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Learning to say ‘no’ and the ABCs of global management

FOR MANAGERS in technology businesses this is the season for thinking internationally. Scottish Enterprise held the inaugural Globalscot conference in September and ScotlandIS — the trade body for the IT industry — staged its Global Forum in October. This month, the 10th annual Connect Investment Conference will feature some candidate companies drawn from other Connect organisations around Europe. It will also host the SEP Technology Leaders Forum on the theme of Growing Global.

 

Finally, in early December we will see a return to Scotland of a Tech Tour — the last one, in 2001, was a great success. Run out of Geneva, this brings 60 international venture capitalists to a country where they get presentations from 20 or so exciting companies.

 

The first Globalscot conference seemed to have been quite a success. Whenever you meet globalscots around the world they always tell you that they are really keen to get involved with Scottish businesses, to help them with contacts, experience and advice.

 

Globalscot tackled this head on with specific sessions dedicated to making sure that the various delegates from Scotland or internationally met with each other and were able to exchange problems and ideas. There were also inspirational ‘visionary presentations’ from people like John Stewart and Guy Crawford.

 

John Stewart is a globalscot who is now chief executive of National Australia Bank. He told the audience how he had been abruptly catapulted into this job when a financial scandal in Australia led to the resignation of NAB’s former CEO and chairman. He has since rebuilt his management team, the vast majority of whom have been appointed during the last 12 months.

 

Stewart claimed that there were three types of managers: the “A managers” who are creative, enthusiastic, energetic and dynamic — and he is convinced that his 12 direct reports are now all A managers. The “B managers” were not so self starting, but were basically good workers and with a bit of coaching and supervision were perfectly sound in an organisation. The third group, the “C managers”, were negative and obstructionist and resistant to change. Stewart was in no doubt what to do about them — “machine-gun them!”, he declared.

 

Later we heard from globalscot Guy Crawford, director of operations at Jumeirah International, which runs many of the most luxurious hotels in the world, including the giant sail-like Burj Al Arab in Dubai. He told us about its golden rules for all staff, which included “the first answer to any request from a customer should never be ‘no”.

 

It’s been a very tough year for Scottish Enterprise, where its huge financial crisis has meant that most of its 2000 staff have been unable to do a normal job, to run standard events and programmes, or to provide proper help and assistance to ambitious companies.

 

What would Jack Perry, Scottish Enterprise’s thief executive, make of the freedom John Stewart had in promoting the A managers and machine gunning the C managers in his organisation. As to Guy Crawford’s advice, this year ‘no’ has had to be the first answer by just about everybody at Scottish Enterprise. One hopes that by the time of the next Globalscot conference, SE will be more capable of implementing the excellent advice from the platform.

 

Ian Ritchie is chairman of Connect and President of the 2006 Scottish Tech Tour He was a director of Scottish Enterprise between 1999 and 2005.

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