16 Aug 2013 Roadway – Boosting Enterprises. Right message, wrong sentiment?
Nigel Parkes, managing director of Pallet-Track argues that boosting the UK economy will resolve a number of other issues facing the nation.
Lord Young, the Prime Minister’s adviser on enterprise, recently caused consternation when he told his cabinet colleagues that the economic downturn is an excellent time for new businesses to boost profits and grow because labour is cheap.
‘Shooting from the lip’ always gets politicians into trouble and while I completely disagree completely with his sentiment, the message has some merit. Lord Young has form as a controversial figure being forced to resign from the Cabinet in 2010 for down-playing the recession at that time. In his latest outpouring, the cabinet minister who also served under the late Baroness Thatcher and who is the only aide with his own office in Downing Street, has advised ministers that the low wage levels in a recession made larger financial returns easier to achieve.
He received the criticism because he said that in the current climate labour is cheap, which whether he was quoted in or out of context, resulted in a negative come back on this experienced parliamentarian, who, frankly, should have known better. It was a text book case of why politicians should always be aware of not only what they say, but also how they say it! People reading his report could be forgiven for thinking he was saying – ‘lt’s a good time to exploit vulnerable people’which, coming from a party that has made recent proclamations about curing the so-called ‘something for nothing culture’, could appear slightly hypocritical.
Where he is right, however, is what he said about the need to grow the economy. This not only creates jobs, but also impacts other measurable, yet intangible areas such as reduction in benefit payments, less dependence upon the state and a greater sense of self-esteem as a nation.
Getting people back to work also reduces the nation’s health and crime bill as people are less stressed about money issues and are less likely to commit offences if they are holding down full time jobs.
People want jobs and businesses such as ours are looking for good people that we can pay competitively so that we have a long-term succession strategy for the business.
In our own industry, the logisticians of tomorrow are few and far between. We have an aging workforce and when they retire, who is going to provide the experience to drive the sector forward?
I applaud the efforts of companies like Matthew Kibble Transport, one of our shareholder member companies, who have engaged with the school-leavers of tomorrow as part of the Think Logisticsinitiative to get ‘young blood’ into logistics.
Logistics is very important and without it the UK would simply grind to a halt which is why as an industry, we cannot simply sit back and wait for people to find us. We have to find them and explain the variety of roles that are available within the supply chain and the diversity – from drivers and engineers to operators and traffic controllers, for example.
This kind of initiative also explodes myths about the nature of the business – it is no longer the preserve of men as more women are actively blazing a trail in key roles and taking their rightful place on the boards of many companies, including our own with the recent appointment of Lisa Burrows as our operations director. Lisa forged her own path into the role she now holds, but modern apprenticeships are a more formal gateway to a career of real variety and choice.
At Pallet-Track we believe in paying people well and rewarding those who go the extra mile. Lord Young’s comments are misguided in terms of seeming to treat workers as cheap cannon fodder, but he is right about the need to create enterprise and jobs.
In our own business, another way to boost confidence is investing in people and processes this investment reduces damage and waste. This is the ‘get it right first time’ model. For example, in 10 years we have never lost a single pallet we follow strict processes to minimise cost which means the quid pro quo of low insurance premiums and high customer and staff satisfaction rates.