This is the third blog that I have written since the last one on our website. The previous two turned into political rants which I self-censored. There are plenty of skilled commentators and bloggers to do that job. George Osborne should be able to safely read this, my third attempt.
I spent some of last Wednesday evening staring at the BBC website in disbelief.
“Premier League liar…. Fingers in the till…. Sunday pub-league retailer….”
These extraordinary accusations were not between teenagers in the school yard or in some sort of sinister pantomime, but within the hallowed walls of the House of Commons. The opinions of a former Chief Executive about his boss, the owner of his company. Oh and, of course a death threat. Followed up by the alleged purveyor of death threats blaming the former owner for a company going into liquidation. The former owner then threatened not to attend unless the MP chairing the hearing stood down. (That is the knighted former owner who lives in Monaco for health reasons. Just a coincidence that it also has a reputation as a tax haven of course). Then there is the wife allegedly benefiting from a £50M property windfall carried out with the struggling retailer. Good of her to try and help out of course.
And today the knighted former owner is testifying. More blaming others.
All normal behaviour for BHS directors it seems. The remarkable accusations and counter accusations that took place at the House of Commons hearing about the demise of BHS and the implications for its 11,000 employees and 20,000 pension scheme members. The worst side of business hanging out its very dirty laundry.
Businesses are designed to make money and there is of course nothing wrong with that. They create jobs and provide products and services for us all. There are shareholders to reward and bank loans to repay. However, surely business is not just about making money? Or pocketing as much as possible in the case of BHS.
As a director and shareholder of a medium sized company, it would always seem important to remember that we are responsible at Middleton Hall for employing over 150 people and looking after what will shortly be 180 older people. We are also responsible for looking after a beautiful location in the countryside and we have responsibilities towards the local community to consider. Overall, there are many things to consider as someone who leads a business.
Things do go wrong in business. We all make mistakes. However, I trust that the mess that became BHS is not the image that people have of most employers in the UK. I would like to think that most business owners care rather more responsibly for the implications of their decisions than the owners of BHS appear to have done.
Sustainable business has to be more than just about making money.
I have always hoped that I will never have to cross the road to avoid someone that we at Middleton Hall have not done our best for.
There may be at least one former business owner who might be crossing some roads in the future.