Chapter 1: The Beginning

© Blair Stevenson 2016

This is a story about a once successful, but now struggling company. Let’s call it Velocity Inc. But it could be about any business, even one like yours.

Where there is huge customer demand, competition flourishes. Velocity had found itself facing a growing number of aggressive competitors whose share of the market grew, at Velocity’s expense. A different approach was needed, so the worried Board decided to bring in a new Chief Executive to turn the floundering ship around.

The new Chief Executive was a short, energetic woman by the name of Sally Swift. Sally was no saint. She was a hard-driving businesswoman with a reputation for moving fast and getting results. And move fast she did.

Three months after starting, Sally recommended a new strategy to the much relieved Board. It was quickly approved and rapidly rolled out. Within months Velocity was growing again, winning back market share from its surprised competitors, who were unable to copy Velocity’s new strategy.

While Sally and the other senior managers were excited by the dramatic improvements they’d been able to achieve, many employees were not so pleased; just the opposite in fact.

Change can be difficult, particularly when work mates lose their jobs and you’re not sure you’ll have your own well-paying job for much longer. When you’re told to do things differently, without really understanding why, you’re likely to resist change; particularly when you’ve been given little guidance and support. Soon you become less committed to your company and work becomes a place you go, rather than something you do. That’s what many of the workers at Velocity experienced during this time.

One morning, Sally Swift arrived early at Velocity Inc.’s head office building. After parking in the underground garage, she took the elevator to her spacious executive office. She’d been tossing and turning all night and hadn’t slept well.

Although the company was growing again, she was worried. Her first meeting of the day was going to be a presentation on the latest employee engagement survey results from her Head of Human Resources. Her Head of HR was one of these gung-ho types who could recite all the statistics about the links between employee engagement and productivity, profitability and just about everything else that was important to her and her team. Sally had an uneasy premonition that the results were not going to be good.

She had good reason to be concerned. There were clear signs across the business that employee morale was poor. Signs such as sales teams not reaching target, increasing customer complaints, higher accident rates in manufacturing, problems with retaining good people, and skyrocketing absenteeism in some divisions.

Sally had long paid lip service to the idea that people were her most important asset, but in reality she’d never really believed it. Now she was forced to consider the possibility that in order to finish what she’d started, and make Velocity great again, she’d need to find a way to improve employee morale in order to get better performance from her people.

Since she’d arrived at her office earlier than usual, Sally decided to complete a few outstanding tasks before considering this thorny problem. Seated at her mahogany desk, she dictated her Chief Executive’s Report for the upcoming Board meeting, and left it for her Executive Assistant to transcribe later in the day. Then she replied to a couple of emails and checked her meeting schedule for the morning.

With a few minutes still left to her, Sally allowed her mind to return to the issue that had kept her awake overnight. Despite her empty talk about people being her most important asset, Sally did believe that most people came to work to do a good job. Unfortunately it would seem that fewer and fewer of Velocity’s staff were doing so.

A few years earlier, she’d read that the ability to inspire and motivate people for high performance is the most important talent that people managers require. It made good sense to her then, and it still did. It seemed she needed to find a way to inspire and motivate people across her business to perform way better than they were now.

As she leaned back in her leather chair deep in thought, her eyes settled on the sparsely furnished bookcase in the corner of her office. She wandered over to it, took down the bulky dictionary she consulted from time to time, and looked up the word ‘motivate’. It said, “To provide a motive”. Checking further, Sally found the word ‘motive’ meant ‘an emotion that excites to action’.

“Breakthrough!” she thought. “For all the jargon around employee engagement, this is the heart of the matter. All we have to do is find out how to excite people to action.”

Not that she thought this would be easy. But she did have a reputation for getting results once she’d clearly defined the problem, so Sally backed herself to succeed at this challenge just as she’d succeeded at many others. She felt a slight tremor of excitement at the prospect.

At that moment, an audible alert came through on her iPhone letting her know the employee engagement meeting was due to start in five minutes.

“And so the journey begins,” she smiled inwardly as she strode from the room.

Comments

This isvery easy to read. I like your character. I'd like to be able to visualise her a bit more than I can. Be great if the Head of HR becomes a counter balance and Sally. That would create tension. Fantastic start and such an easy read which is a sign of clarity in your thinking.

Watch for sentences that become too long. The sentence below could be broken into two.

Now she was forced to consider the possibility that in order to finish what she’d started, and make Velocity great again, she’d need to find a way to improve employee morale in order to get better performance from her people.

Also watch for phrases that refer to an earlier idea as in ' staff were doing so.' An example of what you mean might be helpful here.

Unfortunately it would seem that fewer and fewer of Velocity’s staff were doing so.

I agree with Suraya - a good read, fast paced etc.  Couple of little thoughts - I could not visualise Sally - be great to have a bit more description around her.  

My other minor issue was the dots not joining.  Sally comes up with a strategy and is succeeding at it, but her staff are not meeting their targets.

Maybe if the pace slowed down a bit and the tension grew gradually keeps the reader hooked in for the long haul.

It is great to see a business novel genre evolving - this is the reality of life for a number of us and so developing this into a full novel is brilliant and I encourage to keep at it.