Loneliness - Moving On

by Andrew Foote

Chapter 24

My Dad together with Sir George read through the letter, both of them looked astonished.

Sir George was the first to speak.

"Well well. Who would have thought it! I mean it is wonderful news but it does elevate your business way beyond anything I would've thought possible in such a short space of time so I do understand how you must be feeling Alex."

My Dad chipped in.

"Yes and with it comes a lot of responsibility as well, something else we'll have to manage. I think you should tell your staff as they have all played their part in this."

I looked at Sir George.

"Would it be alright if I used the telephone Sir?"

"Of course my boy. No need to ask."

I called the mill and got Megan.

"Hey Megan. This is Alex. Is Gill there please?"

"Oh hi Alex. I'll go and find her."

Eventually she came on the line.

"Hi Alex. Sorry to keep you waiting but I was in the little girls room!"

"Not that I really wanted to know that but thanks! Can you pass the word around and call a meeting of everyone say for two this afternoon? We have something important to tell you all."

"Nothing bad I hope?"

"No nothing to be concerned about, just important. Can I leave it with you?"

"Yes sure. No worries. See you later then."

I put the phone down and turned to the others.

"So who's going to break the news?"

Sir George was adamant.

"You must Alex. After all you are the Managing Director."

"Fine but you'll be there as well I hope?"

"Yes but you do the speaking. They will expect that."

"Hello everyone. Now I have some important news, so important that it's only right I should tell you all personally rather than shoving a notice on the notice board.

As a Company we have been trading for what, almost two years? During that time we have grown from humble beginnings to what we are today and all because we have been blessed with a fantastic workforce who always manage to come up with the goods. Someone somewhere has taken notice of us and have seen fit to award us with not one but two accolades in recognition of what all of us have achieved.

The first of these is, we have been awarded the Queen's award to industry in the small business section. I'm in possession of the letter which I'll have photocopied and placed on the notice board but to précis, they took particular notice of our innovative product range, many of which came about by your ideas.

One other thing that they liked was the way the Company is structured as, and I dislike using American terminology, an equal opportunity concern employing as we do, a high proportion of disabled folk, the manner in which we encourage our young Mum's to continue to work for us rather than taking prolonged maternity leave and of course I am referring to the crèche.

There is more in the letter so I hope you all read it and take pride in what you have achieved.

The second piece of news isn't so much an award but more an honour as we now hold the Royal Warrant. I expect all of you have seen this elsewhere but we are now 'By Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen' as manufacturers and suppliers of pet products and as such we are now entitled to show this on our letter headings, in reception and on our vehicles together with Her Majesty's personal Coat of Arms.

Neither of these accolades could have happened without all of you entering into the spirit of things the way you have and I know I speak for my fellow directors when I say just how much we appreciate all your hard work and your loyalty.

To celebrate this, we are holding a party here next Saturday from mid-afternoon until very late with a free bar and buffet so I hope that you and your families will be able to attend and be proud of all that we've achieved in such a short space of time.

Thanks everyone and might I suggest that you all get cleared away and take the remainder of the day off. You will all be paid through until six o'clock tonight."

People didn't disappear off home immediately, there were loads of questions, most I couldn't answer such as who might be presenting these awards?

I had no idea in fact I'd never given it much thought so I was mean and asked Sir George if he might take the stage.

"Okay everyone. Most of you know me but some might not. My name is Sir George Appleby and I'm a non-executive director of this our Company which means I don't get paid!"

This had lots of people laughing.

"I want to help Alexis answer some of your questions and although I'm not an expert…… none of my Companies were ever awarded such honours but I do know a little of how these things are done so let us begin with the Industry award.

This is quite simple.

Her Majesty doesn't select these herself, a panel of experts undertake this although she is made aware of who these awards are made to.

How these awards are presented is also something that is done by the selection committee and will take place here at the mill with the press in attendance.

Knowing Alexis and Justin as I do, no doubt they will want to include all of you when the time comes so please don't be camera shy!

Next I turn my attention to the Royal Warrant.

To be given such an honour, to display Her Majesty's coat of arms on our letter headings, vehicles and so on is something very, very special.

Again a committee selects potential candidates but it is the Queen herself who makes the final selection so you can be very sure that Her Majesty knows all about Armstrong Greening Limited and dare I say, in some considerable detail.

Now we must think about who might possibly make the presentation and where?

This is always done by a member of the Royal Family, sometimes at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, even sometimes at the business premises itself but to pre-empt the location? Well it's too early to say but please rest assured that you will be kept informed.

I have to reiterate Alexis' comments. Be very proud of everything you have achieved and to all of you, have a lovely weekend."

The crèche had all but closed for the weekend so Jus went up and told them the news while I went through to the café and told them.

I wanted to feel excited but the only emotion I felt was fear.

I took a mug of tea and despite the chill, went outside to work things through in my head.

No matter which way I looked at things, the same worries and concerns plagued me.

For all the world we were still only school kids but kids who had started out on an adventure which had taken us from nothing to employing some seventy-odd people. These weren't other kids looking to make a bit of pocket money, some of those on our books had families to support and looked to us to provide their income.

We had the loyalty of our staff, the commitment they had shown towards not just the Company but to Jus and I personally was really humbling and we had a duty towards them.

I was starting to feel the strain.

Just then I felt a hand on my shoulder.

"Do you mind if I sit with you Alex? I think it's time you and I talked about a few things."

Without waiting for me to speak, Sir George sat down beside me and continued.

"I think I understand how you must be feeling. Too much too soon perhaps but just look at everything you've achieved?

Wonderful things have happened. Justin is alive and well, home tuition has been seen as his way forward and both you and he managed to gain excellent passes in your exams, far in advance of your years.

I will concede that events over the past few years have been difficult to cope with but despite everything, here you are, both of you managing to rise above it all to the point where you are running a damn fine business that now has the recognition of the Royal household.

If you believe, as I'm sure you do, that it adds more pressure then you're wrong. You mustn't allow this to come between you and your dreams, in fact the opposite is true. You must ride this wave, live it, breathe it, let it drive you forward to greater things, things which I know you can and will do given time but remembering that you're still young and deserve the time to have fun."

"But that's just it isn't it? We don't have that time."

"Yes you do Alex!

How long were you away for this summer? Six, seven weeks? Did the world stop turning? Did your business go into steep decline?

No of course it didn't!

I once told you that the art of good management is being able to delegate. Do you honestly think that the Chairman of ICI or the major banks make all the day to day decisions?

No of course that would be impossible. They have a management structure in place to do all that.

They're there to make all the major policy changes and yes, carry the can if it all goes wrong but they don't open the post, answer the telephone or supervise production? That is why they employ people, people better able and in a better position to carry out those duties.

You have to learn to let go my boy! Give others the responsibility so they can grow along with your Company."

"I have a lot to learn don't I?"

"Yes you do but with your dear father at your side and myself to help you along then you'll make it but just remember this. Learn to relax even when you're under pressure."

"Easier said than done.

I know deep down that you're right, Jus manages to take it in his stride but I feel the need to hang on, to be an integral part of everything."

"Justin comes from a different background where being away at school made him self-reliant. Conversely you have always been around family and able to lean on them to make the decisions but now it is your turn to man up to your responsibilities and take control even if you have to force yourself to allow your senior management to take on more of the day-to-day running of the business."

"Do you really think that they're good enough Sir?"

"Do you think you're better able than them Alex?

How much did you understand about business management eighteen months ago?"

"Nothing. Clueless truth be told!"

"And neither did Joe, Gillian or Matthew but they have grown along with the operation since its humble beginnings.

They've made mistakes, errors of judgement but they are all learning from them, better able to saddle up and take a front seat alongside you and Justin.

The other thing to take into consideration is this.

What is going to happen when the two of you take up a University placement? You'll have little time to take a serious role, your time will be spent studying to the extent that you're A levels will seem like child's play."

"Let go then?"

"Yes. You must Alex."

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