We are now all mired in the holier than thou maze of hypocritical morality – and my counsel is define you values, make sure everyone knows them and stick to them.
Where are we? If we are truthful – and not many people are – we are all driven by a fear of personal financial ruin. We business men know only too well the tightrope we daily walk between winning a deal and losing one. So we to do all we can to win and not just for our own pride. We have loved ones, key dependents who rely on us. Dammit, we really do love them, so they come first. So what’s wrong with a little corporate dishonesty if we can bank the cash? And is this so dreadful in a world where governments massage the facts, introduce stealth taxes, betray old people, make a laughing stock of serious education and fail even to think clearly over encouraging a growth economy.
Harry, it is you and people like you who take the real risks (MP’s and Civil Servants don’t, they still have the safety net of end salary linked pensions). It is you who create the wealth (governments don’t, there are more bureaucrats than beds in the NHS) it is you who build the jobs – it is you who make Britain work. For the life of me I don’t know why we don’t all go on strike and probably, given the crass incompetence of Brown, Prescott and Blair most of us should.
But at the end of the day two wrongs don’t make a right. Despite the unfairness of it all, you cannot shift your values and beliefs. They got you to where you are today. They will see you through – trust me. That does not mean you take it lying down, it doesn’t mean you become a naïve simpleton. So rather than ranting and raving, rather than kicking the cat, what do you do?
1. Think through what made you the man you are. What matters to you most? What are the key truths, values, lessons?
2. Summarize them, write them down, check them and then stick to them.
3. Confront the realities in the company now. I suspect you have to cut costs and a great deal more. Do it, take the pain, sort out the cash and be in a position to start over. JP Morgan, no less, are doomed if they do not do this. At the moment they are turning a blind eye to reality, they began to believe their own PR and forgot the basics.
4. Start to communicate, walk the story. Gather the core around you; reinstate the family spirit that used to be there.
5. If you really want to let off steam, start to have a say in Politics. Here is one subject that you raised that you could focus on. You said we would never have accurate accounts until private sector accountants were abolished and became part of the Inland Revenue. I think you are right. I think all the rest is an unwitting collective effort to grow the moral maze so quickly that its hypocrisy will stifle any effective action. You can barely pronounce Sarbanes-Oxley let alone think it will work. Whoever believes independent Directors are anything more than sycophantic oxymorons? Governments are sitting on their hands. The European Community is leading the way in double speak. It claims to be far ahead of the US in passing tough legislation, has published all manner of guidelines but unfortunately cannot even agree on a common definition of fraud and is finding considerable difficulty in coping with the poverty of its own in house accounting standards.
Harry, we need a steady and staunch determination to make Britain work. Start with your home, your company and your local MP. Let’s take it one step at a time and make each step count. And by the way, give the cat another kick from me!