Business Eye: Learning from simply the best

Alex Pratt
Alex Pratt
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Last week saw me joining 3,000 other business directors worshipping at the feet of the truly inspirational at the annual Institute of Directors’ convention at the Albert Hall in London.

None of us is ever too old to learn, and every winner I’ve ever met seeks to absorb all they can from the best at what they do, as far as they are able.

Thinking you know it all is the only certain road to failure.

Boris Johnson told us that the UK economy has finally reached its Costa Concordia moment and is re-floating itself off the rocks, that London will return to being a nine million population City before New York reaches it for the first time, that by 2020 the UK will be the biggest economy in Europe and that the Thames Valley is the third most competitive region in the World.

While George Osborne stood again for HS2, the IoD’s chief economist suggested it would be better to knock Birmingham down and rebuild it 20 minutes closer to London.

He went on to make clear how critical smaller government with a total focus on international competitiveness is linked to our ability to afford the social policies to which we all aspire. In the end we have to earn what we spend.

Jack Welch, probably the best known and most successful corporate leader of the past 50 years, reminded us that the best leaders are blessed with the generosity gene and us it to build great, confident teams blessed with challenge, candour and openness as their operational DNA.

His formula?

Get a clear big idea; never surprise your own people with criticism; and go like hell for it with more “stickwithitness” than your competitors.

Richard Branson expressed what many other entrepreneurs hold dear, that a business is nothing more than a mechanism for making other people’s lives better.

On Monday at the Labour Party conference all the talk from the podium was of a pride in the need to protect workers, a living wage for all, curtailment of zero hours contracts, and job guarantees for the young.

I was struck by the stark contrast between the entrepreneurs with their total focus and dedication on growth of our economic cake to make the world a better place for all, and the rank and file labour party membership focused on the sharing of the cake and still convinced that business is fixated on exploiting the workforce.