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Edition 178 – Platitudes

Last week, at a big business forum in Canberra, some of the individuals at the upper echelons of corporate Australia discussed, amongst other things, how they all needed to improve their behaviour. This comes off the back of the Royal Commission into the Banking and Financial Sector, when a number of the big 4 banks were targeted for their actions and their ethics.

At the forum, the CEO of one of Australia’s largest supermarket & hotel chains, was also quoted that his company “will do better”, even though it has been exposed as providing free liquor to it’s gambling patrons, so they, presumably, hang around longer and gamble more.

“Will do better!”

These are merely platitudes from CEOs and Chairpersons who rarely, if ever, step out of the C-Suite and head to the factory floor or the construction site.

They may argue they walk inside the businesses they oversee. However, often, their visits are pre-determined and pre-timed. This means everyone knows when the Big Boss is in town – and how much tidying up needs to be done to ensure everything looks ship-shape. It’s a bit like teenagers tidying up from the night before’s party before Mum & Dad come home from holidays.

If these CEOs and Chairpersons were truly serious about their behaviour, they’d take the time to:

  1. Look inside their businesses and analyse the processes they have employed.
  2. Talk to their suppliers about the key frustrations they have in dealing with their companies.
  3. Arrive, unannounced, at the various construction sites, retail stores and offices they oversee, to check out what actually happens on a day to day basis.

Here’s a bold claim – many of Australia’s large corporates simply could not survive without the nous, expertise, perseverance and dedication of family business owners and managers that are their key suppliers.

Like one of my family business clients that has dealt with a myriad of emails to-and-fro to finalise key infrastructure projects with a large corporate client – when the real issue is that no one inside the large corporate actually “owns” responsibility – and rarely steps on site to monitor progress of the job. The job simply would not get done without my client, who ran the project and dealt with the stupid inefficiencies of the large corporate not ordering the correct stock for site.

Or another family business client that consistently dealt with slow payments from a leading retailer – re-sending invoices and supporting documents multiple times merely because the accounts payable systems inside the large corporate were completely and utterly deficient. Some of this stuff remains unpaid for beyond 6 months – in spite of the multiple emailing of information.

If corporate Australia is indicating that it “will do better”, it needs to get serious about treating family business with the respect it deserves. Let’s have the CEOs and Chairpersons turn up to the farms, factories and offices of their suppliers and not only ask the question, but be prepared for the honest answer as to how their behaviour is creating a detrimental impact for many family businesses.

If the behaviour is poor inside any business, it always starts at the top.