The scene: an Alternative Board meeting, anywhere in the UK. We’re going round the table, updating each other on progress. It’s Dave’s turn…
TAB franchisee: So, Dave, bring us up to date. How’s it going?
Dave; Yeah, good. The MD’s coming over at the weekend and we should finally be able to sort it all out. Few wrinkles to iron out in Ireland but we’re getting there
TAB veteran: You said last time that your two divisions in Ireland couldn’t agree on anything…
Dave: Well, technically, yes. But we’re getting there
TF: So you’re all set to abandon your current deals and go it alone?
Dave: Yep. That’s what the shareholders want
TabVet: So what deals have you got lined up to replace them?
Dave: Well, technically, none
2nd TabVet: Sorry if I’m missing something here but isn’t that … well, just a touch risky?
Dave: It’s what the shareholders want
TF: OK, so what impact is this all going to have on the company?
TF: About six months ago you said you were doing an impact analysis on the effect this would all have. On every division of the company
TabVet: Yep, I remember that
2nd TabVet: Me too. Remember asking if you thought you could get it done in time
TF: So where is it?
Dave: Well, technically…
TF: It was so in depth that you haven’t finished it yet?
Dave: Not quite
TabVet: So when will it be ready?
Dave: That’s a difficult one to answer
2nd TabVet: Why
Dave: We haven’t started it yet.
There is silence around the table. A pin drops…
TF: So you’re telling us, with our experience in business, that you are planning a major, major overhaul of your business, abandoning trading relationships you’ve had for forty years, you have nothing ready to replace them – except hope – and you have done no analysis at all of the impact it might have on your company?
Dave: Well, technically…
The TAB blog is politically neutral. And whatever my personal views, I try to be strictly neutral on Brexit. The blog is not, however, common-sense neutral. And when I read the stories coming out of the Committee on Exiting the European Union (let’s just call it the Brexit Committee, shall we?) on Wednesday I was, bluntly, staggered.
Were the UK Government – in the shape of Dave – a member of any TAB board (and frankly, Mrs May, right now I think it would be money well spent) he would not have survived the meeting. I can think of no instance in my seven years with TAB UK in which a member has gone ahead with a radical overhaul of his business without doing some seriously in-depth analysis of the potential impact. If a member of TAB York had acted in that way I would have questioned whether I was any good at my job.
And yet, on Wednesday morning, just a week ago, David Davis sat down in front of the Brexit Select Committee and said that Her Majesty’s Government had done no significant work on the impact Brexit might have on major parts of the UK economy.
Translate that into business terms. If you had tasked your finance director with doing these impact assessments and six months later he came back and said he hadn’t started then there would only be one outcome. He’d be clearing his office the same day. Even if he hadn’t been tasked with doing the work – but hadn’t shown the initiative to do the assessments – the end result would be the same.
David Davis has argued that there is no point in preparing impact assessments because the scale of change will be so big. Again, if you translate that into business, it’s just nonsense. “We’re going to make major changes in the company – a complete change of direction. And because the changes are going to be so big we’ve decided not to bother making any plans.”
Yep, that would go down well with your TAB colleagues.
Enough lampooning politicians. Sadly, they’re an easy target. There must be a reason for the Government’s failure to carry out due diligence…
Theresa May – the MD in our example – famously campaigned for Remain in 2016. A few weeks later she was roundly declaring that ‘Brexit means Brexit.’ She had seen the shareholders get rid of the previous MD and give her the job – with a clear mandate to deliver something she’d very recently campaigned against.
This is the time of year when I traditionally write about planning for next year. And that’s where the lessons of Brexit apply. Because if you don’t absolutely believe in your plans, targets and goals – if they don’t reflect what you want both for the business and as an individual – then you’ll end up exactly where Theresa May and David Davis now find themselves. Trying to deliver a plan that you don’t believe in and, consequently, controlled by external events – when it should be the other way round.
That’s it for this week. Next week will be the last post of the year and I’ll be looking forward optimistically to 2018. And also announcing a change…