The firm


In this unit, we look in more detail at Keypoint Security (UK) Ltd, and especially at the organisation of the company. Peter Jackson, the young management trainee, is given the task of finding out how the company works. We look at how decisions are made and how information is communicated within the company, and at some aspects of its finances. We also look at how meetings are arranged and conducted.


Irena Phillips  
Peter Jackson  
Sarah Street  
Secretary at Keypoint Security Ltd.
Michael Vincey is Managing Director of Keypoint Security Ltd.
Bert Field is Production Manager for Keypoint Security Ltd.
Harry Dent, Andy Scuff, Jane Parget and Mary Wilford all work at Keypoint Security Ltd.

All of these characters are British.


Vocabulary Company departments and managers; shareholders and directors; shares, investments and takeovers; incentives.
Skills Giving instructions; making an appointment; running a meeting; writing a company profile.
Structures Figures with decimal points; each/every/all.
Documents An organisation chart; a financial report; an agenda; notes.

Finding out about company organisation

2.1 Listen and read

Irena Phillips is in her office talking to Peter. Listen to what they say. What instructions does Irena give Peter?

IRENA Now, Peter! Management trainees are supposed to make themselves familiar with every department of the company. As you've only been with us a week or so see the meaning, I think you might find it useful to write a company profile see the meaning. Visit all the department heads. Introduce yourself. Find out everything you can about how the company's organised, how each department operates. I tell you what see the meaning. How would you like to write a short report for me, say by the end of the week?
PETER Yes, of course. How long should the report be?
IRENA Oh, two thousand words should do it. Would you like to make a start now, and I'll get on with my report on Midland Furniture!

2.2 Speaking practice: making an appointment

Peter has to make appointments to see all the department heads. To do this, he telephones their secretaries. Listen to what they say. When you hear it the second time, there will be pauses. You speak the part of Peter.

PETER Good morning. My name's Peter Jackson, I'm the new management trainee. I wonder if you can help me. I'd like to make an appointment to see Mr McTam.
SECRETARY Let me have a look at his diary. How long will this meeting take?
PETER It shouldn't take more than half an hour, I don't think.
SECRETARY Well, if it's only half an hour I could fit you in at half past three this afternoon. How would that suit you?
PETER Oh, I've already got a meeting this afternoon. Could he manage Monday at half past eleven?
SECRETARY Yes, I think so. I'll pencil it in see the meaning for 11.30, and confirm it with you when I've spoken to Mr McTam.
PETER OK, that's great. Thank you very much!

2.3 Document study

The chart below shows the organisational structure of Keypoint Security. Study it carefully, and re-read 2.1. Then write the words missing from the text.

Irena Phillips is the Client Services Manager. She reports to see the meaning the (a) Director, who, as a director see the meaning of the company, (b) to the (c) . The (d) Managers report to the Production Manager, who is their (e) head, but who is not on the board see the meaning. He therefore reports to the (f) Director, Michael Vincey, who is also the company Chairman.


R&D research and development.

2.4 Listen and read

Sarah Street shows the chart to Peter, but she also explains to him how she thinks the company could work more efficiently. Listen to what they say. Notice how Peter questions Sarah to try to find out exactly what she means.

SARAH We ought to be thinking in terms of little groups of people, each group doing one particular job, and all the groups interlocking.
PETER But each group must have a leader, surely?
SARAH Yes, but that's the whole point! Not necessarily the same person all the time. If you're assigned to a particular project, then you're the group leader for that project, because you know more about it than anyone else.
PETER So why do we need a head of marketing, or a head of any other department?
SARAH Because that's responsibility, not leadership. Whatever happens in marketing, I'm ultimately responsible see the meaning. To Mike Vincey and to the shareholders. That doesn't mean I have to chair see the meaning every meeting. I know - as part of your research, why don't you sit in on see the meaning the management meeting this afternoon?

2.5 Reading for key words

Find the words or phrases in 2.1 and 2.3 that tell you the following:

1 Peter has not worked for Keypoint for very long.
2 Irena is not sure how Peter will react to the task she has set him.

In the Keypoint organisation chart, which department heads are responsible for the following?

3 the company's accounts.
4 finding out what new products are needed to meet the clients' needs.
5 developing these products so that they are ready to be sold.

2.6 Directing the internal post

As part of his training, Peter spends some time in the post room. He is given a number of letters addressed simply to 'Keypoint Security Ltd'. The subjects of the letters are listed below. Write down the name of the department or the title of the person Peter should send each letter to.

1 a request for information about the company's services.
2 an application for a job as an electrical engineer.
3 an invitation to send a representative to an official reception in the Town Hall.
4 a copy of a scientific paper about infra-red security systems.
5 a doctor's certificate: an employee will be absent from work for at least six months.
6 an urgent request from the company representative in Edinburgh for 500 copies of the company's catalogue.
7 the third reminder requesting payment of an invoice for £1340, six months overdue.
8 a Christmas card, three months late, no signature, addressed to 'Jimmy'.
9 a complaint that a client's alarm failed to operate when premises were burgled.
10 a leaflet from a local garage, offering to service employees' cars at discount prices.

Discussing the company’s position

2.7 Speaking practice: talking figures

Read this extract from a weekly magazine called 'Investment Guide'. Write down the answers to the questions below. Then listen to the questions, and say your answers.
Note that in English a full stop is used for the decimals, not a comma. Figures after the decimal point must be read separately: 'five point eight eight'.

Industrial and domestic security specialists
Ordinary capital £1.25m (market value £6.1 m)
25p ordinary share: market price 122p
Year to
30 April
profit £m
per share p


* estimated

Keypoint’s first-half performance was extremely promising see the meaning but a downturn in sales in the second half of the year is likely to hit profits see the meaning. The company could vulnerable see the meaning to a takeover bid if whole-year results lead to shares being undervalued.

INVESTMENT GUIDE 14 March 1992 | 15

1 What was the dividend in 1991? The dividend in 1991 was 5.88p.
2 What was the turnover in 1989?
3 What was the pre-tax profit in 1990?
4 What were the earnings per share in 1989?
5 What's the estimated turnover for 1992?
6 Which was the best year for Keypoint?

2.8 Find the word

Read the text below on starting a business. Fill in the gaps with words from the box. If you're not sure of the meaning of any of the words, look them up in the glossary.

To start a business, you need (a) - that is, money. You can borrow it; or you can sell parts of your company - equal parts, of course. These are called (b) , and the people who buy them become shareholders. They expect to get something in return for their investment. If the company does well, it pays a (c) on each share. The value of the shares (of a public company) can rise, so that their market price is often much higher than the amount printed on the share certificate - though it may fall below it if the company does badly.
Serious investors read the financial press see the meaning. They want to know not only the share prices but how much money a company has taken from its customers during the past year (its (d) ), how much of that money is left when all costs have been paid (the company's (e) ), and the result of dividing that amount by the number of shares ((f) per share).


2.9 Listen and read

Michael Vincey is the Managing Director of Keypoint. The weekly management committee meeting is about to begin, around the table in his office. Listen to what they say. Who is chairing this meeting? How do you know?

MICHAEL Good afternoon, everyone. You've all got in front of you the agenda see the meaning for this afternoon's meeting, but before we start discussing that, there's a piece about us in this week's 'Investment Guide'. Sarah pointed it out to me this morning - anyone else seen it?
BERT Yes, I did, but shouldn't we discuss this under any other business see the meaning?
SARAH But it's important! We'll never get round to it see the meaning under any other business!
MICHAEL OK, OK, I know it's not on the agenda, Bert, but Sarah's right, this is an important issue. I propose that we deal with it under item five see the meaning, proposals for this month's board meeting.
SARAH Well, all right, as long as it's discussed sometime.
MICHAEL Right. Can we start, then, with item one, last month's sales figures?

2.10 Structure practice: each, every and all

Read again the dialogues and documents in this lesson. Look for examples of the words 'each', 'every' and 'all'.
'Each' and 'every' are used before singular nouns: 'each department', 'every meeting'. The difference between 'each' and 'every' is not very great. You can use 'each' when you are thinking about the separate members of the group, and 'every' when you are thinking more of the group as a whole:

Each department is trying to cut its costs.
The company is trying to cut costs in every department.

'All' is used before plural nouns, and before uncountable nouns: 'all the departments', 'all the information'. Its meaning is very similar to 'every':

They're trying to cut costs in all departments.

Fill in the gaps below with 'each', 'every'or 'all'. In some cases, there maybe more than one possible answer; the one in the answer key is the one that most English speakers would probably use.

1 Did you give those reports to the directors?
Yes, I gave one to director.
2 Did you check the copies to make sure they were complete?
Yes, I checked the copies.
3 And did you send them the agenda?
Yes, I circulated the agenda to the directors.
4 Have you got any more details about the takeover?
No, I've given you the information I had.
5 letter that is sent to Keypoint goes to the post room.
6 The letters for department are put together in a box on the post-room trolley.
7 When the letters have been sorted they are taken round the building and delivered.

2.11 Listen and read

The management meeting at Keypoint continues. Listen to how Michael Vincey keeps the discussion moving forwards.

MICHAEL Good, that's agreed then. Can we press on? Item five, proposals for the next board meeting, which I would remind you is a week on Wednesday. Er - Sarah, I think there was something you wanted to ...
SARAH Yes, Michael. As I think most of us are aware, rumours are going around see the meaning about takeover bids. Now this may or may not be good news for the shareholders, but I can assure you, it's very damaging for the image of the company see the meaning. What I would ...
BERT With respect, Mr Chairman, I don't think we should waste time discussing rumours. There's always a risk of a hostile bid see the meaning. It can happen to anyone at any time.
MICHAEL Let's not start arguing until we've got some facts to argue with. Peter, can I bring you in on this? see the meaning You've been doing some research on takeovers. What was your reaction to the piece in the 'Investment Guide'?
PETER Er - well - I'm not quite sure what we're discussing at the moment. Are we talking about defending the company against a hostile bid? Or promoting its image?

Talking about incentives

2.12 Listen and read

The management meeting continues. Again, listen to how Michael Vincey keeps the discussion moving forwards.

PETER Are we talking about defending the company against a hostile bid? Or promoting its image?
SARAH Well, both really.
PETER Hm. Well. I don't know. Er - you already have some kind of share bonus scheme, I suppose? see the meaning Giving shares to employees if they achieve their objectives?
BERT You're joking! see the meaning Another incentive scheme?
MICHAEL Not now, Bert. Go on, Peter.
PETER I know what Bert means, but this isn't just rewarding people for effort. This is making employees into shareholders - making them loyal to the company. They know if there's a takeover bid they can do something about it. They can hang on to see the meaning their shares.
SARAH Well, why don't we propose it to the board?
MICHAEL Yes, I think perhaps we should do that. But before we do, I think I'll get in touch with see the meaning the company's lawyers and accountants. Peter, perhaps you could find out what members of the staff see the meaning think about a share bonus scheme.

2.13 Listen and read

Peter goes to ask people in Keypoint what they think about a share bonus scheme. Listen to what they say. How many people are in favour of the scheme?

HARRY DENT (storeman)
  Yes, I wouldn't mind see the meaning having a few shares. The thing is see the meaning, of course, if you give them to one person, you've more or less got to give them to everyone, haven't you? Otherwise you get bad feeling among the staff.
ANDY SCUFF (salesman)
  Shares? No thank you! If they want to give us incentives, why don't they charter an aeroplane and take us all for a week's holiday in Majorca? That's my idea of an incentive! see the meaning
JANE PARGET (computer operator)
  That's typical of see the meaning this firm. No communication. I wrote a great long memo to Mike Vincey six weeks ago, explaining a brilliant scheme of mine. Never even had an acknowledgement!
MARY WILFORD (quality control)
  Yes, I think it would be a good idea for us all to have shares, because if there's a takeover bid, the share price usually goes up, doesn't it, so we can sell our shares and make a bit of money that way.

2.14 Reading for key words

Find the words or phrases in 2.12 and 2.13 that tell you that:

1 Peter is 'playing for time' and trying to think what he should say.
2 the incentive schemes Keypoint has now do not work.
3 giving an unequal number of shares to employees may cause trouble.
4 a memo sent to Michael Vincey did not get a reply.

2.15 Document study: an agenda

The directors of Keypoint meet once a month. This is the list of matters that they will discuss at their next meeting. Which of these items will probably be on the agenda of every meeting? Why is Mrs Phillips asked to attend for only one item?

for the meeting of the Board of Directors
Wednesday 25 March 1992
at 3.00 p.m. in the boardroom

  1. Apologies for absence.
  2. Minutes see the meaning of the meeting of 26 February 1992.
  3. Matters arising see the meaning from the Minutes.
  4. Reports of Chairman, Marketing Director, Company Secretary and Technical Director.
  5. Client services (Mrs Phillips to attend for this item).
  6. Productivity bonuses and incentives.
  7. Dates of meetings during 1993-94.
  8. Arrangements for Directors' Annual Dinner (September).
  9. Any other business.

Items of other business must be notified to the Company secretary see the meaning in writing before the start of the meeting.

The meeting will end not later than 6 p.m.


2.16 Writing practice: the company profile

Peter still has to write his company profile for Irena Phillips (see 2.1). These are his notes. Use them to write the first two paragraphs of his report.

Start with five sentences based directly on Peter's notes.

Then start a new paragraph: 'The company is organised as follows'.

Then write full-sentence answers to each of these questions (see 2.3). Remember that your sentences can be quite short - some of them may be only four or five words long:

How many directors are there? How many of them are non-executive?
Who holds the post of Chairman and Managing Director?
How many departments is the work of the company divided among?
Who is the Company Secretary?
Who are the other heads of departments?
Who do all the department heads report to?

This, of course, is only the beginning of Peter's report; but it is all we are concerned with here. Using this as a model, try to write a profile of the organisation you work for, or any other organisation you know.


2.17 Listen and read

In Irena's office, a few days after the board meeting, she is reading from a copy of the minutes. Listen to what she says. The minutes are written in very formal language. Did the board agree that the share bonus scheme was a good idea?

IRENA Listen, this is from the minutes:
Resolved see the meaning: That the company's lawyers be approached at once with a view to setting up a share bonus scheme within the company - target date for start of scheme: September 1993.