Jinnie’s Story – Book Five, Chapter Two

A Home Office

WorthingGooner, Going Postal
Jinnie’s Story.
Woman holding pistol,
Sofia Sforza
Unsplash licence

The day after Jinnie’s meeting with ‘C’ things started moving. In mid-morning Belinda arrived for a site visit to plan the garden office. Instead of bringing Andrew with her she was accompanied by Brain, who explained it was too good an opportunity of seeing their goddaughter. Belinda headed off down the garden with Jinnie who pointed out exactly where she wanted the office. Belinda started taking photographs and adding dimensions to a rough sketch she was making.

Larry was tucked up in the Wendy house and watched with interest through the part open door. He recognised Belinda and Brian from their previous visits to the house and rather liked Belinda who he knew was a cat lover and had two Ragdolls. He decided that whatever was being discussed was big as lots of arm waving and pointing was going on. Larry squeezed out of the door and padded across the lawn in time to hear Belinda say, “The nearest sewer runs across the edge of the Patio, that’s about 150 feet and it’s not deep enough to get a proper fall from the office. I think we will have to put in a macerater and pump the waste from the toilet to the sewer.”

Larry was intrigued and rubbed himself around Belinda’s leg while listening intently. Belinda bent down and stroked him, while continuing to explain. “We will dig a single trench to house all the services, power, broadband, water and drainage and bring them up through the concrete slab. I suggest we backfill the trench and make the area above it a path, possibly compacted gravel. I think we can put a roof over it, without the need for planning permission, provided we don’t put side panels on it.” Larry wondered what they were planning to build.

Belinda and Jinnie headed into the house, closely followed by Larry, and headed for the TV room where Brian was sitting holding his goddaughter while Paolo held his son. Belinda took over Millie and Brian took Willie while Paolo went to make coffee. Larry took his place on the sofa with his head in Jinnie’s lap and listened. Belinda was saying, “I can’t see any real problems. The trench needs to be fairly deep to ensure it is safe and ensure the pipes don’t freeze in winter. But we can put concrete protection blocks over them to warn anyone in the future digging. Now we need to know how big an office you want as that will affect the price.”

‘Ah,’ thought Larry, ‘Jinnie is going to have a garden office. I wonder if she has thought about a cat flap so that I can visit her and keep her company when she is working?’ Belinda pulled a couple of brochures from her briefcase and handed them to Jinnie explaining that they always put the most expensive in the front, and the cheapest at the back of the brochure. Jinnie flicked through both brochures before coming back to one right in the front of the first. It had lots of glass in the front and sides, a double door, a pent roof and two rooms. Belinda nodded, noted the model, before asking, “Have you thought about size?”

Jinnie said, “Yes, it needs to be big. I see they do one that is 5m x 4m, I think that should do. Do we go for their double-glazing option?” “Definitely not,” replied Belinda “I want to use the company I always use for replacement windows and doors and put in triple glazing. I will talk to the makers and ask for a trade discount and a reduction for them not supplying doors and windows. Mind, I will go for the thicker timber options, pressure-treated timber and we can paint it any colour you want. Oh, and do you want a cat flap in one of the walls?” Larry was delighted when Jinnie answered, “Of course.”

When Belinda and Brian said they should be going, Paolo said it was lunchtime and he was hungry. How about they try the Super Burger delivery service? It was quickly agreed and four cheeseburgers and chips were ordered accompanied by milkshakes. Belinda was impressed with the speed of the delivery and said to Brian that they could soon be ordering from the Crawley kitchen! This reminded Jinnie that she had given a commitment that the first Crawley kitchens would be ready in four months and asked Belinda how the design was coming along.

Belinda said, “Andrew, Melissa and the team have given up much of their Christmas holidays to finalise the design and drawings. They had been moving the server room and staff locker room and showers into the office area making space for two additional kitchens.” “Wow, I feel guilty them giving up their break,” said Jinnie. “Don’t be,” said Belinda, “they are on double time and a day off later in the year and all volunteered. I think they are almost done. I will ring you in the morning as I think we need to agree the next step if we are going to meet the deadline.” Brian chipped in saying, “I don’t see how the four months can have started running down yet the new company hasn’t started up and an order hasn’t been placed. In fact, we haven’t had a firm price yet, or officially bought the site!”

In the middle of the afternoon, Jinnie’s mobile rang, it was Jerry from Super Burger. He explained he had been talking to his chairman and they had agreed that things needed to move on quickly. He suggested that they draw up their recommendations for a board of directors and have a kickoff board meeting in the Ramada Inn in Crawley High Street, it had meeting rooms with Wi-Fi, plenty of parking and was within easy walking distance of Crawley Station or a short taxi ride from Three Bridges Station. Jinnie asked “When?” and Jerry said, “Friday afternoon.” Jinnie replied, “OK, I think that should be possible, but I’ll confirm later today. Now a question, how many directors are we each naming?” Jerry thought a moment and said, “I have discussed this with my chairman and we propose six each plus the agreed chairman who will only vote in the event of a tied vote.”


On Friday morning Jinnie left the twins in the capable hands of her sister and together with Alberto and Guido caught the train to London and changed at Blackfriars for Three Bridges. At Three Bridges Station they grabbed a cab to the Turners Hill restaurant where they were meeting the other four directors. Jinnie was proposing for a pre-meeting over lunch. Jinnie wanted to be on the front foot and to have briefed her team on her plan.

Jinnie looked around the table and was satisfied. Brian as finance director had been virtually agreed. Then she had Belinda who she wanted to name as construction director. Then Alphonso who had proved an excellent manager of people. Guido who she trusted implicitly, Dirk who she knew was a great all-rounder and her ace in the hole, her old room mate Nigel whom she wanted as IT director, there would be no funny business with phones or computers if he was on board. She rather suspected that Super Burger would want their man as IT director but with Alberto as chairman, she was going to win any vote. The team had a pleasant lunch and Jinnie was delighted to see that Nigel had really come out of himself at GCHQ. He was every bit a businessman in a smart suit and not the painfully shy geeky student he had been when they first met. No one would ever guess he was a spook!

Belinda had a set of drawings and rendered images together with a fully costed quotation. The team went through the quote and found that Belinda had included several items that Jinnie had no idea were necessary, like repairs to the roof that was leaking into the production area and re-tarmacking the worker’s car park where rain was pooling. Jinnie read that in the two kitchens to be leased by Trattoria Trevi, the goods lifts had been replaced by lean lifts and she had no idea what they were. Belinda explained that they were a vertical storage system where goods could be loaded on a tray and the lift would take it up to a storage slot for later recall as a computer kept track of where everything was and could deliver items in seconds. The idea was items could be taken out of long-term storage on the ground floor and loaded into the lean lift. It could be retrieved quickly on the first floor where the computer would return it in seconds and flag up that it needed reloading when its storage levels got low. Belinda said she had discussed this with Alberto and Guido who loved the idea, they both admitted that supplying fresh ingredients to the kitchens was time-consuming and labour-intensive.

Nigel listened with interest and started asking computer questions which were way out of Belinda’s capabilities. She said she would show him the quote from the supplier and if he needed any additional information she would put him in touch with the company saying he was her IT expert. Nigel then wanted to know about what had been allowed for servers and networks, desktop computers and communications, even telephones. Once again Belinda explained that she had a computer company she usually dealt with and they had sized and costed everything. She pulled the quote out of her bag and Nigel consumed it avidly, quickly saying it looked very comprehensive and that he was happy to see that no particular suppliers’ hardware was included, allowing them to go out to tender.

When they set off to the startup board meeting it was agreed that it would look better if they didn’t all arrive together. Belinda took Jinnie, Brian took Alberto and they agreed that if anyone asked, they had picked them up from Three Bridges. Alphonso drove himself, as did Nigel who had driven up from Cheltenham and Dirk ordered a taxi. On the drive to the hotel, Jinnie let Belinda in on a secret idea and asked her how she felt about it. Belinda thought about it for a minute and said she was comfortable with it provided it didn’t interfere with her staff or current customers. Jinnie assured her that if everything went as she planned it would not really affect her staff.

Jinnie expected the Ramada Inn to be one of those glass and steel modern monstrosities but this was nothing like that. It was a really old building with white walls and black timber beams on the outside. Belinda explained it was Grade II listed, and parts of the current building were thought to date back to 1615. The ladies were met at reception by a smart, pretty young lady who introduced herself as Rosanna (‘please call me Ro’). She explained that she worked in Super Burgers HR department and as the junior she had been given the task of organising the meeting. Ro lead them to the meeting room where a large table was laid out with seven seats either side and a single seat at the head of the table. Bottles of water and squash were arranged in the centre of the table with bowls of boiled sweets and mint imperials. In front of each place was a glass, a new lined pad and an ink pen. On a side table were thermal jugs of tea and coffee and plates of biscuits.

Jinnie asked Ro if this was her work and when she said yes Jinnie thanked her. Ro smiled and said it was her job then hurried off to reception to receive other arrivals. Belinda said to Jinnie, “Nice girl, just the sort of person I would employ.” Jinnie thought, ‘And me.’ Ro was back shortly with Jerry and a man and woman Jinnie didn’t know, together with Brian and Alberto. Next to arrive was Nigel, then the man, Mick, who had accompanied Jerry at the original negotiations. The two groups had poured themselves teas and coffees and arranged themselves in company groups either side of the table. Ro was back with the last arrivals, Alphonso and two men who Jinnie assumed were the last of the Super Burger nominations.

Alberto tapped the glass in front of him and called the meeting together, seeing Ro slipping out of the room he called her back and asked if she did shorthand. She said yes but she was a bit out of practice as she hadn’t been called to use it since joining Super Burgers. He asked if anyone had any objections to her remaining and taking the minutes of the meeting. Getting no objections she pulled up a chair to the far end of the table, from somewhere produced a shorthand pad and put a selection of ink pens in front of her.

Finally, the meeting got underway and it proceed to sort out the directors. There was no argument over Jinnie being MD as both sides had already agreed it. Brian was quickly confirmed as finance director and Jerry as sales director. It was no surprise to Jinnie when Jerry proposed the woman, Aimee, he had brought along as HR director, she looked exactly as Jinnie thought an HR director would look and was apparently deputy director of HR for Super Burgers. Jinnie then introduced Nigel and said she wanted him as IT director saying he was highly qualified and came with endorsements from the very top. Jerry said he wanted one of his guys, Rupert, to be IT director. He was currently deputy director of Super Burgers IT department and the department was very successful, and well run with a secure network.

Nigel snorted loudly and pulled his phone from his pocket. He tapped a few keys and turned to the rest of the meeting said, “I have just accessed the Super Burgers network, now I could go in many directions, I could call up any of your HR records, I could read your group accounts, I can access your email servers and read the private communications between Jerry and the chairman setting out your strategy for this meeting and show it to everyone or I could crash the whole IT system. Now I don’t think that is a successful and well-run system and it certainly isn’t secure, I don’t want this company’s system to be so insecure. Anybody want to check I am actually in your network?” After that Nigel’s appointment was unopposed.

Mick was unopposed as COO and all the remaining men were appointed directors but without departments to run. That left Belinda who Jinnie introduced as her nominee for construction director. Mick looked up in surprise saying, “But we don’t have a construction department.” Jinnie said, “No, but we should have. Think about it for a minute. If we go out to tender for two projects a year we could save hundreds of thousands a year. If we put a £2,000,000 project out to tender, the winner is going to be taking between five and ten percent profit. If we do it in-house we save as much as £200,000 a project. Now I propose we take Belinda’s company in-house and run it as our construction division, but we continue to let Belinda run it as a refurbishment company taking on its own projects. I know for a fact that Belinda has been successful in acquiring a huge government project to refurbish the home office and is in pole position to refurbish several floors of another government building in Vauxhall. Now if she wins that she might have a cash flow problem, but as part of a bigger organisation that goes away and we make a bigger profit to reinvest in our business.” Jinnie was delighted when after a short discussion Belinda was confirmed as construction division director and it was agreed to open discussions with her to acquire her company.

The next thing discussed was temporary offices until they could move into the offices next to the kitchens on Manor Royal. Jinnie suggested that it would make sense to take space in one of the serviced offices in Manor Royal, that way staff would be working close to the offices being refurbished for them and a move would be easy. Jerry suggested Astral Towers. Belinda said the offices there were very nice but not cheap, she knew that because she had refurbished several of them. She added that there were several serviced offerings on Manor Royal and it would make sense to get quotes and see what was on offer. But first they needed to know for how many and for how long.

After a quick count, Aimee suggest that a core team of no more than a dozen was necessary with perhaps half a dozen individual offices. When it came to how long for they all turned to Belinda. She said, “I can have offices for that core team ready in about two months once the building is released to me for refurbishment. However, I will need decisions on lots of things like colour schemes, furniture, computers, servers, phones. And not all services will be ready, I doubt if the air conditioning will be up and running, the staff canteen won’t be ready, there won’t be any meeting rooms and only limited toilet facilities will be available. There will be a lot of work still going on even in the offices and the Dark Kitchens will be a mess. There will be a lot of noise and dust until the work is fully finished. The first three kitchens will be finished in four months from handover and I think we can have the offices fully completed by then but it’s going to take at least another two months to complete the remaining eight offices.

Aimee turned to Ro and said, “I hope you have minuted that because I want you to investigate the best-serviced offices and costs for two months.” Jinnie thought, ‘I am going to have to watch her, giving out jobs to people without being asked and no please or thank you.’ Jinnie turn to Ro and said, “If you can do that I would be very grateful. If you know how to use a spreadsheet it might be a good idea to put it on one. If you have problems please ask Nigel, he really is a computer wizard and I am sure he will teach you exactly how to do it.” Nigel smiled and said, “Of course, please don’t hesitate in asking me. I know I can come over as a bit tough at times but really I am a big pussy cat.”

Alberto then suggested that they needed to set up a remuneration committee as they now had 14 directors and a chairman and only the managing director had an agreed remuneration package. Jinnie suggested that the committee should be made up from two Super Burger nominees and two Trattoria Trevi nominees. Jinnie suggested that the committee should be chaired by Alphonso. He immediately asked if the board had any guidelines and Brian said that it was normal to pay a working departmental director more than the other directors. In addition, he suggested that there should be some sort of profit sharing scheme for directors and senior staff and a bonus scheme for ordinary staff.

Jinnie said, “Now the company is up and running we need to get it all squared up by our lawyers and signed off, we need a company name, we need to buy the Manor Royal site and we either need to give Belinda an order or purchase her company. As I think we need to move quickly on this I suggest we place the order on Belinda and then we can take it easy purchasing her company. Brian, I think all of this is within your remit, can you handle it please? I suggest we call the company Dark Kitchens Limited. I see no objections so that’s agreed. Is there any other business we need to discuss, because I would like to get home to my babies? Oh, I hope you haven’t counted me in for one of those core offices, I am in the middle of getting a home office up and running. If I have to come to Crawley for any reason before the core offices are available I can use a meeting room in the serviced offices, they all hire them by the day, even the hour.”

With that Alberto called the meeting to a close. As they moved out of the meeting room Ro approached Jinnie and said, “Mrs De Luca, I have been asked to find you a personal assistant to be based in Crawley, so that they can look after your mail, calls, appointments etc. when you are working from home. I have been to a number of agencies and have lined up four people for you to interview. Would it be possible for you to come back to Crawley on Tuesday to interview them? I think we can get a room here to carry out the interviews, I don’t think there is any chance that the serviced offices will be ready by then.” Jinnie chuckled and said, “I suspect you are right. As the schools are still off I’m sure my mum will babysit so please make the arrangements for Tuesday with the first one at say 11 o’clock. Oh, and one other thing, please call me Jinnie.”

In Chapter 3 – A Personal Assistant

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