Sunday serialisation – A Bump in the Knight, 9.4

In Knight & Deigh, confirmed bachelor and businessman Hannice Knight suffered a back injury that left him without the use of his legs. Sophie Deigh, physiotherapist and recent widow, devoted herself to supporting him.

On his father’s death, Hannice inherited a global business and great wealth. Then, together with Sophie, he embarked on a series of activities designed to give him some of the excitement and the freedoms that he felt he had missed out on, by being tied to his father’s business for two decades.

As Hannice’s body recovered, he became ever closer to Sophie, and found himself drifting into a relationship with her that neither had anticipated or intended, and for which neither was fully prepared.

This book follows Hannice’s new adventures as he tries to juggle business, hedonism, marriage and ultimately parenthood.

But all doesn’t go quite as he had planned…

A bump in the Knight is now being published here as a serial; one part each Sunday.

A Bump in the Knight. Chapter nine, part four

Things got better. We enjoyed holidays in Cyprus, the business grew with little involvement from me, and Lindy and Tanja both gained their MBAs. Sophie, David and I visited Dar-es-Salaam for Lindy’s graduation ceremony, and I welled up with pride when the Principal called his name and presented the scroll. That the young boy I had taken on all those years ago, as an office junior, was now qualified and ready to be promoted to Divisional Manager, East and Central Africa, was something so far beyond what I ever expected to see as to be akin to a fairy tale coming true. Idris Ulrich from Durban and Sunday Gbolade from Lagos were also present to support Lindy, as also, of course, was his boss and mentor, Max Matham.

David didn’t attend the meeting after the presentation. Then nine years old and maturing at a cracking rate, he chose to go off with Kanene, to see her friend Sekelaga, who still lived in the same house, even though her son Habibu was 22 and with a family of his own, and daughter Zahara was nineteen and attending university in the city. Sophie and I attended the meeting, at which Lindy was officially proclaimed Divisional Manager, putting him on a par with Idris and Sunday. Following that, Max introduced her plans for development of the region and, in particular, of Knight Investments Tanzania, a roll-out that would involve Lindy in the other two areas as well as his own. The impression we gained was that he was more than ready to take that job on. As we were packing up, Lindy pointed to the chair Max had just vacated and said, “Ten years, Max, and that will be my chair.”

“Ten years, and you’ll be welcome to it. Maybe sooner,” Max replied. Max looked at me with eyebrows raised.

I looked back and whispered, “Five years, and I’ll want you in Head Office full time.”

“Make it three?” she asked, a smile spreading across her face.

“Don’t tempt me,” I said.

On the way to Amsterdam for Tanja’s presentation, I thought a lot about that last snippet of conversation.

“Am I doing the right thing?” I asked Sophie.

“In what regard?”

“Keeping Max and Henk in the regions while still expecting them to hold down Head Office roles.”

“Are they doing it okay?”

“As far as I know. They’re certainly doing their jobs, but like us, they’re both getting older and the day will come when the pressure becomes too much for them to handle with comfort.”

“What are you thinking, Hannice?”

“Looking at Lindy, and listening to him in that meeting, I’m sure it won’t be long before he’s ready to take on the region; Regional Manager at first, with a promotion to the Board when he’s proven himself in the role. Max is my age; I think it’s time to bring her home.”

“If that’s what she wants.”

“Of course.”

Tanja’s presentation and the meetings afterwards were almost a carbon copy of Lindy’s, and my conclusions were the same. Back at home, I started to prepare a discussion paper for the next full board meeting, which I would circulate for comments straight away.

The first response to come back was from the recently promoted Director of Logistics, my half-brother Stephen Parker. He felt that it was ‘fundamentally wrong that these young people should have been promoted to Divisional Manager without the approval of the Board’, and that ‘to even consider bringing the incumbent Regional Managers back to Head Office when office space is at a premium already’ was ‘foolhardy in the extreme’. Cheeky bugger. Had he forgotten where I dragged him from? For a start, regional appointments are the responsibility of the Regional Director, and didn’t need Board approval; and secondly, as COO and CFO, Henk and Max already had offices in Head Office, so no extra space would be taken. The man’s talking through his ass. I noticed that he had done a ‘reply to all’, so at least the rest of the directors would see his arrogance.

The responses from Emily, Owen and Alexandra all said about the same thing, that we’d go through it in detail at the meeting, but essentially, that they were in full agreement with my recommendations. And these people, apart from the fact that two of them were women, were not yes-men. That meant that Parker would be voted down by eleven to one (all the Regional Directors had signified their approval, too). Hopefully, that would act as a brake on his arrogance, although, knowing him, it would only make him worse (especially after had gone home and told that wife of his about it).

Once the replies were in, and before the meeting was due to take place, I made Skype calls to Max and Henk, to explain the thinking behind my discussion paper. Both of them were in full agreement. It was obvious that Lindy and Tanja were ready to take on the mantle of the regional job, and they fully accepted that they would not rise to the Board until they had proven themselves in the job and satisfied the rest of the Board that they were director material. If only I could have convinced Stephen Parker of that.

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