Last week the country celebrated 60 years of the latest incarnation of one of Britain’s longest running family firms. If that sounds disrespectful it is not meant to be. Any institution that lasts as long as the monarchy has done must be doing something right, even if certain of its activities may not have earned universal approval in the past.
Clear succession planning helps, as does a strong brand and a secure source of income. However there are countless examples of that not being sufficient to ensure survival. The Queen as a CEO may not get business school pulses racing but she has skilfully led the firm from the front through sixty years of unprecedented change.
Even during her rocky period in the 1990s she was able to take stock, listen to advice, and adapt, thus setting the scene for the strengthening of the monarchy’s position that has taken place in the last ten years. There is much that Enterprise Britain can learn from the Royal Family.
I was one of the million or so loyal subjects that lined the Thames on Sunday to watch the flotilla of boats travel down the river in weather that some may say offered proof that God really is a republican. More importantly, given the service provided by our various rail companies, I managed to get home again.
What is it with the train companies? One million people were expected to be in London for the flotilla. That being the case why was it deemed acceptable to run a normal Sunday service? I can accept all the arguments that rail employees are entitled to enjoy their leisure time as much as anybody else…actually no I can’t. The reality is that service industries exist to provide their services when people require them not when they can be bothered to provide them.
We were lucky enough to embark at Waterloo at the start of the line, even though we were squashed like sardines in the middle of a coach. The large numbers of people looking to board at Vauxhall, Battersea (which had housed a major family event and therefore was teeming with parents and kids) and Clapham Junction, who had paid good money for their journey, did not have a hope of getting on.
These organisations are clearly run for their employees (at all levels in case you think this is case of union bashing) rather than their customers. This along with sky high executive pay and bonuses, and the proliferation of complex fares and penalties for the unwary traveler, shows what a dog’s dinner rail privatisation has been.
There you have it. A weekend that demonstrated the best, and worst, that Britain has to offer. One wonders what the forthcoming Olympic jamboree will bring….