Thursday, April 02, 2009

Credit crunch thoughts

This one’s going to be a bit off-topic and a bit philosophical and possibly a bit rambling so feel free to stop reading at any point. I won’t be offended. This is just my way of gathering my thoughts together.

The credit crunch is often on my mind as I’m sure it has been on yours. Not least because I’m in the midst of organising the next Mobile Monday London event which is about how to finance your business in a credit crunch on 20th April (– do come! /plug). Clients, colleagues and friends often ask me if the credit crunch is affecting me personally and the answer is probably yes and no. The good news is that my mortgage has come down dramatically and my mortgage company is actively encouraging me to overpay my mortgage so I can pay it off early. I’m lucky. I bought my house some years ago so the fall in price I know is cyclical and it will come back. Of course,  different story if you need to sell and need to move. And on the work front, I am (happily) very busy and feel pretty upbeat about opportunities. However, a few people I know are struggling a bit when a year or two ago, they probably wouldn’t have – or at least not as much. And certainly if you’re a business trying to raise money, it isn’t pretty as your valuation is probably rock bottom or at least you’re being pressurised on your valuation (there’s still money around btw and VCs are pretty busy at the moment looking for bargains as far as I can tell). And the whole pension thing is simply terrifying.

I’m also interested in what’s happening over at G20. A couple of my friends, Vikki Chowney and Lloyd Davis are amongst the 50 chosen bloggers who are covering the Summit for the G20 Voices campaign and I’m very interested to see their coverage of it. The riots yesterday, the death of a protestor, the bad pennies who always turn up at these things was, for me, very upsetting and seems so unnecessary. Roo Reynolds did a very good birds-eye view write-up and photo blog of the demonstration.

But that’s kind of the point isn’t it. The greed and obsession with *making more money* feels kind of unnecessary to me (I’m no hippy, but I don’t buy into the Gordon Gekko ethos of ‘Greed is Good’ either). But there seems to be little alternative if you want to be successful in the system, be able to provide returns on investment, shareholder value and the like. I don’t want to live in a little cottage in Wales off-grid and growing all my own food. Nor do I have ambitions of owning a fancy schmancy penthouse apartment in Manhattan. Innovation isn’t just needed in technology, it’s needed to reinvent what we man by value.

Even on a consumer level, we’re still encouraged to buy more not less with the proliferation of Pound Stores, Primark and Peacocks. And that’s what’s been fuelling growth globally from Rio to Beijing. I admit I shop at all of these stores from time to time but they do still encourage you to buy what you don’t need just because it’s cheap and available. And because of the volumes we’re global coolbuying in there, it means they can keep the prices low but let’s not forget this is at the expense of having more stuff in landfill, more waste that can’t go anywhere and pressure on the suppliers to find ever more ways to produce more cheaply – sometimes meaning illegal labour or illegal means of production and waste management. So all that ‘ooh, isn’t that jacket really good value’ is very superficial when the real costs to our psyche and society are factored in. I balance my Primark bargains with making good use of eBay and charity shops (thrift stores for my US readers). And organisations like Global Cool are doing a great job raising awareness of this particular area of waste in our lives and have some very simple ideas of what to do about it. And I’m not even going to go into the climate change thing – not enough time here.

What I’d like to see come out of this revolution, for I think it is a revolution we’re in right now, is for people to find stability and for us (the world, that is) to find a collective way forward to managed our global economy. But also, I hope it’s a time when people take stock of their own values and what they want for their businesses, their colleagues, their families and their own lives.  This probably means redefining ‘success’ and rethinking what ‘money’ means as a concept and the values we attach to it. And what that means in a business or corporate environment, which is much harder to work out. Maybe shareholders will be happy to make ‘enough' money rather than ‘loadsamoney’. Maybe we’ll be able to find ways of not having to be in a race in order to compete. Maybe we’ll find inner peace and in finding an inner peace we’ll find global peace. After, what, 6000 years of civilisation, we should be able to work something out by now, right?

Anyway, I’m rambling now and this isn’t quite the post I had planned in my head, but I’m going to put it out there anyway. Feel free to comment, or not. But do check out Vikki and Lloyd’s G20 Voice stuff and let’s hope that as I write this, in the middle of the G20 proceedings, we will see some change for the greater good and not just the financial good.

Here endeth my ramble.


  1. Hi Helen

    I couldn't agree more. It's all about defining what 'success' is and hopefully it's not just about more money. That said, we all want enough money, but what's enough ...

    I was thinking about the irony that I'm really pleased my family can afford to take a nice holiday this year, but the main reason we need a nice holiday is because we've been working so hard to earn the money to pay for a nice holiday. I think that everyone just has to work out at what point it is right to get off the wheel for them, and hopefully the current situation can do some good if it is making people realise that they can get off the wheel.

  2. My first comment here I think .. Good blog. Yes its a time to redefine values rgds Ajit


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