Sunday serialisation – Knight after Knight, 15.2

Knight after Knight250

In Knight & Deigh, 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.

As Hannice’s body recovered, he became ever closer to Sophie, and soon they found themselves in a relationship they had neither anticipated nor intended and for which neither was fully prepared.

A bump in the Knight followed Hannice as he juggled business, hedonism, marriage and ultimately parenthood.

Knight after Knight is the third and final part of the Hannice Knight story. Starting after the marriage of Hannice and Sophie’s only son, David to Jess, the only child of Jason and Noelani Reeves of Hawaii, it traces the Knight family’s progression through the generations.


Knight after Knight. Chapter fifteen, part two.

I picked Henk up at the airport early the following afternoon. It was a joy to meet up with him again. After the time we’d spent working together, from when we were fellow regional directors right up to when he was Chief Operating Officer and I was Chief Executive Officer, we had a closeness – a camaraderie – that had lasted many a year and weathered many a storm. We were as close as brothers; closer, because unlike a pair of siblings, I can’t recall ever having a serious falling out. Sure, we had disagreements from time to time, but they were always and only about business, never personal.

I remember an episode when we were trying to push Knight Investments out beyond Africa. Henk was most insistent that if Lindy were to remain in control of the African end, the Tanja should take charge of the European arm of the business. Not to allow her to do so would have been, in his view, grossly unfair. I pointed out to Henk that there wasn’t a need for the service in Europe the way there was in Africa, Asia and South America, but he wouldn’t accept that. I believed, from the way he was talking, that he was not so much interested in how that part of the business should develop as he was to maintain parity between his protégé, Tanja and Lindy, whom he always regarded as my creature, regardless of the fact that he had, for some years, reported to Max, not to me.

We weren’t able to accede to his request, simply because there was no business case for expanding Knight Investments into Europe at that time, so we formed a separate company, headed by Tanja, to champion and promote social and environmental concerns on the continent. It turned out to be something of a brainwave – Knight Environmental became something of an umbrella organisation under which a large number of charities and small businesses operated in the environmental and social fields. With the influx of refugees that the continent experienced; people fleeing war and persecution in parts of Africa and the Middle East, there developed a need for a European arm of Knight Global Investments, which ultimately fell to be administered alongside Knight Environmental. So Henk and Tanja got their wish in the end, albeit through a less-than-direct route.

We did a lot of catching up on the way from the airport – not on recent events, Henk had been told about Max but hadn’t been able to make it for her funeral. We caught up on what Max and I had been up to in Tanzania.

“So what David’s offering is really just an extension of what you did there?” he asked.

“I suppose it is, basically, although we concentrated on helping new businesses to get off to a solid start rather than trouble-shooting running concerns in difficulties. The principles are the same though. I’m hoping we can do a few jobs like the ones Max and I did in Africa. I mean, turning troubled businesses around is satisfying and rewarding, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something very special about taking young people with ideas, energy and enthusiasm and adding to that a good basis of business acumen, then ending up with a viable and, one hopes, profitable business going forward. You know? I have often, and I’m sure you have, too, come out of a situation quietly satisfied, pleased even, that I’d done a good job and replaced what was a management team in difficulties with one that was confidently moving forward.”

“I know exactly what you mean.”

“But to take a bunch of youngsters who have an idea but no clue how to develop it, and walk away at the end, leaving behind a group of managers running a solid business, one with a viable blueprint for its future and, most importantly, with the ability to carry it through, but still as eager, energetic and enthusiastic as they were at the beginning.”

“Yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever done that, but I’ve heard from Tanja, several times, how she and her team feel when they’ve helped a group of refugees set up a business.”

“Of course, I’d forgotten she was involved in that. Well. If we can do that, it won’t be the full package – I imagine Tanja is running the accounts and admin for her clients like Lindy did – it will be more leading the clients to productivity and less doing the job for them. You know, we could even work with Tanja’s outfit, offering training and consultancy to get her clients productive more quickly and reducing the length of time her people will have to run the accounting and admin for them.”

“That could work.”

“Could work? It does work. It’s exactly what we did for Lindy’s outfit.”

“Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s go and talk to David and Jess about it.”

“What am I waiting for? These damned traffic lights for starters!” I said, frustrated by the number of sets of lights and roundabouts that needed negotiating on this relatively short journey home.

At home, we managed to catch David just as he was leaving the house.

“Oh, good,” he said, “can you stand Pepu down, Dad? I’ll take the Jag. How’s its charge?”

“One hundred and fifty kilometres,” I said.

“Good. Fob?”

“We need to talk first.”

“No time. Must rush.”

“I’ll do it,” Henk shouted as David got into the Jag.

“Great. Sort out the details with Jess. I’ll be back in about three hours; around seven-ish.”
With a near-inaudible whoosh, David sped off. We entered the house, I asked Jen to organise tea and biscuits for three and we walked through to the lounge. Jess was waiting for us.

“David says you’ve got something to tell me, Dad. Just texted me from the car,” she said.

“Isn’t that a bit dangerous?” Henk asked.

“What?”

“Texting while driving.”

“All voice-activated,” I said, “you don’t need to touch anything or even look at it.”

Jen arrived with tea and biscuits – I don’t need to tell you what sort the biscuits were, Jen knows double chocolate chip are my favourites – and the three of us settled around the coffee table.

“Henk’s on board,” I said finally.

“Great,” Jess said, “David and I prepared a draft agreement, hoping you would both like the idea. Here,” she said, handing each of us a small file.

I quickly flicked through my copy, looked up and said, “Some of this wording looks familiar.”

“I’m not surprised, whole sections of this document are a copy-and-paste job from your agreement with the Tanzanian outfit.

“Parts of it?”

“Okay, most of it. Well, all of it, really, with a couple of changes.”

“That agreement worked extremely well for Max and me. On that basis, without having gone through it in detail, which I will do over the next hour or three, I can provisionally accept it as is.”

“Henk?” Jess asked.

“Hey. If the great Hannice Knight says the contract’s okay, who am I to say anything different?”

“An equal partner, Henk,” Jess said, to which I nodded in agreement, “your opinion is every bit as valid, every bit as important and every bit as solicited as Hannice’s opinion.”

“In that case, I’ll add my provisional okay. I’ll read it through and let you know later. Okay?”

“That’s fine. I’ll leave you two to your reading.”

“Take a few biscuits,” I said, “otherwise Henk and I—”

“Oy,” Henk said.

“Okay, otherwise I’ll end up hogging them all.”

Jess took a few biscuits and left us. Henk and I studied the draft agreements in silence until David arrived.

 

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