The background is that when I left my former stable employment at the end of October last year I was going to a start up company which was building a data centre and a cloud based computer business. It was going to use cutting edge technology and was well funded. At least that was what I was told.
Funding was coming from two sources, one in Singapore who had put in the money to that stage and another from Sydney who was due to put money in during November, which was subsequently pulled after I commenced work. The result was that December pays were delayed and for a while looked like they wouldn't come through. But they did and we went to the Christmas New Year break having been told that the January payroll was guaranteed.
We received a message from the CEO telling us when to be back at work and we were also told that the lease on the premises was being finalised and that the power supply agreement was also to be signed. Good, I thought, that means that there is a commitment from the owners and Directors to make this thing happen.
First week in January we were told to work from home and to report back to the office on the 10th of January where we were to meet the Sydney Director and investor. And he did come down, spent two days following the CEO around and eventually came to the conclusion that he was a liar of the highest order and that he was damaging the business. He had been told that previously by the General Manager, but saw the bloke as a visionary and was insisting that he still had a role to play in Business Development.
After spending time with him though, he sent a scathing email to his fellow Director and investor in Singapore stating that the only reason the bloke hadn't been strangled and shoved in a deep ditch was because he had other people around at the time.
He tried to have the entire company signed over to himself but Singapore refused to play ball because they wanted him to pay out the investment they had already made. So the company is insolvent and Mr Sydney man decided that it would be best to put it into liquidation, but told us all in an email that he wanted to keep the expertise of the team together for a few weeks whilst we re wrote business plans, customer acquisition and marketing and sales plans.
His exact words were -
I obviously do not know how Singapore are going to react to their news this week. I still believe that you have a core business that has 'legs' and we should make plans for an immediate future.
As a backup to next week, I would like you to buy a domain name that everyone agrees to (thereby creating a united front) and we will have a new company registered (next week) with ASIC. I will have to discuss which company type we would use, but we will (and should) give all our fellow workers continuity.
Everyone will have to work at home for 1-2 weeks until we can get a new premises sorted. I am not paying $74K a month for a premises that we do not need (at the moment).
Sales products are essential. Website is essential. Outreaching for rack space is essential. Registering with a Telco and selling space is essential. Outreaching to a sales network is essential. Printing, equipment and staff accommodation would take me a few days to organize.
New employment contracts will be done on a handshake until we get sorted. Salary budgets can be managed in the short term, but we cannot go forward under an xxxx model. We have to be structured and one step, two step into this marketplace with quality and sustainable products.
After discussions with xxx and xxx, and then discussions with everyone else in that you will need a united front to go forward after this week. I still think that we go after a çloud' business, realizing xxx's potential for a data storage site and other plans that you guys have had. I have additional thoughts, but, they are most likely rubbish until I get your feedback on sustainability.
Let me know what you think."
We have all been working hard over the past week or so on getting the required documents including the business plan together for presentation to him on the understanding that he was going to seed fund that work on a week by week basis for a finite time, whereupon he would make a decision on whether or not he would fund the business or not.
On Wednesday when the GM contacted him the situation had changed. He said in an email -
I understand that you are meeting with everyone on Tuesday, to put together a go forward plan for XXXXCo2. I need to know a budget, details of how you want to go forward and who wants to stay OR go. We will start a new venture under our to-be agreed conditions and there will be no backwards and forwards, as was the case with XXXCo1.
Even to the point that we will be paying wages weekly, not monthly.
I then spoke to xxxx GM (today) regarding that meeting and he told me that a report will be ready on tuesday, and that was when he put it on me for wages for the team. it was the first that I heard of it and I thought that our agreement was to see/discuss that report before I put my hand up for anything. I do not know what you guys are thinking, but I am getting a bad feeling about the lines of communication.
Sorry Mr Investor - you did know about the week by week payments, you made the offer, we didn't ask for it. You kept spouting about honesty and integrity but it seems it is the old "do as I say not as I do."
That was when it got ugly. None of us have been paid since mid December. This bloke allowed us to go to the Christmas break believing that the January payroll would be honoured. He then gave us false hope that he was an honourable man and genuine in wanting to take the business forward. He has no honour. He is a liar not dissimilar to the previous CEO.
Here are some of the other comments he made via email to members of the team yesterday.
“AS I told xxxGM, go fuck yourself. You pompous, boring idiot.”
"All I have from you, xxx etc etc is angst that money is not being poured in. Where is the comfort that I am not backing another xxxCEO??????????????
I am going back to what i know, where annual returns are guaranteed, asset value grows and working with management teams that are happy to be accountable for their actions.
Quite candidly, you can go and fuck yourself."
So there you have it. I am still considering whether to name these blokes but I might wait and see how the legal issues unfold. We will all lodge complaints with the Fair Work Ombudsman. There is a prima facie case against the Directors for deceptive and misleading conduct but if it ends up only being the company we can sue, and it had no assets apart from the collective knowledge of the employees, then the chance of getting anything is slim.
We need the company to formally go into liquidation so the claims for unpaid entitlements can be pursued, but that will take months.
In the meantime if we can't get our entitlements perhaps we start by taking something else. A wise man once said to me that reputation is like virginity, once gone it is very hard to get back. Let's see what is on the horizon.