A new definition of ‘chutzpah’

Every language has certain words which describe situations or behaviour better than any other language. The Yiddish work ‘chutzpah’ is exactly such an example. The English word is audacity but chutzpah goes much deeper. When I first heard the word used its meaning was explained to be something like this: A boy kills his parents then seeks the court’s mercy because he’s an orphan.

Well we have seen many examples of chutzpah recently but a recent article in the Times drew my attention to what could be described as a new definition of the word. Four banks had advised the Bank of England (it may have been the Treasury, but who cares) on how to get out of the credit crunch they had caused and had charged the Bank of England more than £9million for their advice. I cannot remember which four banks, but at least one played a major role in creating the credit crunch and has been bailed out by the US government with the government taking over $306billion in toxic assets and injecting $20billion in new capital.

With chutzpah entering the mainstream of our daily lives it is important that the managers of Enterprise Britain steer well clear of this. For example, as I wrote in an earlier blog I had to once cut the salaries of all my team (about 110 people) by 10% to save the company. An acquaintance, who owned two dealerships, heard of the success (nobody walked away and we were not sued by anybody for constructive dismissal – thank you to all involved) and decided to do the same thing.

Having gathered all his information and lined up his whole team he announced the same reductions in salaries. As he was announcing this two brand new cars were delivered to the dealership, one for him and one for his wife. That was chutzpah and as a result his plan to reduce salaries resulted in disaster. Good people left, he got embroiled in several constructive dismissal claims and about a year later his business went under.

In managing our businesses maintaining high ethical standards is important. One can always get away with chutzpah for a while, but ultimately it will come around and you will become your own victim. Our bankers (probably not the ones we deal with directly, but the ones tucked away in their ivory towers) and our politicians are showing true chutzpah and the worst part is that it appears to be hurting Enterprise Britain more than it is hurting them.

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