Jinnie’s Story, Book Four – Chapter Sixteen

The Finance Director

WorthingGooner, Going Postal
Trieste had stayed in Slovenia at the end of the last conflict.
Italy, Trieste,
Daniel Enchev
Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Jinnie had a chat with some of her fellow directors to try to find out what they thought about bringing some of the work currently done by the accountants in-house. Jinnie made the point that with modern software much of the work could be computerised and could almost certainly be done by one person who would be able to look after a computerised purchasing system linked to accounts and sales software. Alberto was quick to see the advantages of bringing as much in-house as possible. He pointed out to Jinnie just how much they were paying the accountants and how quickly it was increasing as the business grew as they were charged by the hour. He said he had been thinking on similar lines himself and had already spoken to a couple of software vendors.

Jinnie and Alberto decided to combine forces and investigate the possibility and costs of bringing much of the accountants in-house. The first thing to do was to see just what software could do, how much it would cost, what computers would be needed, was a cloud version appropriate and could it be linked with the existing restaurant kitchen ordering system and the table reservation system used by the front desk. Jinnie and Alberto knew little about computers and their software and set out to find out more. Jinnie told Alberto that Belinda had computerised her business and had pulled most of the accounting in-house on cost grounds while maintaining links to her accountants. If Belinda could do it so could they.

Jinnie decided that she would also talk to Alberto about her idea of a part-time finance director. She explained to him how she thought they needed someone with specialist knowledge who could advise them on money matters now they were growing fast. If they hired the right one they may have knowledge of accounting software. Somewhere at the back of Jinnie’s mind she seemed to remember being told that in the early days of computers being introduced to businesses they had been driven by finance departments before other departments had software written for them such as HR, engineering and, of course, word processing which everyone seemed to use these days. But in many smaller companies, IT still came under Finance.

Alberto listened intently, finally he said, “I have been delighted by your dad’s assistance with spreadsheets, but we have been relying on our accountants for financial advice and that worries me. They may well be working in our best interests but sometimes I think their advice could be influenced by what gives them the best fees. Advice from someone who works for us and has our best interests at heart could be invaluable. You have clearly been thinking about this, do you have someone in mind?”

Jinnie replied, “You know me too well! Do you remember Belinda’s husband Brian? He retired as a finance director from a big company a few months ago, with the intention of taking on a couple of part-time jobs. He is doing one day a week for Belinda’s company but would like another day elsewhere. He has been for a number of interviews and has been offered jobs but has so far turned them down.” “Wouldn’t they pay him enough?” asked Alberto. “It’s not like that, Belinda says the money is unimportant to him, he is on a couple of good pensions and doesn’t need to work. But he wants to do a job where he can do something interesting, help grow a company and work with people he likes. My only worry is a conflict of interests if we continue to use Belinda.” “Let’s talk to him,” said Alberto “I’m sure we can convince the board if we think he is our man.”

The following morning Jinnie was busy doing some routine paperwork when her phone rang. Without looking at the display she announced, “Jinnie Du Luca,” and heard Emma say, “Can you get up here ASAP, ‘C’ has the PM and the Foreign Secretary with him and wants us both to join them.” “On my way,” Jinnie replied. Gathering up the paperwork she locked it in a drawer and called to Alan, “I have been commanded to see God.” “What have you been up to?” he called back.

The three men were enjoying a cup of the director’s coffee while waiting. The two girls tapped on ‘C’s door to join the men around a coffee table in the corner of the huge office. Nigel said, “Hello” and introduced them to the Foreign Secretary. He quickly explained that word had reached him from the Austrian resistance that they and the Slovenians were close to an uprising against their German occupiers. He explained that the Germans considered Austria to be part of Germany and one of the last places they expected to revolt. Subsequently, it was only lightly occupied unlike say Denmark where the Germans knew they were hated. The problem was they want assistance from Britain, the Commonwealth and the freed nations.

Of course, he was willing to help but the timescale was the problem. The allies had no plans for a war in that area like the Germans they had always considered Austria to be close politically to Germany and unlikely to revolt all the planning had revolved around the likes of Denmark, Poland, Finland and the Baltic states. The Austrians were itching to get moving and it was going to take several months to get forces into the area. Even then the options were limited for the allied nations only Italy had borders with both Austria and Slovenia and much of that was mountainous. However, Nigel said he had just spoken with Berlusconi and he was willing to get involved particularly as Trieste had stayed in Slovenia at the end of the last conflict and historically he said it was Italian.

So Nigel said he had been thinking about what to do. The Foreign Secretary joined in saying that they needed to play for time while the Army, Navy and Airforce drew up a plan with the Italians and whomever else would join in. The initial thought was to get agents and special forces into Austria and Slovenia to train them and hence stall the revolt until the allies were prepared. But the problem, he said, was how to get them there in sufficient numbers and to get arms to them.

Nigel picked up the narrative. “I think that’s where your department comes in. You are the specialists in this sort of thing. We need to get pairs of operators into both Austria and Slovenia. However, we have a fair number of German speakers in both the SIS and SAS so that makes Austrian infiltration relatively easy. But I suspect we have very few speakers of Slovenian, fortunately, the Germans have been pushing the German language throughout the occupied territories and amongst the younger population it has become quite well understood. I suggest we use what Slovenian speakers we have and bring in German speakers with a cover of them being either Austrians or German as they would not be expected to speak Slovenian.”

Jinnie thought for a moment before asking, “Do you want me involved on the ground.” “Heavens no,” replied Nigel “Firstly as a director you are far too valuable to be used as an agent, secondly I know you are expecting and by the time this is all in play and the military is ready I suspect we are looking at spring this year and you will be on maternity leave. Now I know your sister is an ideal person for one of these agents and you have plans to get her to New York and Washington in late June. I think this will fit together quite well. It is going to take quite a while to get this planned and I want to build up agents in place slowly.”

“How much of this can I disclose to my team?” Asked Jinnie. “Well Alan will obviously need to know” said Nigel, “and maybe your sister, but perhaps we should not spoil her trip to America. But we need to keep this close to our chests and only tell people when strictly necessary. Not that I don’t trust your people but the fewer who know the whole story the better. Let’s try to make people believe the missions we plan are unconnected.”

Jinnie got back to her office, closed the door and sat at her desk for a while. She was thinking about what Nigel had said about Trieste, that until the 1939 war it had been Italian. Did they still speak Italian there? Did the Italians have connections? If so it would be ideal for her sister and a partner as she spoke German and Italian. The more she thought about it the better an idea she thought it was. She picked up the scrambler phone and dialled ‘C’s extension only for Emma to answer. ‘C’ had taken the PM and the Foreign Secretary to lunch in the director’s dining room. Wonderful, I can still catch them all.

Jinnie hurried to the dining room and quickly spotted the three men sitting together on a table for four in a corner with their heads together talking while waiting for their food. Nigel was applying butter to a crispy roll when Jinnie slipped into the empty chair. ‘C’ glanced up and said, “Jinnie, if I thought you would join us I would have invited you but I don’t think I have ever seen you here before.” Jinnie explained, “I’m not here to eat, I just need 5 minutes with you gentlemen. Can you give me a few minutes in private, in your office, after your lunch?” “Of course,” said ‘C’, “shall I ring you?”

Greta fetched Jinnie a roast beef and horseradish handwich and Jinnie asked Alan to join her. She quickly briefed him, warning him that it was top secret, and tried her outline plan for Penny on him. He listened and said, “Hasn’t she got experience from the Nice landings?” “Yes,” replied Jinnie, “and training resistance fighters, but I was her partner, she will need a new one.” “Easy,” said Alan, “it has to be the SAS man Steven, they work well together.” They had started to sketch an outline plan when Jinnie’s phone rang. After a couple of yes and no’s she said to Alan, “Come we are going to meet the PM.”

The three men where back at the coffee table in ‘C’s office when Jinnie and Alan arrived. They were quickly briefed on their plan for Penny. Jinnie explained that she guessed that the older people around Trieste would speak Italian while the youngsters would speak German making it an ideal place for Penny to go and that she should be partnering Steven as they worked well together. But Jinnie wanted permission to approach the Italians as she suggested it was almost certain they had agents in Slovenia and that the Italians would support an action to recover Trieste and, at a push, Slovenia. Nigel nodded and said yes there was logic in that. The Army hadn’t yet decided on how they where going to attack and who was going to join them was still subject to political negotiations but he had another call booked to Berlusconi later that day to confirm their intention to join the battle and he would broach the subject with him.

Back in her office, Jinnie’s mind wandered to her other problem of hiring a finance director. A plan began to form in her head, but she needed to talk to Alberto and that would have to wait until she ring him on the train home that evening. She and Alan decided to start with the easy bit and start looking at routes to Italy around the 10th of July and working up legends for Penny and Steven as Germans in Slovenia. Just before going home that evening Jinnie’s scrambler phone rang. Answering it she found herself talking to the PM, who said he had just finished chatting with the Italian PM and he was all up for her sister being placed in the Trieste area. He said he didn’t know personally about cells in the area but she should talk to her husband, he would be briefed and would make a trusted go-between and to chat to Dirk, he was trusted and was still in contact with cells in Austria from his Berlin days.

On the train from Finsbury Park to Hadley Wood Jinnie rang Alberto. It was her first attempt to use her mobile on the train since the much-advertised upgrade to the phone signal in the tunnels out of Kings Cross. She was delighted to find that the call connected immediately. She asked Alberto if he had managed to arrange a chat with Belinda’s husband yet. He said he hadn’t and Jinnie said, “Good, I have an idea. Let’s try it informally. Is the chef’s table at Turners Hill ready yet?” “Yes,” replied Alberto, “But it’s not in use yet. We are holding it back until the extension is ready.” Jinnie asked, “What if you and I invite Belinda and Brian to dine at it ‘as a trial’? We can manipulate the conversation and find how he would feel about working a day a week for us, at the same time we can see it he is the right man for us.” “I like the idea,” said Alberto, “the next question is when?”

Jinnie rang Belinda and invited her and Brian to help them test the Turners Hill ‘chef’s table’ on the next Friday evening, Belinda was delighted. Jinnie explained it would be an excellent opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. They could help test the new facility and she could also update her and Alberto on the extension works.

Jinnie drove her company Jaguar to work on Friday morning and parked in her reserved spot in the building’s underground car park. As she climbed out of the car she decided she was only too pleased she didn’t drive to work every day, London traffic was truly horrendous. Alberto was going to get the train and tube and meet her outside Vauxhall tube station after work and she would drive them to Turners Hill and back to Hertfordshire after their meeting. Jinnie had left her husband to make his own dinner and to feed Larry. She had a little bet with herself that he brings in fish and chips, with an extra small Cod for the cat!

Jinnie and Alberto arrived just before the official opening time of six o’clock and had a wander around to look at the progress with the project. It was well-fenced but every so often there were mesh viewing ports in the hoardings around the site. Jinnie was delighted to see that a steel frame was starting to go up and various beams and joists were laid out in a stockyard. In another corner were stacks of red bricks, concrete blocks and a cement mixer. Jinnie could just make out the tops of walls peeping out of various trenches. Her dad had said to her that once a building got out of the ground it went up quickly!

Jinnie and Alberto made their way to the restaurant where they were greeted by Alphonso who told them the restaurant was fully booked for two sittings that evening and he had turned away numerous customers. They opted to sit at the bar and watch the action. Jinnie was impressed the standard of service hadn’t dropped from the re-opening night and although they needed to move the first sitting on quickly the customers didn’t appear to be hurried.

When Belinda and Brian arrived Alphonso led them to their table in the corner of the kitchen. Jinnie explained the concept of the chef’s table and how successful it was in Potters Bar and their hopes for it in Turners Hill once the work was complete. She told them that they would appreciate their critique of the concept. They could order anything they wanted from the menu, that was how the table worked, everything was included in the cost of the table except wine priced on the wine list at over £35 a bottle.

Initially the conversation was all around the new extension. Belinda said that progress was excellent, all the ground works were complete, the foundations, new sewer pipes and cableways were complete and the ground workers had left the site. The council building control officer had signed off on the foundations and cleared them to start erecting the building’s steel frame and to build the walls up to ground floor level when he would return to inspect them before giving the OK to install the concrete block and beam floor. But the good news was they were two days ahead of programme.

When they were halfway through their main courses Jinnie managed to steer the conversation around to Brian and asked how he was enjoying his retirement. Brian explained that it was hard work as he was now working in the garden 4 days a week as the gardener’s assistant. Jinnie asked, “Why four days?” already knowing the answer. Brian told them that he worked Fridays for Belinda’s refurbishment and fit-out company as chief financial officer. However, he had always planned to work two days a week but was struggling to find another part-time job that he thought he would enjoy doing.

Turning to Belinda she asked, “How do you get on working with your husband?” Laughingly Belinda replied “Great, but it’s only one day a week! No, really he has been a revelation on the financial side. He has revolutionised our accounts saving us a small fortune with the accountants. We have brought in online accounting software so any changes in tax or VAT are installed by the software provider and it is always up to date. It’s modular so we can rent just as much as we need. We have brought our wages back in-house. It links to the bank and the Revenue so we can pay all our tax, national insurance and VAT online. The accountants never have to physically see our books as when it comes to time to sign off on the accounts it is all done online.”

Belinda continued, “All our orders and invoices go out by email directly from the system and best of all it’s all done by one girl. I expect to turn over a minimum of £3,000,000 this year and we do it with one full-time girl and one part-time Brian.” Alberto put down his knife and fork and said, “That software sounds just what we need, we send out orders for food and wine virtually daily, but invoices not so much, we only have a few corporate accounts that we bill by snail mail. Tell me can you set minimum stock levels so the system automatically reorders.” Belinda shrugged, “It’s not something we need, just about every job is different and we don’t often carry stock.” Brian picked up the conversation, “Yes it can, as Belinda says she doesn’t need it. But I could see how a business like yours would. I would suggest it should be integrated with your ordering system so that it knows what is selling and you can either set it to automatically reorder or to flag up a message warning that stock was low.”

“Thinking about it a bit more, there is a module that can be used to email all your customers on your database with adverts or announcements,” said Brian. “What database,” muttered Alberto. Turning to Jinnie, Alberto said, “I see now why you have been nagging me to look at accounting software.”

Driving back to Hertfordshire Jinnie and Alberto had a lot to talk about. Both of them were happy with the progress on the extension. The chef’s table had been very good, the food and service had been spot on, getting an excellent review from Belinda and Brian. Alberto said that he was absolutely convinced that they needed to computerise the business and take accounting in-house. Finally, the conversation turned to the need for a finance director and was Brian the man. Both Alberto and Jinnie admitted being impressed, not just by his knowledge, but also by his personality, and they both liked him. It was agreed they would report back to the board that they had found a finance director and leave it at that. Once hired they would then give him a free hand to sort out the computer system and accounting software. The only questions was how much should they pay him and was there any possible conflict of interest. Alberto said he had no idea how much a part-time finance director was paid. Jinnie said neither did she, perhaps they should offer him the job and ask him how much he wanted and to see if they could afford it.

In Chapter 17 – Further planning.

© WorthingGooner 2022