Credit crunch and the changing the shape of business

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ST JAMES CAFE — I recognise that this probably changes everything. Well, not everything. But the shape of business at least.

The credit crunch… the recession of 2008… the banking crisis… we don’t know what to call it yet. It’s messy. It’s far ranging. It will be difficult.

I heard someone on TV last night comparing it to a virus. And that’s interesting, because it helps me realise that no one has died. No one is really, really ill. In fact, I read today that after the 1929 crash even suicide rates went down. (Maybe people feel more alive when they aren’t sure what tomorrow holds!)

What is clear to me anyway is that businesses and organisations will change as a result of this. There will be less tolerance for people doing things that don’t seem right. The mantra in the past has been: “if there’s no rule against it… it must be allowed.”

And that’s just not too clever.

There’s a smugness in Michael Lewis’ book Liar’s Poker that still sticks with me more than ten years after I read it. The story of how this all got started reads like a big kids saying “How come nobody is stopping me? Can’t you see this is wrong?”

As a result of this nightmare brought on by too much de-regulation, I hope we won’t necessarily be making millions of new rules. It would be great to just have return to common sense.

From my perspective common sense in business means:

  • having a clear, published strategy
  • making the future direction and ambition clear to all
  • compensating people appropriately (at the bottom too)
  • managing people well
  • broadening the focus from simply TSR to include making work better so that individuals can succeed

And more.

As businesses are sold off (Lehman) and merged (HBoS) and people are kept in limbo (Iceland), there is sure to be more change rather than less.

With a new administration coming into the White House in the USA and property prices on the left side of the planet dropping still, there is still lots of opportunity. We can make the system work even better.

We’ve had a 15 year boom. Maybe the next one can be 30 years…


P.S. Last week my colleague EJ’s field hockey coach asked 42 ladies in practice who had had a good day at work. Only EJ put up her hand. “So, everyone but EJ has a good reason to really hit the ball hard,” he said. Our belief is that we’ve all got a bigger problem if < 98% of us hate our jobs.

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