An extract from Never Mind the Botox, the story of a corporate accountant working on the sale of a ‘glamorous cosmetic company’:
‘CAN I HELP YOU?’ the receptionist said, tossing her hair slightly as she spoke. Her smile looked slightly lopsided and Rachel suddenly had an overwhelming urge to leap across the desk and peer at her face for signs of surgery. She resisted.
‘Yes, thank you. I’m Rachel Altman from Payne Stanley, here to see the finance director, Tom Duffy. He should be expecting me.’
‘Take a seat. I’ll let him know you’re here.’
‘I’m just waiting for two colleagues,’ said Rachel. ‘They should be here in a few minutes. I’m slightly early.’
She sat down and looked around. If the reception was anything to go by, the offices were going to be lovely. The surfaces were adorned with opulent flower arrangements and the decor was deep red with heavily textured wallpaper. The seats in the waiting area were a mix of finely upholstered chairs and soft leather sofas. Small boxes of leaflets advertising various miracle treatments sat on the coffee table, next to a neat pile of beauty magazines. Rachel sat and flicked through one, listening to the quiet hiss of the air conditioning while she waited for the other two to arrive.
AJ arrived first, shortly followed by Rosa. By the time they’d all signed in, Tom Duffy had arrived in reception. He walked over to them and looked at each of them in turn. Rachel could see that he wasn’t quite sure which of them was in charge, so she quickly stepped forward and held out her hand.
‘Hello, Rachel Altman, very nice to meet you, Tom. Can I introduce my team: Alistair James, but everyone calls him AJ, and this is Rosa Castelli.’
‘Hello, welcome to the Beau Street Group,’ Tom said, smiling at them and gesturing towards the small lift behind reception. ‘Let’s go up, shall we.’
The three of them followed Tom into the lifts, up and into a meeting room.
‘Can I get you some coffee?’ Tom asked.
‘That would be great, thanks,’ said Rachel.
After the obligatory tea party, they all eventually sat down.
‘I understand that you and Carl Stephens have known each other quite a long time,’ said Rachel.
‘Yes, probably ten years or more now,’ said Tom. ‘We’ve worked together a few times before. How much has Carl told you about this job?’
‘He’s given us the basic briefing and we’ve seen the email you sent, but it would be great to hear it from you directly,’ said Rachel.
‘Well, it goes without saying that this is all totally confidential,’ said Tom.
Rachel, AJ and Rosa all nodded earnestly.
‘We’ve been approached by the Equinox Practise, a large US-based cosmetic surgery business who are planning to expand in Europe and are interested in buying us. We weren’t looking to sell, but if we can get a good price for the business then we’ll definitely consider it. In order to work out how much they might be prepared to pay, Equinox have asked for a load of information – how much we charge for the procedures we do here, what profits we make, what sort of client base we have, that sort of thing.’
‘Yes, I saw the list you sent to Carl,’ said Rachel, nodding.
‘Well, we’d like you guys to prepare that for us and then present it to the Americans when they come over in just over a month’s time. It will be much better if it comes from someone independent; avoid them worrying that we might have been selective about what we tell them.’
‘Okay, no problem,’ said Rachel.
‘Good,’ said Tom. ‘It will be interesting to see how much they might be prepared to pay for us,’ he added, staring up at the ceiling as he spoke.
He didn’t quite rub his hands but Rachel could tell he was imagining the prospect of a large wad of cash coming his way. She’d seen this before, in other businesses they’d worked with. Management teams had often started out very positive about selling, only to be disappointed by the offer that followed. She hoped that this business was as good as they thought it was. It would make a nice change to be able to deliver good news.
Rachel spent the rest of the day finding her way about, organising their project room and briefing Rosa and AJ.
‘Don’t forget we need to be professional at all times,’ said Rachel. ‘This is no different to any other business that makes money out of providing a service.’
‘Quite right,’ said AJ, laughing. ‘No different at all. Apart from the fact that we’re not in a factory and there are still pictures of tits everywhere.’
‘They’re hardly the same as girly calendars, AJ,’ said Rosa. ‘They’re just adverts for boob jobs.’
‘I think you’ll find the expression you’re looking for is breast augmentation,’ said Rachel. ‘And it’s what they do, so it’s hardly surprising that they’re advertising them. We’re going to have to get used to talking about this sort of thing and using all the proper expressions as it won’t be that long until we’re standing up presenting about it.’
‘I think it’s hilarious,’ said AJ. ‘I have no idea how I’m going to talk to the doctors about what they do with a straight face.’
‘You wait until you have to meet the doctors who do penis enlargements,’ said Rachel. ‘That will take the smile off your face.’
Never Mind the Botox, by Penny Avis and Joanna Berry, is published by Matador at £6.99. For more information go to avisberry.com
Watch our interview with co-author and former Deloitte partner Penny Avis here