Talking shop

9 July 2013
Rebecca Ellinor, managing editor, Supply ManagementGerald Ratner is perhaps, as you would expect, a very plain-speaking interviewee. The damage he did to his former business more than two decades ago by making a few flippant remarks has taught him to appreciate what he’s got – but not to be more guarded about what he says. “How can I do any more damage?” he asks, joking that it now gives him a certain freedom. He does, however, admit to taking fewer risks in business than he did previously, despite them serving him well at the time. What he said back then was ill-advised and something he’ll never live down, but in discussing measures of ‘success’ he pointed out: “You’d have to compare what I’ve achieved with the 60 million other people living in the UK.” Which I thought was a fair point. He’s the latest in a series of straightforward-speaking leaders we’ve lined up to present at the CIPS Annual Conference over the years. Shoe repair chain owner John Timpson and bra entrepreneur Michelle Mone both spring to mind. Mone, for example, suggested that buyers “avoid being boring” if they want to get the attention of the CEO, while Timpson recommended that managers drop staff appraisals and said his company hires on personality rather than CVs or qualifications. I suspect working with them is both refreshing and sometimes daunting, but you doubtless always know where you are with them. And while I admire that approach, they, like you, need to remember that nowadays when you’re speaking to one person you could be talking to a thousand, a million even. Ratner’s faux pas was in 1991 – since then, internet communications and social media have made news travel further and faster, which can be both a boon and a risk to the reputation of your business. Either way you see it, I look forward to more of his straight-talking approach when he addresses the CIPS Annual Conference in London on 10 October. ☛ Go to www.cipsannualconference.com to see who else is lined up to present and to secure your place at the event. Book before 1 August for a discount.
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