Strolling through the factory, Henry noted how the machines glistened and the glass cases sparkled when the morning sun struck them just so. He’d never thought that seeing something for the last time would make him see it as he'd rarely done in forty-nine years.
“Sir, everyone’s assembled in the boardroom, as you requested.” Mrs. Henderson, efficient as always, had been his right arm for almost twenty years. She usually anticipated his every move and had preparations made before he requested them. She hadn’t anticipated this however.
No one had.
Taking his seat at the head of the conference table that would have made a respectable presence on a football field, Henry paused to survey his leadership team. Most had been with the company for at least a decade. They waited for him to speak as they had done many dozens of times.
“Gentlemen, I’ll get right to the point. You know me as a man who considers his decisions carefully, so you’ll know this is no different. I’ve decided to name a successor and to retire, effective immediately.”
Stunned silence lasted only seconds.
Simmons spoke first. “Sir, this is…well, very sudden. Isn’t a transition period at least customary?”
“Simmons, all of you are highly qualified to step into the chairmanship of Noble Machinery today. Each of you knows the ins and outs, the day to day workings of the foundry. You’ve participated in developing Noble into its current role as the leading producer of industrial machines. The selection of a successor was both simple and profoundly difficult, as you might imagine.”
Cranston spoke up. “Henry, we’ve know you a long time. You’ve been the only head of this board since the inception of the company.”
“All the more reason for me to step aside and allow someone else to take the reigns. I believe that you’ll all support my choice of successor.”
“But can any one of us replace you, sir?” Cranston wasn’t a sycophant; he was earnest and genuinely cared about the company.
“Yes, perhaps if you at least remained on the board for a time?” Harvey was the most junior member of the board and Henry recognized his uncertainty.
Clearly they wanted to discuss a decision he’d already made, he thought with a touch of amusement, yet understanding.
Martin spoke up. “Sir, pardon me for asking, but what about Henry Jr.?”
The most senior member of his team, Martin was also his close confidant, and the only one who knew Henry’s choice of successor. He knew the desires of his boss’s heart. Henry had poured so much of himself into the business over the years that he felt as though he barely knew his son.
“Martin, you know it’s always been my deepest desire for my son to join the business, and hopefully someday to be its chairman - I would expect anyone to earn that job. However, my son has shown little interest in the company over the years; in fact none since leaving home.”
“Now gentlemen, please congratulate Martin…”
A knock on the door interrupted Henry. “Yes?” he called out.
Mrs. Henderson opened the door. Over her shoulder was Henry Jr., a quirky smile on his face.
Henry rose from his chair as his son stepped into the room.
“Hey Dad, I’m sorry for the interruption.”
Henry grinned; his forgiveness and his delight both evident.
“Say, Martin, you ready for the top job?” Henry Jr. reached to shake Martin’s hand.
“You knew?” Martin gave Henry Jr. a look of mock surprise.
Henry looked from his new chairman to his son and burst out laughing. “So, you’re telling tales behind my back are you Martin? Should I reconsider?”
His son grinned. “Actually, Dad, I’m joining the company. I’m starting as Martin’s assistant.”
“We can’t have two Henry’s working here at the same time you know,” Martin stood to shake his old friend’s hand.
“Well, that being the case, I guess I’ll be on my way. I have an afternoon date with a fishing pole and a whale of a bass.” Henry laughed lightheartedly and headed for the door.
“You go with him son. It’ll be my first assignment for you. Get to know your old man.” Martin grinned as the others stood and reached to shake his hand with warm enthusiasm.
“You bet, sir! Ok with you Dad?”
Henry clapped his son on the shoulder and they walked out the door together, the retiree and the prodigal son.
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