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Working For The Yanks- Part 2 – Graham May (25th)

The yanks who were to ”shake us up” arrived on cue and turned out to be a rather unpleasant pair. One moved, talked and acted like an amateur John Wayne and once sauntered around in high heeled tan coloured cowboy boots. The other was short, round and rather patronising.. They reminded me of Abbot and Costello and fortunately only stayed for a few days, They left behind a written report which really said dam all. The Old Man was quite philosophical and told me that they were really only observing our adherence to company policy as well as noting how we all worked and operated as a team. ”THEY DO THE SAME AT FINANCE MEETINGS – THE ONES YOU HAVE TO GO TWICE A YEAR IN LONDON AND THE ONES I HAVE TO GO TO WITH ALL THE OTHER MD’S. THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IS, THAT AMONG ALL THE VICE PRESIDENTS AND THEIR AIDES, THERE IS A COUPLE OF UNASSUMING TYPES WHO ARE THERE JUST TO WATCH AND OBSERVE INDIVIDUAL BEHAVIOUR, DRESS, HABITS ETC. TAKE MY TIP AND KEEP OF THE BOOZE AND FAGS WHEN THE MEETING BREAKS FOR LUNCH AND DO NOT SAY ANYTNING DEROGATORY ABOUT THE COMPANY OR STAFF. IN OTHER WORDS JUST BE MR NICE GUY.”
It was very good advice and from then on I was always on my guard when in the company of yanks, especially as I found their sense of humour to be completely alien. They were, however, very hard workers and demanded that everything we did had to accurate to the letter and completed on time. No excuses were acceptable! In turn I found that there was always someone available by phone or telex in their New York office to respond to any problems or queries that we had, despite the 5 hour time difference. Over the years I also realised that they must have found our sense of humour equally baffling, so I suppose it was a case of swings and roundabouts !

I did attend the next Financial Controller’s meeting in London and everything was just as the Old Man had prophesied. We were all seated at a large round table and subjected to three hours of financial jargon by a number of seemingly well informed speakers. At lunchtime I followed the Old Man’s advice and in the afternoon saw how this paid off. A projector was set up and one of our UK based Company’s’ set of accounts was flashed onto the screen and their Controller was then invited to stand up and summarize and analyse them, The poor bloke was somewhat inebriated and made a complete hash of things, as did another character later on. The next day I reported to the Old Man and related the proceedings. He stated that the two individuals would probably be on their bikes in no time at all. ”THAT IS THE WAY THIS LOT OPERATES – REMEMBER THAT AND TAKE NOTE SO THAT YOU CAN BE PREPARED FOR THE NEXT MEETING”. Fortunately I was never ever called upon and these meetings were later reduced to just one a year and then dispensed with altogether, much to the relief of all and sundry.

After six happy years we were shocked to be informed that the yanks were selling off their worldwide interests in telecommunications to a French consortium and that we would probably be one of the first to be taken over. By this time the Old Man was in hospital with terminal cancer and I had been put in temporary charge. My first duty was to meet one of the french representatives and hand over the keys to the castle, so to speak. He seemed OK at first but then started to act as though I and the remaining staff were yesterdays people I smelled a rat and so did the others . I new exactly what the Old Man would have done, so I phoned and telexed the New York office time and time again, but strangely, all the people who were once so friendly and helpful were now, conveniently, unavailable! Within a matter of days we all received our marching orders and a short time later the Old Man passed away. His funeral was well attended and there were plenty of tears. I felt a great loss as he had been more than just a Managing Director to me as we had played golf together, drank and laughed together and prepared all our Company Reports and Financial Statistics for the yanks together. He had trusted me to stand in for him when on holiday or away at business meetings and always left a number so that I could call him if necessary.
On one memorable occasion he took two car loads of staff to the Belfry to see the opening matches of the 1985 Ryder Cup and later arranged for us to get a few autographs. In all my 45 years in Industry and Commerce I have never worked with such an endearing character.