Monday, 21 May 2018


These are not good times to be huge sprawling corporations. Nicholas Bloom an economist from Stanford University has consistently judged Brexit as the biggest shock to the economic system in recent history. It is, he believes, especially serious for big companies whose global networks make the prevailing uncertainty astonishingly time consuming and immobilising. Skyscrapers withstand tornados less stoutly than bungalows.

It’s sprawl more than scale that is the biggest issue with  a legion of corporate car crashes in 2018 (Maplin, Toys R Us, Carillion) with more to come -– all the mediocre restaurant chains, middle of the road fashion chains, department stores and the cheap and rather miserable like Carpet Right – all are heading towards the scaffold.

Incidentally I thought the Commons Select Committee who described Philip Green, Carillion’s Chairman as “delusional” had barefaced cheek. Politicians are the most delusional breed there is – look at Chris Grayling and his train fiascos.

And things will get worse.

I am reminded of Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming” – read it,  it’s wonderful. In it he writes:
“Things fall apart: the centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”

Isn’t that simple word “mere” devastating. Understatement can kill and here it does. We are ourselves undergoing “mere anarchy” right now. The big , the sprawling, the delusional giants who fail to invest enough in capital equipment and people, who are just making do to make the numbers. Yes, all those big retailers soon to become even bigger when another dinosaur is born called (as if) Asdainbury’s.

The era of the dinosaur is past. That vicious word the nearly-rich in business schools use as an acid test of a business -  “scalability” - belongs to the dustbin of history. As I look at the list of those businesses in imminent peril I feel sorry for the poor souls working there and waiting for their execution. Businesses that are  too big, too greedy, too indifferent to quality and their customers.

And things will get better.

2018 is predicted to be a record for UK start-ups at well over 600,000 and at the global level Canada Sweden and China are now showing as top start-up centres. So it’s not all about the USA and Silicon Valley anymore.

 As the giants stumble a new breed of entrepreneurial talent and start-ups trying to do something new, different and brilliant are emerging. The creative constipation that great size induces will cease. The new generation, not of snowflakes but instead of snowballs, are going to roll over the stumbling giants.

Much as I hate the reckless waste of Brexit I see the damage it causes opening up opportunities for the smaller, local, start-ups setting off with modest ambitions. Brexiteers only asked to “have the bloody doors blown off” but the impact is much greater than that.

Yeats went on …”The ceremony of innocence is drowned”…and so it is. The gullibility of the giants’ boom years is history too because remember: Davids beat Goliaths.

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