Category: My Drivel
Books about business, and the business of going it better, are a fine business in their own right.
I had a line manager, some years ago, who devoured them, morning, noon & night. They occupied pretty much his entire working day. I think he regarded them as a form of on the job training. And, because the job he was doing really wasn’t that important, he was allowed to get away with it.
He spent a small fortune on the wretched things.
They must have done him some good, however, because he rose rapidly through the ranks, a career marked by a conspicuous lack of actual achievement and by never putting a foot wrong.
Mostly, he was good only at reducing headcount (sacking people).
Although it gladdens the otherwise withered souls of those who gain pleasure mostly from reading their bank statements and list tax avoidance among their hobbies, reducing the number of people working for a commercial organisation has frequently struck me as something of an admission of failure.
This is because I subscribe to the point of view that business should not exist solely to make a profit for shareholders but also to be socially and economically useful in a broader sense.
Amongst those of the withered souls, etc, this notion is either referred to as “communism” or “naivety” depending on the level of threat they perceive it poses to their continued enjoyment of the services of whichever tax haven their cash is currently mouldering away in.
But look at it this way: sacking a chunk of your workforce – quite often the only thing that clueless, over-promoted managers can think to do in order to increase the difference between expense & revenue – also removes a chunk of consumption from the economy, because the salaries that chunk of workforce used to spend are now diverted to a vault in the Cayman Islands to become part of a hoard, which isn’t really that good for business either.
Take an analogy: your body decides to “right size” the number of chambers of your heart from four to three – say by shutting down the right atrium - in order to divert the blood supply away from low-rent organs (in this case the lungs) to more deserving ones (the liver for example). Things will go just fine for a while (well, several seconds), but then the whole organism will collapse. Much the same is true of economies, albeit rather less dramatically.
My favourite amongst all these business books was one called “Who Moved My Cheese.”
Quite astoundingly patronising, its objective (in brief) was to teach employees that removal of cheese from their lives (i.e. their jobs, homes, etc) should not be seen as a bad thing but as an opportunity. Instead, it just demonstrated clearly what had been suspected for a while: that employers tend to regard their staff as being akin in status to lab rats.
So common was the distribution of copies of “Who Moved My Cheese” by management to employees prior to rounds redundancy that it became renamed as “Where Did I Put My CV?”
On holiday in Catalonia some years ago, and under the influence of a surfeit of the local firewater, a friend and I came up with a notion for a business book entitled “Gerroff Moy Laaaaand!” Late at night it had a wonderful clarity: we were right and everyone would see it. Business practice and the world of work would be revolutionised.
Unfortunately, the next morning we couldn’t a blind thing about it. Except that it involved a bad-tempered farmer, two sheep-worrying dogs, a number of moribund sheep and a pair of terrified hikers, hogtied & gagged, imprisoned in a dank & lightless cellar, a close enough resemblance to a job I had shortly after leaving university to leave me quite thoroughly shaken.
But the notion of a motivational business book lingered on in my mind, and after 10 years of running a business with a fair degree of success (i.e. we have yet to be declared bankrupt) I feel have acquired the necessary qualifications. I may be a bit overqualified, in fact: half the people who write these books don’t appear to have the gumption to successfully run a whelk stall in Southend on a August bank holiday. (I was going to use an analogy of a troop train and ladies of negotiable virtue here, but I’m trying to recast this blog in a more family orientated manner, so I restrained myself.)
So, the Koala brothers.
The Koala Bros. Frank (left) & Buster – Photo from the Dear Old Beeb
In the marvellous, eponymous, children’s TV series, Frank & Buster Koala live on a small homestead in the Australian outback, surrounded by an assortment of anthropogenic marsupials, reptiles & flightless birds. Oh, and an echidna named Sammy.
The program is narrated by the DJ Jono Coleman, who, coincidently and for reasons too complicated to go into here, I have seen naked. More than once, as it happens. This could be symbolic of something. Too early in the creative process to be sure.
Now, I know the series very well because I use the DVDs as teaching aids in my English class for small French children. There are 11 year olds out here in the South Vendée whose vocabulary includes “strewth!” “bonza!” “ripper” and “No worries, mate.”
Well, I couldn’t let a chance like that pass, could I?
Aside from Frank & Buster, the chief protagonists are their neighbours Mitzi the Possum and Ned the Wombat. The Koala Brothers pass their days patrolling the outback in their plane (though they seem to have no official role to fulfil in doing so) and helping their friends out of various scrapes.
This, to my mind, is a far better way forward than making them hunt for cheese in an endless labyrinth before sacking them and consigning them to a life of despair & destitution.
Their key philosophy is that they are “Here to Help.” This is the very same philosophy that we have based our own business model on.
I reckon I could build not only a book out of this notion but also a fully fledged personal development program. My working title is “Here to Help: Would you like to share my eucalyptus with me?”
Participants would be required to undertake rigorous self profiling to discover their inner marsupial. Are they a Frank Koala (bright, brash and bursting with ideas), a Buster Koala (slightly dim but very obliging), a Ned the Wombat (shy, softly spoken but tenacious) or a Mitzi the Possum (loud, slightly OCD and good at laundry)?
I, for the record, am a Buster.
Neophytes would also be required to learn and to sing several times daily the “Helping Song.” Course fees start at €3750 for five days of top quality mumbo-jumbo. Email me for details.