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New Director's Blog - Part 2

An insight into the workings of The Ringing World by Peter G Davies
The opinions expressed in this blog are entirely mine and are not necessarily related to any views or policies of the Board of The Ringing World Ltd.

The Move - 1

No, that’s not a reference to a pop group! My ploy of "hiding" from the Chairman failed miserably when a discussion on the need to move to new premises led to the idea that a director should be appointed as "project manager" to assist the permanent staff in planning the move. The pregnant pause when she said "Who would project manage this?" was palpable and the meeting seemed frozen in time for ages. However, I sensed everyone was looking at me, if only sideways, and as I have done a lot of project management in my career I fell for it, on the basis that if I could project manage the building of multi-million pound wind turbines, an office move a few hundred metres down the High Street would be a piece of cake. So, that’s something else on my portfolio.

My Fellow Board Members

So, what were my first impressions of the Board as an entity? Bearing in mind that this blog will not only be read by visitors to the RW web site but also by the Board members, it goes without saying that I was impressed because if I wasn’t I’d have to say so and I might never be able to look them in the face again!! But, seriously, the Board is an excellent mix of individual styles and experience, ably chaired by Jackie whose wealth of experience as a consultant in HR and other matters makes her an appropriate choice for the chair. As mentioned earlier, the gravitas (in both manner and appearance) of Ian Oram makes him a good choice as Company Secretary and his meticulous minute taking and knowledge of the many legal constraints on us keeps us on the straight and narrow. The business and marketing experience is provided by Phil Watts, a senior figure in Ordnance Survey, currently under pressure due to significant business commitments, who seems to spend quite a bit of time pleading that pressure of work prevents him making as much of an input to proceedings as he’d wish, but what he does contribute is carefully thought out. The IT whizz kids are Fred Bone and Bill Hibbert who share responsibility for the numerous IT tasks involved in running the paper. These include the IT systems in general which are needed to produce the weekly issue, together with the inevitable associated tasks of data protection and disaster recovery, the web site, the peals data base (peals.co.uk) and the CD project (production of past year’s issues on a CD).

Last but by no means least, as he holds the purse strings, is the Finance Director, Chris Rogers the first Director I met formally. While it would be unfair to refer to him as "the bean counter", he nevertheless has the attitude of looking after the pennies to ensure the pounds are looked after! He comes from a high-profile auditing background and if that doesn’t qualify him for spotting where pennies could be saved, I don’t know what would! But he’ll be a hard act to follow when he retires because his production of estimates, budgets, outturns etc. is copious and precise and although I wouldn’t count financial analysis as one of my strengths, I feel very relaxed about the financial control exercised over the business. I am happy to accept recommendations made by Chris because he is infinitely more competent on financial matters than I am and the way he presents his information is crystal clear so that even I can understand what I’m approving! Throughout my career I have always adopted the attitude that if someone is appointed to a position of authority and clearly knows what he is doing, I won’t challenge him (well not much anyway!). After all I don’t believe in buying a dog and barking myself.

The Move - 2

So, why are we moving and what have I got to do to "project manage" this? Unlike the move from Guildford in 2002, this time it’s a question of having to because we have come to the end of the lease on Eagleside House and the landlord wants to convert the building into flats. He has offered to keep us on by moving us downstairs but it’s generally agreed this is unsatisfactory for a number of reasons, so we’ve looked elsewhere. Before I was appointed to manage the move, the Editor and Manager searched for another location. Geographically, there were numerous options based on the domiciles of the Board members and staff and these included London, Swindon, Winchester and points further north. I suggested Wantage but this was not taken seriously (nor was it offered seriously!). In the end, the need to retain the existing staff was paramount and somewhere else in Andover was the choice. The first serious consideration was a converted barn on the outskirts of Andover which I liked because it was closer to Wantage and the parking would be free! However, a rather nice first floor property above a building society, slap in the centre of the town, appeared on the market at the right time, with the right facilities and, most important for the FD, a similar rental to that existing. So, all being well, subject to the signing of a satisfactory lease, we’ll be moving to Elvin House at the end of January 2009.

What has this project management involved? Well, I now know why all the other directors kept their heads down when the chairman asked for a director to do the job. It’s proved to be quite involved so far and we haven’t even got a lease agreed yet! There are seven parties involved: ourselves, the Newbury Building Society who own the building and occupy the ground floor, their agents, their solicitors, our solicitors, Test Valley Borough Council and Royal Mail. The last two are involved because the building is listed and we require listed building consent for the internal changes to the layout to meet our requirements and we need a separate address from Royal Mail to ensure we don’t have to collect our mail from downstairs. Listed building consent is required for any work on a listed building and although permission had been granted for work the Society had commissioned to make the first floor suitable for letting, we wanted to make internal changes. I decided we needed to re-apply for listed building consent even though the changes were minimal and would not be seen by anybody other than ourselves and visitors to the premises. I wish I hadn’t bothered but I didn’t want to risk someone (a ringer with a grievance against the RW?) grassing on us, thereby incurring the wrath and financial penalty of the local council! So application has been made and the bureaucratic machine is in motion. The application has been made on the very efficient on-line planning portal but we’ll still have to wait for 40 days to ensure there are no objections (to something nobody can see!).

What else is involved? Well, we need to move all our computer equipment and telephone system. However, although the computers are no problem (I hope!) the telephone system was likely to cause a problem because it is close to being life-expired, so we’ve decided to update it with a new system with BT - delivery up to 25 days (still, under the old BT regime it would have been 25 weeks!). This decision is cost-effective because the contract will be cheaper than the existing one and reliability and efficiency will be improved.

What are we gaining from the new premises, which are actually not much different in terms of square footage than the existing office? The simple answer is a better office layout and much improved storage facilities. Anyone who has visited Eagleside House cannot but have noticed the quantities of "stuff" lying around the offices in boxes etc. This should be a thing of the past in Elvin House with plenty of shelving provided and some dedicated storage rooms. Perhaps one of the most important features, as far as the Board is concerned, is the provision of a better room for Board meetings, which although only occurring four times a year, are currently conducted in the unsuitably cramped Editor’s office. This room will double as a merchandise packing room and temporary storage in busy times

So, when do we move? First consideration is to choose the day of the week which interferes least with the production schedule. That’s easy - it’s a Thursday after a day spent packing on the Wednesday. We also need to consider the financial implications of disconnecting from the current lease and taking over the new lease, assuming it is signed! Currently the proposal is to move on January 29th. Watch this blog for more updates on the great move - and a report on another Board meeting!

 

New Director's Blog - part 3

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