Thursday, 30 April 2009

Richard Branson, This Time you are Wrong

Richard Branson has stated his opposition to the new 50% tax rate, for those earning more than £150,000, claiming it will be a "block on the next wave of entrepreneurs".

The reality is that, of the hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs in the UK, very few pay themselves over £150,000 or even aspire to. If an entrepreneur makes a fortune it is from the sale of their company. The most successful one I know was shocked not by how much tax they paid when they sold up, but by how little. After the Brown-Blair tax reforms of 2001 the amount he paid on the tens of millions he received was just 18% - less than the lowest income tax band, paid if you earn just £15,000 a year.

Opponents of the 50% tax seek to focus on the cuddly entrepreneur because they know the public will have little sympathy for the professions who actually are the highest-paid. These are bankers, accountants, lawyers and consultants. And I would be surprised if Branson sees those professions as the ones that drive innovation and enterprise in the UK.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Worlds Most Democratic Workplaces

Happy has today been listed as one of the most democratic workplaces in the world. Although there are 40 companies on the list, organised by WorldBlu, Happy is one of only two in the UK:

So what makes a democratic workplace? Does it mean all staff vote on everything? Of course, if we use our standard model of democracy it would mean the staff electing the company's leaders once every 5 years and then leaving all decisions to them!

I've never actually described Happy as a democracy, especially as certain principles (such as training Being based on involvement) are not up for discussion. To the extent that we are democratic, its because it makes for a better business.

Its About involvement
We don't involve everybody in every decision but we do seek to involve people in decisions that affect them. Its common sense. That way you tend to get better decisions and you certainly get more commitment to them.

So when we were getting ready to move to our current site, we took everybody there to decide whether it was the right place. The vote was unanimous and so, despite it adding 20 minutes to the commute of most staff, there was total commitment to the move and we didn't lose anybody.

Now the question is whether to go to the conference for those inspiring companies who made the list. Is it a good use of funds in the current climate? We're going to put it to a vote.....

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Listen to the Protestors

I joined the G20 demo in London on Saturday (March 28th). I was struck first by the energy and sense of fun. Though that was partly because I found myself alongside the drumming band Rhythms of Resistance. But also the geneuine sense that another way was possible. I especially like the philosphy of 'tactical frivolity' - we could do with a bit more that in the business world!

These demonstrations have been taking place for a decade, since Seattle, and as I marched I was struck by how they had been proved right. An appropriate chant would have been "We were right, you were wrong."

The world leaders, with the IMF and World Trade Organisation, placed total faith in markets, in deregulation and in financial systems. They were wrong, disastrously wrong.

They may dismiss the demonstrators as weird or whatever, but there are many more sensible proposals for how the world should be run in the alternatives on offer here. The best thing the G20 could do? Invite the demonstrators in and listen to the view from the other side. Its certainly better than listening again to the same old people who got it wrong last time.