Goodmans Hotel (Chapter 4, page 1 of 11)

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Joining Peter's secret team meant taking risks that could not be quantified. The aim was to bring about a merger with another slightly smaller accountancy firm, and the desirability of this objective was questionable. A few similar marriages between City accounting partnerships had taken place during the past year, but if a union proved to be a mistake the problems were hardly likely to be made public.

The team's preliminary report recommended a detailed assessment of all the implications of the proposed merger. Peter gave me a copy, warning that if anyone else became aware of the project a severe penalty would follow, not only for me for leaking the report, but for him because he would have shown dangerously poor judgement in trusting me with it.

Every page was headed 'Protected Confidential Information'. The first chapter compared the bigger City accountancy firms by volume of business and market sector, the next two described the organisation and business of the two firms, and the conclusion speculated on the potential benefits of bringing together a long established City firm with one that was younger and more attuned to growing new technology businesses. Graphs and diagrams showed the more balanced spread of work which would result, how the new firm would rank in size among its rivals, and suggested that it would have greatly improved potential to attract new clients.

The next stage was to examine the organisational changes which would result from the merger, develop detailed plans, and analyse costs. If the project came to nothing after six months, all of the team's work would end up being archived until it had gathered enough dust to be thrown out. Irrespective of the quality and extent of my efforts, my career would suffer because of my association with a failure.

Peter did not try to deny the risk, but promised to make sure whatever the outcome I would be able return to my old job. My immediate boss was in awe of the partners and quickly agreed to hire a stand-in from an agency so as to keep my place open for me. However a lot can happen in six months; any reorganisation during my absence might leave me with a ragbag of tasks that nobody else wanted, and stand-ins can sometimes entwine themselves into the workplace in ways that make them very difficult to dislodge.

Weighing against all the potential disadvantages was the prospect, if the merger succeeded, of becoming one of a small number of people with advanced knowledge of all that would be entailed. As everyone struggled to grasp how the changes would affect them, my knowledge and advice would be in high demand. A generous bonus could be expected, and perhaps a pay rise and even another promotion. After going over the arguments for and against in my mind time and again, and discussing the implications of joining the team with Andrew and others, I gambled that the potential benefits of success outweighed the possible consequences of failure.

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