Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Thanks a bunch Darling

I'm just incredulous that Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling think that a 2.5% cut in VAT is going to kick start the economy by getting consumers spending again.

Firstly, retailers can't even shift the stuff on 20% off super duper mega discount splurge days.

Secondly, has anyone in the Government ever had any experience actually running a business? If so they would realise that the administrative cost - not to mention the sheer hassle - of changing all their prices (including the cost of re-printing catalogues and menus etc) is an absolute nightmare. And is any retailer really going to reduce their price from £9.99 to £9.78? I think not.

A friend of ours is the retail director of one of Britain's biggest chains. He has 20,000 different products on sale at 300 stores. We've already offered to send our children over to help out with all the re-labelling...

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Should We Re-Possess People's Homes?

A friend of mine Emma Harrison (she's the social entrepreneur who runs A4e which manages a lot of the government training schemes) was explaining to me recently about understanding the 'lifetime value' of every member of society.

All the time you are in work or enterprise or producing in some way you are adding value to an economy, and every time you are in education, training, hospital, prison, on benefits, drawing pension and so on you are a cost.

Therefore your lifetime value is all the value you bring over the years minus all the cost of supporting you along the way.

It follows that ensuring people are healthy, happy, secure, well-trained and employable is the best way of creating long term value and prosperity.

So WHY OH WHY are we allowing all these state owned banks to re-possess people's homes? (Not to mention HMRCE being the main initiator of so many bankruptcies...)

When someone loses their home they are an immediate and long term cost to society.

The likelihood is that they will go on benefits, need council housing, their security confidence and happiness are immediately destroyed and the stress is the most likely cause of long term illness. It takes a long time to recover from that kind of meltdown.

It is simply not joined up thinking to allow these re-possessions to happen.

The Government should be taking immediate action to prevent banks making people homeless so easily. And if the court does order a re-possession there should be an obligation for alternative accommodation to be sourced (this could be council housing, but a better option would be to provide a guaranteed tracker rate re-finance over a cheaper property to replace the old, more expensive mortgage).

Yes this may cost. But compared to the long term cost of making tens of thousands homeless and/or bankrupt along with the associated social meltdown it is surely worth it?

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The Chain Reaction

It's not often that I attend conferences where I'm not due to speak, but something urged me to get along to the Chain Reaction event - all about international social leadership - yesterday at London's South Bank.

The attraction for me was a session entitled 'Can Entrepreneurs Change the World?' (to which the answer is of course 'YES WE CAN!') - but I was intrigued to know what the line up of Peter Jones, James Caan and Sir Richard Branson (albeit by video) amongst others made of the debate.

I often make the joke in my after-dinner speeches that Peter Jones rarely bothers to show up at enterprise events unless Gordon Brown is speaking - and true to form an unexpected bonus was the appearance on stage of our very own PM Gordon Brown.

And so we had them. Peter Jones swept in no doubt by his chauffeur driven Maybach to tell us that 'Scarcity is a real driver of innovation' and 'Am I the only one on the positivity bandwagon here?'; James Caan telling us that making money is brilliant because then you have lots to give away to charity like Bill Gates does; and then Sir Richard Branson beamed in via a pre-recorded satellite link where he was clearly sitting on the sun-drenched terrace of his holiday home on Necker Island, telling us how wonderful it is to encourage enterprise.

Finally Gordon Brown joined the debate, who reminded me of a Finance Director I used to have who arrived at every Board Meeting looking a bit shabby and crumpled, so busy scribbling notes on to a bit of a paper during the debate that he didn't really seem to be paying attention to much of what was going on, whose every bit of body language seemed to scream 'No you can't!', only to get up and tell us with as much gusto as he could muster that the UK economy was due to double in the next 20 years and that NOW REALLY IS a great time to be in business.

Meanwhile, back over here in the real world, before I set off for London yesterday morning I opened three emails all about entrepreneurs absolutely on the knife edge brink of bankruptcy, about to lose their homes, and in desperate need of my help (or anybody's help for that matter) while meantime at the weekend my own husband received a letter from his company stating that one person in his team of three at work would be made redundant this week, as a result of the tightening economy. By the way, I don't have an army of PAs handling all my correspondence, plus I go and talk to entrepreneurs around the country at business events every week, so I really do feel that I am at the sharp end of what is really going on.

Maybe I should reassure all of these people that, not to worry, in 20 years' time everything will be OK?

The only speaker who really captured the imagination of the audience yesterday was the fabulous Tim Smit, founder of the Eden Project, who spoke with passion about the ability of business to deliver so much more than the constricted City-lead profit expectation of big corporates, whose CSR initiatives are nothing more than a few marketing frills to attract extra shoppers. In other words the current system of capitalism and 'much to few' isn't working - not for business, not for individuals and certainly not for the environment. He would be my vote for PM (or at minimum Minister for Business) any day.

It was a great event and I'm glad I went but all of this left me a bit angry.

Real businesses currently on a knife edge don't need this patronising happy clappy rhetoric from those living in a fur lined sunshine bubble any more.

Firstly we need an urgent law which will suspend the ability of any UK citizen to lose their home until the economy has recovered. And we also need an emergency fund which can intervene to help struggling businesses re-finance in the short term as well as give them advice to help them to restructure and adapt their businesses to get back towards profitability in the long term.

And if I were involved in 'restructuring the global financial architecture' I would start with the premise that capitalism as we knew it cannot be the basis for generating future prosperity for our planet and its people.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Have you got news for us?

Another chance to attend the fabulous workshop on PR for small business run by my PR Louise Third of Integra Communications and Daily Express Business Columnist Maisha Frost...

It's at the British Library Business Centre on 11 December 2008 from 5pm to 7.30pm and costs £47.50 + VAT.

Well worth going along for the secrets of how to promote your business inexpensively through the power of PR - my favourite form of marketing!

Friday, 7 November 2008

Bizchicks vs The Eggheads

Something I've been keeping under my hat that's more exciting to report than the 1.5% cut in interest rates - and even more exciting than the election of President Obama...

Yes, the Bizchicks vs The Eggheads episode is due to be screened on Monday 10 November at 6pm on BBC2!

Here we are on set with the Eggheads and the delicious Jeremy Vine - Lynne Franks (PR guru supreme and founder of Seed Network), Emma Harrison (Social Entrepreneur and CEO of A4e), Laura Tenison (founder and CEO of JoJo Maman Bebe) and Gill Fielding (wealth guru and CEO of The Wealth Company).

I can't reveal whether we defeated the Eggheads but we did the show in aid of NEMA the charity which is working to relieve poverty in Mozambique.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

A New Era Dawns

Woke up this morning at 4.30am with the burning desire to go switch on the TV and see what was going on in the US...

And just witnessed Obama's incredibly powerful midnight victory speech.

It feels like we are at the dawn of a new era not just for America but for the whole world. The election of Obama is the signal that people ARE crying out for change; towards a more collaborative, peaceful, fulfilling way of existing, at harmony with others and with the world.

Feels like we had to go through the awful 8 years of George W Bush tyranny of war and greed, and the resulting financial and environmental meltdown, and emerge from that dark tunnel to enable us to appreciate the power of this bright new future. One of hope and daring to dream.

Times, they are a changing.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

We need a new vision to live by...

Many thanks to Nicholas Janni at Olivier Mythodrama for sending me the following article from the Times this week by Ben Okri:

Our false oracles have failed. We need a new vision to live by.

So many people are now saying the same things.

"Success justifies greed and greed justifies indifference to fellow human beings."

Seems to me we need a new definition of 'success'.