Monday, 15 April 2013


That’s what Herb Kelleher, who founded the successful Southwest Airlines, said.

In a week dominated by Margaret Thatcher the media have been rolling out their reaction wagon and lazily seeing what stories they can create. She would have been ironically amused by how well “The Witch is dead” is doing in the charts.  If they say of me “Let’s bury the old Bastard” I’ll know I’ll have made an impression on some,  been unpopular with many and actively disliked by a few.

I think she’d have said that the witch is dead but not maybe her spell.

Back at the end of the 1970s when this poster appeared, there was massive inflation, powerful and irresponsible unions and some rusting industry suffering from underinvestment and a feeling from some the country was on its last legs.

But it wasn’t. Where I worked in advertising there was a sense of great creativity and self-belief. We thought anything was possible.

Sure there was a need for change. Britain was still very hard up after the war and there was a need for demolition (of fabric and institutions) and a need for action.

But we’ve never been good at demolition preferring to keep things that are ineffective either to save money or, if they’re broken, in case they turn out to be useful. In a factory I visited in the 1970s I admired brass plaques on machines ponderously clunking and recalled the Japanese kit I’d seen the week before in Germany whirring along busily…. no history, just very efficient and fast.

As for action in the 1970s - most of us didn’t do action. We talked. We wrote. We didn’t do.
Under her, things like the privatisation of British Gas happened and happened breathtakingly fast. So a failing concern became a modern industry.

She made us feel global and different. In this zero sum game she created a climate of doing things.

Like good old Herb Kelleher.

Herb said of Southwest’s new CEO who took over from him:
“I think now probably everybody says, "Wow! He's one heck of a CEO! And who's that old guy with the wrinkles sitting in the balcony?"

It’s interesting that our famous witch and her spell have lingered on, wrinkles and all. That’s partly because we have a need for a similarly spirited assault on flabbiness and indecision today.

Someone whose strategy is to get things done, regardless.

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