Red letter daze

Two years ago I suggested that the true nature of management was widely misunderstood in the UK (see Management is a dirty word). Last month a short, but revealing, comment in the Guardian provided more evidence that business may well be a victim of its own bad press.

In the last year or so, Rachel Elnaugh has become one of the most recognisable female entrepreneurs in Britain. She was one of five judges on a BBC television show called the Dragons’ Den in which aspiring entrepreneurs presented their business plan in the hope that the judges (aka the “Dragons”) would invest in the project.

Unfortunately for Ms Elnaugh, her own business (Red Letter Days) went into Administration this summer, and she became the subject of much criticism in the press.

Last month she was interviewed for the Guardian from which the following excerpt was taken :

There’s no such thing as a nice businessperson, she believes, although for the first time in the interview she’s aware she might be saying something controversial. “You’re not there to be namby-pamby and nice, you’re there to make the business work.”

It’s quite astonishing to hear a recognisable role model such as Elnaugh express such a negative view of her own occupation. The implications for her self-esteem are frightening, and you know the problem is serious when it so clearly comes from within.

Newspapers desperate to entertain

Newspaper advertisement for a free DVD
Newspaper advertisement for a free DVD

Newspapers are struggling these days. It seems fewer and fewer people read a newspaper regularly, and circulation revenue has decreased as a result. So the press is trying all kinds of ploys to attract “readers”, even going so far as to give away DVDs of full-length movies each week in the attempt.

Today, for example, the following papers are giving away the following films:

In keeping with the national trend, my wife and I rarely buy a weekend paper. However, in recent weeks we’ve been tempted to do so just to obtain the free DVD with which to improve our weekend viewing. Not long ago, your choice of newspaper was often seen as an expression of your political views. Now it’s more likely to reflect your taste in films!

You can read more about how these DVD offers are turning readers into “newspaper tarts” at the BBC’s web site (see How can papers afford to give away DVDs?).

links for 2005-10-10

Who moved my cheese?

From today’s edition of The Globe And Mail:

MONTREAL — Luc Boivin’s lost cheddar is passing into local legend as the Titanic of the cheese world.

The Quebec cheese maker dropped a 2,000-pound cargo of cheese to the bottom of the Saguenay fjord last year in a ripening experiment. Then he spent this summer searching for it. And now, after deploying a team of divers and an arsenal of high-tech tracking equipment, Mr. Boivin has given up the quest.

Apparently, he’s undeterred and going to repeat the experiment again this year!

Location, location, location
Google Maps is a dynamic mapping application brought to you by the clever people at … Google. It’s dynamic because you can reposition the map “on the fly” (ie without having to reload your browser), so it’s much quicker than most of the other mapping applications available on the web.

Google has encouraged people to develop their own applications for its maps, and one of the best that I’ve come across in recent weeks is OnOneMap. It describes itself as “the UK’s first property search engine map”, and I can see how it might become an essential resource for anyone hoping to buy property in the UK.

The idea is simple, but new: people and agents with houses to sell inform OnOneMap of the details and OnOneMap displays their properties on Google’s maps. You can filter the properties by many different criteria, not the least of which is price, and then view all the available properties that match your requirements in the neighbourhood of your choice.

Prior to OnOneMap the only way to obtain as comprehensive a list of available properties in a single neighbourhood was to drive around the area looking for “For Sale” signs while compiling your own list with pencil and paper! (Well OK, maybe a pen.) So if good property really is a case of “location, location, location”, OnOneMap should do very well.

Cheap talk

A couple of weeks ago, I read the following sentence in the Economist (see Telecoms and the internet: The meaning of free speech):

The acquisition by eBay of Skype is a helpful reminder to the world’s trillion-dollar telecoms industry that all phone calls will eventually be free.

Free calls struck me as too good to be true, but then last week I discovered that BT has decided to compete directly with Skype by under-cutting its prices significantly until the end of the year. You have to use BT’s VOIP software, known as BT Communicator, but then calls to North America are only 0.5p per minute. Last month calls to Australia were completely free. Perhaps the Economist’s prediction is correct.