Monday, 29 July 2019


Normally (like Mark Antony in Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’) I’d want to bury Boris Johnston not to praise him but his recent anthems of optimism reach that part of my soul that other politicians seldom reach. 

Saatchi and Saatchi built their advertising empire around the hope-tingling maxim “anything is possible.” The American management writer Jim Collins coined the term “big hairy audacious goals”.

That’s what Boris is talking about.

This kind of talk is sacrilege to big, global corporations with complicated cross-border supply chains to whom “just in time” is a life-defining credo. I  know executives who think their “just-in-timeness” in catching a plane is imperfect unless occasionally they actually miss one.  Otherwise they’re wasting valuable time waiting around. 

To behemoth businesses, big, hairy and audacious is an anathema and should be replaced by incremental, prudent and focused. Jack Welch, the star CEO of GE in its glory days, insisted on setting stretch targets for his executives but in GE “hitting the targeted number” was what always mattered when it came to the crunch. Big corporations prefer low hanging fruit to aiming for the stars.

No – it’s to start-ups and new businesses that are only just beginning to grow hair that big hairy and audacious applies. We live in a world where regeneration is becoming  the key theme and imperative and where new is the zeitgeist; where we, the promoters of start-up businesses, are the apostles of the next, new versions of Silicon Valley.
If the huge, old and established businesses cannot be easily re-engineered or saved (and chances are, given the way the world looks right now, they can’t) then we have to create new and hairy, audacious start-up businesses that take us all into a new world. And they don’t have to be only tech businesses. They be can “new, improved” businesses in any sector. The acid test is that they appeal to people and excite them to take notice and satisfy unfulfilled, new or unthought-of needs. 

The essence of whether they’ll succeed or not depends on specific things like their having a great idea, the planning that goes into it, their access to finance, their ability to promote, market and sell their product or service, their ability to operate a virtually error free operation – in short to run a brilliant, professionally run business. But  it also depends on three other more touchy-feely things. Ambition, optimism and resilience.

Unless, as a start-up entrepreneur, you wake up each day saying “I can do/solve/survive/win this”, then you probably shouldn’t be in business at all. If you don’t joy in running your own business then remain an employee/wage slave…you may hate it but at least you can afford to go on holiday and buy nice wine.

Ultimately  it’s vigorous, irredeemable hope that makes being human worthwhile and exciting. I may not agree with politicians like Boris but I shall always applaud optimism and the encouragement of enterprise. I shall vote for big, hairy and ambitious goals. 

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