As I See It
Global ambition, and why the price is right for plastic promises
Opinion swirling around Gleneagles last week was that the Entrepreneurial Scotland conference had been a stimulating event, though without wishing to be a party pooper, I have to challenge some of the statements that come out of these gatherings.
Messages from the likes of Skyscanner’s Gareth Williams, the financial publisher Angus MacDonald and neuro-scientist Vivienne Ming provided a source of further conversation over dinner that evening with most giving them a thumbs up.
Chairman and games industry champion Chris van der Kuyl was still frothing with excitement when he rounded off the days’ events with a bit of entertainment from some young musicians and a rousing speech by the Cobra Beer founder Lord Bilmoria.
Chris is certainly a great motivator and cheerleader for the cause. He’s not so much glass half full, as glass full. There is no downside to his belief in what is achievable. Good on him.
But his comment at the outset of the conference – “If I don’t think global from day one, the business is dead at birth” – is just too sweeping and I get a little uncomfortable at the expectations presented to business leaders: that unless you internationalise then you’re a failure.
Now, we often hear at these rallies that entrepreneurs need to embrace failure. However, it’s not something I hear anyone aspiring to, nor would it impress creditors owed thousands of pounds if a failed business reiterated the words of some guru that “failure is just a milestone on the journey to success”.
As for achieving global domination, well it isn’t for everyone. After all, Fred Goodwin tried it, and look what happened to him. His successor at RBS, Ross McEwan has been on his own journey to de-globalise the bank and re-focus on its domestic market.
For a lot of businesses, there’s another well worn aphorism that has served them well over the years: “stick to the knitting”. Do what you’re good at. Know your limitations. Don’t over-stretch yourself. Don’t fail through over-trading. And don’t feel guilty if you’re not rushing into overseas markets that aren’t really for you.
I have to admit that I’m a bit of a recycling nut. Not only that, but I hate to see anything thrown out that has a further use: rubber bands, bottle tops, jam jar lids. Perfectly re-usable items that are discarded after single use.
The declaration by more than 40 companies that they will be supporting a new UK Plastics Pact is music to my ears, though it is focused on certain packaging items and many of those listed above will still find their way into landfill.
It has taken too long for action to be taken on solving the plastic problem which has been staring us in the face for years. There is now movement to get something done.
What continues to bother me is that these promises and pledges always come with a far away target date and with conditions that let some of the perpetrators off the hook.
No one is prepared to take immediate action and there are always obstacles put in the way. Small shopkeepers have claimed they would struggle to handle deposit return schemes (they didn’t struggle with glass bottles in the past), while supermarkets pointed to hygiene issues in using alternative packaging.
Their resistance is now being broken. The big chains, faced with a consumer backlash, are now suddenly, and remarkably, finding these alternatives. It’s astonishing how a threat to the bottom line can create a bit of imaginative thinking.
As they say, if there’s a will there’s a way.