My PR consultancy closed its doors some time ago, so I was surprised and pleased to be approached last November by a trio of Gentlemen to whom I had been recommended for management and media services. Flattering indeed.
The Gentlemen concerned were retired: Architect, Engineer and Merchant Banker, the latter responsible for managing the money. They exuded confidence and charm. The project in question was the launch of a modular housing prototype, a prescient example of good design drawn up some twenty years ago and whose moment has now arrived.
I enjoy good architecture, I love modernism and clever construction and am especially keen on fine finishes and intelligent technical touches, all of which are integral to this gem of a house. In all, the project was right up my Boulevard and straightforward to boot. A jolly Fiftieth Birthday celebration and the possibility of a holiday, hove into view.
My terms, including a modest upfront payment were met with enthusiastic acceptance. I sprang into action gathering the necessary expertise for branding and website whilst making detailed plans for the PR, marketing, project and on-site management.
The Gentlemen seemed pleased; however, as my initial payment fell overdue and the excuses elaborate, it became apparent that whilst the housing concept had solid foundations, the business behind it did not. Indeed, The Gentleman Architect abandoned the company leaving The Engineer and The Merchant Banker with a somewhat notional project. Before long, I found myself in a farcical maze of absent civil servants, maverick investors, lost files and Perrinesque pardons:
Thanks for all your sterling work to date; we are getting all our ‘bits and pieces’ together that you’ve asked for, and will collectively be in-touch. Reference payment, I know we are getting everything ready for settlement during today.
I had hoped to be able to pay the first batch of bills by Christmas, but lawyers have prolonged it all and it now looks as if it will definitely be next week. I’m so sorry to get off on the wrong foot, but it is an unusual form of funding which has taken a couple of months to get the necessary clearances and agreements. It is all now agreed, just needing a busy lawyer to complete it and we will shortly have a six figure sum available to us.
I am still bogged down by bureaucracy within a government department which does not return to work until next Monday and from whom I require a stamped form to enable the bank to transfer our money, so I anticipate paying everyone early next week.
In the current banking climate it is not unreasonable NOT to have raised the required funds and have the money in the bank. There was no point in pursuing a traditional banking route which obviously had little chance of being successful, and the way I decided was most appropriate for us is unusual and complicated which made it time consuming, but what has made things worse is a government department being closed for business between the 17th. December and the 7th. January and this has meant being unable to get a stamped form required by the lawyers to satisfy the bank until, hopefully, it is received today. This delay has caused us further delays in that our solicitor now has a meeting in Johannesburg on Monday and the banker in question returns next week also.
The project has overtaken the financial planning that we had started. And really, if our glorious Civil Service were operating properly we wouldn’t have had this hiccup. Anyway, we are there now, bar the shouting, so if you wouldn’t mind ‘sitting on your hands’ for a few more days, we will soon be getting payment to you.
I must emphasise that the funding is not of a conventional nature; it is complicated and involves a small private bank, the documentation being handled by one of the largest city law firms. We have now complied with every request on the documentation and await the return of the bank’s proprietor from a business trip to the USA this weekend to complete the deal. Until he returns we cannot make an appointment, but would hope to meet him on Tuesday or Wednesday next week, and assuming he is satisfied with everything, would expect the funds to be released almost immediately thereafter.
I only discovered on Monday that the banker involved in this deal had delayed his return from the States by a week and is back in his office next Monday, when we will work for immediate drawdown, assuming he agrees that the documents are in order.
The banker involved in our company fundraising duly returned to his office from a trip to the States yesterday, but found the documentation not to be as he wished it; this is being attended to but involves the civil servants in Leeds who caused the delays in the first place, and they are now saying that they have “no record” of the case. They usually take up to three weeks to reply to anything and while we are trying to hasten it, realistically there will be a further period before we can complete the deal.
The frustration continues in that the small investor is dependent on a maverick who bought his company and legally should be making regular payments and isn’t! In fact I sincerely believe that even today or possibly Monday that will get to us. The investor remains on side 100%, as does the main investor where we await the civil servants in Leeds to get their finger out and send the required papers to the lawyers; this should be imminently too.
Please bear with us a while longer; I hope to be able to pay your bill this week and possibly sooner rather than later. It’s been a nightmare dealing with people and Bodies whose word cannot be trusted, and we seriously considered going elsewhere at one stage, but I know it would take ages again from scratch and decided to persevere where we are.
It’s not been possible to finalise the funding this week, but I shall be in a position to send the money we owe you either next Monday afternoon or on Tuesday; the legal agreement is now drawn up and we await the investor to sign it with myself. This is actually a smaller amount than we will need in total, with the main investor hopefully also coming to a drawdown situation not much later in the week.
The person handling this is not contactable today – a family funeral.
It should be in the next very few days, I hope! The interim investor had to postpone three arranged meetings last week alone due to his business. The people in Leeds lost their file; we have our lawyers on the case and hope it will be sorted swiftly as a result.
Unfortunately X was ill yesterday but is totally recovered today, so we’re one day behind plan; we are getting the Restriction entered in Court tomorrow morning and once that stamped document is copied to the solicitors who are acting for the private bank, the bank will release the funds to the client account, from where we draw down on demand with an invoice. The funds to cover invoices raised to date will be sent to me either late tomorrow or early Thursday and I’ll send it out immediately to everyone’s bank accounts.
Disappointment yet again, unfortunately. There is no problem at all with the investor, but he has today told our agent, who is a friend of his, that he wants to hand the cash directly to myself and wishes to do it on Thursday morning. I have of course met him previously, but was advised it was not necessary for me to attend any of the previous appointments when we tried to conclude the matter. So it should finally all be settled on Thursday after I’ve received the cash and banked it.
I confirm that I am seeing the minority investor at mid-day tomorrow and will receive the money in cash. As I’ve told you before the investor is his own man and does what he wants when he wants to. He was due to complete on Friday, but an office problem held him there; he’s due to complete at 10.30 this morning. The main investor has been very helpful after the civil servants lost their file. We feel we are at last making progress.
I went to the meeting place but the small investor called at the last minute to postpone it until tomorrow at the same time as an urgent business situation had occurred which he had to attend to as a priority. He is aware of our time needs for the cash and was extremely apologetic, but the fact remains that I’m unable to do anything until the same time tomorrow. He is a genuine responsible businessman and I’m certain that it will all be concluded satisfactorily tomorrow; he was embarrassed that the agent and myself had been put to a wasted morning and I had also wasted a 100 mile round trip.
Astonishingly and happily my lowly debt was settled, leaving me oddly bereft of the entertaining world of Carry On Construction. I wonder who found the file?
© Giovanna Forte