"But why can't we be one of the UK's most inspiring businesses?" asked the chairman of the improbably-sized investment company Prandeamus Asset Management when I visited his office this week.
"I'm not sure there's anything stopping you being inspirational - in theory," I replied carefully. "But was there anything in particular that triggered this new ambition of yours?"
"The 80-plus financial services companies in the London Stock Exchange's 2017 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain Report," said the chairman. "I mean, if the likes of Lindsell Train, Liontrust, Majedie, Marlborough and River & Mercantile, not to mention Metro Bank, Nucleus, the good, good people of AFH Financial and Ascot Lloyd and the splendidly-named Plan B Professional Services make it, why can't we?"
"I believe there is a pretty full-on process and methodology involved," I said. "You know - covering size, age, financial performance, sector benchmarking, all that sort of thing." "Sure," said the chairman. "But it's still a numbers game and we only had to make the top 1,000. How many small and medium-sized businesses can their be in the UK?"
"About 5.4 million, according to government statistics," I said helpfully. "Ah," said the chairman. "That's not such a winnable game." "I'm not saying they would all be under consideration for that report," I said quickly as I saw his disappointment. "I believe revenues had to be in the £6m to £250m range." "Well, that takes us out of the running anyway," sighed the chairman.
"I won't ask in which direction," I said. "But I suppose you could try to be inspirational in a different way. Have you, for example, considered the inspirational power of the hug?" "No offence but I'd much rather we stuck to a firm handshake like we've always done," said the chairman. "I'm not talking about us," I assured him. "And indeed I'm not talking about physical hugs either."
"Delighted to hear it," nodded the chairman. "But what is a non-physical hug?" "It's an internet thing," I explained. "A company called Wunder has come up with a ‘virtual hugging system' as a way of helping to build happy and productive teams and bringing ‘positive energy' to the workplace. No - don't roll your eyes. It's essentially their take on giving positive feedback to colleagues.
"Everybody at the company has five virtual hugs per week they can give to any colleague for any reason. And the good, good people of Wonder virtually hug each other when someone helps them out, is ‘extra nice', makes them proud or indeed just needs a hug. Each hug comes with a ‘small monetary bonus' too although apparently the most powerful aspect of all this is ‘the short positive messages people write to each other with the hug'."
"Hmmm," hmmmed the chairman. "It sounds dangerously subversive to me." "Really?" I said. "I thought it was sweet. Still, if you don't like the idea of the inspirational hug, I suppose you could always try inspiring people through a rebrand of the Prando's logo." "What's wrong with our logo?" snapped the chairman. "Nothing at all," I said quickly. "I love it.
"But if the FCA thought it was helpful to rebrand - partly by refreshing its own logo from a maroon depiction of ‘FCA' and ‘Financial Conduct Authority' to a maroon depiction of ‘FCA' and ‘Financial Conduct Authority' - maybe it could work for Prando's." "Perhaps you're right," nodded the chairman. "To my eyes, that new FCA logo was worth every penny.
"Mind you, I'm not sure what the FCA spokesperson was on about when they said they were refreshing the brand to ‘take into account accessibility considerations and meet our needs for both internal and external purposes'. Do you have any idea?" "Not in the slightest," I admitted. "And as it took a freedom of information request to get them to fess up to spending the best part of £70,000 on the logo, I hadn't planned on asking."
"Probably safest," the chairman agreed. "Hey," I said. "There is of course one way Prando's already stands as an inspiration to every company in Her Majesty's financial services industry and that is as a shining example of everything they shouldn't do, say or be." "Right," said the chairman. "Thanks for that."
The chairman isn’t answering his email
Reforms not enough
An economic cocktail
To encourage consumers to shop around
Will report to Pat Shea