Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Canada – CCCXXXI. Difficult Beginnings (14 of 15)

A new job, a new profession, new co-workers, and a long commute to get there was too much to absorb all at once; in time, there would be many attenuating factors; but at the beginning the natural environment proved a soothing balm.

Candiac Equipment was located close to the highway, but the company itself was at the edge of Candiac in a green area; there were a few detached homes, and nothing else.  Many areas were still wild.  At lunch time, weather permitting I went for a walk in that beautiful setting.  Thus, I was able to recharge my batteries and face the rest of the day.

Please follow me as I introduce you to the different players.  I remember them as if I was there yesterday – well almost, for after all it was not yesterday, but some fifty years ago!

When you opened the door, you were greeted by a long corridor leading to a window; and under the window was the desk of Nicole Sanford.  Nicole could be mistaken as a mere receptionist, but she was so much more than that.  She wore many hats:  The first person that greeted you when you entered; she answered the phone and took messages long before technology automated that difficult task; she assisted Mr. Bélanger in his numerous accounting duties; she was the right-hand woman of Mr. Metzger; she acted as liaison for the salesmen while they were on the road; she took care of routine correspondence; and last but not least she prepared the payroll.

If Nicole was sick (and that was very rare), the company found it difficult to manage.

Simply put, you wanted to be on her good side; and that was not very difficult, get her to talk about her house and just listen; her home was her passion in life.

On the right of Nicole was Bélanger’s office.  He was responsible for a number of accounting duties:  Preparing monthly (and year-end) financial statements including the related journal entries, and accruals; determining the status of the work in progress (in effect he acted as a cost accountant); paying the provincial sales taxes; reviewing the payroll calculations effected by Nicole; remitting to the various agencies deductions at source (Federal and Provincial income taxes, Unemployment Insurance, and Québec Pension Plan); dealing with the auditors; and advising Metzger on financial and accounting issues.

Metzger was at the very beginning of the aforementioned corridor.  Since he was the CEO, it was difficult for me to pin down his duties.  Like any other commander in chief, he was often on the phone, meeting with the salesmen, checking together with the storekeepers the status of the inventory, touring the site where repairs work was carried out, and travelling often.  More than half of his time was spent away from his desk.  Often, at the end of the day, when I left, he was still working.  When he went on vacation, he left a phone number where he could be reached.  Managing even a small company required dedication and the willingness to burn the midnight oil.

On the left of Nicole were the offices where we worked.  “We” referred to Mrs. Hendrix, and I.  In addition to our desks, there were 5 more desks used by the salesmen when they were back in the office; often the desks were either vacant or used by the staff of our immediate neighbor, Walsh Construction (more on them later).

Hendrix was in charge of inventory control.  She had two drawers full of cards, and each card allowed her to determine the available stock, when to reorder, and when to request a recount (in addition to the year-end inventory count and the related reconciliations).  Needless to say, a substantial part of her time was spent keeping her card system up-to-date as items were received and withdrawn from the inventory.

In addition to the inventory, she was in charge of billing and calculating the commissions due to the salesmen.

Mr. Prévost and Mr. Gilles Fréchette were the storekeepers; they often came to the office to check some cards and/or consult Hendrix.  I vaguely remember Prévost; but I certainly remember Fréchette; he was well educated, perfectly bilingual, and quite a character; he could be sarcastic at times, but you couldn’t help liking him.  He offered me a lift even though that took him out of his way; eventually another colleague took over.

You heard the expression, “we must have known each other in another life.”  In many aspects Hendrix and I were similar.  We were both voracious readers who never tired of books; our favorite author was Taylor Caldwell, had we been given the time, we would have dissected her writing for hours on end.

She was an immigrant from Holland, and saw Canada as it really was.  Being surrounded by Canadians, we couldn’t debate the subject openly, but incomplete sentences and certain looks or expressions handily replaced an open discussion.

Many years after I left the company, I met her in a Montréal clinic where she was acting as an assistant to the doctors.  Again with half-words and frowns she indicated that she was not happy there.  But why was she in Montréal?  She used to live on the South Shore.  It seems that her husband has betrayed her trust (the way she discreetly put it) and that she had been divorced for a long time.

Bélanger gradually introduced me to the accounting universe.  Within a few months, writing up and balancing the multitude of ledgers became a familiar task, albeit always challenging.  I was also able to assist him in the more complex tasks; examples: work in progress, resolving discrepancies in the inventory count, and setting up recurring journal entries.  A grateful Nicole delegated to me a) the accrual duties, both keeping track and performing the actual calculations (the final calculations required an experienced accountant and was therefore performed by Bélanger); and b) the bank reconciliations.

Bélanger was happy with my work, but he continually urged me to be faster, and not to continuously double-check, or triple-check my work.  The expression, “Time is of the essence in this profession,” was often heard.

He believed in me and didn’t see me performing bookkeeping tasks for the rest of my life.

He had his own agenda, and in a sly manner led me into it.  And there, he was helped by a new co-worker who would soon join our ranks.

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