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Career moves


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Business Spotlight - epaper ⋅ Ausgabe 11/2021 vom 27.10.2021

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Bildquelle: Business Spotlight, Ausgabe 11/2021

The phone call from Uncle Maurice was perfectly timed, because Julie and I had just lost our jobs and we were having a cup of tea at my place.

“Paula,” he said, “put your phone on loudspeaker. I’ve got proper jobs for you both. It could be a good career move.”

Julie and I looked at each other. “What’s the catch?” I asked.

That sounds impolite, but you have to be careful with Uncle Maurice. Once he got us work distributing free samples at a conference. What he didn’t tell us was that it was an adult entertainment conference, so you can imagine what kind of things we were handing out. Well, he could hear we were doubtful, so he turned on the charm. He’s an ex-actor, so he has

Our Uncle Maurice is full of charm, especially for ladies of a certain age buckets of it.

“No, Paula, nothing funny about this. I want you as business managers for my new venture — WokeTopia.”

“WokeTopia?” ...

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...

“That’s it. I’ve got lots of creative types who’ve moved into a building I’m renting. Vegan restaurants, yoga studios, cafes with cats, organic T-shirts. All New Age, you know?”

“Where did you get the money for this, then?” asked Julie.

“I’ve got backers.”

“Who?”

“Nice ladies with money to invest.”

Now, like I said, Uncle Maurice is full of charm, especially for ladies of a certain age. So this sounded plausible.

“What would we do?” I asked.

“Well, the tenants are bad at organizing things like telephones, electricity, water — anything practical. I need you to make sure everything works.”

“And what are you going to do?”

“Keep the investors sweet until the money starts rolling in. Each tenant pays rent, plus ten per cent of their shop’s profits. What do you say?”

We looked at each other. Julie nodded.

“All right, Uncle Maurice,” I said. “We’re in.”

***

WokeTopia was an old fire station from Victorian times. It was well built and the rent was affordable because it was in a bad part of London. Unfortunately, the tenants were just as bad.

Costas, who ran a patisserie with gluten-free cakes, was usually in our office first thing in the morning to complain about the cats from Kassy’s Kitty-Kat

Kafé peeing outside his shop. Kassy would call if a cat went missing, accusing Costas of having murdered it. Blue Mountain Wyoming — who said he was a fortune-telling shaman from some Native American tribe — was seldom in his rooftop tepee. His clients would ask us where he was, which was usually asleep on a bench in a nearby park with a bottle of white man’s firewater next to him.

None of the rest were much better, and the few customers who visited weren’t coming back. After the first two weeks, we called the tenants to a meeting. We wanted Uncle Maurice to come, but he was on a safari in Namibia with one of his investor lady friends.

The room was full, and the air was heavy with the smell of chai lattes and patchouli.

“Right,” said Julie. “Time for a pep talk.”

Now, Julie’s pep talks are scary things. She believes in tough love, so she told the group they were useless hippies who were giving the Age of Aquarius a bad name. She said if they didn’t pull themselves together, we’d replace them with nail salons, sun studios and betting shops. The yoga teachers were in tears by the end.

“It’s the marketing, Julie,” said Anik, a tantric masseur with lovely eyes and hands. “Couldn’t you two take it over?”

Well, Uncle Maurice had given us a budget for daily expenses, and as he was now offline in Namibia, we used it to promote WokeTopia.

***

Oh, we worked hard that month. We know about this kind of thing, so we made some quite hot TikTok videos with Anik (I did enjoy those) and one of them went viral. Soon, Anik had too many appointments, but his clients then also ate pastries, went for a coffee with the cats or bought an organic T-shirt. Even Blue Mountain Wyoming had enough fortune telling to do. So, when Uncle Maurice finally flew back from a sailing trip around the Mediterranean with another investor lady friend, we were optimistic.

He looked at the figures and slowly turned grey under his tan.

“Oh, my gawd,” he said. “What have you done?”

“That’s nice!” I said. “After all our work! What’s wrong?”

I could see his face struggling to stay in control, but then he put on his most charming smile.

“What have you done to turn WokeTopia into such a fantastic success?”

“I meant, ‘What have you done to turn WokeTopia into such a fantastic success?’ Let’s have a bottle of bubbly…”

***

The party ended with my taking Anik home and letting him practise some new massage techniques he’d just learned. But next morning, when I got to work, Julie had bad news.

“It’s Maurice,” she said. “He’s gone!”

We should have realized there was something odd about WokeTopia when we met the tenants. You see — as Uncle Maurice explained in the email he sent us from Vanuatu, where he had decided to “retire” — it was never supposed to be successful.

“I promised to repay each of my seven lady friends their money, plus 50 per cent of the profits,” Julie read from the email. “It’s just that each one thought they were the only investor apart from me. So, when WokeTopia failed — and I thought it was certain to fail —I wouldn’t have to repay anything. I’d just shut it down, tell them their investment was lost and disappear with their money. You two making it a success was the last thing I needed.”

“So, he only used us because he thought we were useless?”

Julie nodded. “Yes. Embarrassing, but true.”

As Vanuatu has no extradition treaty with Britain, there was nothing to be done. After a lot of tears, the investors formed a partnership to continue Woke- Topia. They fired us, but that was all right, because two weeks later, we sold Buckingham Palace to a Russian oligarch by mistake.

But that’s another story.

JAMES SCHOFIELD is a writer, business coach and podcaster. Contact: story@ business-spotlight.de

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