Just before 8 o’clock on Thursday morning Jinnie drove her Lexus up to the car park barrier and pressed the button labelled “Visitors please press for entry.” She heard it buzz and within seconds she heard Ro’s voice say, “Good morning, DKL, how can I help you?” Jinnie said, “Good morning Ro, it’s Jinnie.” “Oh,” she replied, “Belinda said you were coming, but I didn’t expect you yet, you must have left very early. I’ll meet you at reception.” And with that, a buzzer sounded and the gate slid open. Jinnie drove around to her MD parking space and immediately noticed EV chargers in two of the visitors’ parking spaces.
She strolled round to the reception and through the glass door saw Ro sat at the reception desk. Before she could push the entrance bell Ro spotted her, waved and buzzed her in. Ro said, “Good morning Boss,” and handed her a swipe card on a lanyard. Ro said, “That’s your magic access all areas card. That is the first one I have made on my own, so I hope it works!” Jinnie leant over the reception desk and saw Ro was using a desktop computer and what looked like a payment swipe machine, but instead of reading the card it wrote to it. Jinnie said, “I thought you were making temporary passes.” “I was,” Ro answered, “but Nigel said ‘we could do better’ and half an hour later a motorbike courier delivered this writer, a box of 200 blank cards and the software on a memory stick. Jed set it up and showed me how to use it. He’s very smart you know.”
Looking around reception, Jinnie saw it was nearly ready, but the furniture was still missing and much of the carpet tiles were covered in cardboard protection. Ro saw her looking and said, “The furniture is in a 40-foot container in the car park waiting for someone to become available to bring it in and take the plastic off and the cardboard is down because it was raining yesterday! They wandered up to Jinnie’s office, using Jinnie’s new card to open the doors on the way. Ro explained, “Nigel had always planned this system and the locks were installed on the doors but not activated. So he just got the suppliers to send the final bits over.”
Jinnie saw what Belinda had meant, the general office floor was bedlam. People were carrying desk parts up the fire escape stairs from the car park. Belinda was standing at the top of the stairs with a drawing, directing the porters to where the next bench desks were required. A gang of fitters were erecting the desks and their dividing screens. Peter had a trolly laden with boxed computers, monitors, monitor arms, computer holders and boxes of cables and was leaving a set at each position. Personal under-desk filing cabinets were everywhere as were departmental ones and runs of StorageWall cupboards were being installed. Nigel and Jed were busy installing the computers with the aid of one of Peter’s men who was unpacking the equipment for them. Everywhere there were piles of cardboard, polystyrene packing, plastic bags and discarded assembly instructions.
Jinnie said to Ro, “I thought we were only getting a delivery of enough furniture to accommodate the first batch of employees.” “So did I,” answered Ro, “But it seems the furniture supplier had a storage problem at their warehouse and just shipped everything. When Belinda spoke to them they just said as their fitters were on site it seemed appropriate and they would stay until everything was in place.” Ro led Jinnie to her office and suggested Jinnie use her ‘magic’ card to gain entry. Ro’s area was set up with her desk, computer, A4/A3 printer, chair, two visitor chairs, wardrobe, several filing cabinets and a coffee machine. The corporate purple of the desk screen was echoed by the chair’s seat cushion, while the back was in corporate grey. To the right, Brian was in his office working between a PC and a laptop. We waved through the open door and said, “I’m busy transferring data from the lightweight version of the accounting system to the new full-blown integrated system that Nigel installed on Tuesday. I’m nearly there and then I’ll pop in for a coffee and a chat.” Turning to her own office she noticed Ro putting on the filter coffee machine that was sitting on top of a filing cabinet. Jinnie tapped her card on the reader and was satisfied to hear the lock click open. The furniture in her office was similar to Brian and Ro’s and obviously a step up from the bench desks in the general office, but the style was common. Hanging her anorak in the wardrobe she sat at her desk and adjusted her chair to a comfortable position. Next she checked her desktop PC and was adjusting it for height when Ro appeared with a bone china mug of coffee. One sniff and she realised it was Jamaica Blue Mountain, someone had been listening.
The computer was exactly the same as the one in her home office and when she logged on it exactly echoed it. ‘Gosh,’ she thought, ‘Nigel and Jed have been busy.’ She had hardly started looking at her emails when Brian came in, carrying a mug of coffee, closed the door and sat down in one of her visitor chairs. He glanced through the partition and, satisfied that Ro was busy, said to Jinnie, “I need to talk to you about your PA.” “You have a problem with her?” asked Jinnie. “Exactly the opposite,” replied Brian, “She is fantastic. She has worked like an absolute Trojan to get this place set up. I got here a 7:30 this morning and she was washing the office windows. She is bright, cheerful and nothing is ever too much for her. As I have been doing the wages I know she is officially on trial.”
Jinnie said, “She shouldn’t be, I hired her on a full-time contract and always had the intention to increase her wages after she had proved herself. I told Aimee to put her on the full-time payroll, to add her to the senior pension fund and to the profit-sharing bonus scheme as soon as we set one up.” Brian said, “Well I know Aimee didn’t like her, but everyone else thinks the world of her so I would suggest that £28,000 a year is not enough for what she does and I have been setting up the senior pension scheme and she is not on the list. The only person other than the directors is Nigel’s PA, Jed.”
“Bloody Aimee,” said Jinnie, “How did she think she’d get away with it? I hired her on £35,000 pa, a place in the non-contributory pension scheme and an expenses account.” “Well it looks like she has been stitched up by Aimee,” said Brian. Jinnie pick up her desk phone to call in Ro, but found it difficult to operate until Brian showed her which button to press. He explained, “It is one of these flashy modern systems and displays all sorts of things, you can even take the screen with you around the building and it acts as an iPad and you still get your calls.”
Ro came in looking worried. Jinnie smiled and asked her to sit down. “We have an apology to make,” said Jinnie, “I have just found out that we have been underpaying you, that you don’t yet have an expense account and company credit card and your name is not on the list for the pension fund, although it is only being set up right now. I told Aimee what a wanted and it looks like she deliberately didn’t do it. I am so sorry but Brian will put it right this afternoon and I always intended to put your salary up once you had proved yourself so Brian will change the system to pay you £40,000 pa back to when you started.”
“Thank you,” said Ro, “I did wonder if something had gone wrong, but as I had only just joined the company I thought it might sort itself out so I didn’t say anything. I knew Aimee didn’t like me but that was just nasty.” Jinnie asked, “Looking around you must have paid for things like the coffee machine, coffee, milk and mugs out of your own money. Please make a list and give it to Brian, he will refund you out of the petty cash.” Brian added, “Don’t worry if you don’t have all the receipts, I’ll still make sure you are refunded in full. And as soon as I leave this meeting I’m going to sort things out and phone the bank for your company credit card.”
As soon as she had finished going through her emails Jinnie left her office, slipping the desk phone pad in her jeans pocket. She headed for Belinda and asked what she should do. Belinda said, “Can you join Ro in moving the packaging out and dumping it in the appropriate skip. There is one for plastic and one for cardboard, glass and metal. The third one is for plasterboard, but I don’t think there is any left in the office, only in the Kitchens. Oh, and before you go I must say how could Aimee do that to Ro, she is such a sweet girl.”
Jinnie and Ro were soon plodding up and down the fire escape stairs, carrying armfuls of cardboard. Jinnie looked up and saw Peter looking at them and laughing. He called them over and said, “Why doesn’t one of you collect the stuff up here and drop it over the stairs while the other collects it on the ground and puts it in the skips? It will save all that trudging up and down the stairs.” They kept going and when Jinnie saw the burger van arrive she said to Ro, “You go and get the coffee on and I’ll buy you lunch, what do you want?” Ro replied, “I could kill for a cheeseburger and chips, I’m starving. But I normally get the senior staff’s stuff as well.” So Jinnie got the orders for Belinda, Brian, Nigel, Jed and Peter.
They all joined Jinnie in her office to eat lunch and discuss progress. Belinda said she was happy that everything in the offices would be ready for Monday and that they would be advanced enough for interviews the next day if they used the ground floor meeting rooms and boardroom. Brian said he was OK and had his first account hirings lined up to start on Monday. Nigel said he had people to interview so he would need a meeting room. Jinnie and Brian rang the other directors over the road in the serviced offices and agreed on rooms for Angela to interview people for HR, Jerry for salesmen and a sales manager. Mick needed a couple of people to work centrally on administration and Rupert who had been beaten to the IT director’s job by Nigel wanted extra bodies in procurement, he already had a manager but need two more bodies.
Jinnie looked at the list from the agency and said, “We have also got people coming for call handlers, delivery drivers, cleaners, receptionists, mailmen, an odd job man and a nurse. Who is going to interview them? Belinda said, “How about you and me, I’m sure we can do it between us.” “That’s OK with me,” said Jinnie. “What time is the first appointment?” “9:30,” replied Ro, “The agency that has been sifting the applications has cut out a number of time wasters and has emailed an appointments list under each category. How about I man the reception desk? Someone is going to have to let all these people in and check them off the list.” Jed spoke up for the first time and said, “I could work with Ro and guide people to the right interview rooms.” Jinnie said, “Yes, that sounds like a plan.” But she didn’t miss the little smile that passed between Ro and Jed.
Ro slipped back into her office and came back with a sheaf of printouts that read ‘Interview Room A’, ‘Interview Room B’, etc. and she and Jed disappeared with a pack of BlueTac to stick them on meeting room doors. It was agreed that the boardroom would be their break room with tea, coffee, cold drinks and snacks. Belinda said, “I’ll get Miranda in to look after that, she can also go to the burger van for our lunch!” As they all headed back to work Jinnie said to Nigel, “Is there something going on between Jed and Ro?” He replied, “There could well be, but so long as it doesn’t interfere with work I don’t care.” “Neither do I,” said Jinnie, “but I think they would make a lovely couple.” Belinda was right behind them and whispered to Jinnie, “Talking of couples, Melissa is a bit upset, it seems Steven has disappeared off the face of the earth at the moment. I know he is into secret stuff and you used to be. Any idea what is going on?” Suddenly Jinnie put two and two together and said, “I think he could be on a mission with my sister. They have worked together before and my sister has also disappeared ‘on business’ and told her husband she will be away three or four weeks. I bet they are abroad somewhere on a secret mission.” Belinda said, “I’ll tell her what you said, she’ll be relieved, I’m sure she thinks he has dropped her for another woman.”
Jinnie and Ro finished clearing the rubbish and headed down to the first aid room to unpack things. They had stripped the protective covers off the bed, examination/recovery chair, desk and chair, wardrobe and several cabinets when Ro said, “Jinnie can I ask you something?” “Of course,” Jinnie replied. “Well,” said Ro, “Jed has asked me out to dinner tonight and I don’t know if office romances are a problem.” Jinnie said, “Only if they involved passing on secrets. Like you told him something that he passed on to a rival. I think you are both far too sensible for that, so go on and enjoy yourself, he is a nice lad.” “Thanks,” said Ro, “That puts my mind at rest.”
“Where is he taking you?” Jinnie asked. “It’s somewhere very posh,” Ro answered. “A newish Italian in Turners Hill, he said he had been lucky and got a cancellation. It’s supposed to be very good and he said to put on a nice dress.” By now Jinnie was laughing. She said, “Obviously you don’t know, but that is one of the restaurants that I am a part owner of, along with Alberto. Alphonso is the general manager and Belinda built the new extension and her team did all the interior design and decorations. It is a lovely restaurant and quite expensive, he must be serious for a first date.”
On her drive home Jinnie phoned Turners Hill and spoke to Alberto. “You know my PA Ro don’t you?” she said. When he said, “You mean the pretty girl who does the board minutes?” Jinnie said, “Yes, that’s her. Well, she is dining with you tonight. It’s a first date. Nigel the IT director’s PA, Jed, has taken quite a fancy to her and I think they would make a lovely couple. Please can you put a bottle of the good Champagne on ice for them and send me the bill for the evening, I think you can trust me to pay.” “That’s OK,” said Alphonso, “Leave it to me, I will give them the best table in the restaurant and make sure they get the best possible service. I think we have a couple of personalities in tonight, including that radio presenter that Belinda and Brian brought in. Belinda thanked him again and rang off.
The following morning Jinnie was up early and crept in to kiss the twins goodbye long before Lucia got them up. Driving around the M25 she couldn’t help wondering how Ro and Jed got on last night. It was just before nine when she drove down Manor Royal and turned into the entrance to the company car park. She touched her ‘magic’ card on the reader and the gate slid open, she drove through and watched it close behind her. As she parked she saw Belinda entering the car park and waited for her to park. Belinda was smiling widely and chatting to Miranda who climbed out of the front passenger seat.
Belinda said, “Just the person I wanted to see. I told Melissa what you said and she is much happier. She knows Penny and Dan and is now quite sure that he is on a secret mission.” They all strolled round to the reception entrance and Jinnie tapped her card on the reader and let them all in. The first thing Jinnie saw was that the cardboard carpet protection was gone and the sofas, armchairs and coffee tables were in place. There were even several high-class magazines on the tables. Ro was behind the reception desk and Jed was hanging around in the post room.
Ro looked up, smiled and said, “Good Morning boss. Thank you for last night, it was absolutely wonderful.” Jed arrived from the post room and said, “Yes, thank you it was fabulous. They treated us royally and the food was exquisite.” Jinnie said, “You’re welcome, I’m only too pleased you enjoyed it. Perhaps you can tell me about it at lunchtime as I really need to get myself ready for these interviews.” Ro said, “There is fresh coffee and warm croissants in the boardroom and I have the receipt for Brian. I think Nigel is in there reading CVs.”
Miranda was given a staff access card which gave her access to most of the office space and Jinnie and Belinda showed Miranda the way to the boardroom. Nigel was sat in the corner reading a pile of CVs with a mug of coffee. Miranda poured three mugs of coffee asking Jinnie how she wanted hers. “White without please,” replied Jinnie helping herself to a fairly indifferent croissant and thinking, ‘I’m sure that we could do much better than this from ‘Artisan Sandwiches’.’
Jinnie picked up a spreadsheet labelled “Receptionists, two required” with half a dozen names on it and times allowing for 20-minute interviews. It was accompanied by half a dozen CVs. Jinnie skim-read the top one and made a note in her typist’s notebook before passing it to Belinda and doing the same with each of the others in turn. Waiting until Belinda had read number six she said, “I like two and four from the CVs.” “Snap,” said Belinda, “But CV’s can be misleading.” “Don’t I know it,” said Jinnie, “CVs can’t reflect personality and first impressions, that’s what a receptionist needs.”
Belinda and Jinnie were waiting in Interview Room C when Jed brought in candidate No. 1. She was much better than her CV, the photo attached didn’t do her justice and she was bright and bubbly. Jinnie scribbled ‘strong possibility’ on the CV and Belinda nodded yes. They told her they intended to make two appointments today and if she could wait there was coffee, cold drinks and sandwiches in the staff restroom. If she couldn’t wait could she leave a mobile number and she would be phoned just as soon as a decision was made.
She opted to wait and, while Belinda showed her where, Jinnie buzzed for the next appointment. Ro said No 2 wasn’t there yet, but No 3 was early and waiting so Jed brought her around. She was instantly at a disadvantage as neither liked her squeaky voice and after eight minutes Belinda wrote ‘God no’ on the CV and Jinnie thanked her for coming in and told her they would write to her. Belinda buzzed Ro and asked if the next candidate had arrived yet. Ro said not yet but as it was 10 o’clock and she wasn’t due until 10:30, Jinnie and Belinda took a coffee break.
At about 10:15 the phone buzzed and Ro said No 4 was there early, should she get Jed to bring her around. The woman Jed showed in was in her early thirties and smartly dressed in a business suit. After ten minutes of the interview Jinnie wrote yes and Belinda ticked it. Belinda decided to ask a few more questions as she was sure it was too early for the 10:50 appointment. Belinda asked if she was offered the job, when could she start? The candidate explained that she had just been made redundant from an engineering company due to it relocating and although she was working three months notice the company had said they would release her immediately if she found a new job to go to. Jinnie said, “If I asked you to start on Monday would that be possible?” and the candidate said, “Yes.” They then asked if she would wait and she again said, “Yes.”
When Jinnie buzzed for number 5 Ro said she had just arrived and she would get Jed to bring her around adding that the final appointment had rung to say she was sick and couldn’t make it. Jed brought No 5 in and from the corner of her eye she saw Belinda do a double take at the spider’s web tattooed on her neck. Jinnie went through the procedure of the interview and found the girl to be very pleasant but the visible tattoo just killed it. This time it was Belinda who wrote ‘No’ and Jinnie who ticked it.
Jed found the two successful candidates in the staff restroom sitting together chatting. Number 4 explained that until three weeks ago they had both worked for the same engineering company and they had both been made redundant at the same time leaving a school leaver to man reception when they were gone. No 1 had found a job as a receptionist at a charter airline but she hated it and was having to continually fight off the boss. Jinnie offered them both the job on the same wages and conditions. When she asked No 1 when she could start she answered, “This afternoon,” as she was still officially on trial and could leave without notice. Jinnie asked them to arrive at 8:30 on Monday morning and they would have to learn on the job as just about everyone was going to be new. The two new receptionists left together. Jinnie and Belinda smiled and went for Lunch. Jinnie was quite looking forward to the hot sausage sandwich on white bread and smothered in brown sauce that she had ordered.
In Chapter 12 – Opening for Business
© WorthingGooner 2023