The factory floor was abuzz with gossip after rumours spread about Theo calling an extraordinary board meeting.
Three months into the second lockdown, everyone felt the meeting was a bad omen. They’d asked Theo what it was all about when he came in to do a stock check. His tight-lipped replies didn’t lift the mood.
Sat in his office, Theo wondered how the staff had got wind of the meeting. He soon worked it out. He remembered his recent chat with Ernie only too well…
“Yeo Theo, how you finding the lock down?” Ernie asked when Theo rang.
“I’m using it to think about the future,” Theo replied, “I’ve a new idea for the business. The drying robes have been selling well, but we need something new to launch when the economy starts re-opening.”
“Oooh!” Ernie exclaimed, “what is it, Theo?”
“A new clothing line,” Theo replied, “but I've got some more research to do before I tell you what it is. Then, if you like it, we’ll need a board meeting to get the green light. But don’t say anything to anyone will you!?”
Ernie didn’t know why Theo was being so secretive, but he promised to keep schtum. Unfortunately, the next time he’d been in the factory he let slip to some of the staff about the planned board meeting.
He knew he’d slipped up as soon as he said it. He forgave himself though. He’d had a lot on his mind trying to work out what Theo’s big new idea was. He’d even got into trouble for digging up the lawn looking for it.
Ernie explained all this when Theo phoned him from the factory to ask if he knew why the staff were asking him about a non-existent board meeting.
Theo blamed himself for Ernie’s slip of the tongue. He knew his favourite cavapoochon couldn’t keep a secret. He told Ernie not to worry and that he’d zoom him in a few days to tell him all about his new idea. Theo then went to tell his anxious staff he hoped to have some good news for them very soon.
As promised, Theo zoomed Ernie a couple of days later:
“Yeo Theo, come on then, spill the beans – what’s the big idea?” he asked excitedly.
“I think we should launch our own coat range,” Theo replied.
Ernie thought he’d misheard. He scratched his ear to make sure it was open.
“Coats?” he asked.
“Yes, a range of coats, Ernie,” Theo repeated.
“Oh right,” Ernie said in a rather flat voice.
“You don’t sound keen,” Theo said surprised, “don’t you think it’s a good idea?”
“Sort of Theo,” Ernie replied, rather unconvincingly.
“What do you mean, sort of’?” Theo asked.
“I’m not sure there’ll be much demand for coats,” Ernie explained.
“Why not?” Theo asked, trying to keep the frustration out of his voice.
“It’s obvious if you think about it, Theo,” Ernie said, never thinking he’d ever have accused his wise old friend of not thinking enough.
“Not to me it isn’t,” Theo said sharply, “so you’d better enlighten me!”
“You might feel a bit daft when I tell you,” Ernie said, nervously.
“Try me!!” Theo said.
“Well, it’s just that we’ve already got coats,” Ernie said. “Mine gets cut every six weeks and it isn’t fun. A lot of my mates feel the same. So, why would we want another one?”
Theo sighed. “Can we have a short break Ernie?” he asked.
“Of course,” Ernie replied, “I’ll go and get a couple of treats.”
Theo went and sat in his garden listening to the birds singing and looking at the early crocuses. After a few minutes he was ready to go back to answer Ernie’s question.
“I know we’ve got our own coats,” he explained, “but many humans like to buy fabric ones for their best friends. They’re one of the best-selling accessories on the market.”
“Really?” Ernie replied. “Come to think of it, Theo, I’ve often thought a lot of my mates’ coats are a funny colour. I suppose that would explain it,” he added.
“Yes well, quickly moving on,” Theo continued, “what do you think now?”
“It’s a great idea,” Ernie said excitedly, “when do we get started?”
“After the Board gives the okay to buy new sewing machines. I’ll get a meeting as soon as I can,” Theo said. “I’ve found some great fabrics. You’ll model them for the website.”
“I’d love to do that Theo,” Ernie said, “but we’ll need to agree my fee first”.
“The usual. A bag of your favourite treats,” Theo replied. “Now, I reckon we can get the first coats ready to sell by….”
"...I’m sorry Theo,” Ernie interrupted, “I want more than a bag of treats.”
Theo sighed. ‘Why was nothing in business ever simple?’ he asked himself.
“What’s brought this on, Ernie?” he asked wearily.
“Well, it all started at the Lowry Christmas Market,” Ernie said.
“What started at the Lowry Christmas Market?” Theo asked.
“I posed for a sketch by a famous artist,” Ernie’s replied, “I forgot to tell you.”
“I’m sure you did,” Theo said, trying to keep the disbelief out of his voice. “And what was this famous artist called? L S Lowry? I told you years ago he isn’t with us anymore.”
“Yes, I remember you telling me,” Ernie said in a wounded voice.
‘Makes a change,’ Theo thought to himself. “Who was it then?” he asked.
“Harold Riley,” Ernie replied smugly, “And he worked with Mr Lowry you know!!”
Theo was initially lost for words.
“Well, I never. Harold Riley eh!?" he finally said. "Harold’s one of Salford's most famous sons. He's published books of his dog drawings and paintings you know?”
“I’ve seen them on his website,” Ernie said, “I could be in his next one. That’s why I’ve taken on an agent to negotiate my fees for my modelling work.”
“Don’t be silly Ernie,” Theo scoffed. “You haven’t got an agent. You wouldn't know where to start getting one of those."
“I have so,” Ernie replied.
“Who is it then?” Theo asked.
“It’s my brother Erik,” Ernie said.
Theo had a board meeting to arrange; sewing machines and fabrics to buy; staff to train and a marketing campaign to plan. He didn't have the time for some nonsense about having to negotiate modelling fees with Ernie’s half-mad brother.
“Okay Ernie, you meet Erik and let me know what you want,” he said. “I’ll get the agencies to find me another model in case I can’t afford you.”
“Can I just give him a quick call now then?” Ernie said.
“Right, but hurry up,” Theo replied impatiently, “I’ll get the board meeting organised while you do that. You’ve got 20 minutes!”
Ernie trotted off to zoom Erik.
“Yeo Erik" Ernie said, "Theo’s launching a new range of coats and he's asked me to model them. What fee shall we ask for?”
“What’s a fee Ernie?” Erik asked. “Is it like a wee?”
“Erik, you’re my agent, you should know what a fee is!” Ernie exclaimed. “It’s what I get paid for my modelling work.”
“Oh yes, I remember now. But what do I get out of it?” he asked.
“You get commission,” Ernie explained. “Erik, you said you knew all about being an agent when you said you’d be mine after I told you about Harold Riley.”
“Look Ernie, it’s not a good time right now okay,” Erik explained. “I’ve got a lot on my mind. The humans are having ham sandwiches for lunch.”
It was slowly dawning on Ernie that Erik might not exactly be agent material. But, right now, with time running out, Erik was all he had.
“I’ve got ten minutes before I have to tell Theo my terms!” he said, impatiently.
“I’ve not even got that,” Erik replied, “they’re putting the sandwiches out.”
“Well hurry up and tell me what I should ask for?!!” Ernie asked desperately.
“Right. We both want a coat each and double the treats you normally get!” Erik replied. “I’ve got to go. They’ve started eating the sandwiches. Good luck.”
Ernie sat in front of the blank screen. His appetite for negotiating modelling fees had shrunk as quickly as it was growing for a ham sandwich.
A few moments later, Theo called.
“Hi Ernie, did you have a good meeting with Erik?” Theo asked.
“Yes thanks, although Erik had a lot on his plate,” Ernie replied.
“He will have now he's got a modelling agency,” Theo said, stifling a chuckle.
Ernie decided now wasn’t the time to mention the ham sandwiches.
“So, what are your terms?” Theo asked.
“We want a coat and two big bags of treats each,” Ernie said,
“Hmm, that’s quite an ask Ernie,” Theo said, scratching his chin.
“We think it’s a fair deal for me to be the face of our new coat range,” Ernie said.
Theo was secretly delighted at Ernie's demands. He'd already decided to give Ernie a coat and his normal treat quota. He also planned to give free coats to Erik and some other brand champions as part of his marketing campaign.
“Okay, here’s the deal Erne,” Theo said, “You each get a coat of your choice providing you wear them as much as you can. I’ll also double your treats.”
“What about Erik’s treats?” Ernie asked.
“Erik’s your agent not mine,” Theo replied. “If you want to share your extra treats with him as part of his commission that’s up to you!”
“Is that your final offer Theo?” Ernie asked, disappointedly.
“It is,” Theo replied, “and I am a very busy dog, so do we have a deal or not?”
“I’ll tell Erik about the coats,” he said, “but keep the bit about the treats between ourselves,” he said.
“Excellent Ernie,” Theo said, “I’ve called the board meeting for next Monday. I’ll see you there. The staff will be churning out the coats the week after. If it’s okay, I’ll book the studio for a couple of days after that to do the photos.”
“Yeo Theo that’s great, I’ll see you next Monday!” Ernie replied excitedly.
“Righto Ernie, I’ve got to go. There’s a lot to do, see you next week,” Theo said.
“Okay!” Ernie replied. As Theo’s faded from the screen, he smelt something tasty in the kitchen. He'd had a long day, and even famous models need to eat.
A week later, Ernie and Theo raced to the all-important Board meeting at a secret canal-side hotel.
The board happily approved Theo’s request for new sewing machines and said they were very impressed with his marketing campaign.
The factory staff were delighted to hear about the new clothing range. They were soon churning out the coats in all sorts of sizes and designs. Theo selected the ones he wanted Ernie to model. Ernie, meanwhile, picked the fabrics for his and Erik's coats.
A few days later, Ernie did his stint before the bright lights....and Theo's new coats were ready for the world to see.
Not long after the photoshoot, Erik zoomed Ernie to ask how the negotiations had gone.
“Well, I got us the coats,” Ernie said. “But," he added, crossing his paws, "Theo drew the line at the extra treats. I argued our case, but he wouldn’t budge,”
“Oh well, we tried our best,” Erik said philosophically, not that he knew it.
There was a long pause.
“Between you and me, Ernie, I don't think I'm cut out to be an agent,” Erik confessed.
“Oh, that’s a shame Erik,” Ernie said diplomatically, “But you're still young enough to change careers. Do you know what path you'd like to follow instead?”
“Well, our local food bank’s looking for volunteers,” Erik replied, “so I thought I’d give that a go. Who knows, once I get enough experience, it might lead to a paid job on Tesco's deli counter. What do you think?”
“It’s a great idea Erik,” Ernie laughed, “but don't forget to leave some for the customers, will you?!”