I don’t really have it in for Jeff Bezos although you could be forgiven for thinking that. Admittedly I wasn’t very complimentary on his newly discovered altruistic ambitions and Foundation launch last year. Giving away $2bn seems a lot unless you put in the context of a someone who makes $4.5m per hour and has a net worth of $123bn. This month it’s the recent announcement by Amazon to cancel their new HQ in Queens in New York that has caught my attention. I feel it raises huge questions about the role of the company versus the role of the state. Amazon were set to receive about $4bn in subsidies and tax incentives from the local Queens municipality, which would have left a $3.7bn shortfall in the budget. The impact this was going to have on the rent market, local transport infrastructure and social services caused something of a rebellion and resulted in Amazon changing their mind. Big loss to the community or a lucky escape? Take your pick.
Cast your minds back to the 19th century when in 1861, George Cadbury decided to relocate his factor to a new greenfield site just a few miles outside of Birmingham to allow for expansion. Good old George was very interested in the health and well being of his employees. He saw it as not only their responsibility to build houses for their workers, but also schools, parks, sports pitches etc. – all at his own expense. Well, well, how things have changed. In the last few decades we’ve seen the role of companies shift ever more towards short-term profit and the idea of some of this money being lavished on employees is now anathema. The modern day multinational corporation doesn’t want anything to do with paying for the roads their goods are transported on, the houses their workers live in or indeed, the schools that educate the talent they need for growth. Shouldn’t these services be provided by the government out of taxation one might argue? The problem is, Amazon, like so many of their peers don’t pay that either. If one single Chelsea footballer, N’Gole Kante, one lone citizen, can pay more income tax in the UK than the world’s largest corporation then you know something’s wrong with the system!
It does call into question, what the role of the company should be. As regular Bullogers know, I often talk about the likes of Amazon, Apple and others as the new super-states and I’m a great believer in the fact that with power comes with responsibility. These are themes I touch on in The Intrapreneur: Confessions of a corporate insurgent……which is a good segue to the next topic.
My deliberate mistake
We’ve just passed the 60 review mark on amazon.co.uk (yes, despite all of the above, I still use them for selling the book. What hypocrisy). 95% are 5 star which gives me a score of 4.9/5. That’s really encouraging and I remain incredibly grateful to all of you who took the time to review it. I’ve also been speaking to the publisher about a possible audiobook version and they seem interested so watch this space for more information on that.
While on this topic, a few eagle-eyed readers picked up on the fact that there was a minor typo in the last edition of the Bullog where I referred to that special encounter between Accenture’s CEO Pierre Nanterme who sadly passed away in January and Professor Muhammad Yunus. This story actually appears on page 137 and thanks to my friend and former colleague Angela Werrett, I can actually share the video of that event. It was certainly quite a special moment.
Opening up the right side of the brain
In the January Bullog I mentioned that I’d recently tried improv comedy and it was such good fun that I embarked on a second stage of the course. It’s part of an ongoing fascination I have with trying to open up the more creative less dominant right hand side of the brain within a business context. So it will not come as a total surprise that I actually have been trying my hand at painting. Thanks to my good friend Alex Inchbald, an extreme artist, I had a very special experience when he took me with an easel up the Salève mountain behind Geneva. It was a perfect day, not a cloud in the sky nor breath of wind in the air. Alex taught me not to judge the quality of what I was doing and to just let flow. You can judge for yourself from the pictures, but I doubt that my late art teacher father Lyn Bulloch would be overly impressed with the results. But he would certainly be amused to see me try.
Why am I doing this stuff? Well, these activities might form part of the curriculum of the Craigberoch business decelerator. Indeed, I’m hoping to run a prototype course towards the end of the year on the Island of Bute to test out some of these themes in practice (more on this to follow). Of course the farm turned decelerator will not be anything like ready and I’ll need to use other premises. That said, we are making some progress on the architecture side and starting to explore grant making bodies. I’ve included a couple of pictures of the new 3-D model and was highly amused by the 40 male only figures sitting in what would be the main conference room. It looks like a meeting of the Masons and I can assure you that I’m expecting a more diverse set of participants when the place opens!
Two for the price of one
On the media front, I did not one, but two podcasts this month. The first was for an old friend called Joe Agoada who has just started a podcast called
“Breaking Good”. Joe is a fellow intrapreneur and has worked with the likes of UNICEF and Ashoka. I was flattered to be his first guest and it was a lively interview which he called Finding Purpose at Work.
The second podcast is slightly different and is called Finding Impact, and is seeking to be a practical resource for social entrepreneurs. The host, Andy Naracott, was doing a three part series on burnout within the social sector and was keen to interview me about whether I felt that this was more of a risk for those trying to drive social change as opposed to just working a normal business. You can hear my thoughts on The Dangers of Being a Corporate Insurgent.
On a more personal note to finish with, the highlight on the social front was my annual pilgrimage to the 6 nations rugby. I went with some friends to watch Scotland versus France in Paris and had a slightly smaller than normal group this year of only 11 kilted Scotsmen. Our team’s performance was dismal but it didn’t dampen spirits of the weekend.
Until next month,