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July 25, 2013

It's official; the west is in decline – as proved by Windows 8. The human race is devolving at a rate of knots into a mess of progress anxiety. 

In his very funny 1979 essay Ferrari Refutes The Decline Of The West the American writer PJ O’Rourke describes taking a road trip across America in a Ferrari 308 GTS. Sample line: we went “so fast we filled the appointment logs of optometrists’ offices in 30 cities just from people getting their eyes checked for seeing streaks because they watched us go by”. You get the picture. The man likes putting his foot down in shiny, red, Italian sportscars.

July 10, 2013

There's some things about business you just can't teach, and family businesses culture is one of them – which is why you should appreciate your next gens.

The British comic Vic Reeves once said that 88.2% of all statistics are made up. Generally, scepticism about stats is healthy, but not always. For example, a survey of HR professionals published in a recent book* found that 97% of recruiters said that having the right “mindset” is more important than having the right skills. Such near-consensus demands that you take notice. And it’s fantastic news for family businesses.

June 18, 2013

Business has lost its way; modern businesses say that as long as they haven’t broken the law, they’ve done nothing wrong. So, is it time for big companies to learn a bit of humility?

In his classic book After Virtue the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre paints a picture of a world where some cataclysmic event has occurred that has somehow destroyed our understanding of science.

The body of knowledge which had been built up over thousands of years has been torn apart and only bits and pieces of it have survived. In this dystopia, our understanding of the world around us is fragmented and confused.

June 11, 2013

Is maximising shareholder value and the application of rational economic theory the best way to organise the private sector in the 21st century? 

Is maximising shareholder value and the application of rational economic theory the best way to organise the private sector in the 21st century?

The obvious answer would be yes, unless you believe in a state-controlled economy. But Colin Mayer, a professor at Oxford’s Saïd Business School, poses an interesting dilemma about following such an approach. His thinking will resonate with family businesses.

June 4, 2013

Over the years, social experiments have shown our willingness to help people in trouble diminishes dramatically when we are standing in a crowd.

Over the years, social experiments have shown our willingness to help people in trouble diminishes dramatically when we are standing in a crowd.

According to research, we help an injured person on nearly every occasion, when we are alone. But the arrival of four bystanders cuts our interventions to 30% of the time. As crowds get larger, response times diminish further.

May 30, 2013

Poison pills are back in the news. But are they as sinister as the term suggests? Not necessarily if you are a family business.

Poison pills are back in the news. But are they as sinister as the term suggests? Not necessarily if you are a family business.

What exactly are poison pills? Put simply, they are shareholder structures that make it harder for hostile takeovers of businesses. They normally work by using discount share purchase agreements, whereby the existing shareholders are able to buy shares at a cheaper price than outsiders.

Poison pills gained notoriety during the 1980s when they were typically used to defend against the leverage buyout craze of the times.

May 13, 2013

The world has learned to love its central bankers, now their “Invisible Touch” is giving an unprecedented boost to market sentiment.

“She’s got something you just can’t trust
It’s something mysterious
And now it seems I’m falling, falling for her.”

- Genesis

The world has learned to love its central bankers, now their “Invisible Touch” is giving an unprecedented boost to market sentiment.

In a recent note, Tom Becket, chief investment officer at Psigma Investment Management said second-guessing their intentions had become key to asset allocation.

May 3, 2013

Here’s a thought for you on a sunny afternoon:
∃x[PKoF(x) & ∀y[PKoF(y) → y=x] & B(x)] The king of France is bald, or is he? Do simplified measurements of economic logic have any more truth to them than the predicate logic of Bertrand Russell? 

Here’s a thought for you on a sunny afternoon:
∃x[PKoF(x) & ∀y[PKoF(y) → y=x] & B(x)] 

That is the generally accepted way of rendering into predicate logic the sentence: “The present king of France is bald”. Who would want to do this? Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher, and the godfather of modern logic, that’s who. This is the first (and in many cases the only) bit of formal logic that many philosophy undergraduates learn. 

April 22, 2013

Big corporations are often unwilling to acknowledge the problems staring them in the face, to the cost of employees, consumers and eventually profit.

Last week’s explosion at a fertilizer plant in the town of West, Texas, killing fourteen, is typical of the accidents that can bedevil the corporate sector.

Way too much ammonium nitrate was stored on site. Health and safety rules were breached. Inspections were infrequent. Houses and a school were too close to the plant.

Plant owner Donald Adair has conceded: “This tragedy will hurt deeply for generations to come.”

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