My neck is firmly on the line after the disaster of Microtop's failed takeover of Binary Computers. I thought Mr McTone was unnecessarily theatrical when he suggested I was personally responsible for pushing the Western world to the brink of recession. Even so, it is obvious that without a quick recovery I am destined for dismissal, or even worse, the local government account.
As a last chance I have been given Gulley's, a fair-sized inflatable manufacturer (that's a manufacturer of inflatables, not an inflatable ... you get the picture). The brief is concise - establish a strategy for the single European currency (no, don't stop reading in apathy, this is important stuff). With all the fuss about the year 2000 problem, many companies have totally overlooked the effect the Euro will have on their processes and systems. Though the Euro arrives next year, Gulley's has done precisely nothing about it. From my research, this seems par for the course.
I began by interviewing Tony Magellan, the man charged with coordinating Gulley's approach to the Euro. "It's a nightmare," he gushed (Tony was in PR before taking this job - gushing comes naturally to him). "The operating people can't be bothered with it, the finance bods are blase, and the marketing types are terrified to mention it, it's such a killer topic.
Our whole business is threatened here, and I can't get people interested.
They keep changing the subject."
"Okay," I said slowly, trying to calm him down, "just tell me in simple terms what the Euro is going to do to the company."
"It's a difficult one," said Tony. "There's the systems, of course. They have to be able to print the Euro symbol. Then there's the exchange business - what do we do if someone wants to pay in Euros? And, erm, lots of other nasty stuff."
"Lots of other nasty stuff," I repeated in disbelief. "Okay, let's make this simple. What would happen if you did nothing?"
He looked puzzled. "What do you mean by nothing?"
I hadn't realised it was such a difficult concept. "Took no action; pretended it wasn't happening; looked the other way - nothing."
"It would be a catastrophe. Absolutely disastrous."
"Could you give me a specific example? Anything specific that's actually going to happen?"
"Well, I mentioned the Euro symbol; if we have to invoice in Euros ..."
"You could put 'Euro' on the invoice. What else?"
"Payments. Our payment systems don't know how to deal with Euros."
"Do they know how to deal with Barts? Or Dongs?"
He hesitated. "Not as such."
"So you'd turn down a payment in one of those currencies?"
"Obviously not. We'd find a way."
"Exactly." I excused myself from our meeting, a cold sweat breaking out on my forehead. It was clearly a conspiracy. I was supposed to be devising a strategy to fixing a problem that no-one believed in. Local government, here I come.
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