"This world is a place of business. What an infinite bustle!"
Henry David Thoreau
The past year has taught us much about things we often take for granted – and the complexity and interdependence of business, public services and the charitable sector has been one of the areas I have been particularly aware of.
I have direct involvement in all these sectors and have been struck by the passion, commitment and resilience of people working in these sectors throughout these challenging times.
15 months ago, the great fear was that post-pandemic, the world would slip into a great recession, greater than any ever experienced. Yet that looks increasingly unlikely – although some businesses and charities have been hammered. And the national debt of most countries is at its highest ever in peacetime, which is also bound to impact on generations to come. But a booming economy means a bigger tax take and that will help the debt be more manageable.
“It’s a recession when your neighbour loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose your own.
Harry S. Truman
I have been a regular customer at our local builders’ merchants in the past months, like many others taking the opportunity to catch up on long overdue home and garden projects. But not all supplies are available right away – some timber shortages and cement-based products have directly affected me. And of course, when you can get them, the price has jumped. It is certainly fascinating to watch global supply problems work their way through to a west of Scotland peninsula!
I am not a fan of Milton Friedman, the economist, but I have always appreciated the way he illustrated the global inter-connectedness of markets, with the simple story of the pencil. There is a great two-minute video of him telling the story at the University of Glasgow. Well worth a watch.
"Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. "
But contrary to what Milton Friedman espoused, in other work the role of Government has been underlined in the way that money has been pumped into the economy. The reality is that much of the economy kept going because many people still had money in their pockets alongside a belief that the pandemic could be tackled by Government funding of pharmaceutical companies.
Demand did not collapse. And many essential safety nets have been kept in place by the work of charities. I doubt that markets alone would have got us through the past year. Which all seems to demonstrate the value of a mixed economy with the different sectors working together to create a well-running society.
"The new mixed economy looks for a synergy between public and private sectors."
Businesses and organisations are steadily developing and making a huge contribution to the quality of life of people across the country. Those working in frontline public services have rightly been commended for their work, and in Spring this year the names of the Scottish companies who were winners of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise were announced.
As usual it was great to see the range of companies represented and the work being done to make their businesses better. The Awards were created following the recommendation of a committee chaired by The Duke of Edinburgh in 1965. The first awards, originally known as the Queen’s Awards to Industry, were made the following year.
The awards are for outstanding achievement by UK businesses in the categories of innovation, international trade, sustainable development and promoting opportunity through social mobility.
2020 and 2021 have been strange years, almost unimaginable in 2019, but perhaps they might help us realise how much we need each other.
"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure. "
Lead well, take care