A US buyout results in a visit stateside, a lesson in the zen of lift shafts and plenty of new kit... all expensives paid...

Year 1998 - Episode 14


It's a crisp Monday morning when the CEO pops into our offices to ask for a bit of a favour. The boss, nose always alert for the truffles of office kudos, creeps in.

"I'd like you to rig up the video conference stuff up so that I can give a quick speech to the entire company" he requests.

"You're not retiring, are you?" the boss blurts, eyes on a prize WAAAAY above his station.

"No, no"

"An early Easter message to the troops, then?"

"No. The truth of the matter is that we've been bought out. Lock, stock and Barrel"

"THE BLOODY JAPS!" the boss cries.

"No, no!" the CEO sighs, "Anyway, with the world money situation, about the only other place it would come from would be Amsterdam."

"Oh thank goodness for that!" the boss blurts, "I don't know a word of Belgian!"

The things you hear when you haven't got your nailgun...

The day arrives and the CEO spells it out for the masses around the world. An American conglomerate looking for foreign investment stumbled across our well-doctored Annual Report and liked what they saw so much that they bought the company. The news that there are no plans for resizing is met with a collective sigh from the assembled proles. For now, it's business as usual...

"Simon," the CEO mumbles, away from the relative security of his executive en-suite for the second time this week (a new record). "Just need you and your Man Friday to pop over to the Mother company in the US for a week or so to see how they do their stuff. Smart cookies over there apparently, all state-of-the-art palaver. Anyway, the bosses there just want to go over and chin-wag with their techos. Hope you don't mind..."

An all-expenses paid junket to the US...Hmmm.

"Well, it would definitely be helpful, but it'd take ages to ship the equipment over."

"Oh, we'll fly you business class and you can take it as luggage!" he cries.

"I don't really think that will QUITE cover the network analyser hardware and the..."

"Well, I suppose we could squeeze you both into First Class" he cries magnamimously...

And so it was that two days and many, many first-class drinks later, the PFY and I are awaiting collection in a holding cell at the port of entry into the US. Apparently they don't take too kindly to heavy drinking at Customs, especially not when you use the "strange customs" joke too many times.

Luckily, our parent company actually does a bit of wheeling and dealing in the field and manages to spring us from custody. After a night's rest, we're met by our tour guide - the boss's equivalent in the mother company. He gives us a quick overview of their operation, introduces us to the systems and network blokes, then beats a hasty retreat. We're shown around the site and have to admit to being impressed with the equipment.

"It's certainly impressive," I mention to one of my counterparts as we're looking at their collection of brand-spanking new kit.

"Well, we like to keep up with the times. Besides, a lot of the older stuff was damaged when we relocated to the second floor."

"Damaged?" I ask, smelling professionalism lurking in the wings.

"Yeah, we're not exactly sure how, but the lift doors opened when the lift wasn't there..."

"Ah," I nod knowingly, "and a laden trolley of equipment plunged down the shaft?"

"THREE laden trolleys as it happened - unfortunately, I was wearing the ear muffs that the company makes you wear in the computer room and didn't hear the kit hit the bottom."

"How unfortunate," I sigh meaningfully.

"Not quite as unfortunate as the boss not trusting us with his bonsai plants and carrying them to the lift himself."

"Where he subsequently dropped them?" I ask, filling in the blanks as appropriate.

"Actually no, he held on to them all the way to the ground floor. Mind you, the paramedics did trample them in their hurry to rescue him."

A week later, the PFY and I are bailed out of a holding cell at Heathrow (what the hell, an opportunity missed is an opportunity gone forever) and the next day make our report to the boss and CEO.

"All their equipment is miles ahead of ours! We'll need an extensive systems and networks management upgrade! Worse still, our operations centre has a network latency problem because it's so far from the satellite dish on the roof. We'd need to move at least two floors up to cut the distance and reduce the delay. I'd suggest we move in after we organise the purchase of compatible equipment through the systems and networks guy over in the US head office once he's worked out what we need..."

...Meanwhile, on the other side of the water, my counterpart is presenting his compatibilty proposal...

"All their equipment is miles ahead of ours...etc."

A couple of days on, I get my cheque from the US office to buy some compatible gear...

My progress to Oddbins is delayed only momentarily by the sound of a trolleyful of kit hitting the bottom of a lift shaft. That's the PFY's dedication for you - it's all work, work, work.

Good of the boss to lend a hand moving his prized cactus plants...