New growth required!

New trees offer a good metaphor!

As regular followers of this place know (and a huge thank-you to you all) much of last Friday was spent planting trees in a grassy meadow just to the East of our house.

P1150940
A part view of the area where the trees were planted: Kentucky Coffeetrees; Northern Catalpas; a Red Maple, Eastern Redcedars.

An hour before I sat down to write this post (now 13:30 PST yesterday) I didn’t have a clue as to what to write. Then I read Patrice Ayme’s latest essay and, wow, it punched me in the face. For it resonated so strongly with a few other recent readings.

Patrice’s essay was called Trump A Demagogue? So What? and it opened thus:

“We empowered a demagogue” laments the New York Times ostensibly bleeding heart liberal, the kind Mr. Kristof, in his false “Mea Culpa” editorial, “My Shared Shame: How The Media Made Trump”. By this, Mr. Kristof means that Mr. Trump is a bad person. However, Mr. Kristof’s choice of the word “demagogue” is revealing. (Actually it’s not really his choice: “demagogue” is not Mr. Kristof’s invention: he just repeats like a parrot the most prominent slogan of the worldwide campaign of insults against Trump).

Trump a demagogue? Is Mr. Sanders a “demagogue”, too? (As much of the financial and right-wing press has it: for The Economist and the Financial Times, Trump and Sanders are both “demagogues” and that’s their main flaw.)

To understand fully the word “demagogue” one has to understand a bit of Greek, and a bigger bit of Greek history.

Then later on in that essay, Patrice goes on to quote Andy Grove:

A hard day may be coming for global plutocrats ruling as they do thanks to their globalization tricks. And I am not exactly naive. Andy Grove, founder of Intel, shared the general opinion that much of globalization was just theft & destitution fostering an ominous future (the Hungarian immigrant to the USA who was one of the founders of Intel). He pointed out, an essay he wrote in 2010 that Silicon Valley was squandering its competitive edge in innovation by neglecting strong job growth in the United States.

Mr. Grove observed that: …”it was cheaper and thus more profitable for companies to hire workers and build factories in Asia than in the United States. But… lower Asian costs masked the high price of offshoring as measured by lost jobs and lost expertise. Silicon Valley misjudged the severity of those losses, he wrote, because of a “misplaced faith in the power of start-ups to create U.S. jobs.”

Silicon Valley makes its money from start-ups. However, that phase of a business is different from the scale-up phase, when technology goes from prototypes to mass production. Both phases are important. Only scale-up is an engine for mass job growth — and scale-up is vanishing in the United States (especially with jobs connected to Silicon Valley). “Without scaling,” Mr. Grove wrote, “we don’t just lose jobs — we lose our hold on new technologies” and “ultimately damage our capacity to innovate…

The underlying problem isn’t simply lower Asian costs. It’s our own misplaced faith in the power of startups to create U.S. jobs. Americans love the idea of the guys in the garage inventing something that changes the world. New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman recently encapsulated this view in a piece called “Start-Ups, Not Bailouts.” His argument: Let tired old companies that do commodity manufacturing die if they have to. If Washington really wants to create jobs, he wrote, it should back startups.

Friedman is wrong. Startups are a wonderful thing, but they cannot by themselves increase tech employment.”

Spot on! For in my previous life I was the founder of two businesses. First up was Dataview Ltd, based in Colchester, that was formed in the late 1970s and soon became the global distributor of the word processing software Wordcraft, written by Englishman Pete Dowson. Dataview also initiated the ‘dongle’, a software/hardware security device to protect Wordcraft.

The Wordcraft dongle.
The Wordcraft dongle.

The second company founded by me was Aviation Briefing Ltd ‘AvBrief’ that is still going today, albeit with me no longer involved!

So I can reinforce, with hundreds of hours of lost sleep and tears, that growing a company and increasing employment, especially the employment of great technical people, is a very different matter to the start-up phase.

Frankly, regarding Dataview, it was only the luck of meeting Sid Newman that saved my bacon. For within 12 months of starting trading I was already sinking under the load of trying to be the number one salesman (that I was good at) and being the company general manager (that I was total crap at). Sid had years of experience at general management and very quickly let me get on with what I really loved – opening up Wordcraft distributorships all over the world.

The analogy with planting trees is very apt. For any clown can plant the tree but parenting that young tree into a mature forty-foot high beauty takes professional management.

Clown work! (This is a Red Maple, by the way!)
Clown work! (This is a Red Maple, by the way!)

Tomorrow I will return and offer a viewpoint as to how we, as in society, are currently bereft of professional managers.

8 thoughts on “New growth required!

  1. Thanks Paul for finding my essay interesting and quoting it. You seem to have been involved in spectacularly successful start-ups. I am a specialist of the other kind, so I know how hard it is to get them started: ideas can be ahead of their time!

      1. I can see where are coming from! (And just signed up again to follow your own scribblings. Can’t recall when and why I stopped my previous subscription.)

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