was told that ‘size didn’t matter’.

But when it came to the HR budget, it most definitely did matter. As more candidate search and selection was outsourced, at an average cost of £6000 per candidate, costs were spiraling.

However, although it is not always obvious to the outside observer, everything within Aim-Meck had a purpose, and the HR department was no exception. For the gods wanted the mortals to know that they had never had it so good, indeed they spent a large amount of money telling them so.

But if for some reason, the message did not get through, it was the responsibility of HR to take the blame.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Binwelldun Ltd had been on it’s knees long before Aim-Meck bought the Agro business, of which it was a small part. Everybody who worked there knew it; it was only the accounts that said otherwise. The Directors couldn’t save it; it was beyond economical repair, so they put their considerable talents toward drafting themselves new contracts with lucrative payouts on termination, and booked their flights to Barbados.

The staff wouldn’t save it either, although they would ultimately lament it’s passing. Instead they put their efforts into finding someone else to blame, eventually voting Pushi Outi as enemy number one.

Before Aim-Meck made it’s purchase, the gods asked ‘What is this Binwelldun?’ So from a shabby little office on the outskirts of Birmingham, the Binwelldun management produced a spreadsheet showing a healthy profitable workload. It was several months after completion of the deal that it became obvious that, although what the gods had seen had been a ‘healthy and profitable workload’, it wasn’t Binwelldun’s ‘healthy and profitable workload’.

Moreover, hidden in every corner of the office were unpaid bills. The body began to bleed.

Unable to accept that their due diligence has gone so horribly wrong Aim-Meck initially tried to support Binwelldun, helping it look for new work. Unfortunately, Binwelldun’s main market had already collapsed when it was discovered that the technology it was trying to sell didn’t work.

The gods were forced to act. And act they did.

Days before Pushi Outi was sent in, they fired the accountant, who responded with a two fingered salute and the immortal words ‘Aim-Meck Binwelldun’

Pushi's first corpse

Pushi Outi was possessed with the happy disposition that enabled him to make friends easily. With a smile, a 'how are you?' and the loudest laugh in the room, he was immediately one of your best mates.

Pushi was not cut out to be a lion, he just didn't have the teeth, and he could never growl in public. Pushi's attributes were more akin to the hyena. And the gods were watching him.

And so it came to pass that a corpse was presented to Pushi Outi. The corpse was a small part of the AGRO business, called Binwelldun Ltd, based in a very unappealing suberb of Birmingham. It had been dead a long time. Only the careful presentation of it's annual report had previously hidden this from the gods.

Pushi Outi proved to be a very efficient hyena, finding all the juiciest morsels, whilst keeping the vultures at bay.

For Pushi though this was just one corpse, and all the while he was keeping one eye open for the next.

However there were others for whom this dead and rotting body represented a lifetime of memories. They needed time to mourn. Pushi, ever the nice guy spoke of his sympathy.

But the gods were watching, and Pushi had no time for grieving relatives. So when the last morsel had been ripped from the carcus and offered above, he smiled, packed his brightly coloured shirts, and headed south.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The lion and the gazelle

In the boardroom, Lion always sat at the head of the large, dark mahogany table. Directly opposite him, having pride of place on the back wall, was a landscape painting reported to be worth £5m more than the Onshore Oil business annual profit in 2002.

Arriving first, Lion was ready to greet each of the gazelle as they arrived for the meeting. Each taking their place, they seemed to huddle together, in the certain knowledge that, to step away from the pack meant an almost certain knawing.

One of the gazelle though could be relied upon, at some point to offer himself up for sacrifice. Ferret Visitor, seemed almost to get a certain pleasure in enraging the lion. Raising his little gazelle arse just outside the pack, and releasing a tiny, but deadly little fart.

Although the rest of us stayed as close as we could to the herd. There was another gazelle who had plans. He wasn't content to be prayed upon by lions. He wanted to be higher in the food chain. His name was Pushi Outi and he had ambition.

And soon it was noticed that he was in long private meetings with the lion.

Lion Elfin

Lion Elfin was a man who lived up to his name. What he lacked in height, he made up for in presence. The boardroom was his jungle.

For about two years, as head of the Aim-Meck Onshore Oil business, Lion was my boss. Over that period, I was often blessed with the opportunity to watch him identify, stalk, attack and devour his prey. He could be a merciless hunter.

He had a particular fondness for chewing on Ferret Visitor, the rather unfortunate General Manager of one of our failing regional offices.

Lion was a short, stocky man with large arms and stomach. His head was huge, almost completely bald and dominated by a very large mouth. Where he lacked hair on the top of his head, he made up for it below, with a thick beard.

Lion was a man of passion. In particular there was the failing Currant contract that two years earlier he had worked day and night to secure. Then his hatred of anything he had inherited from the failing Agro business, an unfortunate fact for Mr Ferret Visitor, who had been part of the package. And last but not least he hated being lied to.

He was also a man of great intellect, who spoke his mind, in the most forthright manner. And he would speak it always in the most colourful language, being more than a little rough around the edges.

In the end it was that his style did not suit the re-branded Aim-Meck that meant that he had ultimately to be replaced by a younger, smoother animal.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Health and Safety

Aim-Meck puts health and safety first. As the Chief Executive says 'there is nothing we do that we cannot take the time to do safely'

As manager's it was our responsibility to ensure that safety was given the highest priority, hence its position at the top of the agenda on every meeting. From our monthly management review meetings where accidents were reported in terms of loss time incidents (LTI), to the weekly operations meeting, where we discussed the health and safety implications of any activity carried on within our office. This could be anything from IT staff carrying computers to the 7th floor to a tripping hazard caused by the receptionist's handbag.

Our greatest achievement was a complete ban on carrying hot drinks on the stairwell, after a member of the team pointed out that a spillage could cause serious scolding and a slippery surface.

We debated at great length an incident where one member of the Engineering Department did not dispose of a crisp bag in the proper fashion. It was found to have missed the bin he tried to throw it into, landing on the floor in the middle of a main walkway. However, a decision as to whether to ban the consumption of crisps in the office was deferred for further study.

Unfortunately, this coincided with a safety audit carried out by a seniour representative from another Aim-Meck division. His report was uncompromising, he said 'you have all failed, if there is ever any question about safety, you must act immediately, deferral was a failure to accept ownership, crisp should be banned immediately'

Many Aim-Meck offices have a safety video that has to be watched by all visitors. The video will include the location of the fire exits, evacuation procedure and how to park your car. It is important to reverse your car into designated parking spaces.

Also in all Aim-Meck offices you will see an abundance of safety information and warnings; for example 'Walking is easy, falling is easier, please hold the handrail' on many of our stairways.

And in our toilets, a reminder about personal hygiene:

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