Steve Jones hated committee meetings with a passion bordering on the psychotic. To him they were huge road blocks impeding progress.
When he took over a family-owned department store first established in 1896, he knew he might face some old-fashioned attitudes, but he hadn’t reckoned on the 19th century being the surviving template for its modus operandi.
From day one he invited his new colleagues to call him Steve but most of them preferred to address him as Mr Jones. How to bridge the gap in his and their cultures became an urgent requirement. Either he or they would need to change the habit of a lifetime if positive progress was to be achieved in the face of on-line competition from Amazon.
The company’s 85-year-old company secretary, a formidable spinster, had tried to warn him in advance. She was the great great granddaughter of the founder of the business.
Mann’s had thrived in the inter war years in the unlikely surroundings of a Surrey village. How many other villages could boast a department store in the middle of their high street?
“With respect Mr Jones,” she had said when he told her of his plan to introduce a new company logo, “I think you should call a meeting of the marketing committee.”
“Why would I do that?” Steve had asked innocently.
“Our founder always preached that a ladder can only be useful if taken one step at a time.”
“Who is on the committee?” Steve asked, failing to grasp the relevance of the ladder analogy.
“Each department head nominates a member who serves for three years with elections taking place every year when each three-year term has been served.”
“How many people are on the committee currently? Steve asked.
“Eight, but it should be nine.” Came the reply. “Roy Floodgate, the Haberdashery rep, died in a road accident last month when his car hit a tree. We need to hold an election for someone to replace him, but the nominations committee thought it would be a mark of respect to hold off until after the funeral.”
“Nominations committee?” Steve asked.
“Yes” came the reply. “It automatically comes into being when there is a need to elect a new member “pro tempore” as our founder used to say”.
“And when is the funeral?”
“It hasn’t been announced yet” came the reply “but I will find out for you Mr Jones if you would find it helpful. You see, Mr Floodgate was driving a Morris minor given to him by his wife in 1966.”
“I’m not sure I follow the logic?” admitted Steve.
“You wouldn’t normally associate Mr Floodgate with taking risks, but a bystander claimed he was driving at 100 miles per hour. Most people doubt whether the engine of a Morris Minor can reach 50 mph let alone 100 mph.”
“Who was the bystander?”
“An off-duty policeman called Peter Potter.”
“Perhaps the sun got in his eyes” offered Steve Jones, attempting a show empathy in the face of his ancient company secretary’s pedantry.”
“I don’t think so Mr Jones” came the reply. “It was snowing at the time.”
“Perhaps Mr Potter is a closet fantasist who likes being in the public eye.”
“You might well have put your finger on it, Mr Jones”.
“Really, how come?” added Steve Jones, his patience wearing thin.
“Mr Potter’s wife works in Haberdashery with Mr Floodgate. She was overlooked for promotion when Mr Floodgate was appointed to the marketing committee.”
Steve Jones was unable to save Mann’s which remains a sad sight in the High Street. It is empty.
This Decamot was inspired by the following items:
committee, ladder, habit, minor, tree, sun, closet, associate, engine, bridge