’The fresh croissants are, I feel, a big, open and comprehensive offer’

Quentin Shears, 48, is a partner at a small Hertfordshire-based quantity surveyor. Following several run-ins with the local architectural community, he has been encouraged by his therapist to write a “frustration diary”, excerpts from which he has kindly agreed to share with Building.

Last week, Quentin’s boss Simon Fearful was elected as Conservative MP for Bishop’s Stortford East – a result that David Dimbleby described as “quite interesting I suppose – now please can I go to bed?”


Following Simon’s elevation to parliament last week, something of a power vacuum has emerged at the office. The two men jostling for control are Matt Keen (young, popular, clearly going places) and Alan Quimby (older, kind of forgettable, but also my squash partner and occasional babysitter). As the longest standing partner, but not really a natural leader myself, I have emerged as the power broker.

This may seem an unusual approach to deciding who takes charge at a small quantity surveying firm, but F&B has always prided itself on its unique constitution. When Simon’s grandfather Reginald founded the practice in 1934, civilisation was on the brink of a precipice. Whether you were a fledgling Eastern European democracy or a small start-up in east Hertfordshire, what was needed was solid government. As a result, Reginald devised a management structure that he felt combined the most progressive elements of communist Russia, fascist Italy and the John Lewis Partnership. In other words, all staff members get a bit of a say in the way things work, but any strong dissenters tend to be replaced by an empty chair within a few months.

As the views of the staff on managerial appointments are communicated through the longest serving partner, it turns out that I – having been generally ignored or dismissed as a historical anomaly for years – am suddenly cast in a role of influence. As convention dictates, I speak first to the candidate with the office closest to my own. This is Matt.

“Quentin,” he tells me after I lay out some of the staff’s dealbreakers, “I really feel we can work together on this – this is a great chance to bring us into the 21st century. We need to embrace the infrastructure market – roads, rail, that kind of thing. If Simon can get himself a seat on the transport select committee, I think there’s a good chance to get High Speed 2 re-routed through Bishop’s Stortford. The business case for linking to Norfolk rather than Birmingham and Manchester is quite compelling.”

It’s an impressive opening gambit, but in the interests of democracy I feel I should have a discreet chat with Alan, too. His approach is less visionary, but stronger on the nitty-gritty. “Cards on the table, Quentin, I’m thinking small picture,” he begins. “That £10 cap on stationery purchases? It’s an abomination! And I think we should have fresh croissants in all morning meetings.”

The chat turns into serious negotiations and these go on long into the evening. As I drive home I have plenty to ponder. Matt arguably has the better claim on power, but Alan’s more liberal views on stationery could be a game-changer. The croissants too, I feel, are a big, comprehensive and open offer.

But as is so often the way in politics, events conspire to overtake us. I am surprised to see Simon ushering all the partners into a meeting room. “Guys,” he says, “sorry to grab you all so early, but I’ve got something important to announce.”

The use of the word “guys” should have told me that something terrible was about to happen. Inside the room are three men I’ve never seen before. “Let me introduce Randy, Fred Jnr and T-Bone,” says Simon. “They’re Americans. And as they say in some American business circles, they’ve made me an offer I couldn’t refuse …”