Jinnie’s Story – Book Four, Chapter Fifteen

The dark Kitchen

WorthingGooner, Going Postal
Jinnie’s meeting with C, and Anne the HR director…
The History of the Secret Intelligence Service,
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Jinnie’s meeting with “C”, and Anne the HR director, had gone exactly as Jinnie had hoped it would. All being well she wanted to work until two weeks before the birth, explaining that as she was effectively barred from going on missions by the PM she was now an office worker and not an agent and she understood it was normal to work that late. Anne said that was OK, under the current law she could work right up to her due date if she wanted. That reminded Jinnie that the midwife had given her an official form with her due date on it. She dug it out and handed it to Anne who said she would have it photocopied for the records and get the original back to her that afternoon.

The next discussion was on how much maternity leave she would be taking. Anne explained what Jinnie already knew, she was entitled to six months Ordinary Maternity Pay and another six months Additional Maternity Pay from the state. But as an SIS employee these statuary rates were made up to her normal salary, so effectively she would be on her full salary for a whole year if that was what she chose to do. Jinnie said that was her intention, two weeks before the due date and fifty weeks after. Anne made some notes and added, “Of course, your job is protected and held open for you, the only exception would be if we were making directors redundant and that is highly unlikely.”

‘C’ said, “That gives me a bit of a problem. I need someone to do your job for a year.” Jinnie replied, “l don’t see that as a problem, Alan is more than capable of doing the job.” “Well,” replied ‘C’, “I’m inclined to agree, but if he’s been an acting director for a year, will he want to go back to being your deputy when you come back to work?” Jinnie thought for a moment then said, “But you were already thinking of promoting him. I suggest that if there isn’t a suitable position available when I come back, why not make him a sort of Director without Portfolio, who covers for sickness and holidays until the right post becomes available. But I suggest you explain the plan to him so that he doesn’t think he is being dumped after a year.”

‘C’ nodded and said, “That might just work but what about a deputy while you are missing?”Jinnie replied, “Well, I have already started leaning more and more on Carole and she has proved to be perfectly capable. Make her Alan’s deputy and she can stay in that position when I come back to work. Again, I think we will need to tell her the plan.” ‘C’ said, “You had all this worked out didn’t you.” Jinnie just smiled and didn’t say a word.

That evening Alberto rang Jinnie to update her on the latest news. The civil contractor had arrived on site at Turners Hill and had fenced off the site. Belinda had moved in a couple of Portakabins, portable loos and washing facilities and the contractor had started digging. He knew this because Belinda had popped in with her preliminary plans and costings for the two possible sites for the ‘dark kitchen’. Tony had been allocated a desk in one of the Portakabins and had also reported to Alberto. He was happy with the contractor and had told Alberto the local building Inspector and a man from the Health and Safety Executive had been on site, both had gone away happy. Alberto told Jinnie that at first sight Belinda’s price for the Potters Bar site looked to be rather more than the Barnet site.

However, Tony had pointed out that there was a lot more to take into consideration than just Belinda’s figures. The promised rates holiday on Potters Bar, planning permission and building regulations, the need for a gas supply to be installed at Barnet, the cost of purchasing and/or leasing the premises, projected operating costs over a period, what they could charge for use of the kitchen, ordering and delivery, legal costs, how long it would be before it was profitable, all had to be looked at. Alberto said he and Tony had started feeding numbers to her dad so that he could build the spreadsheet. He also had news on the new corporate set-up. The new holding company had been bought as an off-the-shelf company and its name had been officially changed at companies house. The accountant and lawyers were nearly ready to complete a deal where the holding company borrowed money from the existing partnership and used the borrowed money to buy the existing partnership thus somehow, in a manner only known to the accountants and lawyers, they used their own money to buy themselves, cleared the loan and all the partners became equal shareholders of the holding company. To Jinnie it sounded awfully dodgy but was assured that in the world of business finance such happenings were normal.

On the next morning’s journey to the office, Emma wanted to chat about how ‘C’ had rung her at home the previous evening to discuss Jinnie’s plan for her maternity leave. She said ‘C’ had been pondering her plan and liked it, but wanted to discuss it with someone he trusted before implementing it. She had promised to think about it overnight and give him her opinion first thing. She told Jinnie she couldn’t think of anything better so she was going to tell him she thought it a perfectly viable plan. She predicted that Jinnie would get a call from ‘C’ later that morning.

Emma was right, Jinnie was enjoying a cup of coffee and a Penguin when her phone rang and displayed ‘C’. As predicted he wanted to proceed with the plan and wanted to check if Jinnie minded if he called Alan in and told him what was going on. In other words was she ready to go public with her pregnancy? Jinnie said she was happy, now she had officially told him, it could be public knowledge. He then asked her if she would talk to Carole concurrently with his meeting with Alan. He said that he was going to ask Alan in at 11 o’clock so could she do the same with Carole. He then told her that she could tell her that she would be earning an additional £20,000 pa and would get a company credit card and a car allowance (only directors got a company car).

Jinnie heard Alan’s phone ring a few minutes before 11. Alan stuck his head around her office door and with a worried look on his face said to Jinnie, “I been summoned to see ‘C’.” Jinnie couldn’t stop herself saying, “Don’t worry it’s good news.” Jinnie took a deep breath and rang Carole’s phone and asked her to come in and see her. As she came through the office door Jinnie saw a look of concern on Carole’s face. She smiled brightly at her and said, “Please close the door and come and sit down.”

When Carole left the office her concern had been replaced by an ear-to-ear grin. At first Carole had thought she was only being asked to step up for a year. So Jinnie had to make it clear to her that it was permanent and that when she came back to work after her maternity year Alan would be moving to a new director’s position and she would be her deputy director. Carole asked, “Can I tell people?” Jinnie replied, “Of course. I am not going to put out an announcement, well I might officially tell the department, but it’s not a secret.” Carole then asked, “Is America still on?” “Yes,” said Jinnie, “Nothing has changed we still need to get Penny to Washington and she still mustn’t know anything yet.”

A few evenings later Mr Walsh phoned Jinnie. He told her the information was coming in for the spreadsheet but he was getting worried about the numbers, they were coming out a lot more than he expected. Jinnie asked him if he had got to £1,000,000 yet. When he said no, she said good because we are quite prepared to go to that and then some if we can see a profit in year 4 maybe even year 5. They were planning to put all the profits from the restaurant business into the ‘dark kitchen’, even to borrow if they had to, provided that there was a profit in a few years. However, as this was going to be a fair time in the planning phase their company savings account could almost certainly handle it without resorting to borrowing, even with the expenditure on the Turners Hill branch. Her dad said, “Well I never realised the business was that successful. Anyway, at the moment it looks like the project could meet your criteria, but I don’t have all the numbers yet. I’ll let you know when I have an answer.”

Jinnie wondered to herself if the time had come for the new company to have a full-time finance director and made her mind up that if they decided to go ahead with the ‘dark kitchen’, she would bring it up at a board meeting. In fact, she was beginning to wonder whether it might be better to formally have various specific in-house departments, such as accounts and wages instead of paying the accountants to handle them as at present. She decided she needed to find out how much the accountants charged. Would it be cheaper to do it all in-house and have the accountants just do the auditing? She had been hearing loads of adverts on the radio for accounting software which boasted how simple it made things for small and medium companies. The more she thought about it the more she realised it all definitely needed investigating. But who did she know who had that kind of financial knowledge?

It was almost at the end of January when Mr Walsh called Jinnie and explained that he was happy his spreadsheet was as complete as it could be without having actual hard numbers in it from contracts and orders. Jinnie asked if he would be available to present it to a board meeting of Trattoria Trevi Holdings Limited, as the new company was up and running and the seven partners, including her, were all the holders of just over 14.28% of the company each. He agreed and Jinnie got on to Alberto, the newly appointed CEO and company secretary, to call a board meeting.

The board gathered in the restaurant on the following Monday evening as that was the one day of the week they still closed (another thing Jinnie wonder if it needed changing, a bigger group with more people should be open 7 days a week she thought). Alberto opened the meeting and explained that they were there to review Mr Walsh’s spreadsheet with the hope that they would get a steer as to which site would be best. Guido asked if there would be a vote and if so would it be a simple majority? There was a few minutes of discussion before the directors settled on a simple majority.

Mr Walsh was called into the meeting and opened up his laptop. He then handed a printout to all seven board members before taking them through his calculations. Jinnie was surprised how simple her father made the presentation and easily followed the calculations. Down the left-hand side he had listed a load of items such as “cost to buy outright”, “annual cost to lease”, “annual rates”, “conversion and fit out”, “annual kitchen income”, etc., that disappeared onto a second sheet. Then there were two columns headed Potters Bar and Barnet. The cells against the items were mostly filled with numbers in the columns under the locations.

Mr Walsh talked them through the numbers in the cells, explaining things like that there were options to buy or lease the Potters Bar site, but only to lease the Barnet; the conversion costs might change if they chose to have extra rooms and only Barnet need an allowance for gas being installed. As Jinnie’s dad explained, just about every item she noticed that just about everyone had skipped to the bottom line where the two totals were. The Barnet site was around £50,000 less than the Potters Bar site but there was a large asterisk against it. When Jinnie looked at the note it referred to she read, ‘Based on leasing the premises for four years. It will be at least an additional £48,000 pa after that, but there is a lease review in year five. The Potters Bar costs includes a rates holiday in years one and two.”

Mr Walsh finished his presentation and asked for questions. The first one got to the point immediately, asking which he considered the better option financially. He replied, “If you can afford to buy it outright I would say Potters Bar, it will cost much less in the long run. It also has a couple of other advantages, it is very close to the Trattoria Trevi and it is much bigger than Barnet, allowing you to expand the business without moving. If the business takes off as you hope you will be looking for a new site in a few years if you take on Barnet.” After a few more questions which Mr Walsh easily answered Alberto thanked him and asked if he would mind waiting in the bar while they discussed things. He said they might need to ask him a few questions, but he was welcome to help himself to a drink or two while waiting.

As far as Jinnie was concerned there was only one site that suited, Potters Bar and as the discussion proceeded she immediately marked Alberto and Guido on that side of the discussion. Two directors were clearly on the side of Barnet but she could not decide how the remaining two would vote. Twenty minutes of discussion later Jinnie was still none the wiser as to which way the final two would vote, their votes could swing it either way. When Alberto called for a vote the split was exactly as Jinnie had predicted with the 3 for Potters Bar and 2 for Barnet. But the next director abstained on the grounds that he wasn’t sure they should be expanding yet, making Jinnie wonder what Alberto would do if the final director went for Barnet and it was a dead heat. But her worry was killed when the final director voted for Potters Bar.

Jinnie found her dad in the bar with a cup of coffee and, pouring herself a cup, told him the board had made a decision and that it was the Potters Bar site. The future expansion possibilities seemed to have swung it despite it being a little more expensive in the short term. They were joined by Alberto who also poured himself a coffee and told them he had just rung Tony to tell him the board decision and to kick off the project formally the next morning. It was important they now secured the premises. Jinnie said, “I think I better ring Belinda and get her moving on full drawings for planning and building regulations before she takes on any work that might get in the way.”

Belinda was putting Melissa’s two children to bed, they were on a sleepover as their mum was out for a meal with some of her girlfriends and promised to ring her back in a few minutes. While waiting for the call she rejoined her dad and Alberto where her dad was giving Alberto an impromptu lesson in spreadsheets which appeared to be going over his head. Jinnie watched fascinated, she understood a little of what her dad was showing having played about a bit on her own laptop trying to write a spreadsheet to control her spending while at university. But some of the formulas and tricks he was explaining were way beyond her.

Jinnie’s mobile rang and she wandered into the empty restaurant to talk to Belinda. First she told her that the board had just decided to proceed with the dark kitchen project and that they were going for the Potters Bar option. “Excellent,” Belinda exclaimed, “There’s more work for me in that option.” Jinnie laughed and told her Tony would be running the project, but she had a few ideas she wanted to put to the board that if adopted would affect the project. She wanted to give her a heads-up so that she didn’t waste her team’s time producing drawings that had to be altered. Belinda laughed and said that all their drawings were produced as CAD 3D models using an architectural software package. This meant that once the existing building was modelled her designers could quickly add or delete walls, doors, windows ceilings, lights, machines and any other features. Andrew and Melissa took a copy of the model and added finishes and furniture to produce rendered images while the CAD operators produced the various drawings.

Belinda said they often had customers come into the office and they would alter the model while they watched and rotated the 3D model so that they could see the changes from every direction. Jinnie was intrigued and said that one day she would love to see that and Belinda told her that next time she visited the Turners Hill restaurant, to left her know and she would love to have one of them show her the software. Jinnie then explained how she was thinking that it might be better to bring accounts, finance and HR in-house and that would mean a bit more of the building being refurbished. Belinda said, “OK, I guess Tony will be able to expand on what is required.”

Jinnie then explained that she thought they were now growing big enough to need a finance director and that as she had made a great recommendation in Tony, did she know anyone suitable? Belinda was silent for a short while and then said, “I have just gone through a similar exercise, we have been growing so fast I needed to bring some departments in-house, particularly accounts, but it was easy with the latest software for PCs that allows us to produce things like orders and invoices in-house. It sorts out the wages, income tax, National Insurance and VAT, just about all the jobs the accountants used to do for us. But I too needed a finance director. Not full time but maybe just a day a week.” “That’s just what I think we need,” said Jinnie, “Did you find someone?” “Absolutely,” replied Belinda, “my husband Brian. He was an experienced finance director in a big company but took early retirement as he only wanted to work a couple of days a week. One day is working for me and he is still looking for a second job. He has had a couple of offers but has turned them down saying he didn’t like the people he would be working for, but I know he likes you!”

In Chapter 16 – The Finance Director

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