Dexter's Renaissance Ch. 11-12bycoaster2©
Chapter 11 The New Order
It felt quite strange walking into the office on Monday morning. I was expected to inhabit the corner office, the same office John Flannery had occupied. It was a given that John would not be returning from his leave. As usual, I was the first to arrive and that gave me an opportunity to scout his office more thoroughly. I had assumed that much of John's things and files would still be there but that didn't turn out to be the case.
At some point the office had been cleaned and emptied of any of Flannery's personal files and memorabilia. Whether he had done it himself or had someone do it for him, I didn't know. It seemed barren and cold now with nothing at all to personalize it. I thought it would be a good idea to remedy that and I was thinking Michelle could help me.
A set of keys was hanging from the lock on the centre desk drawer and I removed them. A second key fit the filing cabinet and a third fit a set of cabinet doors built into the wall. When I opened it, I found a well stocked bar with a refrigerator and sink to complement it. It would appear that the previous resident could host a nice little reception if he was in the mood.
I stood gazing out over the view of the Toronto skyline and lakeshore. Not quite as dramatic as Vancouver, but very nice just the same. I knew from my conversations with Tom that Trent owned the floor on which we were situated and it must be worth a fortune in today's commercial real estate market.
As I looked around, I realized that this office was too pretentious for me. I was a pretender in this new role. There was no doubt in my mind that Terry could handle management of the design department. He had the maturity and now the experience to accept the responsibility. So what was I to do?
I was sitting in the big leather chair behind the desk, lost in my thoughts when I became aware I was not alone.
"Good morning, Dex. I see you've found your new office," Janice said with a smile.
I shook my head. "I'm not comfortable here, Janice. I feel like a fraud. I'm nothing more than a trumped up designer pretending to be a general manager. I'll be out of touch way back here."
"I don't know where else you could go, Dex."
"I was thinking about the meeting room. It isn't as big as this room. We could swap places and make this the meeting room. That way I'd be more visible and the meetings would be in a quiet, well lit area."
"Are you sure about this?" she asked, her brow wrinkled.
"Nope, but I know I'm not comfortable back here. Too isolated. You know me by now. I like to be where the action is. You can't do that back here, tucked away. The only things we'd have to move would be the table and chairs from the meeting room and the desk, file cabinet and chair from here. The meeting room has a big window so it won't be like I'm stuck in some cave."
"You're the boss, Dex. I guess I can see your point. You are a lot more social than the previous occupant," she grinned.
"Can you arrange with someone to get it looked after? In the meantime, I'll stay where I am until that's done. Brigit can look after the telephone switch I imagine," I said looking around.
"I'll call the building superintendent. He looks after that kind of thing."
"Thanks. One other thing. I haven't met the person in charge of accounting. Who is that?"
"Well, technically, no one. Our last manager quit to take another job. That was almost six months ago. John didn't want him replaced and left it to me to make sure the work was done on time. For now, Teresa Tremonte is looking after getting the work co-ordinated and filed. She sends her information to Vancouver now. I don't know any more than that.
"I'm no accountant, Dex. Just like you, I'm doing the best I can without the credentials to know if everything's okay. So far the auditors have been satisfied but they're due back in a couple of months so things could change."
"Damn!" I spat. "What the hell was John thinking? Running this place without financial guidance is a recipe for disaster. There's only so much you can cut back before you can't function. Is Teresa capable of running the department?"
Janice shrugged and I should have known that was coming. She was in no position to make a judgement.
I was frustrated. Everywhere I turned the so-called economies had turned into problems that needed addressing. My phone call to Tom was going to be a lengthy one this afternoon.
Janice was watching me and I'm sure she could hear the gears grinding.
"You'll figure it out, Dex. Do what you think is right. Tell Tom what you want to do and why. That's all you can do."
Janice was right. If Tom rejected my plan, I'd have to go back and see what alternatives I could come up with. Right now, my new number one priority was to establish some management in accounting.
"Thanks, Janice. You're right of course. Now, let's get the coffee started."
Terry arrived a few minutes later, choosing to adopt the earlier start in the design department. I called him into my office and closed the door.
"Terry, sometime this morning there will be an announcement that I have been appointed General Manager of Trent Engineering. This is being done with the knowledge and approval of Rueben and Dick," I said, stopping to see his reaction.
"Great. I think that's great. You're just the guy for the job, Dex," he said sincerely.
I relaxed a bit. "As a result, you will be promoted to Manager of Design, effective immediately. Your pay will increase accordingly by twenty percent and you will continue to report to me. I suggest you discuss this with Petra to let her know that she would be next in line and that she shouldn't be discouraged that she didn't get the job. I don't expect a problem but I think you should acknowledge that she's your right hand and that she should expect a raise as well, although not as large as yours. She will be in charge in your absence. I will talk to her as well. Any questions?"
"Yes. When did all this happen? I didn't have a clue any of this was going on."
"No ... I understand. You and Petra have been an important element in getting this department back to where it had to be. Your cooperation and support has shown me that you both are going to be invaluable in the growth of Trent. My work is essentially done as far as that project goes. Rueben has let it be known that he didn't want the administrative responsibility so he'll be Manager of Engineering Services but senior to you."
"Oh boy, this is a surprise. When will this be announced?"
"This morning. Rueben and Dick already know, as does Janice. So it's really a matter of informing the rest of the staff. We'll get everyone together at ten o'clock in the meeting room and make a couple of announcements. Until then, please just keep it between you and Petra for the time being."
"Yes ... of course. Is it all right if I call my wife? She'll be really excited when she hears."
"Sure," I said, pleased at his enthusiasm. I stood and walked around the desk, holding out my hand. Terry took it and we shook heartily. "Congratulations, Terry. You've earned this."
I started plotting my move to the new office if for no other reason than to give myself something to do for the next two hours. Janice stopped in to tell me that the men would be in to move the furniture sometime after eleven that morning. Brigit was asked to inform the staff of the general meeting in the "old" meeting room at ten. I could see a lot of question marks on faces until we had everyone in the room just after ten o'clock.
"You all know that Trent Engineering has been undergoing a substantial facelift in the past few weeks," I began. "Your cooperation and energy has made that project go better and sooner than anyone expected. For that, the partners want you to know how grateful they are and wish to thank you in a tangible way.
"First of all, the wage freeze has been lifted." There was a general voice of approval with that announcement.
"Secondly, we are beginning to hire new staff as we obtain more business for the firm." Again, sounds of approval.
"I also want to make some personnel announcements. First, Rueben Golowitz is Manager of Engineering, as you already knew. Janice Meriwether will continue as Manager of Administration, and I'm pleased to announce that Terry Sanderson has been appointed Manager of Design.
Congratulations, Terry," I said, and there was a round of applause. Apparently I had made a popular decision.
"A decision on a Manager of Accounting Services will be announced in due course," I added vaguely.
"I have been asked to assume the role of General Manager," I continued. "I promise to be accessible and visible as long as I am here. Naturally, Rueben will be in charge in my absence. I will be moving the office to this room later this morning. The new meeting room will be the corner office that so few of you ever visited," I chuckled.
I was about to say something when someone began to clap, and within a few seconds, everyone seemed to be applauding. I was surprised and very happy that my appointment had been accepted so well. I breathed another sigh of relief. We were off to a good start.
I had a number of people stop by the office and congratulate me and thank me for helping Trent "get back on its feet." I just hoped I could keep the momentum going in the right direction for the next while.
Reuben and Dick stopped by and insisted they take me to lunch, so I quickly agreed.
"I like your meetings, Dex," Reuben said with a grin. "They're short, to the point and leave everyone feeling good. That's a big change from the last regime."
"Good news meetings are always easier than bad news ones, Reuben. I'm just happy we have the support of the staff, particularly you and Dick. You guys and your staff are the engine that makes this place work. The rest of us don't have a job without you."
"The attitude around the office is so much different from before," Dick observed. "Our guys are much more into their jobs now that they don't have layoffs or cutbacks hanging over their heads. Wolf is really good at finding work, isn't he?"
"Yes. Very good. He'll do everything he can to keep us hopping around here. But I wanted to ask you about contact with some of the local architects and contractors. Who looked after that in the past?"
"David Gauthier," Dick answered. "He was a real go-getter. He could schmooze with the best of them. When he died our contacts dropped off and in the end, we really didn't have any. I think that's something we need to address if we want Trent to restore its local reputation."
"I agree," Reuben chimed in.
"Okay, that's at the top of my agenda. Any suggestions?"
The two men looked at each other, apparently uncomfortable with a response. Finally, Reuben spoke.
"Stop me if I'm on sensitive territory here, Dex. David and Michelle were a good team on the social scene. I think Michelle might have brought in as many opportunities as he did. I was wondering ... if you and Michelle are okay with it ... you might think about re-establishing contacts that she had in the past."
"No need to tiptoe, guys. Michelle and I are living together and I'm not trying to keep it a secret. So ... let me talk to her and see how she feels about it. I'm not an engineer so I'm going to have to take a different approach. I'll have to get some advice on that from Wolf and Tom as well as you two."
"Anytime, Dex," Reuben said quickly. "You'll get our full cooperation. You've done a great job so far and I can see you and Michelle being a very effective force together."
"Well, first things first. I have to get her to agree that it's a good idea," I smiled.
"I'm betting that won't take too much convincing," Dick said. "I got the impression watching her that she enjoyed the role. Good luck."
By the time we got back to the office the furniture had been moved and my phone and computer installed. I went in and sat down, looking around the room. There were a number of photos on the wall, undoubtedly of past projects at Trent. Janice had arranged to have my files moved from the design department office to my new, giant desk.
She had instructed the movers to place the desk at the end of the room with the windows on the right. That would reduce the glare on the computer screen. Sun shades would look after the view to the south during the spring and summer months. When I looked around, I had taken up barely a third of the space available.
"Janice, there's a table in the other open office that doesn't seem to be used. What is it for?" I asked.
"Lately, that's where the auditors have been housed. Why do you ask?"
"I think I'd like to have it in my office for smaller meetings and planning sessions. Right now I feel like I'm wasting useful space. If we can round up four comfortable chairs, it would help make the office more friendly."
"Sure. I can get a couple of the guys to move it this afternoon. Won't take but a few minutes."
"Thanks. I wanted to talk about a suggestion Reuben and Dick had today. They were talking about Michelle and maybe me re-establishing contact with the architects and contractors that her husband had developed. It would be a proactive move to find some more business and get Trent's name back in front of these people. What's your opinion?"
"I think that's a hell of an idea. She knows who to talk to and how to get appointments so it's a natural. You can handle the P.R. part easily, Dex. It isn't knowing all about engineering, it's about giving them the confidence that Trent is back to where it was before David passed. That and the improvements you've made will make a huge difference."
"That's good to hear. I'm a little reluctant to be the face of Trent Engineering but Michelle could pull that off no problem from what you're telling me."
"I'm sure of it. I like the idea that we're going to look after ourselves and not wait for someone else to find business," she said with a positive nod of her head.
"Did David ever bring any of the clients in for a tour of the offices?"
"Yes, once in a while. He wasn't that familiar with the design department but he usually did the tour just before taking them to lunch at the University Club. That usually impressed them too."
"I forgot to ask. Is that a corporate membership?"
"Yes. John pretty much made it off limits when things started to go downhill but I can easily get you recommended for an associate membership on Michelle's say-so. In the meantime, you can use her membership."
"Good. Anything else I should know?" I asked.
"Well, since the salary freeze is off, I'd better get you a salary review schedule and you and Rueben and Terry can get started on what needs to be done. I'll look after my end of the business. Your responsibility is only for the managers but they will have to bring all the reviews and recommendations through you for final approval."
"Fine, that's the way it should work. In the meantime, I'll get with Tom and discuss what we can do and when we can do it."
I couldn't put it off any longer and called Vancouver to talk to Tom. An hour later I had two pages of notes and the outline of a plan to handle the immediate problems.
"There's no doubt you can't continue without adequate accounting supervision," Tom said. "The previous controller quit right in the middle of our negotiations and wasn't replaced. The young woman they assigned to handle the load reported to Janice but I don't think she was ready to take over as manager. You have two choices. Pick one from the Vancouver operation that could handle the job or hire locally. My suggestion is the latter. We can get him or her up to speed with our procedures fairly quickly with one of our people on loan for a week or so."
"Okay. I'll get an advertisement ready ASAP. Shall I use the previous person's salary as a guide?"
"Sure. You might have to pay more but I'll leave that to your judgement. The former man quit because he could get a job for more money and less hassle," Tom said without humour.
We went over the salary scale and our budget, looking for ways to help some of the people catch up to where they should be. Tom agreed we didn't want to be losing valuable people right now. That would send the wrong signal and make our recovery more difficult. I e-mailed him the salary schedule that Janice had conveniently formatted on Excel. It also showed the history of each individual's salary from five years previous. That would be helpful as well.
"I'm going to do something a little out of character, Tom," I said. "I'm going to team up with Michelle and start a program of calls on all the previous contacts we had in the architectural community as well as contractors. We want to get them comfortable with Trent once more and have them believing in us again."
"Boy, it didn't take you long to become a 'Trent Man,'" Tom chuckled. "But that's a really great plan, Dex. It's something I know you can do and with Michelle's help and contacts, I'm betting you'll surprise yourself at just how well you do. I'm all for that."
"Thanks. It's something proactive I can do instead of just sitting around the office all day. I just hope Michelle likes the idea too."
"You mean you haven't discussed it with her?"
"Not yet. Keep your fingers crossed. She's an important person in this company and I want to take advantage of her talents," I said.
"I'm not touching that line with a barge pole," Tom laughed.
By five o'clock that afternoon I was beat. Too much energy and tension had gone into the day. The enjoyment of giving the staff some hope for a better tomorrow had worn off in the afternoon as Janice and I worked to figure out just what to do about salaries.
She took it upon herself to draft an advertisement for a senior accountant and ran it by me that afternoon. I approved it and she said it would be in the Wednesday through Saturday editions of the morning and evening papers. I made a note to talk to Teresa Tremonte, our temporary head of accounting, first thing the next morning so that she was aware of what was going on. She would be invited to apply for the job if she chose.
The walk to the streetcar stop and the ride out Lakeshore Drive was a pleasant relief. A two block walk to Michelle's apartment building was the completion of the journey. She had given me the keys to both the elevator-penthouse access and the door to the apartment before I left for work.
I was tired, but not down. I couldn't resist. "Honey, I'm home," I called as closed the door behind me.
I heard the strangled laugh from the kitchen then saw her broad smile as she came out to meet me.
"You just couldn't help yourself, could you?" she said as she wrapped her arms around my neck.
"Nope. You planted the seed on Friday so it's all your fault."
"How was your day?" she asked, changing the subject.
"It had its moments. I have been rewarded in my new position with several vexing problems, however."
"I guess that was to be expected. I'm sure some of them have been hanging around just waiting for the new boss to look after them," she smiled.
"Yes ... that's very perceptive of you. Some of them are old problems. However, in talking to Tom this afternoon, he made it known that they are my problems now."
"Anything you can't solve?"
"I don't know yet. I have to find a new senior accountant. I have to find some money in the budget to reward staff for living through the salary freeze. And, I have to convince you that we should team up and start calling on all the old architect and contractor contacts that you and David made. Other than that, the rest is kid's stuff," I grinned.
"What's that last part again? You and me making calls?" she said warily.
"You got it, sweetie. You dress your sexiest and we'll take them to the University Club and get them wined and dined and we'll be back in business," I kidded.