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Sexy B

20 Feb

When did business become sexy?

As evidence, I’ll cite the popularity of Dragon’s Den, the circulation of The Economist (over a million a week), even the popularity of business courses at university (our faculty is the size of some universities and still growing strongly).

Is it the fascination with money? Was it the quality of the stories, from Dot Com to Google to Enron and Northern Rock?

David Parkin of The Business Desk spoke to us this evening, and his story wasn’t really ‘the death of print’, a title he tried to blame on the sub-editors. His story was about the entrepreneurial urge.

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Righting wrongs

11 Jul

Do we judge an organisation on its ability to get things right first time, or on its ability to make things right quickly and creatively? I suspect the latter, because we give no credit to those who merely do what is expected of them.

I’ve taken up the cases of several students concerned about their results and their resits. In two cases, those results were simply wrong and – despite this being the holiday season – my colleagues have quickly corrected these mistakes. (Nobody’s perfect: this includes individuals, organisations and systems; but everyone should be striving to improve.) The relief has been palpable.

The lesson from this is that organisations need to empower those in customer- (or student-) facing roles to apply commonsense, think creatively and take decisions. This is harder than it sounds.

The cynical thought is that organisations can gain credit by making deliberate mistakes in order to quickly and publicly correct them. Is this why there are so many product recalls?

No publicity, mind

1 Dec

It started here as another exercise in word of mouth on behalf of a South African winemaker. Now it’s gathering major news headlines and is threatening to become a ‘brilliant-marketing-but-bad-for-business’ case study. Let’s hope for Thresher’s sake it’s not Hoover all over again.

OFR becomes ‘business review’

18 Oct

The annual report has doubled in size in ten years according to a Deloitte study reported in Accountancy Age. This despite the decision not to make the operating and financial review (OFR) mandatory.

In place of the OFR, companies are to produce ‘business reviews’ – detailing their approach to the environment, employees, social and community issues. On the face of it, this will provide more work and more responsibility for PR advisers. But lobbying efforts of the CBI and others to reduce the burden of ‘red tape’ are reported in The Guardian today.

Communication skills – not for Aussies

5 Apr

This is taken from a publisher’s catalogue of training DVDs (no sledging please, Aussie readers).

This program presents a series of eye-opening cross-cultural situations that reveal how such cultural givens as getting right to the point, saving face, and taking turns in conversation can complicate inter-cultural communication. It features a multicultural cast and provides practical guidelines for communicating respectfully. Not available in Australia.


30 Mar

It’s no longer about technology. It’s not just about blogging. It’s about business: how to keep the once-nimble start-up innovating into its middle age.

Microsoft is past 30 and getting slower. This analysis in Technology Guardian (free registration required) points to the internal debates about the company’s direction:

The blogger who writes Mini-Microsoft used that title because he believes the company needs to shed staff from its 63,500 headcount. Microsoft’s challenge now is not to turn into the sort of slow, bureacratic company it tore apart – IBM.

Nuclear or environmental?

21 Feb

So, AEA Technology plc has been fined for a potentially fatal radioactive leak in 2002. At least it shows that health and safety regulators have teeth, even if the wheels of justice move slowly.

But here’s the mystery. The business was privatised as long ago as 1996 (when its prospectus declared it to have ‘no significant nuclear liabilities’ so as not to frighten investors); in 2000 it announced its strategy to exit the nuclear industry. Yet the newspaper cutting above still describes it as ‘an atomic energy company’. There are many more examples.

There’s been no news posted in 2006 on the corporate news page, so the company has nothing to say on this confusion. Yet it now wants to be seen as an environmental and rail technology business. In this case, silence is not so golden (though Rob Thomas was a very good advocate for the business on the TV yesterday). Declaration: I worked in corporate communications for AEA Technology for a period in the late 1990s.