Tuesday, 20 January 2009


“Bob the Builder
Can we fix it?
Bob the Builder
Yes we can!”

So it was Bob the Builder that provided Barack Obama with his campaign slogan.

And Bob the Builder with whom I am now a close friend having spent an afternoon with my very young grandsons. “And Richard has joined the building crew”. Aagghh!!

But there’s an important lesson that Bob teaches us.

That anything can be sorted out if you try hard enough. “Yes we can” is a pretty reasonable rallying cry in a climate where a few people seem to be giving up hope.

Just remember what that other Bob the Builder figure of the past week, pilot Chesley Sullenberger achieved for US Airways and 155 passengers in New York.
And both Bob and Chesley are so well mannered.

Maybe this really is the way to go. And I feel better after an afternoon with Bob.
I think this is all going to be all right in the end if a bit frightening for a while.

Just remember one thing – “brace for impact”.


Thursday, 15 January 2009


It was the original J.P. Morgan who said “our customer’s belief in our integrity is our most precious possession”.

What price that axiom today?

We are not only going through a crisis of trust with all the institutions, we no longer believe in tried and trusted formulae.

Albert Einstein said “insanity is when you do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.” Welcome to 2009 Albert because at long last the equals sign is broken. The equals sign used to lead to a result and a smug QED. No longer.

The economists are hopeless – I really believe I’m a better predictor than Anatole Kaletsky of the Times who said “punish savers and make them spend money”. The mathematicians in banks are incompetent. I don’t believe scientists. Politicians can’t help telling lies (Lord Mandelson “a lot of people think the VAT reduction was a good idea”, who, Peter, who?) Primark gets caught using below-minimum-wage-slave-labour.

This is terrible. There is no one left to trust.

And when someone says “my word is my bond” look over their shoulder because, as sure as eggs is eggs, their fingers will be crossed behind their back.

Forget about profit. It’s time to rebuild trust in each other.


Saturday, 10 January 2009


We need a lot more conversation. A lot more coaching of talent. A lot more teamwork. A lot more competitive pricing. A lot more sense of community and – odd to say this – a lot more good and effective marketing. Bad selling got us here; good marketing can get us out. And one other thing. However dark it looks retain your optimism and your unquenchable desire to win.

Find a new business plan if you have to and go for it.


Set them! In times of such uncertainty and turmoil no-one is going to be very good at forecasting the future. So respond to this unpredictability by being happy to turn on a sixpence.

Review your numbers and performance – sales, cost, margin, new business, overall success rates, customer satisfaction etc. every month and be prepared to tear up your plan and start again.

Watch cost with obsession.

Thursday, 8 January 2009


It’s game over for the reputation of most politicians and time more smart people got involved.

Time for Vince Cable, perhaps. He’s the only one who’s got it right. But in the meantime there’s never been a better time to have your say. Talk to No.10 on their website. Stand for the Local Council.

Make a noise. Simply take a stand. Yes you can.


It is going to very severe but over quicker than we’d thought say some pundits. The survival manual says there are four keys to making it work in a recession culture:-

i)As Libby Purves says “feel-good is box office”. Be upbeat and on the lookout for opportunities
ii)Become a passionate persuasive presenter
iii)Be successful by being on time, looking good, being cheerful, helping your boss and his boss keep their jobs
iv)Stay on people’s radar screens by feeding them ideas and things of interest they may have missed.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009


You have a job? Congratulations. They say HR is going to be like Casualty or ER in 2009. A lot of good people are going to be going into teaching, the church and counselling. Freelance is going to become a profession.

And we’ll see a rush of potters, painters and novelists – which would be terrific – but for that mortgage. So what can you do? By working harder; trying more stuff…new ideas; learning new tricks; learning new skills; being taught to improve.

2009 is the year to make more of whatever it is you have and then reaping the harvest in the next decade.

Tomorrow - making things work



Or rather it isn’t. In the UK we were dreadful until taught how to do it right by the now retreating tide of Eastern Europeans. They swept in and showed us what good manners, customer focus, smiling and a belief the customer was ALWAYS right, can do.

We are now going to be on our own.

Let’s make 2009 the year in which we lift our game and become exceptional at serving our customers. Let’s train everyone to be great at it. We’d better….


Tuesday, 6 January 2009


We live in a world that is looking for a bargain. Prices are falling and will continue to do so. Reconcile yourself to lower prices, smaller margins and lower earnings. See how to get your prices lower without killing your suppliers.

Do everything you can to be a low cost producer.

Tomorrow - a point of view about 'service'.



The young have technology under control, the old are willing learners of technology and teachers of other stuff. Between them they are the majority…know a little all too well and have forgotten more than they knew. This is the new alliance. Grandmother and Grandson against the world. Spend time educating and helping the next generation and the one after.

Look what the current one has managed to do. And if you are the next generation insist you get this help.


Monday, 5 January 2009


Too rich, too greedy and mostly not good enough. Especially football – this is the scene of the next credit crunch disaster. Watch a spectacular salary slide there.

And what a terrible year in prospect for sponsorship. But support your local side and avoid the feet-of-capitalist-clay Premier Division giants. Example in Germany is village side league leaders Hoffenheim.

Time to learn that money alone doesn’t make winners.

Tomorrow - 'The Age Sandwich'



It’s what happens when the economy zigs; we zag back to cheap live theatre.

The West End will have a horrible time as we sniff out good value pre-runs and small theatres. This will be a golden age for low-cost young talent. Check out what is going on locally in churches, small theatres or town halls.

You can have a great evening out for the fraction of what you normally spend. Or go to the Cinema which is still cheap for the experience.

Next - something about Sport


Sunday, 4 January 2009


2009 is the Barack story. For the first time for ages we have a world leader. And what would be interesting would be if he, Putin, Wen Jiabao, Luiz da Silva, Pratibha Patil and Ban Ki-Moon get it together.

He seems to have that crisis smile and a “don’t worry – we can sort it” attitude.

If America is happy then so are we all (remember the USA is where this started) –place hope in Obama and keep on encouraging the Americans otherwise we get Mrs. Palin next time.

Tomorrow - 'The Arts Have it"



Brazil, Russia, India, China South Africa. A disturbing slowdown in growth for China and India to only + 5% to + 6% in 2009. Life is going to harden for them.

Watch out for the power of the emancipated new middle class. The web is shaking China as we speak because some 300,000 web users are breaking ranks, speaking about poisoned milk, bureaucracy and other stuff. And the authorities don’t like it.

Try to learn as much as you can and visit one or more if this is possible. If not devour the papers and books on these nations. They are the future.

Next - 'New America'


Saturday, 3 January 2009


Prawn cocktail, minestrone, casseroles, curries, roasts, trifles, bread and butter pudding. It’s kind of back to basic, hearty and family food.

I predict a pause in sophistication.

And it’s hurray for beer and quaffing claret. Sales of onions, herbs and wooden spoons are booming already in the UK.

Become a great, economical cook. Make 2009 the year of the noisy positive supper party with friends with reasonably priced wine and delicious frugal food. Sort out the world while you eat.

Tomorrow is about 'The New Nations'.



It’s the world of “best value for money”, Primark, E-bay, the Co-op, on-line shopping, Farmers Markets, “needs not wants” and charity shops.

Bargains don’t exist unless you need the product. And if you do need it, bargain with vendor and see what happens. Shop for quality and price. Complain if things aren’t good enough. Demand compensation if you think it’s warranted.

Buy much more carefully.


Friday, 2 January 2009


New stuff that matters will be on what we should focus. Things like improving water purity, reducing pollution, creating better educational aids, getting mosquitos under pressure (we’re doing it!), innoculating more widely, getting HIV under control and making communication free – people power and the web.

And finally finding new ways of fighting back.

Lord Rutherford (Scientist) once said “we have no money so we shall have to think.”So think. Think about how life could improve. Think about what’s missing.

Maybe in 2009 you’ll become an inventor or mini entrepreneur just doing this.

Something tomorrow about consumerism



Not really, if we take a hard look at our world and its values.

We shouldn’t put up with knife crime, functional illiteracy, epidemic marriage collapses, obesity, binge drinking, incompetent bureaucracy and all that stuff that is so irritating, any longer. Recession slows things down so it will give us time to deal with what we want our children’s world – this world – to be like and make it happen.

The values debate will be big news in 2009 – be part of it. Decide the few things that really matter.

No. 3 tomorrow - it's about innovation.


Thursday, 1 January 2009


I refrained from mentioning the elephant in the room over Christmas.

Apparently this incorrigible optimist was sounding too many warning notes about the economy and dampening the festive spirit. But now we are in 2009 I thought I’d give you my 1000 word view of life from the perspective not of “is there going to be a train-crash?” (because there is, in my view) but “what shall we do about it and how shall we individually survive it?” So, over the next few days, I'll be posting a few observations for the New Year.

1.The economy

The world is going backwards fast because it got drunk on greed. It’s completely lost its sense of balance. Next year most of us we shall feel poorer and confused. The UK is worse off because Financial Services and Media were our two big tricks. We have undergone a major realignment. Be in step with this rather than resenting it. Don’t worry about what’s gone (like Woolworth) focus on the next opportunity.So we are destined to be smaller. Should we care?