Anthony's heart sank to his shoes. He was just about to stand up when the door opened and the coffee was brought in. Why are they wasting my time? If they aren’t interested, why didn’t they tell me so over the phone? Should I bother to listen any further, or just walk out now? Their time, they say, is valuable. What about mine? I could've been out and about, finding more work.
Anthony, deep in thought, was brought back to the present by Mervyn's booming voice.
‘As I was about to say before coffee, I have the impression you got the wrong message. Our idea is for today to be a working session. Firstly, I guess I should formally welcome you on board. Congratulations on your most professional submission, you successfully convinced us that you are our man.’
Anthony was lost for words. A moment ago he was about to storm out of the room, now he sat, stunned, gaping at the four men approaching him with broad smiles and outstretched hands. He’d had hopes, but was not really prepared for this. He’d expected . . . actually he was not sure what he’d expected – definitely nothing this quick.
‘Thank you. As you say, I must admit I was not quite prepared for this. Though I’m surprised, I will be honoured to work with you on the project.’
‘Wonderful! And now, let’s finish our coffee and start promptly.’
While they were helping themselves to coffee, Mervyn made a quick call on the desk phone. Seconds afterwards, the door opened and the secretary entered.
‘Anthony, meet Lorraine. Your contact will normally be through her. Most of the time, she knows better where I am than I do myself. Thank you Lorraine, I only wanted to introduce you. After the meeting, Anthony will catch up with you. Make sure you have all his details.’
‘Let's return to business,’ Mervyn boomed once again. ‘The purpose of this meeting is to decide on the way forward. This project is extremely important to Hilton Cosmetics, and the sooner we can get it off the ground, the better. The upgrade will result in a fifty per cent increase in production which, as you can imagine, will also lead to a substantial increase in turnover and revenue. As part of this, although not part of your scope Anthony, we will be implementing brand new, revolutionary, processing technology. We were recently informed that the manufacturer of the equipment is ahead of schedule and expects to deliver in twenty months, rather than twenty-seven months as previously estimated.
‘Thus, we want a drive for the facilities to be ready to receive the equipment when it arrives. Before we go any further, please sign this secrecy agreement – you are welcome to read through it, it is a pretty standard one used for most projects. I do, however, insist you sign it before we continue with detailed discussions. I must warn you that the contract contains stringent rules against breach of this agreement.’
The room was in complete silence as Anthony read through the document. As Mervyn said, it was normal for large projects to put such an agreement in place. As pre-warned, Anthony paid special attention to the penalties. Although they seemed to his mind excessive, he could foresee no risk in signing. He did not believe he would divulge, to anyone, any information that might be construed a breach.
After Anthony had completed signing, Mervyn continued.
‘Let me explain why this confidentiality clause in the agreement is so important to us. As previously explained, our project will put us at the leading edge of technology in our field. Industrial espionage is a much larger concern than most, including you, might realise. In our industry it is rife. In light of what we've just told you, you will understand why we gave all bidders a spurious package that was intended for our evaluation purposes only. Before you leave, we will give you a new package and documentation. Please, I urge you once again, regardless of how innocent any information may seem, do treat it with the utmost confidentiality.
‘The property is ready for work to start and all the drawings have been approved by the necessary authorities. Everything is ready for you to begin as soon as possible. There've been some minor changes and, over the following two weeks, please review the documentation and adjust your final price accordingly. I also want you to prepare a work schedule. As I mentioned, time is vital and the sooner the plant gets operational the better. Should you need funds before we meet again in two weeks, please give me a breakdown and I will take care of it. And, lastly, if there is anything you believe we've not covered in the documentation, please let me know urgently. Any questions?’
‘Not at the moment, I will let you know once I have reviewed the documentation.’
‘Well, we all have work to do. Lorraine will notify you of the time of our next meeting. And, remember, if you need anything please let me know.’
Once again Anthony was speechless. He liked the professional no‑nonsense approach and was sure they were going to work well together.
‘Thank you for your trust, and for giving me the opportunity to work with you. I’ll start immediately.’
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