’We need to talk about rebranding - you have a brunch meeting at three’
Quentin Shears, 48, is a partner in a small Hertfordshire-based quantity surveyor, which last week was subsumed into The Gator Corporation, a US construction giant with plans for European expansion. A source close to the talks explained that, as “things are kicking off a bit on the Continent”, the fact that nothing eventful had ever happened in Hertfordshire was a significant reason behind the takeover.
Following several recent run-ins with the local architectural community, Quentin has been encouraged to write a “frustration diary”, excerpts from which he has kindly agreed to share with Building.
We are now a week into the “onboarding” process and I haven’t slept for four days, my hands are shaking and my left eyelid won’t stop twitching. Onboarding, it turns out, is not a CIA interrogation technique, but a means of acclimatising us to a more American way of doing things. My problem has nothing to do with cultural differences though - it’s the coffee. There is no situation with these people that isn’t accompanied by a vat of Americano. I’m consuming about eight litres a day just to be polite.
So when John Getz Jnr, the head of Gator’s Asia, Africa, South America and Europe division, knocked on my office door and suggested we “walk and talk” - normally an either/or thing for me - I literally leapt at the chance to shake off my fourth caffeine rush of the morning.
“Quentin, I just wanted to -” John Jr began, then was cut off mid-stride by the fact that we had run out of office to walk down. “Jeez, can’t you guys get some more corridors? How do you make any decisions around here? C’mon Quentin, let’s do a couple of laps of the car park. We can grab a coffee on the way.”
As one of the old hands in the office, I am being used as Gator’s eyes and ears to gauge how the “transitioneering” programme is going. But the thing is, everything about these Americans already seems eerily familiar. I’m just not sure why.
“So Quentin, how are you finding us real-life Yanks?” John Jr asked, as we ducked into the staff room for refuelling. “Hell, I sometimes think you Brits just expect us all to be stereotypes from TV shows.” He flashed a thousand-watt grin. “Anything to dialogue from your end of the transitioneering interface?”
Although that new IT guy you brought over, the so-called genius with the walking cane and the team of glamorous assistants, can be a bit rude
“Not really,” I replied, nodding hello to Ross and Rachel, two of the younger Gator consultants, who were sipping lattes on the enormous new sofa that has appeared in the middle of the room. “Although that new IT guy you brought over, the so-called genius with the walking cane and the team of glamorous assistants, can be a bit rude.”
“He’s a maverick, Quentin. But he gets results.”
“I suppose he did fix that photocopier that prints everything out backwards. Apparently the only previously known case was in west Africa in 1974.”
“Exactly. Now I want you to meet with our marketing team - Carrie, Samantha and the other two. We need to talk rebranding. You’ve got a brunch meeting scheduled for three.”
“Isn’t that a bit late for brunch?”
“They like to do brunch at least three times a day. It’s okay, they don’t actually eat anything. I should warn you though, they’re quite … feisty. I sent one of your younger guys down there yesterday to try to explain quantity surveying to them and he filed a sexual harassment suit.”
I arrive at Miriam’s Tea Room on the High Street at ten to three, but the marketing team are already there, just finishing off their previous brunch. “So Quentin,” purrs Carrie, putting a friendly hand on my thigh as I sit down with a cup of weak, decaffeinated tea, “you look like you know good quantity surveying. Tell me all about it…”
My other eyelid begins to throb …
As read by Nick Jones
This article was formally called: “We need to talk about rebranding - you’ve got a brunch meeting at three” in Building